My 30 favorite film score composers

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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.
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...
 
3.
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.
 
4.
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...
 
5.
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)...
 
6.
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...
 
7.
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...
 
8.
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)...
 
9.
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...
 
10.
John Debney
Composer, The Jungle Book
John Debney's career seemed destined for Hollywood, the son of Disney Studios producer Louis Debney, John grew up in nearby Glendale, California where he got early inspiration for film and music growing up on the Disney Studio lot. The child of two musicians, John showed an early aptitude for music and began guitar lessons at age six...
 
12.
Michael Kamen
Music Department, Lethal Weapon
 
13.
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...
 
14.
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...
 
15.
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...
 
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17.
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...
 
18.
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...
 
19.
Alex North
Music Department, Goodfellas
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...
 
20.
Lionel Newman
Music Department, Peyton Place
Lionel Newman was the youngest of a triumvirate of accomplished virtuosos, composers and conductors, who dominated the music department at 20th Century Fox for more than four decades. Already a highly regarded pianist by the age of 15, Lionel went on the national vaudeville circuit as accompanist for Mae West...
 
21.
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...
 
22.
Gabriel Yared
Gabriel Yared stopped his law studies at the age of 20 to work as a professional music composer. He studied with Henri Dutilleux and Maurice Ohana. He worked as a composer, orchestrator or producer for such singers as Françoise Hardy, Charles Aznavour, Gilbert Bécaud and Mireille Mathieu. He made his film debut in 1980 with the score for Jean-Luc Godard's Every Man for Himself...
 
23.
Bill Conti
Music Department, Falcon Crest
 
24.
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.
 
25.
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...
 
26.
Randy Edelman
Music Department, 27 Dresses
 
27.
Carter Burwell
Music Department, Fargo
 
28.
Harry Gregson-Williams
Composer, Shrek
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...
 
29.
Randy Newman
Music Department, Toy Story 3
 
30.
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...