Greatest Film Score Composer


They add beauty to our favorite movies in ways that no eye can see. Though the presence of their creation is in the subtlest of ways, no movie can ever be complete without the likes of them. Who among these film musical scorers can we declare as the best?

James Newton Howard

james-newton-howardAfter deciding to leave college for a music career, he joined a short-lived rock band called Mama Lion. In the early 70s, he described himself as being “dirt poor”, until his big break when his manager got him an audition with Elton John. Years later, he took an opportunity brought to him by that manager to write a film score for a small-time movie. This career move would lead to him becoming a successful film music composer. He has scored over 100 films and is the recipient of a Grammy Award, Emmy Award, and eight Academy Award nominations.

Notable scores: The Fugitive, The Sixth Sense, The Hunger Games

Danny Elfman

danny-elfmanBorn to a Jewish family, he was raised in a racially mixed affluent community in Baldwin Hills, California where he spent much of his time in the neighborhood’s local movie theatre. He hung out with the “band geeks” during his high school days. Some years after that, he developed significant hearing damage as a result of the continuous exposure to the high noise during the 18 years of being on a rock band. Afraid of worsening his condition, he decided to leave the band, as he found performing in front of orchestras more tolerable. Such a decision was wiser indeed, for he ended up as one the greatest in film scoring.

Notable scores: Forbiden Zone, Batman, Desperate Housewives

Ennio Morricone

ennio-morriconeBecause budget constraints limited his access to a full orchestra, he used gunshots, cracking whips, whistles, and other unconventional audio resources, instead of orchestral arrangements of Western standards. He composes a wide range of music styles, making him one of the most versatile, experimental and influential composers of all time. Working in any medium,he has been nominated for six Oscars and received the Academy Honorary Award for his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music.

Notable scores: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Hateful Eight

Hans Zimmer

hans-zimmerHis studio in Santa Monica, California has an extensive range of computer equipment and keyboards, allowing demo versions of film scores to be created quickly. His works are notable for integrating electronic music sounds with traditional orchestral arrangements. Fantastic as they truly are, the scores for these films were sadly disqualified from receiving Academy Award nominations for Best Original Score due to too many composers being listed on the cue sheet. Zimmer doesn’t mind this though, for it’s in his principle to give credit to the people he’s in collaboration with in all of his masterpieces.

Notable scores: The Lion King, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Pirates of the Caribbean

Alexandre Desplat

alexandre-desplatAt the age of five, he began playing piano. Eventually, he also became proficient with the trumpet and flute. His musical interests were wide, listening to a mix of French symphonies like, jazz and even more exotic world music. He was also influenced by South American and African artists. Being a big fan of films, he set his sights on becoming a film composer from an early age and took actions to make this dream a reality. By looking at his success credentials, it’s apparent he did just that.

Notable scores: Harry Potter, Zero Dark Thirty, Twilight Saga


John Barry

john-barryHe spent his early years working in cinemas owned by his father. He also spent some years serving in the British Army in Cyprus and while he’s at it, he began performing as a musician after learning to play the trumpet. He later developed an interest in composing and arranging music, making his debut for television in 1958. In his tenure with the industry, his brassy-moody brand of music achieved a very wide appeal. He was made a Fellow of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in 2005.

Notable scores: James Bond, Dances With Wolves, Out of Africa


Howard Shore

howard-shoreHe learned a multitude of instruments and began playing in bands during his early teens. By 17, he decided he wanted to pursue music in a much more serious setting. From 1975 to 1980, he became the musical director for the influential late-night NBC comedy show Saturday Night Live, appearing in many musical sketches. Though he was primarily associated with dark, ominous films, his first major film score was hugely successful and won him an Oscar, a Grammy Award, and some other big time nominations

Notable scores: The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit,


James Horner

james-hornerHis earliest musical endeavors was playing piano and violin. Upon his maturity, he was known for the integration of choral and electronic elements, and for his frequent use of Celtic music. Professionally, he was criticized for reusing passages from his earlier compositions, and for featuring brief excerpts and reworked themes from classical composers. However, some ciritics declared that he is just very skilled in the adaptation of existing music into films with just enough variation to avoid legal troubles. Even with that reputation, James Horner is still a musician that Hollywood can’t afford to lose.

Notable scores: The Lady in Red, Titanic, Avatar

Thomas Newman

thomas-newmanWith the upbringing of his mother, he got violin lessons every weekend during his boyhood days. He later studied composition and orchestration during adulthood. At first, he was more interested in musical theater than in film composition. But then he got his first scoring assignment on an episode of the TV series The Paper Chase. From then on, he got opportunities to work with other big names in the field of film scoring. Newman likes to vary the instrumentation in his scores, ranging from full orchestra to percussion-only music. This enables him to work in various movie genres in ways that very few film scorers can ever get to enjoy.

Notable scores: The Green Mile, Wall-E, Skywall

John Williams

john-williamsWith a career spanning over six decades, he has composed some of the most popular and recognizable film scores in cinematic history. As an offspring of a percussionist father, he prefers composing music in a somewhat “marching mood.” With his skills in a variety of compositional idioms, his signature style may be described as a form of neoromanticism. He has written music for robots, aliens, superheroes and monstrous animals in movies in the grandest ways possible. This makes the name John Williams impossible to erase in annals of Hollywood.

Notable scores: Star Wars, Superman, Jaws


Who among them should be ranked as No. 1?

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