A film is far more than what you can see on the screen. There are many specialties of film production that are routinely overlooked by critics and the public. You may know all about the actors on the screen but would you know – without Googling – what a foley artist does? A film director could be legendary but one may struggle to remember the people who comprise the editing team. You could cherish a film franchise such as The Avengers, Star Wars or the Cornetto trilogy but not know who composed the film score or where you’ve heard that melody before. Here are five of the best film score composers of all time.
You likely heard a lot of his work without realising it. His career began in 1972 at the age of 21 when he composed the score for the low-budget action film The Doberman Gang. This kicked off a career of composing that spanned both tv and films in the ensuing 47 years. He was the main composer for the tv series CHiPS. Whilst working on the score for Romancing the Stone, he ended up meeting director Robert Zemeckis with whom he has frequently collaborated. Silvestri, much like other contemporary film makers, tends to re-use sound scapes from previous scores but his range of work is anything but repetitive. From jazz to classical music, Silvestri has had his hand in almost every musical style. Some of his best work includes the Back to the Future film trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, The Mummy Returns and Avengers: End Game.
When one thinks of classic film score composers chances are they’re referring to Bernard Herrmann. His 34 year career saw him collaborate with legendary film makers Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock. Elements of his style has influenced the film composers that have come in his wake. His use of short repeating patterns and his assumption that his music was not constrained to the limits of a concert hall were consistent in his work. Herrmann has inspired a plethora of film composers including Danny Elfman, Richard Band and Christopher Young. Some of his best work can be found in Citizen Kane, Vertigo, Psycho, Farenheit 451 and Taxi Driver.
Arguably the most famous film composer of all time, John Williams is still composing top quality scores 67 years into his career. He is a versitile musical talent with experience in both jazz and classical music. He is credited as someone who brought symphonic film scores into fashion in the era of synthesizers. His musical scores routinely use sweeping strings and building percussion with expert use of tempo adjusted for every emotional moment a composition may be going for. He is the most nominated living person in Oscars history and it’s easy to see why. His career has survived 2/3s of a century and it’s not showing any signs of stopping. Whilst a lot of his music is top quality, noted examples of his work can be heard in the following film franchises: Star Wars, Harry Potter, Jaws, Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park.
Frankfurt-born Hans Zimmer has had a varied and colourful music career since its birth in 1977. Before he became a film score composer he’d worked with new wave bands, punk band The Damned and the theme for tv game show Going for Gold. Since his first film composer credit on the film Success is the Best Revenge he has gone on to collaborate with some of the best film directors of modern time including Ridley Scott, John Woo and Christopher Nolan. His style can be best described as a mixture of electronic sounds and techniques with traditional instruments. He has a penchant for being adaptive to the film he’s composing for which makes it impossible to use a singular piece of his music as a universal example of his work. He is currently the head of the Film Music division at Dreamworks studios. You can listen to some of his work in the sound tracks for The Lion King, Rain Man, The Prince of Egypt and Dunkirk.
He may be the film composer with the shortest career in film but he is more than on his way to becoming one of the best known film composers of all time. A German composer mentored by fellow film composer Hans Zimmer, Djawadi started his career in the late 1990s after graduating from Berklee College of Music. He made additional music and arrangements for movies worked on by Zimmer and Klaus Badelt including Pirates of the Caribbean: The Black Pearl and Something’s Gotta Give. Whilst a lot of his better known work has been composing for television shows like Game of Thrones and Westworld he has made a mark in the film industry by composing the scores of Pacific Rim, Warcraft and The Great Wall. An award winning film composer known for tackling multiple musical styles, Djawadi’s career can only blossom from here.