Every Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross soundtrack ranked from worst to best

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross in 2011
(Image credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Trent Reznor is truly rock’s renaissance man. Towards the end of the 00s, the defining image of the Nine Inch Nails frontman and industrial-rock don would’ve him caked in mud, leading his band as chief conductor of chaos at Woodstock 1994. But now, even though he still occasionally operates as Nine Inch Nails, sporadically adding to the band’s catalogue of tenebrous electronic-rock, that image could equally be of Reznor and his artistic partner Atticus Ross clutching their Oscars. You could take your pick – Reznor and Ross won an Academy Award both for their work on David Fincher’s The Social Network in 2010 and for their contribution to the score that accompanied the 2020 Pixar film Soul. A David Fincher film and a Pixar film – Reznor and Ross are nothing if not adaptable. Here’s every one of the Nine Inch Nails pair’s soundtrack work, also including TV scores because it would be sacrilege not to salute their soundtrack for Watchmen.

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15. Waves (2019)

More a collection of unnerving sonic collages than actual songs, there aren’t many of Reznor and Ross’s trademark electronic thrusts on the score to this 2019 drama. There’s some captivating about this music, but it's pretty heavy going.

14. Mid 90s (2018)

An EP of four tracks written and recorded for Jonah Hill’s coming-of-age drama, this is about as straightforward as the duo get with their music, four quite nice little piano ditties with minor electronic flourishes here and there.

13. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (2023)

Whilst they didn’t go down the “T-U-R-T-L-E Power!” route (a real shame, they could bang out an amazing version of that), there’s no getting away from the fact Reznor and Ross lending their talents to this recent TMNT film was a bit of a strange one. They add some much-needed menace to a so-so film – Murder The Shreks! is electro-rock that turns this way and that whilst Something To Love is a calming, reflective piano piece.

12. The Killer (2023)

Reznor and Ross went back to base in 2023, working with David Fincher for a fifth time – who else would he have got to find such perfect musical accompaniment for Michael Fassbender’s sociopathic hitman? At times it’s like you’re hearing the music inside the protagonist’s brain (when he’s not listening to The Smiths, anyway), particularly on the gliding, atmospheric panic of Fuck., a song that’s serene on the surface but there’s a lot going on down below.

11. The Vietnam War (2017)

The duo’s score for Ken Burn’s epic war documentary is all unsettling soundscapes, solemn piano movements and warped electronica. A tough listen in one sitting, it sat alongside numerous Nine Inch Nails cuts across the series’ ten episodes.

10. Patriots Day (2017)

The soundtrack for Peter Berg’s film about the 2013 Boston bombings was Reznor and Ross’s first foray into scores for non-David Fincher film. A little more streamlined than their previous work, it still contains some standouts, particularly intense, slow-building opener Them And Us.

9. Bones And All (2022)

Their score for Luca Guadagnino’s film about a pair of young cannibals on the run sounds like them imagining how Tom Waits would renovate a Nine Inch Nails song, all classical guitars (it’s almost odd to hear so much acoustic guitar in the duo’s music), rustic murmurs and eerie folk.

8. Gone Girl (2014)

The duo’s third time working with David Fincher taps into the film’s creeping disquiet, all atmospheric drones that sound like they’re being played at a distance and synth scheming and restrained beats.

7. Mank (2020)

Reznor and Ross only used instrumentation from the period to try and capture the sound of the 30s and 40s in this David Fincher biopic about Herman J. Mankiewicz, the writer of Citizen Kane. It makes the score a curio amongst their catalogue,

6. Bird Box (2019)

Trent Reznor is a man prone to the odd hissy fit now and then, and he threw a good one about Bird Box, declaring that it “was a fucking waste of time” making the soundtrack because it was so low in the mix and saying of the filmmakers that “some people were phoning it in”. But the score is fantastic, a brilliant blend of ominous horrorscapes and twisted electronica.  

5. Empire Of Light (2022)

True to its title, their score to Sam Mendes’ Olivia Colman-starring film is all air and illumination, lovely orchestral piano pieces underscored with a sense of breezy melancholia.

4. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

It’s hard to think of any duo better placed to soundtrack a film set in the winter of all winters about a serial killer, sexual depravity and torture. This is Ross and Reznor at their unsettling best, chucking in a barbed-wire cover of Immigrant Song with Karen O on vocals for good measure.

3. Soul (2020)

It seemed like a sign at how influential Reznor and Ross’s soundtracks had become when even blockbuster animation studio Pixar were aping them… and then you checked the credits and realised it was them. Their work on Soul – they handled the bits in the afterlife with jazz maven Jon Batiste handling the land of the living – made for a tranquil break from the grimy world they usually inhabit. Their trademark chord pattern (two familiar ones-one surprising one) remained, now paired with becalming soundscapes.

2. Watchmen (2019)

A very, very close second. Damon Lindelof’s Watchmen series was whipsmart and on-edge and Reznor and Ross came up with a soundtrack to match. Released in three Volumes, highlights include Bowie’s Life On Mars reworked as an instrumental neo-classical gem, Lincoln Tunnel’s doleful gospel blues, and the strobing electronic-pop of Nun With A Motherf*&*ing Gun.

1.   The Social Network (2010)

It feels slightly unfair to stick Reznor and Ross’s first effort at Number One, with its placing suggesting that they’ve never bettered it. They have done some incredible work since, but what an astounding flying start this was. Reznor had ummed and ahhed about saying yes when David Fincher asked if he wanted to do the score but he’s never looked back. His music gave a film in which a lot of time is spent watching entitled pricks look at computers its pulse, upping the BPMs when there’s a buzz of creativity on screen and shapeshifting into something more unsettling when the morals start slipping.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.