Watching a movie would never be the same without music being perfectly placed in the background of the film. Music brings so much more depth and feeling to the movies we watch and some people don't appreciate it enough, or enjoy it more than they realize. The music can be its own separate layer of storytelling, which is why many people love listening to scores of beloved films of our times. I'm listing my top ten movie music composers and how they have effected me in my life of loving films.
1) Danny Elfman
4 Academy Nominations (Good Will Hunting, Men in Black, Big Fish, Milk)
2 Golden Globe Nominations (Nightmare Before Christmas and Big Fish)
11 Nominations and 1 Grammy Win (Batman, Dick Tracey, Edward Scissorhands, Nightmare Before Christmas, Men in Black, Planet of the Apes, Spider-Man, Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Milk, and Alice in Wonderland).
Known Mostly For: Batman, Dick Tracey, Men in Black, Spider-Man, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Nightmare Before Christmas, Big Fish.
Directors He Mostly Works With: Tim Burton, Gus Van Sant and Sam Raimi.
Danny Elfman is one of my all time favorite composers. His music always fits perfectly and can have a dark, yet playful tone, which is why him and Tim Burton work so well together, and I guess the same can be said about sam Raimi too. He first caught my attention with Nightmare Before Christmas. Batman and Dick Tracey really stand out in my head and have made a huge impact on my joy for movie music.
Singing Nightmare Before Christmas Live
Edward Scissorhands Ice Dance
Men in Black Opening
2) John Williams
50 Oscar Nominations and 5 Wins (Fiddler on the Roof, Jaws, Star Wars, ET, Schindler's List)
25 Golden Globe Nominations and 4 Wins (Jaws, Star Wars, ET and Memoirs of a Geisha)
57 Grammy Nominations and 22 Wins (Jaws, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, ET, Superman).
Known Mostly For: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Jaws, Hook, Home Alone, Jurassic Park.
Directors He Mostly Works With: George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Chris Columbus
Of course John Williams is one of the most remembered composers of all time. He composed some of the best and memorable pieces where his music, and the movie in which it played under, will be engrained in our brains and souls to be labeled as "Classics". Star Wars was definitely the highlight of my movie watching life, as well as Jaws, because even the theme made me afraid of the water. He's like a movie theme legend! Close Encounters was amazing and I can't believe there isn't some dubstep remix of the tones the humans and aliens exchange at the end of the film.
Star Wars Theme
3) Howard Shore
4 Academy Nominations and 3 Wins (LOTR)
6 Golden Globe Nominations and 3 Wins (LOTR: Return of the King, and The Aviator)
4 Grammy Wins (LOTR)
Known Mostly For: LOTR, The Aviator, Scanners, Videodrome, Mrs. Doubtfire, Crash, Dogma, the Cell, Hugo, The Hobbit, Rosewater and Pete's Dragon (remake coming soon).
Directors He Mostly Works With: David Cronenberg, Peter Jackson, Martin Scorsese and David Fincher.
I loved his score for the LOTR Trilogy. I own more copies of his scored soundtracks than anyone else. He is masterful with fantasy movies that need to sound epic. You can hear entire worlds in his music, different than John Williams's other world scores. He first caught me with the LOTR, after that is when I discovered he scored all the other movies I loved. Truly a great and diverse composer. When I worked at a movie theater in high school I listened to the song Into the West at the end of the LOTR: Return of the King film, and had it memorized. I loved that song, even though a co-worker would make fun of it by imitating the vocalist with an over exaggerated and comedic version. Good fun and humorous memories.
Hobbit Misty Mountains
LOTR Into the West
4) Hans Zimmer
1 Academy Win (Lion King)
2 Golden Globe Wins (Gladiator and Lion King)
4 Grammy Wins (Lion King, Crimson Tide and The Dark Knight).
Known Mostly for: Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Pirates of the Caribbean, Gladiator, Interstellar.
Directors He Mostly Works With: Christopher Nolan, Gore Verinski, Ron Howard, Tony and Ridley Scott.
Hans Zimmer certainly knows how to make you feel something in his music as well. Gladiator is what defined him from me. The "We Are Free" sequence really tugged at my emotions. The music was awesome and fit the time and style really well. Inception was another movie where the music had just as much of an impact on me as the movie di. It was wonderful. Most recently I LOVED his score for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The part where Wonder Woman comes in to fight Doomsday literally got my fist pumping in the air while watching in the theater. Truly enthralling and epic. Shame to hear him quitting superhero movies. I think he's perfect for them.
Batman v Superman
5) James Horner
10 Academy Nominations and 2 Wins (Titanic)
10 Golden Globe Nominations and 2 Wins (Titanic)
12 Grammy Nominations and 6 Wins (An American Tail, Glory and Titanic)
Known Mostly for: Cocoon, Star Trek 2 and 3, Aliens, An American Tail, Land Before Time, Field of Dreams, Honey I shrunk the kids, The Rocketeer, Hocus Pocus, The Pagemaster, Braveheart, Jumanji, Balto, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Avatar, Amazing Spider-Man, Southpaw, The 33.
Directors He Mostly Works With: Ron Howard, Mel Gibson and James Cameron.
James Horner has composed music for some of my favorite films growing up. I first enjoyed him from An American Tail. I used to watch that movie so many times it was ridiculous. I then became more of a fan because of Honey I Shrunk the Kids and Feild of Dreams. The music in that always made me feel something while watching, whether it be feeling dreamy or small and crazy.
Field of Dreams
Honey I Shrunk the Kids
An American Tail
6) Jerry Goldsmith
18 Academy Award Nominations and 1 Win (The Omen)
9 Golden Globe Nominations (Chinatown, Alien, Basic Instinct, LA Confidential, Star Trek and Mulan)
6 Grammy Nominations (The Man from UNCLE, The Omen and Alien).
Known Mostly for: Twilight Zone, Man from UNCLE, Planet of the Apes, Patton, Chinatown, The Omen, Alien, Star Trek, Poltergeist, Secret of NIMH, Explorers, Legend, Rambo, Innerspace, Hoosiers, Total Recall, Gremlins, Powder, Rudy, The Mummy, Small Soldiers, The 13th Warrior.
Directors He Mostly Works With: Joe Dante, Franklin J. Schaffner and Paul Verhoeven
I mainly know Jerry from the Twilight Zone theme. I've seen every episode. He brings that eerie sound to his movies very well, like in The Omen, Alien and Poltergeist. He really knows how to creep you out in his composition. Horror really is it's own category of music.
Secret of Nimh
7) Elmer Bernstein
14 Academy Nominations and 1 Win (Thoroughly Modern Millie)
2 Golden Globe Wins (To Kill a Mockingbird and Hawaii)
5 Grammy Nominations (Walk on the Wild Side, Ghostbusters, Age of Innocence)
Known Mostly For: The Great Escape, The Ten Commandments, To Kill a Mockingbird, True Grit, Wild Wild West, The Good Son, My left Foot, Funny Farm, Three Amigos!, Ghostbusters, The Black Cauldron, Stripes, Airplane!, Heavy Metal, Blues Brothers, Meatballs, Animal House.
Directors He Mostly Works With: Ivan Reitman and Martin Scorsese.
I first noticed his music from Ghostbusters. No one will ever forget that theme song. I was also a fan of his with Three Amigos!, Blues Brothers, and Heavy Metal. Watching The Great Escape years after its release, I realize the movie definitely wouldn't have been the same without Elmer's brilliant score pushing it along.
The Great Escape
8) Harry Gregson-Williams
1 Golden Globe Nomination (Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)
1 Grammy Nomination (Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe).
Known Mostly for: The Borrowers, Antz, Chicken Run, Spy Kids, Shrek, The Rundown, Team America, Domino, Number 23, Cowboys and Aliens, Prometheus, The Martian.
Directors He Mostly Works With: Tony and Ridley Scott, Andrew Adamson and Ben Affleck.
Harry Is amazing at Fantasy and Sci-Fi films. Chronicles of Narnia stands out to me the most and is a scored soundtrack that I own. I am a little bias on this movie due to my name, but the movie and the music was really, really good in my eyes. I remember growing up with that story and everything about it fit what I had in my head as a child. It was amazing and he did a great job putting it all together with his music. His work in Prometheus was great and more recently in The Martian was extremely good. he knows how to create tension in his songs.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
9) Ennio Morricone
7 Academy Nominations and 2 Wins (Honorary Award and Hateful Eight)
9 Golden Globe Nominations and 3 Wins (The Mission, Legend of 1900 and Hateful Eight)
7 Grammy Nominations and 4 Wins (Untouchables, Once upon a Time in the West, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, "Career Achievement")
Known Mostly For: The Good, Bad and the Ugly, The Thing, Untouchables, Bulworth, Mission to Mars and Hateful Eight.
Directors He Works Mostly With: Mauro Bolognini, Sergio Leone and Quentin Tarantino.
I honestly first noticed him from his score with Hateful Eight. The moment that movie started I was already drawn in by the music. I knew and was pushing for him to win the Oscar and he did. He truly deserved it because I thought that score was perfect for the film. I recently watched Mission to Mars and I have to say I was not impressed. I thought the music actually hurt the movie in this instance. It sounded like something you would hear on a movie for the SyFy network. He seems to have a great feel and sound for Westerns, but definitely not a Sci-Fi composer.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Mission to Mars
10) Michael Giacchino
2 Academy Award Nominations and 1 Win (Ratatouille, Up)
1 Golden Globe Win (Up)
7 Grammy Nominations and 3 Wins (The Incredibles, Star Trek, Up and Ratatouille).
Known Mostly For: The Incredibles, Muppets Wizard of Oz, Mission Impossible 3, Ratatouille, Cloverfeild, Speed Racer, Star Trek 1 & 2 (JJ Abrams), Up, Super 8, Jurassic World, Inside Out, Zootopia, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and War of the Planet of the Apes.
Directors He Mostly Works With: JJ Abrams, Brad Bird and Matt Reeves.
This is a young and up and coming composer. He does more family friendly and fun sort of movies. Most seems to be Disney/Pixar. Which is great and he seems to steadily getting more work. I first noticed his work from Up, which won awards and rightly so. More recently Inside Out had an amazing score to go along with the great heartfelt story. His music has been wonderful so far and I can't wait to hear what he has coming next.
In remembrance of Prince, I would like to share these great clips from the movie Purple Rain and Batman. RIP sweet Prince.
Now, I would like to give a plug to two music composers that I know personally, Tiago da Silva and Tim Griggs.
I have worked with Tiago a couple of times, but I first met him when I asked him to compose music for the first short film that I wrote, produced and starred in, “Thank You”. He's nice, great to work with and pulls out amazing work all on his own.
I worked with Tim when I pulled him in for the 48 Hour Film Festival in Austin, and he immediately showed passion and gave great work to quickly add music to our film. Both of them also record, mix and edit audio for films.
If you're on the search for some music composers, then I'm sure they would love to talk to you about composing your film as long as you reach out.
To find out more about Tiago da Silva, click here.
To find out more about Tim Griggs, click here.
Watch “Thank You”, a fifteen minute silent film with a great story and no audio other than the music composition of Tiago da Silva.