Few things move the human soul like music. Movies would be flat and two-dimensional without it. A well-written soundtrack can elevate a film to a spiritual experience. Through the score, emotions can be elevated, tensions can be conveyed and feelings can be communicated to the audience.
Film composers are some of the greatest musical geniuses of our time. Their job is not only to write songs, but to capture the essence of the film in a theme. That theme must then be expanded and manipulated over hours’ worth of footage to heighten each scene’s impact.
A good soundtrack can complete an audience’s immersion into the plot and involvement with the characters. These superbly composed masterpieces can even stand on their own, as modern symphonies. To me, it’s not just background music, but an essential component of the film’s artwork.
All that being said, I’ve compiled a brief list of some of my favorite composers and some of their best work. Just follow the links to hear samples!
Danny Elfman—Often teamed with director Tim Burton, his compositions are often fanciful and twisted. Perfectly suited for their unique plotlines, the scores for his movies are unmistakable.
Michael Giacchino—Still relatively young, he is an up and coming artist who first started writing for video games. A favorite of the Disney/Pixar franchise, he won an Academy Award for UP.
James Horner—Specializing in sweeping, spirited themes for epic movies, he has left his mark on filmmaking and set a coveted standard. A favorite of Ron Howard, and James Cameron, he has also scored all the Tom Clancy movies.
Ennio Morricone—Widely acclaimed as the greatest film composer of all time, he was at least the most prolific as he has written for over 490 projects during a career spanning more than 60 years. Americans are probably most familiar with his Spaghetti Western films.
Randy Newman—“Fun,” “folksy” and “popular” are all accurate descriptions of his work. Nothing is below or above his talent and he has written everything from television theme songs to Oscar winning movie soundtracks.
John Powell—His work is a veritable potpourri, ranging over every film genre. His work does not have its own distinct identity because he always blends it perfectly to the individual project.
Howard Shore—Best known for scoring the Lord of the Rings trilogy, his career is well-established but far from over.
John Williams—The ultimate movie composer, he has been the one to beat for decades. His flamboyant fanfares have become a stereotype and even cliché in their popularity. Undisputed genius flows from his writing and into some of the most iconic films ever produced.
Hans Zimmer—Having often had to fight for his career, his music reflects both the films’ characters’ spirits and his own. Most of his movies involve a brave protagonist, which is easy to hear in the scores.