In the past few years, I’ve really taken to collecting film scores when I can afford it. It’s amazing to think that I had an even MORE difficult time compiling a favorites list of film composers than I did for actors or actresses. When it comes down to it–and I hope if you haven’t read anything else I’ve written, that you read this–that picking favorite film composers for the average movie lover is something that really comes down to the thought, what do you like to listen to? For someone who grew up playing many instruments and being involved in music frequently, I still lack that intuitive knowledge that would say, This is a good soundtrack because of X reason. At the end of the day, these composers are on this list because I really favor one or multiple scores of theirs.
I’m not ranking John Williams on this (even though it is just a FAVORITES LIST) because I don’t think he ought to be ranked. He’s composed some of the greatest scores of our time and is a household name today. He’s absolutely brilliant when it comes to taking a few notes and creating a memorable melody that is remixed decades later for film remakes. On Williams’s 80th birthday, I posted about him in more detail. You can check out that post here.
6. Daft Punk
Since it’s nearly impossible to find a normal picture of Daft Punk, please enjoy this light-up dance routine to one of the tracks from TRON: Legacy.
Again, I struggled having only five composers on my list. It’s ironic that Daft Punk even makes this list considering that they have scored the soundtrack for only one film. The clincher for me is that it is one of my favorite scores I have listened to on repeat constantly, and I can’t find any other scores even comparable: TRON: Legacy. For two years, the duo that makes up Daft Punk–Frenchman Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter–collaborated with Joseph Trapanese, an arranger and composer who lives in LA. The score is performed by an 85-piece orchestra that combines both electronic and orchestral sounds. Daft Punk has released other types of albums, yet I hope that more film scores are in their future.
5. Henry Jackman
Henry Jackman is really a darkhorse pick even in terms of favorite composers of mine, because I haven’t heard a whole lot by him. After learning that he’s actually partially composed several scores, such as being the music programmer for The Da Vinci Code, the music arranger for The Dark Knight, and contributing to the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean films, I consider Jackman to be more of an up and comer in the film composition industry. Jackman has worked under the strong direction of Hans Zimmer, who’s been referred to as Jackman’s mentor in the past. Jackman’s also helped write the score for Zimmer’s The Holiday, as well as the scores for the films Vantage Point and Monsters vs. Aliens. He’s recently started to head his own projects, the most memorable being his rich, intense score for last year’s X-Men: First Class. It was one of my favorite soundtrack scores of last year; you can read more about it in this previous post.
4. Nancy Wilson
To many, Nancy Wilson may be considered an odd choice given that she’s known more as a rock musician. According to her IMDB profile, Wilson has performed or written tracks for over 20 films. In terms of film composing, however, her number is quite a bit smaller: four films. Previously married to filmmaker Cameron Crowe, Wilson lended her film composing skills to several of his films, including Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, Vanilla Sky, and Elizabethtown. I’m still convinced that Crowe went directly with Jonsi only for the score of We Bought a Zoo because he no longer has Wilson to collaborate with, but that’s just me speculating. Despite only composing for four films (some of which have only one or two tracks), Wilson still makes my favorites list because I’m a big fan of each of her tracks on each album. She mainly works with only acoustic guitar, and there’s a very earthy, deep feel to the sound. My recommendation is to check out her Elizabethtown score. I talk about it a little more in this post. It’s my favorite!
3. Hans Zimmer
This list would be incomplete without the addition of Hans Zimmer. He reminds me of the Peter Jackson of the film composition world because he’s so open and communicative with his fans. Zimmer has collaborated with other brilliant film composers, such as Klaus Badelt on some of the Pirates of the Caribbean scores as well as James Newton Howard (one who barely missed this list!) on Christopher Nolan’s batman films. Zimmer has won multiple awards, although he’s won only one Academy Award in his time (crazy or what?!) for The Lion King in 1994. His award-winning (and nominated) film scores tend to be his most well-known, such as Gladiator, The Last Samurai, and Inception. His colleagues at DreamWorks, who Zimmer happens to be head of the music division there, include both legendary film composers John Powell and Harry Gregson-Williams, who composed the memorable, uplifting score for The Chronicles of Narnia films. Zimmer is also known for his collaboration with director Christopher Nolan, having joint-composed (if that can be a term) for Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises with Newton Howard and composing for the critically-acclaimed film, Inception. My current favorite film scores of Zimmer’s are for Guy Ritchie’s first Sherlock Holmes (2009) and Inception.
2. Danny Elfman
Danny Elfman has a giant resume of film scores that I’ve never listened to, yet he makes it so high on this list because I’ve very much enjoyed the ones I have heard. He’s clearly at the top of his game right now composing for multiple films almost every year since 1980! Elfman is known for his collaboration with director Tim Burton, having composed for almost every one of Burton’s films. One of the most epic film score themes that earned Elfman a Grammy was the theme for Burton’s Batman in 1989. Elfman has been nominated four times for an Academy Award and has yet to win one. Because of his previous time spent in a rock band, Elfman has suffered hearing loss, which reminds me a little of Beethoven (that is, it’s interesting that great people in music needlessly work in the industry in spite of having poor hearing! crazy!). My favorite scores of his are for Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man series.
1. Alan Silvestri
The biggest reason Alan Silvestri is in my number one slot is that he composed my favorite score tracks I have heard. It seems that some of the biggest directors and film composers have tag-teamed in their collaborations to make films. Robert Zemeckis is the director who has acted as Silvestri’s main collaborater, Silvestri having scored for twelve of Zemeckis’s films. Silvestri has won two Grammys, one for the song “Believe” in The Polar Express, and one for the theme song to Cast Away in the Best Instrumental Composition category. Silvestri’s been nominated only twice for an Academy Award, once for Best Score for Forrest Gump and once for Best Original Song in The Polar Express. I think it’s a wonder that he can so strongly compose and write for two incredibly different segments of music, be it instrumental scores or writing an original song. You can look forward to hearing the score for the upcoming Avengers film coming out in May of this year. I can narrow down my favorites of Silvestri’s film scores to the Back to the Future series, Cast Away theme song, Forrest Gump, and Captain America: The First Avenger.
OK, who’s your favorite film composer(s)? What do you think of my choices? And most importantly, what tracks/albums/composer recommendations do you have for me? 🙂