The Best Music Composers of Film History

View:
Log in to copy items to your own lists.
1.
Jerry Goldsmith
Music Department, Total Recall
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...
 
2.
John Carpenter
Writer, Halloween
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...
“ As well as a great horror film director. ” - bigrudedogg87
 
3.
Ennio Morricone
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...
 
4.
Tangerine Dream
Composer, Legend
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...
 
5.
Bernard Herrmann
Music Department, Citizen Kane
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...
 
6.
 
7.
Harry Manfredini
Composer, Friday the 13th
Film composer Harry Manfredini specialises in writing for horror films, but is also a song writer and jazz soloist. From his haunting dramatic scores for The Friday the 13th films, to his adventurous music for The Omegma Code, Harry Manfredini has established himself as a motion picture music composer of the same style as Bernard Herrmann...
 
8.
Christopher Young
Composer, Spider-Man 3
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...
 
9.
Fabio Frizzi
Composer, Zombie
 
10.
Goblin
For 25 years, Goblin has been scoring soundtracks for Italian films, mainly Giallo-style films directed by Dario Argento. The group consisted of keyboardist Claudio Simonetti, percussionist Walter Martino, bassist Fabio Pignatelli, guitarist Massimo Morante, percussionist Agostino Marangolo, and saxophone player...
 
11.
Pino Donaggio
Composer, Carrie
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...
 
12.
Stelvio Cipriani
He studied piano and harmony at Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome. In 1957 he started playing light music, being the pianist of important singers such as Rita Pavone. In USA he studied jazz with Dave Brubeck. In 1966 he was called by Cam to compose his first soundtrack: The Bounty Killer, a film directed by Tomas Milian...
 
13.
Simon Boswell
Composer, Shallow Grave
Simon Boswell was born in London, UK on October 15th, 1956. He is a film composer with more than 90 films to his credit. At seventeen Simon went to Pembroke College in Cambridge to study English Literature. Already an accomplished guitarist, and whilst still at college, he was signed by Transatlantic Records in 1975...
 
15.
 
17.
Danny Elfman
Music Department, Corpse Bride
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...
 
18.
 
19.
Charles Bernstein
Talented, prolific and versatile film composer Charles Bernstein was born on February 28, 1943 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He conducted his own orchestral music at age sixteen and studied composition with Vitorio Giannini and Vincent Persichetti at Juilliard. Bernstein also attended the University of California; he received an Outstanding Graduate of the College Award...
 
20.
Alan Howarth
Sound Department, Army of Darkness
Alan Howarth's high school and college days took place in Cleveland, Ohio. Playing music in local rock bands, he opened for national touring acts including "The Who", and "Cream". He then began to create original music in bands "Braino" and "Pi Corp, utilizing synthesizers to make electronic music. He was invited to provide synthesizer support for fusion jazz band...
 
21.
Jack Eric Williams
Composer, Nightmare
Jack Eric Williams was a promising composer, lyricist, actor, and teacher who is most remembered for creating the role of Beadle Bamford in the original Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. In addition to his work as a performer, he wrote many scores for the theatre, including incidental and dance music...
“ Shame he didn't get to go on to score other films
because I thought he did a good job scoring
Romano Scavolini's Nightmare (1981).
Only film to his credit. ” - bigrudedogg87
 
23.
Elmer Bernstein
Music Department, Cape Fear
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...
 
24.
Jerome Dillon
Composer, Bully
 
25.
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 low-budget pictures as The Astrologer...
 
26.
Richard Einhorn
Composer, The Prowler
Modern-day classical music composer Richard Einhorn was born in 1952. In 1975 Einhorn graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia University, where he studied composition and electronic music with Jack Beeson, Vladimir Ussachevsky, and Mario Davidovsky. In 1977 Richard produced a Meredith Monk album for Wergo Records...
 
27.
Philip Glass
Music Department, The Truman Show
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...
 
28.
Keith Emerson
Music Department, Inferno
Hailed as a keyboard legend, Keith Emerson has been one of the most important figures to emerge from the thriving UK rock scene of the 1960s and 70s. He is known as one of the most prominent leaders in the progressive rock movement, fusing rock 'n' roll with a myriad of musical styles, such as classical...
 
29.
 
31.
 
32.
 
33.
John Harrison
Director, Dune
John Harrison began his career directing rock videos and working as 1st Asst. Director for famed horror director,George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead/Creepshow). Harrison wrote and directed multiple episodes of Romero's classic TV series,Tales from the Darksidem], before helming Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, for Paramount Pictures...
 
34.
Bo Harwood
Sound Department, Felicity
 
35.
Lance Rubin
Composer, Dallas
 
36.
 
37.
Mark Isham
Music Department, Crash
From his days as one of the pioneering icons of electronic music to his current status as a world-renowned legendary film composer, Mark Isham continues to be one of the most prolific and provocative artists on the scene. His gift for creating unforgettable melodies and his love of fresh, innovative sonic palettes have earned Isham many awards including a Grammy...
 
38.
Paul Zaza
Canadian composer and songwriter Paul Zaza started out as a classically trained pianist. Zaza has a degree from the prestigious Toronto Conservatory of Music. Moreover, Paul played bass in a Canadian touring company production of the hit musical "Hair" and toured with the The 5th Dimension in the 1970s...
 
39.
John Murphy
John Murphy is a British film composer from Liverpool. He began composing music scores for films in the early 1990s, working on several successful British movies, enjoying particular success with the soundtracks to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Snatch (2000). Since 2000, Murphy has been based in Los Angeles...
 
40.
Brian May
Brian May rates highly as one of the best film music composers in the history of Australian cinema. May's scores are distinguished by their full, rich and supremely melodic orchestration. Brian was born on July 28, 1934 in Adelaide, South Australia. He studied as a pianist, violinist and conductor at the Adelaide Elder Conservatorium...
 
41.
 
43.
John Williams
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)...
 
45.
Hans Zimmer
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)...
 
46.
Alan Silvestri
Composer, Forrest Gump
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...
 
48.
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.
 
49.
John Barry
Music Department, Juke Box Jury
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...
 
50.
Graeme Revell
Composer, Sin City
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...
 
51.
Vangelis
Soundtrack, Collateral
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.
 
52.
 
53.
John Debney
Music Department, Sin City
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...
 
55.
David Newman
Composer, Ice Age
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...
 
56.
Alan Menken
Music Department, Beauty and the Beast
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...
 
57.
George Fenton
Music Department, Gandhi
 
58.
Randy Newman
Music Department, Toy Story 3
 
59.
Elliot Goldenthal
Composer, Heat
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...
 
60.
David Arnold
Music Department, Stargate SG-1
 
61.
Basil Poledouris
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...
 
62.
Michael Kamen
Music Department, Lethal Weapon
 
64.
Don Peake
Composer, Knight Rider
Prolific and versatile musician Donald Geoffrey Peake was born on June 7, 1940 in Los Angeles, California. Peake began his long and distinguished music career in 1961 as a lead guitarist for the Everly Brothers. Don holds the distinction of being the first white guitarist to play with the Ray Charles Orchestra...
 
65.
David Hess
David Alexander Hess was born in New York City in 1936. He began his professional career as a songwriter for Shalimar Music, in 1957, under the pseudonym of David Hill. His first recording was a quick hit, which was later performed by and credited to Elvis Presley, "All Shook Up." David went on to compose "Start Movin'" for Sal Mineo and "Rockin' Shoes" for the The Ames Brothers...
“ As well was a legendary actor of such
films the original Last House on the Left,
Hitch Hike, House on the Edge of the Park
and Swamp Thing. ” - bigrudedogg87
 
66.
Trevor Morris
2 Time EMMY Award winning composer Trevor Morris is a dual Citizen of Canada and Great Britain, living and working in Los Angeles. Trevor composes music for Feature Film, Television and Video Games. He is most recognized for his Television work on "The Tudors", "The Borgias" and "Vikings". As well as such feature films as "London Has Fallen"...
 
68.
 
69.
Walter Martino
Music Department, Deep Red
 
73.
Wendy Carlos
Composer, The Shining
Wendy Carlos, one of the great innovators in synthesized and electronic music, was born as Walter Carlos in Rhode Island on November 14, 1939. She underwent a sex-change operation in 1972, details of which she revealed during a surprise Playboy interview in 1979. Walter's last credited release is "Sonic Seasonings" (1972)...
 
74.
 
75.
Steve Boeddeker
Sound Department, Se7en
 
76.
Eugene Marks
Music Department, The Exorcist
 
77.
 
79.
Francesco De Masi
Born in Rome, he studied composition at the Neapolitan Conservatory "S. Pietro a Majella" under the direction of M° Achille Longo then proceeded to study orchestra direction at the Chigiana Academy in Siena with Paul Van Kempen and Franco Ferrara. He also graduated in horn, after having studied with Domenico Ceccarossi...
 
80.
 
83.
 
84.
Tyler Bates
Tyler Bates is a Los Angeles-born composer who has scored more than sixty feature films, hundreds of episodes of television, major studio video games and artist records. Bates has more than twenty commercially released film soundtrack albums, several of which debuted number one at the box-office. Bates' recent work includes Marvel's 2014 smash hit...
 
85.
Don Ellis
Music Department, The French Connection
 
86.
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 both as a composer and as an orchestra conductor...
 
87.
 
90.
 
91.
 
92.
Stefano Mainetti
Music Department, Orgoglio
Mainetti, born in Rome, Italy, August 8th 1957. After studying classical guitar attended Santa Cecilia Conservatory of Rome where he earned a Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude in Composition. He studied Conducting with Cesare Croci and Ennio Nicotra and holds a BA, magna cum laude, in Politic Science with a published dissertation on Richard Wagner...
 
93.
Richard Band
Composer, Re-Animator
Brother to filmmaker Charles Band and son to veteran producer Albert Band, Richard Band is often similar to other film composers like Robert O. Ragland and Lalo Schifrin. The Band family has had a history of filmmaking. Richard's brother Charles, became a known executive producer when he founded Empire Entertainment...
 
94.
Robert O. Ragland
Composer, 10 to Midnight
Robert O. Ragland is one of the most prolific music composers in the film industry. Originally from Chicago, Ragland gave up a comfortable executive position in advertising to gamble on his musical talents in Hollywood. Since that decision made in 1968, Ragland has made his impressive presence known in the film community by scoring over 50 motion pictures in a span of nearly thirty years...
 
95.
Lalo Schifrin
Music Department, Mission: Impossible
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, Mannix, Starsky and Hutch, Cool Hand Luke, and Bullitt. Schifrin has regularly worked alongside Clint Eastwood...
 
96.
Bill Conti
Music Department, Falcon Crest
 
99.
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 later completed his Ph.D...
 
100.
“ A talented legendary rap artist of WU Tang Clan
& Gravediggaz, musician, actor and producer. ” - bigrudedogg87