Top 35 Film Composers

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)).
Log in to copy items to your own lists.
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)...
“ Best Scores:

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
Raiders Of The Lost Ark
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
Schindler's List
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Jurassic Park
Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban
Saving Private Ryan
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return Of The Jedi
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
War Horse
Home Alone
Catch Me If You Can
Minority Report
The Terminal
War Of The Worlds
The Book Thief
The Patriot
The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn ” - nielslauridsenstudio
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)...
“ Best Scores:

Gladiator (and Lisa Gerrard)
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
The Dark Knight (and James Newton Howard)
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
The Thin Red Line
Madagascar ” - nielslauridsenstudio
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...
“ Best Scores:

First Blood
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Air Force One
The Omen
The Mummy
L.A. Confidential
Under Fire
King Solomon's Mines
Total Recall
Basic Instinct ” - nielslauridsenstudio
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...
“ 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 ” - nielslauridsenstudio
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...
“ Best Scores:

Out Of Africa
Dances With Wolves
Born Free
The Man With The Golden Gun
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
From Russia With Love
The Lion In Winter ” - nielslauridsenstudio
Howard Shore
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 College of Music, a college of contemporary music located in Boston...
“ 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
The Aviator
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Eastern Promises
Seven ” - nielslauridsenstudio
Max Steiner
Composer, Casablanca
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...
“ Best Scores:

Gone With The Wind
King Kong (1933)
A Summer Place ” - nielslauridsenstudio
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...
“ Best Scores:

A Beautiful Mind
Apollo 13
The Mask Of Zorro
Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan
Enemy At The Gates
The Perfect Storm
The Rocketeer
The Land Before Time ” - nielslauridsenstudio
Michael Kamen
Music Department, Lethal Weapon
“ Best Scores:

Band Of Brothers (TV Mini-Series)
The Iron Giant
Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves
Die Hard
Lethal Weapon
Licence To Kill
X-Men (2000) ” - nielslauridsenstudio
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.
“ Best Scores:

King Kong (2005)
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
The Village
Lady In The Water
Blood Diamond
Dinosaur (2000)
Treasure Planet
The Fugitive
I Am Legend
The Sixth Sense
Michael Clayton ” - nielslauridsenstudio
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...
“ Best Scores:

Back To The Future
The Avengers
Forrest Gump
The Polar Express
Cast Away
Captain America: The First Avenger ” - nielslauridsenstudio
“ (Danish Film Composer, probably the most famous danish composer, and has made so many memorable scores)

Best Scores:

Olsen Banden (1968)
Matador (TV Series) ” - nielslauridsenstudio
“ Best Scores:

Medal Of Honor (1999)
The Incredibles
Mission: Impossible III
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Call Of Duty (2003)
La Luna (Short) ” - nielslauridsenstudio
Elmer Bernstein
Music Department, Airplane!
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...
“ Best Scores:

The Great Escape
The Magnificent Seven
Trading Places
The Man With The Golden Arm
Cape Fear ” - nielslauridsenstudio
Henry Mancini
Music Department, The Pink Panther
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...
“ Best Scores:

The Pink Panther
Breakfast At Tiffany's ” - nielslauridsenstudio
“ 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)
The Italian Job (2003)
Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs
United 93
Green Zone
Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Rio ” - nielslauridsenstudio
Thomas Newman
Music Department, WALL·E
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) wanted her sons to have a musical education...
“ Best Scores:

The Shawshank Redemption
The Green Mile
Road To Perdition
American Beauty
Finding Nemo
Revolutionary Road ” - nielslauridsenstudio
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...
“ Best Scores:

The Simpsons (Theme)
Batman (1989)
Edward Scissorhands
Spider-Man 2
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Mission: Impossible
Good Will Hunting
Real Steel ” - nielslauridsenstudio
Bernard Herrmann
Music Department, Kill Bill: Vol. 1
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...
“ Best Scores:

North By Northwest
Taxi Driver
Citizen Kane
Cape Fear ” - nielslauridsenstudio
Randy Newman
Music Department, Toy Story 3
“ Best Scores:

The Natural
Toy Story 3
Toy Story 2
Toy Story
Monsters University
Monsters, Inc.
A Bug's Life
Meet The Parents ” - nielslauridsenstudio
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...
“ Best Scores:

The Godfather
The Godfather: Part II ” - nielslauridsenstudio
Maurice Jarre
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...
“ Best Scores:

Lawrence Of Arabia
Doctor Zhivago ” - nielslauridsenstudio
Miklós Rózsa
Music Department, Ben-Hur
'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...
“ Best Scores:

Ben-Hur (1959) ” - nielslauridsenstudio
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...
“ Best Scores:

Mission: Impossible (Theme)
Bullitt ” - nielslauridsenstudio
Alfred Newman
Music Department, The King and I
“ 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. ” - nielslauridsenstudio
Ernest Gold
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".
“ Best Scores:

Exodus (1960) ” - nielslauridsenstudio
“ Best Scores:

Beverly Hills Cop
Top Gun ” - nielslauridsenstudio
David Arnold
Music Department, Stargate SG-1
“ Best Scores:

Casion Royale (2006)
Independence Day
Quantum Of Solace
Godzilla (1998) ” - nielslauridsenstudio
Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Music Department, The Big Lebowski
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...
“ Best Scores:

The Adventures Of Robin Hood ” - nielslauridsenstudio
“ 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 ” - nielslauridsenstudio
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...
“ Best Scores:

Terminator 2: Judgement Day
The Terminator ” - nielslauridsenstudio
Trevor Rabin
Composer, The Guardian
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 London and released three solo albums...
“ Best Scores:

National Treasure
Gone In 60 Seconds (2000)
Enemy Of The State (and Harry Gregson-Williams)
The Guardian (2006) ” - nielslauridsenstudio
“ Best Scores:

Iron Man
Game Of Thrones (TV Series)
Medal Of Honor (2010) ” - nielslauridsenstudio
“ Best Scores:

Transformers: Age Of Extinction
Pain & Gain
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2006)
Gangster Squad ” - nielslauridsenstudio
Mark Mancina
Music Department, Criminal Minds
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...
“ Best Scores:

Brother Bear
Tarzan (1999) ” - nielslauridsenstudio