Top 35 Film Composers

by nielslauridsenstudio | created - 12 Aug 2012 | updated - 7 months ago | Public

These are my favorite 35 film composers.

I will be listing my favorite scores from each composers, however limiting them to one per franchise, unless those scores from that franchise are drastically different from each other (e.g. Jurassic Park and The Lost World: Jurassic Park) or if the sequel/prequel features new themes (e.g. The Empire Strikes Back, LOTR: The Two Towers or the James Bond franchise). These listings are also based on the overall score, not just themes (e.g. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has an amazing main theme, but is rarely used, and the rest of the score is not that impressive). The listing is also limited to Film Scores only, with a few exceptions (e.g. Band Of Brothers (TV Mini-Series) and Medal Of Honor (Videogame)).

1. John Williams

Soundtrack | Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

As one of the best known, awarded, and financially successful composers in US history, John Williams is as easy to recall as John Philip Sousa, Aaron Copland or Leonard Bernstein, illustrating why he is "America's composer" time and again. With a massive list of awards that includes over 41 Oscar ...

Best Scores:

Star Wars Raiders of the Lost Ark Jaws The Empire Strikes Back Schindler's List Close Encounters of the Third Kind E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Superman Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Jurassic Park Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Saving Private Ryan Return of the Jedi Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith The Lost World: Jurassic Park Home Alone War Horse Catch Me If You Can Minority Report The Terminal Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones War of the Worlds The Book Thief The Patriot Lincoln Munich The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

2. Hans Zimmer

Composer | Gladiator

German-born composer Hans Zimmer is recognized as one of Hollywood's most innovative musical talents. He featured in the music video for The Buggles' single "Video Killed the Radio Star", which became a worldwide hit and helped usher in a new era of global entertainment as the first music video to ...

Best Scores:

Gladiator (and Lisa Gerrard) Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest The Dark Knight (and James Newton Howard) Inception Black Hawk Down The Lion King The Dark Knight Rises Sherlock Holmes The Rock (and Nick Glennie-Smith) Kung Fu Panda (and John Powell) The Da Vinci Code Pearl Harbor Driving Miss Daisy The Last Samurai Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End King Arthur Rush Rango The Thin Red Line Frost/Nixon Madagascar

3. Jerry Goldsmith

Music_department | Star Trek: First Contact

Born on February 10, 1929, Jerry Goldsmith studied piano with Jakob Gimpel and composition, theory, and counterpoint with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. He also attended classes in film composition given by Miklós Rózsa at the Univeristy of Southern California. In 1950, he was employed as a clerk ...

Best Scores:

First Blood Star Trek: The Motion Picture Mulan Alien Patton Air Force One Gremlins Poltergeist The Omen Chinatown The Mummy L.A. Confidential Under Fire Magic King Solomon's Mines Total Recall Rudy Hoosiers Basic Instinct

4. Ennio Morricone

Composer | The Hateful Eight

A classmate of director Sergio Leone with whom he would form one of the great director/composer partnerships (right up there with Eisenstein & Prokofiev, Hitchcock & Herrmann, Fellini & Rota), Ennio Morricone studied at Rome's Santa Cecilia Conservatory, where he specialized in trumpet. His first ...

Best Scores:

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly For A Few Dollars More A Fistful Of Dollars Once Upon A Time In The West The Mission The Thing (1982) The Untouchables

5. John Barry

Music_department | Dances with Wolves

John Barry was born in York, England in 1933, and was the youngest of three children. His father, Jack, owned several local cinemas and by the age of fourteen, Barry was capable of running the projection box on his own - in particular, The Rialto in York. As he was brought up in a cinematic ...

Best Scores:

Out Of Africa Dances With Wolves Born Free Goldfinger The Man With The Golden Gun On Her Majesty's Secret Service From Russia With Love Chaplin The Lion In Winter

6. Howard Shore

Music_department | The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Howard Shore is a Canadian composer, born in Toronto. He was born in a Jewish family. He started studying music when 8-years-old, and played as a member of bands by the time he was 13-years-old. He was interested in a professional career in music as a teenager. He studied music at the Berklee ...

Best Scores:

The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers Ed Wood The Departed Hugo The Aviator The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Eastern Promises Seven

7. Max Steiner

Composer | The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Austrian composer who achieved legendary status as the creator of hundreds of classic American film scores. As a child he was astonishingly musically gifted, composing complex works as a teenager and completing the course of study at Vienna's Hochschule fuer Musik und Darstellende Kunst in only one...

Best Scores:

Gone With The Wind King Kong (1933) Casablanca A Summer Place

8. James Horner

Music_department | Titanic

James Horner began studying piano at the age of five, and trained at the Royal College of Music in London, England, before moving to California in the 1970s. After receiving a bachelor's degree in music at USC, he would go on to earn his master's degree at UCLA and teach music theory there. He ...

Best Scores:

Titanic Braveheart Avatar A Beautiful Mind Apollo 13 The Mask Of Zorro Glory Aliens Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan Enemy At The Gates Troy The Perfect Storm The Rocketeer The Land Before Time

9. Alan Silvestri

Composer | The Polar Express

In over thirty years as a film composer, Alan Silvestri has blazed an innovative trail with his exciting and melodic scores, winning the applause of Hollywood and movie audiences the world over.

Born in Manhattan in 1950, Alan was first drawn to music at an early age. Beginning as a drummer, his ...

Best Scores:

Back To The Future The Avengers Forrest Gump The Polar Express Predator Cast Away Captain America: The First Avenger

10. Michael Giacchino

Composer | Star Trek

Michael Giacchino is an American composer of music for films, television and video games.

Giacchino composed the scores to the television series Lost, Alias and Fringe, the video game series Medal of Honor and Call of Duty and many films such as The Incredibles (2004), Star Trek (2009), Up (2009), ...

Best Scores:

Ratatouille Medal Of Honor (1999) The Incredibles Up Mission: Impossible III Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol Call Of Duty (2003) La Luna (Short)

11. Bent Fabricius-Bjerre

Composer | Blinkende lygter

Bent Fabricius-Bjerre was born on December 7, 1924 in Frederiksberg, Denmark. He is a composer, known for Flickering Lights (2000), Cabin Boy (1994) and Shag (1989). He has been married to Camilla Padilla Arndt since September 4, 2005. He was previously married to Anne Fabricius-Bjerre and Harriet ...

(Danish Film Composer, probably the most famous danish composer, and has made so many memorable scores)

Best Scores:

Olsen Banden (1968) Matador (TV Series)

12. James Newton Howard

Composer | King Kong

James Newton Howard attended the University of Southern California's music school, but dropped out to tour with Elton John, and eventually compose music for film and television. He started with Head Office (1985) in 1985. He has been nominated for eight Academy Awards. He currently is a songwriter, ...

Best Scores:

King Kong (2005) Atlantis: The Lost Empire The Village Lady In The Water Blood Diamond Signs Dinosaur (2000) Treasure Planet Unbreakable The Fugitive Nightcrawler I Am Legend Defiance RV The Sixth Sense Michael Clayton

13. Elmer Bernstein

Composer | Far from Heaven

Elmer Bernstein was educated at the Walden School and New York University. He served in the US Army Air Corps in World War II. A prolific and respected film music composer, he was a protégé of Aaron Copland, who studied music with Roger Sessions and Stefan Wolpe. Bernstein worked in various ...

Best Scores:

The Great Escape The Magnificent Seven Trading Places The Man With The Golden Arm Cape Fear

14. Henry Mancini

Soundtrack | Breakfast at Tiffany's

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, but brought up in Pennsylvania, where he played the flute in a local band, as a youth, before sending some arrangements to Benny Goodman. Goodman offered him a job and, after serving in WWII, he joined the rearranged Glenn Miller band. In 1952, he was given a two-week ...

Best Scores:

The Pink Panther Breakfast At Tiffany's

15. Thomas Newman

Music_department | Skyfall

Thomas Newman is an American film score composer. He was born in Los Angeles. His father was notable film score composer Alfred Newman (1900-1970). The Newman family is of Russian-Jewish descent, and includes several other well-known musicians. Thomas' mother Martha Louis Montgomery (1920-2005) ...

Best Scores:

The Shawshank Redemption The Green Mile Road To Perdition Wall-E American Beauty Finding Nemo Skyfall Revolutionary Road

16. Michael Kamen

Soundtrack | Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Michael Kamen was born on April 15, 1948 in New York City, New York, USA as Michael Arnold Kamen. He was married to Sandra Keenan. He died on November 18, 2003 in London, England.

Best Scores:

Band Of Brothers (TV Mini-Series) The Iron Giant Brazil Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves Die Hard Lethal Weapon Licence To Kill X-Men (2000)

17. John Powell

Composer | Solo: A Star Wars Story

John Powell was born on September 18, 1963 in London, England. He is a composer, known for Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018), How to Train Your Dragon (2010) and Rio (2011). He was previously married to Melinda Lerner.

Best Scores:

The Bourne Ultimatum How To Train Your Dragon Kung Fu Panda 2 (and Hans Zimmer) Kung Fu Panda (and Hans Zimmer) How To Train Your Dragon 2 Chicken Run (and Harry Gregson-Williams) Shrek (and Harry Gregson-Williams) Hancock The Italian Job (2003) Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs United 93 Jumper Green Zone Endurance Mr. & Mrs. Smith Rio

18. Danny Elfman

Music_department | The Nightmare Before Christmas

As Danny Elfman was growing up in the Los Angeles area, he was largely unaware of his talent for composing. It wasn't until the early 1970s that Danny and his older brother Richard Elfman started a musical troupe while in Paris; the group "Mystic Knights of Oingo-Boingo" was created for Richard's ...

Best Scores:

The Simpsons (Theme) Batman (1989) Edward Scissorhands Spider-Man 2 The Nightmare Before Christmas Mission: Impossible Good Will Hunting Real Steel

19. Bernard Herrmann

Soundtrack | Taxi Driver

The man behind the low woodwinds that open Citizen Kane (1941), the shrieking violins of Psycho (1960), and the plaintive saxophone of Taxi Driver (1976) was one of the most original and distinctive composers ever to work in film. He started early, winning a composition prize at the age of 13 and ...

Best Scores:

Psycho North By Northwest Taxi Driver Citizen Kane Cape Fear

20. Randy Newman

Soundtrack | The Princess and the Frog

Randy Newman was born on November 28, 1943 in Los Angeles, California, USA as Randall Stuart Newman. He has been married to Gretchen Preece since 1990. They have two children. He was previously married to Roswitha Schmale.

Best Scores:

The Natural Toy Story 3 Toy Story 2 Toy Story Cars Monsters University Monsters, Inc. A Bug's Life Meet The Parents

21. Nino Rota

Composer | The Godfather

Born in Milan in 1911 into a family of musicians, Nino Rota was first a student of Orefice and Pizzetti. Then, still a child, he moved to Rome where he completed his studies at the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia in 1929 with Alfredo Casella. In the meantime, he had become an 'enfant prodige', famous...

Best Scores:

The Godfather The Godfather: Part II

22. Maurice Jarre

Composer | Lawrence of Arabia

Unlike many musicians who started to learn music while still in their childhood, Maurice Jarre was already late in his teens when he discovered music and decided to make a career in that field. Against his father's will, he enrolled at Conservatoire de Paris where he studied percussions, ...

Best Scores:

Lawrence Of Arabia Doctor Zhivago

23. Miklós Rózsa

Composer | Ben-Hur

A child prodigy, Miklos Rosza learned to play the violin at the age of five and read music before he was able to read words. In 1926, he began studying at the Leipzig Conservatory where he was considered a brilliant student. He obtained his doctorate in music in 1930. Moving to Paris the following ...

Best Scores:

Ben-Hur (1959)

24. Lalo Schifrin

Music_department | Rush Hour

Immensely talented, Argentinian born pianist, conductor and composer who has written over 100 scores for both television & the cinema including the memorable themes to Mission: Impossible (1966), Mannix (1967), Starsky and Hutch (1975), Cool Hand Luke (1967), and Bullitt (1968). Schifrin has ...

Best Scores:

Mission: Impossible (Theme) Bullitt

25. Alfred Newman

Composer | How the West Was Won

Alfred Newman was born on March 17, 1901 in New Haven, Connecticut, USA. He is known for his work on How the West Was Won (1962), All About Eve (1950) and V for Vendetta (2005). He was married to Martha Montgomery and Mary Lou Dix. He died on February 17, 1970 in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California,...

I haven't heard much from Alfred Newman, except, well everybody has heard and know that by heart; the 20th Century Fox theme. So that's why you might be surprised by his position on my list, he might move higher up later.

26. Ernest Gold

Music_department | It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

Ernest Gold was born on July 13, 1921 in Vienna, Austria as Ernst Siegmund Goldner. He is known for his work on It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963), On the Beach (1959) and Exodus (1960). He was married to Jan Keller and Marni Nixon. He died on March 17, 1999 in Santa Monica, California, USA.

Best Scores:

Exodus (1960)

27. Harold Faltermeyer

Soundtrack | Top Gun

Harold Faltermeyer was born on October 5, 1952 in Munich, Germany as Harold Faltermeier. He was previously married to Karin Faltermeyer.

Best Scores:

Beverly Hills Cop Top Gun

28. David Arnold

Soundtrack | Casino Royale

David Arnold was born on January 23, 1962 in Luton, England. He is known for his work on Casino Royale (2006), Independence Day (1996) and Godzilla (1998). He has been married to Ellie Pole since June 8, 1996. They have three children.

Best Scores:

Casion Royale (2006) Independence Day Quantum Of Solace Godzilla (1998)

29. Erich Wolfgang Korngold

Composer | The Adventures of Robin Hood

Erich Wolfgang Korngold was the son of a well-known music critic. A child prodigy, he accompanied his father in playing four-handed piano arrangements by the age of five. By the age of eleven he drew his first plaudits from enthusiastic Viennese audiences (including the emperor Franz Josef) with ...

Best Scores:

The Adventures Of Robin Hood

30. Brian Tyler

Composer | Iron Man Three

Brian Tyler is known for his work on Iron Man 3 (2013), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and Eagle Eye (2008).

Best Scores:

Hawaii Five-0 (Theme Reboot) Fast Five Iron Man 3 The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift Rambo (2008) Need For Speed: The Run The Expendables Brake

31. Brad Fiedel

Music_department | True Lies

Extremely talented, prolific and versatile composer Brad Fiedel was born on March 10, 1951 in New York City. His mother was a dancer and his father was a composer and musician. Brad started out as a keyboardist for Hall & Oates. Fiedel first began composing music for movies in the mid-70s for such ...

Best Scores:

Terminator 2: Judgement Day The Terminator

32. Trevor Rabin

Composer | Deep Blue Sea

Trevor Rabin was born in South Africa in 1954. He began playing guitar at the age of 12 after having had piano lessons since he was a toddler. In 1972 he formed the band Rabbit becoming the most successful rock act ever to emerge from South Africa. Rabin left Rabbit to pursue a solo career in ...

Best Scores:

National Treasure Gone In 60 Seconds (2000) Enemy Of The State (and Harry Gregson-Williams) The Guardian (2006)

33. Ramin Djawadi

Composer | Game of Thrones

Ramin Djawadi was born on July 19, 1974 in Duisburg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. He is a composer, known for Game of Thrones (2011), Iron Man (2008) and Westworld (2016). He is married to Jennifer Hawks. They have two children.

Best Scores:

Iron Man Game Of Thrones (TV Series) Medal Of Honor (2010)

34. Steve Jablonsky

Composer | Transformers

Steve Jablonsky was born on October 9, 1970 in the USA. He is known for his work on Transformers (2007), Desperate Housewives (2004) and Deepwater Horizon (2016).

Best Scores:

Transformers Transformers: Age Of Extinction Pain & Gain The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2006) Gangster Squad

35. Mark Mancina

Composer | Speed

Known for his wide-ranging talents, Mark Mancina's film scores traverse almost every genre: drama, action, comedy, suspense, and period epic. His dark, edgy music for the Oscar-winning Training Day (2001), is a benchmark score that expanded the boundaries of scoring street-wise drama, and is widely...

Best Scores:

Speed Brother Bear Tarzan (1999)

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