(Don't take the ranking seriously after the 1st 20 names. I am fond of them all.)
The man behind the low woodwinds that open Citizen Kane
, the shrieking violins of Psycho
, and the plaintive saxophone of Taxi Driver
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 founding his own orchestra at the age of 20...
“ Vertigo & Psycho (tie)
The greatest composer of all time who is able to get inside the thoughts of a character. ” - smith-d-c
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 nominations (five wins)...
“ Star Wars
It is basically a tie for first place. Williams represents all that I love about the movies and was a huge part of my growing up. ” - smith-d-c
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 film scores were relatively undistinguished...
“ The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly ” - smith-d-c
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 environment...
“ From Russia With Love
(Has all the Bond themes in one movie) ” - smith-d-c
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 artistic endeavors...
“ The Magnificent Seven ” - smith-d-c
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, composition and harmonies...
“ Lawrence of Arabia ” - smith-d-c
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 year...
“ Gone With The Wind ” - smith-d-c
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 typist in the music department at CBS...
“ Patton ” - smith-d-c
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 be aired on MTV (August 1, 1981)...
“ Gladiator & The Lion King (tie) ” - smith-d-c
Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Erich Wolfgang Korngold was the son of a well-known music critic. He was a child prodigy who composed his first orchestral piece at 14 and drew the attention of Richard Strauss
, Gustav Mahler
and many other prominent composers and conductors. He had begun a promising career as a serious composer of...
“ The Adventures of Robin Hood ” - smith-d-c
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 later completed his Ph.D...
“ Braveheart & Apollo 13 (tie) ” - smith-d-c
“ How the West Was Won ” - smith-d-c
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 directorial debut...
“ Pee Wee's Big Adventure & Corpse Bride (tie) ” - smith-d-c
'Miklos Rozsa' studied the violin from the age of five. In 1926, he began studying at the Leipzig Conservatory. In 1929, his violin concerto was performed there. While living in Paris from 1931, Rozsa had his 'Variations on a Hungarian Peasant Song' and his 'Symphony and Serenade for Small Orchestra' performed...
“ Ben Hur ” - smith-d-c
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 assignment...
“ Charade & A Shot in The Dark (tie) ” - smith-d-c
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 love for instruments quickly grew to include the bassoon...
“ Forrest Gump & Back to the Future (tie) ” - smith-d-c
Dimitri Tiomkin was a Russian Jewish composer who emigrated to America and became one of the most distinguished and best-loved music writers of Hollywood. He won a hallowed place in the pantheon of the most successful and productive composers in American film history, earning himself four Oscars and sixteen Academy Awards nominations...
“ High Noon ” - smith-d-c
“ The Lord of the Rings & Ed Wood (tie) ” - smith-d-c
Hugo Friedhofer -- how many times have you seen that name in the credits of 1930s and '40s movies for "orchestration" or "musical arranger" and thought -- Gee, what a busy guy! He was, and, ironically, much of that work went uncredited. He is not usually mentioned with the great film composers of early Hollywood...
“ The Best Years of Our Lives ” - smith-d-c
Franz Waxman (Wachsmann) pursued his dream of a career in music despite his family's misgivings. He worked for several years as a bank teller and paid for piano, harmony and composition lessons with his salary. He later moved to Berlin, where he continued his study and progress as a musician. He was able to support himself by playing and arranging for a popular German jazz band...
“ The Bride of Frankenstein ” - smith-d-c
James Newton Howard
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
in 1985. He has been nominated for eight Academy Awards. He currently is a songwriter, record producer, conductor, keyboardist, and film composer.
“ The Fugitive ” - smith-d-c
“ The Natural ” - smith-d-c
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 both as a composer and as an orchestra conductor...
“ The Godfather & Romeo and Juliet (tie) ” - smith-d-c
Renowned composer ("West Side Story", "Candide", "On The Town"), conductor, arranger, pianist, educator, author, TV/radio host, educated at the Boston Latin School and Harvard University (BA) with Walter Piston. Edward Burlingame Hill and A. Tillman Merritt. He studied piano with Helen Coates, Heinrich Gebhard and Isabelle Vengerova...
“ On the Waterfront ” - smith-d-c
Prokofiev was a multitalented man and an innovative composer. He learned piano from his mother and chess from his father. He always had a chess set on his piano, and was able to play against the chess champions of his time. He studied music with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
, graduated with highest marks from the St...
“ Alexander Nevsky ” - smith-d-c
(I know it's television but, the score is a masterpiece!) ” - smith-d-c
“ Young Frankenstein ” - smith-d-c
“ American Beauty ” - smith-d-c
Vangelis is a composer and performer who works almost exclusively with electronic instruments. He is probably most well known for his Chariots of Fire
and Blade Runner
soundtracks or for the tracks used in the Cosmos
television series. He has been involved in many musical collaborations, most famously with Jon Anderson
“ Chariots of Fire ” - smith-d-c
Charles Chaplin was an English comic actor, filmmaker, and composer who rose to fame in the silent era. Chaplin became a worldwide icon through his screen persona "the Tramp" and is considered one of the most important figures in the history of the film industry. His career spanned more than 75 years...
“ City Lights ” - smith-d-c
Violinist and conductor Victor Young was a prolific composer and arranger, who worked on more than 300 film scores over a period of twenty years. He came from an impoverished, but musical background and was trained on the violin at the Warsaw Imperial Conservatory, later studying piano in Paris under the French master Isidor Philipp...
“ Shane ” - smith-d-c
Of Scottish and German ancestry, Herbert Stothart was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1885. At first, he was slated for a career as a teacher of history. However, he became enamored with music while singing in a school choir, and again, later, while attending the University of Wisconsin. There, he...
“ Random Harvest ” - smith-d-c
“ Star Trek IV The Voyage Home ” - smith-d-c
“ Fargo & Miler's Crossing (tie) ” - smith-d-c
Brooklyn-born composer and orchestrator, who graduated from New York University at the age of eighteen. A child prodigy, he was already an accomplished pianist at the age of five and began composing music three years later. His first serious work ('Paeans') was performed in public when he was seventeen...
“ The Big Country ” - smith-d-c
“ Rocky ” - smith-d-c
Brian studied under Gordon Jacob
and C. Armstrong Gibbs
at the RCM (Royal College of Music). He wrote his first opera (Rapunzel) at the age of 17 and at age 20 had the honor of having a Dead March processional he had written performed by the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir 'Malcolm Sargent'. Brian...
“ The Red Shoes ” - smith-d-c
Basil Poledouris was born on August 21, 1945 in Kansas City. He started taking piano lessons when he was 7 years old. Eventually, he went on to become a student at USC, where he studied the arts of directing, cinematography, editing, sound and, of course, music. It was also at USC he met John Milius
and Randal Kleiser
“ Conan the Barbarian ” - smith-d-c
Elliot Goldenthal is an Academy Award-winning composer best known for his original music scores for such films as Frida
and Across the Universe
, among his other works. He was born on May 2, 1954, in Brooklyn, New York. His father was a house-painter, and his mother was a seamstress. Young Goldenthal was fond of music and theatre...
“ Interview With A Vampire ” - smith-d-c
Ron Goodwin was born on 17th February 1925 in Plymouth. He was the son of a London policeman who was detached to the harbour-town. His mother felt that piano lessons would be a good pastime, so in his fifth year, the little Ron was hoisted onto a piano-stool and his education on this instrument began. Ron himself was at that time not really convinced about that parental ambition...
“ Where Eagles Dare ” - smith-d-c
“ Independence Day ” - smith-d-c
“ Life is Beautiful ” - smith-d-c
“ Murder By Death ” - smith-d-c
Bruce Broughton composes in almost every medium, from theatrical motion pictures and television to computer games, in styles ranging from large symphonic settings ("Silverado") to contemporary electronic scores (the recently Emmy-nominated "The Dive from Clausen's Pier"). Broughton has written the scores...
“ Silverado ” - smith-d-c
Aaron Copland is an Academy Award-winning composer (The Heiress
), author, conductor, lecturer and educator. He was educated at public schools and was a music student of his sister and later Leopold Wolfson, Victor Wittgenstein, Clarence Adler, Rubin Goldmark and Nadia Boulanger
. In 1925, he received the first Guggenheim fellowship awarded to a composer...
“ Of Mice and Men ” - smith-d-c
Alex North studied music at the Curtis Institute of Philadelphia, then won a scholarship to Juilliard in New York (1929) and the Moscow Conservatoire (1933), making him the first-ever American to become a member of the Union of Soviet Composers. In Europe, he worked as music director for the Latvian State Theatre...
“ Spartacus ” - smith-d-c
During his roughly 15-year-long career, Fumio Hayasaka composed scores for some of the biggest names in Japanese cinema and was regarded by many as the finest Japanese film composer alive. Many of his scores were written for no less a cinematic luminary than Akira Kurosawa, including the legendary director's breakthrough multiple-perspective masterpiece "Rashomon" (1950)...
“ The Seven Samurai ” - smith-d-c
Award-winning composer/songwriter ("Exodus" [Grammy/Academy Awards, 1960] ). He joined ASCAP in 1957, and his other popular-song compositions include the title songs for "On the Beach" and "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World".
“ It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World ” - smith-d-c
“ Dirty Harry ” - smith-d-c
“ Die Hard ” - smith-d-c
“ Tom Jones ” - smith-d-c
Mikis Theodorakis was born in the Greek island of Chios, in 1925. The exact same year that the other great composer of Greece was born in Xanthi, Manos Hatzidakis
. He fought during the 2nd World War, and he was captured at the city of Tripoli. He was tortured, but when he was set free, he joined the partisan army of Greece named EAM...
“ Zorba The Greek ” - smith-d-c
By 1962-63 Karas and his wife owned and operated a wonderful guest house in the internationally renowned ski resort of Kitzbuhel, Austria. Movie stars, celebrities and nobility from around the world traveled,skied, and raced there from the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, to world renowned anthropologist Victor Von Hagan and Olympic Gold Medalist Tony Sailer...
“ The Third Man ” - smith-d-c
“ One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest ” - smith-d-c
John Ottman holds dual distinctions as a leading film composer and an award winning film editor. Ottman has often completed both monumental tasks on the same films. Such remarkable double duties have included The Usual Suspects, X-Men 2, Superman Returns, Valkyrie, and Jack the Giant Killer. He has also held producer roles on several of these films...
“ The Usual Suspects ” - smith-d-c
“ Dragonheart ” - smith-d-c
“ The Cider House Rules ” - smith-d-c
“ Requiem for a Dream ” - smith-d-c
Patrick Doyle is a classically trained composer. His first film score, the acclaimed adaptation of "Henry V" with Kenneth Branagh for Renaissance films was scored in 1989. He has subsequently worked with Kenneth Branagh, a long time collaborator on numerous pictures including "Dead Again", "Much Ado About Nothing", "Frankenstein" and "Hamlet"...
“ Henry V ” - smith-d-c
Academy® Award nominated and Emmy® Award winner John Debney is considered one of the most prolific and successful composers in Hollywood. His unique ability to create memorable work across a variety of genres, as well as his reputation for being remarkably collaborative, have made him the first choice of top level producers and directors...
“ The Passion of the Christ ” - smith-d-c
At the least George Auric was a fine musician, having been a child prodigy, but he was much more in the musical world. He studied under Vincent D'Indy (a devotee of Cesar Franck and the German school of symphonic composition) and attended the Paris Conservatory (1920). By the time he was 20 he had orchestrated and written incidental music for ballets and the stage...
“ Beauty and the Beast (1946) ” - smith-d-c
Alan Menken born on July 22, 1949 in New Rochelle, New York, USA as Alan Irwin Menken. Composer, Actor and Artist, he is famous to working with the legendary Disney Studios since 1987. begun his career as a Composer in 1971 be composing for New York City Ballet and Jingles. He also works many works in the Cinema including as a Actor...
“ Beauty and the Beast ” - smith-d-c
“ Groundhog Day ” - smith-d-c
“ A Little Romance ” - smith-d-c
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Glass worked in his father's radio store and discovered music listening to the offbeat Western classical records customers didn't seem to want. He studied the violin and flute, and obtained early admission to the University of Chicago. After graduating in mathematics and philosophy...
“ The Illusionist ” - smith-d-c
A three-time Oscar nominee, Jerry Fielding was among the boldest and most experimental of all Hollywood film composers. His music typically utilized advanced compositional procedures, producing dense, often richly dissonant orchestral textures, sometimes flavored with jazz. Fielding's film music career was marked by enduring and rewarding collaborations with Sam Peckinpah
“ The Wild Bunch ” - smith-d-c
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
, is a benchmark score that expanded the boundaries of scoring street-wise drama, and is widely used as a temp track...
“ Speed ” - smith-d-c
Considered to be one of the greatest minds in music and television history, Quincy Delight Jones, Jr. was born on March 14, 1933 in Chicago, Illinois. He is the son of Sarah Frances (Wells), a bank executive, and Quincy Delight Jones, Sr., a carpenter. Jones found his love for music while he was enrolled...
“ The Color Purple ” - smith-d-c
“ Muholland Drive ” - smith-d-c
“ Pirates of The Caribbean: The Curse of The Black Pearl ” - smith-d-c
Born: February 5, 1902 in Warsaw, Poland Died: April 25, 1983 in Los Angeles, California, USA Kaper displayed musical talent as early as the age of seven when his family acquired a piano. His inclination to music led him to study both piano and composition, while also taking courses in law to satisfy his father...
“ Mutiny on the Bounty ” - smith-d-c
Michel Legrand is a three times Academy Award-winning French composer, conductor and pianist who composed over 200 film and television scores as well as recorded over a hundred albums of jazz, popular and classical music. He was born on February 24, 1932, in Becon-les-Bruyeres, in the Paris suburbs...
“ The Thomas Crown Affair ” - smith-d-c
John Howard Carpenter was born in Carthage, New York, to mother Milton Jean (Carter) and father Howard Ralph Carpenter. His family moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky, where his father, a professor, was head of the music department at Western Kentucky University. He attended Western Kentucky University and then USC film school in Los Angeles...
“ Halloween ” - smith-d-c
“ Beverly Hills Cop ” - smith-d-c
Eric Serra was born on September 9th, 1959 near Paris in France. His mother died when he was only 7 years old. His father, Claude Serra was a well-know songwriter in France in late 50s and 60s. Serra began to learn play the guitar at 11 years old and became a professional musician for Mory Kante;, Didier Lockwood and Michel Murty at 15 years old...
“ La Femme Nikita ” - smith-d-c
Graeme Revell was born in New Zealand in 1955. He was graduated from The University of Auckland with degrees in economics and politics. He is a classically trained pianist and French horn player. Revell worked for as a regional planner in Australia and Indonesia and as an orderly in an Australian psychiatric hospital...
“ The Crow ” - smith-d-c
In his 25 year career, David Newman has scored over 100 films, ranging from War of the Roses, Matilda, Bowfinger and Heathers, to the more recent The Spirit, Serenity, and Alvin and the Chipmonks: The Squeakuel. Newman's music has brought to life the critically acclaimed dramas Brokedown Palace and Hoffa; top-grossing comedies Norbit...
“ Galaxy Quest ” - smith-d-c
“ 3:10 to Yuma ” - smith-d-c
As a child in Cape Town, Trevor Jones lived opposite the Gem Cinema. The theater was so old and worn out that there was often a loss of the soundtrack, which caused him to realize its power. The fact that everyone in his family worked in film or the theater made it easy to get support in his career choice...
“ The Dark Crystal ” - smith-d-c
Harry Gregson-Williams is a composer. He was the composer on all four installments of the blockbuster Shrek franchise; garnered a BAFTA nomination for the score for the first Shrek; and received Golden Globe and Grammy Award nominations for his score to Andrew Adamson's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion...
“ Shrek ” - smith-d-c
Composer Christopher Young was born on April 28, 1957 in Red Bank, New Jersey. After graduating from Hampshire College in Massachusetts with a Bachelor of Arts degree in music, Young went on to pursue his post-graduate studies at North Texas State University. Christopher moved to Los Angeles, California in 1980...
“ Species ” - smith-d-c
“ The Bourne Identity ” - smith-d-c
Perhaps the icon of macho movie stars, and a living legend, Clint Eastwood has become a standard in international cinema. Born May 31, 1930 in San Francisco, the elder of two children in a middle-class family, Eastwood finished high school at the comparatively late age of 19 and worked odd jobs for several years before enrolling at Los Angeles City College...
“ Unforgiven ” - smith-d-c
Peter Gabriel was educated at Charterhouse School, Surrey, England. He was the lead singer of leading progressive rock band Genesis
from its inception until he left in 1975 for a successful solo career as a singer-songwriter, soundtrack composer and innovator in visual presentation of music...
“ The Last Temptation of Christ ” - smith-d-c
The pioneering German collective Tangerine Dream
has been delivering their distinctive style of ambient music for nearly three decades, laying down a foundation of sound textures and sonic imagery that has influenced many of today's electronic musicians. Founded in 1967 by fine art aficinado Edgar Froese
the group released their first album...
“ Risky Business ” - smith-d-c
Jan A.P. Kaczmarek
Jan A. P. Kaczmarek is a composer with a tremendous international reputation that continues to grow. As a successful recording artist and touring musician, Jan turned to composing film scores as his primary occupation. Jan's first success in the United States came in theater. After composing striking scores for productions at Chicago's Goodman Theatre and Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum...
“ Finding Neverland ” - smith-d-c
“ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ” - smith-d-c
“ Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ” - smith-d-c
“ The Remains of the Day ” - smith-d-c
“ M.A.S.H. ” - smith-d-c
Composer, conductor, arranger and flautist, educated at the Manhattan School of Music (BA, MA) and Juilliard (on scholarship) (MM). He was first flautist for Radio City Music Hall from 1934 to 1936, the Detroit Symphony from 1936 to 1941, the NBC Toscanini Orchestra from 1942 to 1948 and staff arranger for Radio City Music Hall from 1948 to 1956...
“ The Godfather Part II ” - smith-d-c
“ The Naked Gun ” - smith-d-c
Born in Burano (Venice) in 1941, Pino Donaggio studied violin at the Conservatory of Venice and Milan. After a period of adolescent performer of classical music with the Solisti Veneti and the Soloists of Milan, in 1959 he began to devote himself to the pop music that soon led to international success...
“ Body Double ” - smith-d-c
“ Wide Saragasso Sea ” - smith-d-c
“ The English Patient ” - smith-d-c
Composer ("It Don't Mean a Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing", "Sophisticated Lady", "Mood Indigo", "Solitude", "In a Mellotone", "Satin Doll"), pianist and conductor, holder of an honorary music degree from Wilberforce University and an LHD from Milton College, Duke Ellington led his own orchestra by 1918...
“ Anatomy of a Murder ” - smith-d-c
“ Meet Me in St. Louis ” - smith-d-c
Richard M. Sherman
Richard Morton Sherman was born in the spring of 1928 in New York City to Rosa and Al Sherman
. Together with his older brother, Robert B. Sherman
, the Sherman brothers would follow in their songwriting father's footsteps to form one of the most prolific, lauded and long lasting songwriting partnerships of all time...
“ and his brother Robert Sherman
Mary Poppins ” - smith-d-c
Carl W. Stalling
Carl Stalling is the most famous unknown composer of the 20th century, almost solely based on his work composing musical scores for animated cartoons. Stalling's first work in music was as house organist in Newman Theatre in Kansas City, where he would accompany the latest silent film with his organ playing...
“ All the early Bugs Bunny Cartoons (genius) ” - smith-d-c
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 low-budget pictures as The Astrologer
“ The Terminator ” - smith-d-c