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Top 10 Greatest Pixar Scores

VO: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Johnny Reynolds
These are the best Pixar scores! For this list, we looked at the best scores to accompany Pixar’s feature films. Though many of the studio’s movies have featured wonderful songs written for them, we only took their instrumental tracks into consideration. We’ve included scores from movies like “Monsters, Inc.”, “Ratatouille”, “Coco”, and “Up”.

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Top 10 Pixar Scores

The stories may already be great, but this music makes them even better. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Pixar Scores.

For this list, we looked at the best scores to accompany Pixar’s feature films. Though many of the studio’s movies have featured wonderful lyrical songs written for them, we only took their instrumental tracks into consideration.

#10: “Monsters, Inc.” (2001)

For Randy Newman’s fourth collaboration with Pixar, the composer went with a jazzy score to capture the upbeat zaniness of this strange workplace comedy. For the first part of the movie, Newman’s tunes playfully bounce along with each scene. It perfectly contrasts with what any child who has thought about scary monsters in their closet would imagine. The score also shows Newman’s wide range, as it switches to epic or melancholic once the film’s darker tone is revealed. Watching Boo and Sulley’s goodbye shows us just how talented of a composer he is.

#9: “Brave” (2012)

To capture the setting and the scope of adventure seen in this 2012 film, composer Patrick Doyle utilized many Celtic instruments such as bagpipes, harps, and fiddles. Following the story of a princess who wants to explore instead of being tied down, Doyle’s score encapsulates her longing flawlessly. With every scene, each track serves to emphasize Merida’s desires but also complements the beautifully animated landscapes. Doyle studied traditional Scottish dance rhythms like jigs and reels, implementing them for a sense of authenticity. His score celebrates Scottish culture and feels like a distinct part of the film’s world because it is.

#8: “Ratatouille” (2007)

No one does an underdog story quite like Pixar. Set in the heart of Paris, this story about a rat with big dreams of becoming a chef is told alongside a suitably light-hearted score. Composer Michael Giacchino was able to capture Remy’s curiosity and desire to learn through the use of lively woodwind instruments. He also implemented the use of accordions and guitars to match the romance of the city. More importantly, it matched the romance of the character, as Remy’s dream became realized and he was able to share his love of food with others. It justifiably earned Giacchino an Oscar nomination and a Grammy win.

#7: “WALL-E” (2008)

While Pixar’s take on the end of the world is pretty bleak, it isn’t without its moments of hope. And Thomas Newman’s score pairs with that story wonderfully. The composer used many swelling string and horn instruments to create tracks worthy of the sci-fi spectacle. The score is most impressive, however, when it’s used to convey the lonely robot’s fascination with EVE. “Define Dancing” is a particular stand out, as it employs soft violins and a harp to dance along with the burgeoning connection of the two characters. The stunning compositions convey a wide range of emotions, often going from grand and majestic to tranquil and entrancing.

#6: “Coco” (2017)

Though Pixar’s journey into the Land of the Dead may be better known for its vocal performances, veteran composer Michael Giacchino’s score is just as important. Just like “Brave,” it was crucial to capture the culture of the film’s setting. Giacchino used Spanish guitars, violins, and trumpets, giving the feeling that the film was being accompanied by a mariachi band. The film focuses on a young boy striving to become a musician, and the jaunty numbers pair well with his love for music. The tracks that heavily feature the guitar are most notable, as they blend spectacularly with the film’s sorrowful theme of longing for a family, while also celebrating Mexican traditions.

#5: “Up” (2009)

It was Michael Giacchino’s third collaboration with Pixar that deservedly earned him a multitude of awards. Focusing on the adventure of a lifetime, Giacchino’s score applied imposing strings to represent the dangers of a new land. But it was his use of thematic transformation that enhanced the film. By using different instruments and tempos, he was able to alter a key theme into whatever he needed it to be. At times it could be triumphant, while at others it could be downright heartbreaking. In no scene is it more gorgeously used than the opening detailing Carl and Ellie’s life together; moments that still make us all weep.

#4: “Toy Story” (1995)

For Pixar’s very first feature, they commissioned revered composer Randy Newman, who did not disappoint. Though he did write songs like “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” for the film, his whimsical instrumental tracks helped to tell the story. The plot, focusing on two competing toys, was just as innovative as the 3D animation at the time. And Newman’s score, through its strong use of horns and string instruments, evoked feelings of classic adventure movies that came before it. Each arrangement captured the triumph, fear, and sorrow the toys were feeling. And the phrase, “To Infinity and Beyond” just wouldn’t be the same without that victorious arrangement.

#3: “Finding Nemo” (2003)

Before Thomas Newman scored “WALL-E,” he delivered an Oscar-nominated score for one of Pixar’s most popular films. While the story was set deep beneath the ocean, Newman’s soft and understated arrangements were praised for complementing the scope and awe that comes from the unknown sea. There are also many delightfully kooky characters, like the scene-stealing Dory and the righteous Crush. Newman’s score balances their quirky introductions well, keeping pace by using more upbeat and fun tracks. With such an incredibly well-balanced compilation, it’s no wonder the score has helped “Finding Nemo” become a Pixar classic.

#2: “Inside Out” (2015)

Michael Giacchino does it again with this charming and eccentric collection of arrangements. As this 2015 film focuses on the different emotions running a little girl’s life, the score uses many different tracks to represent those feelings. There are arrangements featuring uplifting piano and string instruments to represent Joy. There also many appropriately upbeat songs that are used for Bing Bong and the wacky Imagination Land. But as the main message is that it’s okay to be sad sometimes, there are also many somber tracks to represent the character of Sadness. The score is most effective when it enhances this message, combining Joy and Sadness into heart-wrenching yet superb pieces of music.

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

“The Good Dinosaur” (2015)

“Cars” (2006)

“A Bug’s Life” (1998)

#1: “The Incredibles” (2004)

For this Pixar hit, director Brad Bird wanted to pay homage to classic spy films. And it was Michael Giacchino’s score that would be essential in achieving that goal. Giacchino wrote many powerful tracks that used blaring horns and squealing trumpets, matching the intense nature of the definitive Bond films of the ‘60s. But he also composed jazzy tracks to go along with the everyday life of the titular family. What’s most unique about this score is the way it was recorded. To encapsulate the era he was emulating, Giacchino recorded everything on analog tapes rather than digitally. “The Incredibles” is one of Pixar’s most beloved films and its score is one of the reasons why.


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