The Top Ten Best Film Composers

Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 3:52 PM | Posted in

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Movie Analysis written by: Born Movie Reviews


Music is, in my opinion, the world's greatest element. Without music, my life would be incomplete, for it spells out so many emotions that words can fail to describe. In many ways, the keys, silences, and notes bring out the same effect as pictures, for pictures are worth a thousand words. It is unquestionable as to why the Academy Awards have a category for Best Original Score, in which a composer or small team of composers group together to present the greatest piece of music in film.

For sure, there are way too many film composers out there that deserve praise and admiration. As a result, it can seem to be too difficult to only pick out ten. It is almost like picking the top ten film directors of all time. Since I live in the present day, and I am emphasizing more on composers that impact me as a person and a filmmaker, the composers on this list will tend to be more recent. For sure, some of the greatest composers come from the black and white age, composers like Bernard Hermann. This list of ten composers will inevitably not cover the most ground, for there are many more talented people out there, but here are ten composers that affect me the most:


Scoring over a hundred films, and being a recipient of eight Academy Award nominations, James Newton Howard is best known for his work on DinosaurThe VillageKing Kong, and his collaboration with Hans Zimmer for Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Like all film composers working with directors more than once, Howard combines his music with M. Night Shyamalan films, both the good ones and the bad ones. These include The Sixth Sense as well as Signs. In terms of working, style of music, and process of composing, James Newton Howard is a fast composer. He composed the soundtracks for King Kong as well as The Hunger Games is approximately one month.


Danny Elfman is the guy who practically writes the music for every film directed by Tim Burton. Elfman to Burton is like John Williams to Steven Spielberg. Nominated for four Academy Awards, Elfman emphasizes on trombone, violins, pianos, and vocals to create a dark supernatural tone of music. His works include the original Batman films, Corpse BrideAlice in Wonderland, the Men in Black trilogy and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films. He is best known for the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack.


Being the diverse composer he is, Michael Giacchino has composed movies, television series, and even video games. His works go from LostAlias, and Fringe, to The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Up. In addition, Giacchino has a notable career in composing live action films that normally fit with films directed by J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves, such as the Star Trek films, Super 8Cloverfield, and Let Me In. With his musical diversity at hand, Giacchino is a winner of an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and three Grammy Awards.


Film composers come with great style when they themselves are foreign and they compose films that give the taste of foreign cinema. Nominated for five Academy Awards, Alexandre Desplat brings his gifted instrumental music to films like The QueenThe Painted VeilThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The King's SpeechThe Tree of LifeMoonrise KingdomArgoZero Dark Thirty, and even the two-part finale of Harry Potter.


Winner of eight Academy Awards plus eleven more nominations, Alan Menken is the king of music for Walt Disney Animation Studios. That's right, Disney, so you know what works he has done. His scores include Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, Hercules, Tangled, and my personal favorite, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Working with piano and violin, and associating with musical theater and pop, Menken is one of the most prolific Oscar winning composers ever.


A trumpeter and a synthesist, Mark Isham is recently known for composing the score of the TV show Once Upon a Time. However, his work on the soundtracks for October Sky and Crash are what makes Isham reach number five on this list. His works with the violin and the piano are mesmerizing.


Considered to be one of the greatest film composers of all time, John Williams holds an enormous music career of six decades, creating some of the most famous movie theme songs, including JawsStar WarsSupermanIndiana JonesE.T.Jurassic ParkSchindler's List, and even Harry Potter. He has won five Academy Awards with 48 nominations total. Even for the less famous, Williams has worked with Steven Spielberg ever since the beginning of time. Even today, Williams has assisted the prestigious director in films as recent as TintinWar Horse, and Lincoln. Outside of film scores, Williams has also composed theme music for four Olympic Games, the NBC Sunday Night Football, and the NBC Nightly News.


Composer of over 80 films and winner of three Academy Awards, Howard Shore has been in the prestigious music world ever since he composed The FlyThe Silence of the LambsPhiladelphia, and That Thing You Do! As the 2000s approach, Shore's career skyrocketed after scoring Peter Jackson's award-winning trilogy The Lord of the Rings. Along the side, Shore goes on to score films by Martin Scorsese, including The AviatorThe Departed, and even shifted to French music with Hugo. For sure, he is returning with Peter Jackson once again to score the Hobbit trilogy.


Integrating electronic music with traditional orchestra, Hans Zimmer is the master of epic film music in recent years, but his astouding goes back to the 90s, when he was most known for composing the best-selling animated film soundtrack of all time, The Lion King. Six years later, Zimmer breaks through with the soundtrack to Gladiator, the Best Picture winner of 2000. He then expresses his diversity to different types of music with The Last Samurai, the Pirates of the Caribbean films, and even Kung Fu Panda. Furthermore, Zimmer adds in hints of vocals and echoes in hallways, giving a religious feel to Ron Howard's The Da Vinci Code, nominated for a Golden Globe. Today, he is probably best known for composing the soundtrack of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy as well as Inception.


Scoring over a hundred films that date back to 1981, Joe Hisaishi is best known for his collaboration with Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Though he has his own distinct sound, Hisaishi explores all different kinds of music, from electronic to European, minimalist to Japanese, and uses a variety of instruments and sound effects. His most famous works are all directed by Miyazaki: Nausicaa of the Valley of the WindCastle in the SkyMy Neighbor TotoroKiki's Delivery ServicePorco RossoPrincess MononokeSpirited AwayHowl's Moving Castle, and Ponyo. They all range from inspirational pianos to joyful dances, thematically dark ominous music to romantic waltzes. With the combined passion of Hisaishi and Miyazaki, artistic beautiful magic has been born.

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