Coco: The Top 10 Scores From Michael Giacchino

With the release of Coco, Baz Greenland looks at the top 10 works of the film's composer across TV and film...

Michael Giacchino is one of the prolific composers in Hollywood today; he’s scored everything from computer games to television shows and some of the last decade’s biggest movies; not only is he a regular contributor to JJ Abram’s TV and film catalogue, he’s brought musical joy to some major animated movies (Ratatouille  to Inside Out) and has delivered his own style to classic scores through his work on the Star Trek film reboots and Jurassic World.

And now Giacchino is back to score new animated movie Coco. To celebrate the latest in a long and successful career, we look back at 10 of his biggest scores. It’s a tough job when there are so many options to chose from, but here are the ones we think you’ll agree are true musical standouts…

Alias (2001-2006)

Giacchino first became JJ Abram’s composer of choice on his second major show Alias, a spy drama which saw Jennifer Garner rise to fame as Sydney Bristow. His score for the series is an exciting one. The amazing, daring title sequence music is full of electronic riffs but it is where he lets loose – daring, intense action sequences accompanied by jazzy horns, moody electronica, frenzied strings and dramatic percussion beats – that this score becomes Bond on adrenaline. He also brings a truly global feel; from Spanish guitars for Latin American to gothic choirs to Russia that are sexy, dramatic and takes the audience along for the ride to wherever Sydney Bristow was going next. Fans of his music for the Mission Impossible movies will find all the influences in his score for this epic spy TV series…

The Incredibles (2004)

Giacchino has composed soundtracks for many big animated films, but his score to The Incredibles is still one of the best. It’s fast paced, riffing the classic 60’s Bond motifs, full of huge jazzy moments, sultry horn solos and classy piano scales. Much like the film itself, the score is a joy to listen to, full of drama, passion and humour that captures the spirit of Brad Bird’s animated superhero extravaganza.

Lost (2004-2010)

If Giacchino’s score to Alias is sexy, bold and daring, than his score to Lost is an emotional powerhouse, delivered with quiet intensity, tracks like ‘The Survivors Theme’ are hauntingly beautiful, capturing the raw drama of the situation these characters have found themselves in. There are certainly big, bold, dramatic pieces, but at its heart, this score for Lost is all about that emotional journey; when we gasped at every flashback revelation as these characters were explored, Giacchino’s score, with its rising string movements and haunting, sweeping themes were right there every step of the way.

Star Trek (2009)

This was one of Giacchino’s first major live action movie scores and what a doozy it was. There are moments where he delivers a cacophony of bold percussion beats, horns, strings in the action sequences and moments of quiet beauty, particularly in Spock’s Theme. But that rising heroic theme rising throughout the film is the best of all; a triumphant soaring mix of strings and jazz that makes the heart swell. Better still, it feels reminiscent of the 60s show while still retaining its own identity. While there may be many that felt the subsequent sequels were too erratic in tone, Giacchino’s presence across the trilogy was a consistent delight from beginning to end.

Up (2009)

There have been plenty of great animated films composed by Michael Giacchino, but the score to Up is probably the best. Like Lost this is full of emotion, capturing the joys and lows of Carl’s life with his dead wife before delivering a rollicking, dramatic and whimsical score for the film’s bigger action pieces. The beautiful, old fashioned jazzy  feel of tracks like ‘Married Life’ would be felt in Giacchino’s score to another classic animated film Inside Out six years later.

John Carter (Taylor Kitsch)
©2011 Disney. JOHN CARTER™ ERB, Inc.

John Carter (2012)

A massively fantastical score, the music by Michael Giacchino was hugley memorable, even if the film was not. It’s got some huge, gothic, sweeping, fast paced orchestral beats, make excellent use of haunting choirs and thundering percussion. The quieter pieces are also weird and wonderful, a strange mix of Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings meet’s Danny Elfman’s Edward Scissorhands that captures the offbeat nature of this tale.

Doctor Strange (2016)

Giacchino certainly captures the fantastical in his sweeping, dark score for Doctor Strange, from the sweeping, bombastic feel of ‘Smote and Mirrors’ that is epic and gothic to enchanting string movements of ‘Hong Kong Kablooey’ and the weird, psychedelic feel of  ‘A Long Strange Trip’ with its heavy percussion beat and distorted voices. It might not have distinct standout track, but it certainly captures the feel of Marvel‘s first foray into the wold of magic.

Rogue One (2016)

Coming late to the game to compose the first non-traditional Star Wars spin-off, Michael Giacchino had the unenvious task of being the first composer to score a Star Wars film that wasn’t John Williams. Fortunately, he succeeded, taking inspiration from William’s scores to build on the heroid Rebellion and Luke Skywalker themes from A New Hope and captured the wonder of the Star Wars universe. But there is also a beautiful desperation in tracks like the ‘Jyn Erso & Hope Suite’ that capture the melancholy, tense pace of the film. The score to Rogue One feels like a Star Wars movie, while also having its own central theme and that is quite an achievement, something John Powell will have to match in the upcoming Solo spin-off movie.

Spider-Man Homecoming (2017)

Giacchino’s second Marvel movie score is another triumph, feeling like a perfect blend of Danny Elfman’s original Spider-Man  trilogy score with James Horner’s epic tones for The Amazing Spider-Man. The score to Spider-Man Homecoming is both delightfully playful (a core element of much of Giacchino’s work) with a bombastic, dramatic edge. Plus that remix of the original Spider-Man theme with its ballsy orchestral flair would put a smile on anyone’s face. It is fun, triumphant and delightful, much like the film itself and we can only hope he will be back to score the sequel.

War For The Planet Of The Apes (2017)

Last year’s score to the third film in the modern Ape’s trilogy is the best of the saga, full of menace, danger and awe that builds on his excellent work from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Heavy, tribal beats create a sense of forbidding, building into relentless themes that capture the critty, guttural feel of the ‘war’. But it is also quite beautiful too; the soaring motifs in ‘Exodus Wounds’ filled with tragedy and passion, the backing choral tones are haunting and melancholy, and will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. This score is a work of passion, much like the film itself.

Do you agree with these choices? Do you prefer your Fringe to Lost? Do you prefer his nostalgic score to Jurassic World to his work on Rogue One? Or are there quite simply too many choices to chose from? Let us know in the comments below…

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