The Greatest Film Composers of All Time

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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.
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)...
 
3.
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...
 
4.
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...
 
5.
Patrick Doyle
Composer, Brave
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"...
 
6.
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...
 
7.
Alfred Newman
Music Department, The King and I
 
8.
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...
 
9.
Michael Giacchino
Composer, Ratatouille
Michael Giacchino is an American composer of music for films, television and video games. Giacchino composed the scores to the television series Lost, Alias and Fringe, the video game series Medal of Honor and Call of Duty and many films such as The Incredibles (2004), Star Trek (2009), Up (2009), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)...
 
10.
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...
 
11.
Bruce Broughton
Music Department, Tombstone
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...
 
12.
David Arnold
Music Department, Stargate SG-1
 
13.
Robert Folk
Robert Folk is a graduate and former faculty member of the famed Juilliard School in New York City. Since completing his Doctorate, Mr. Folk has composed and conducted the musical scores for over 70 feature films. His extensive credits include Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995), Nothing To Lose (1997)...
 
14.
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...
 
15.
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...
 
16.
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...
 
17.
Don Davis
Composer, The Matrix
 
19.
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.
 
20.
Jerry Fielding
Composer, Hogan's Heroes
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...
 
21.
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...
 
22.
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...
 
23.
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...
 
24.
Dimitri Tiomkin
Music Department, It's a Wonderful Life
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...
 
25.
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...
 
26.
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...
 
27.
Shirley Walker
Music Department, True Lies
Shirley Walker was born in Napa, California in 1945. She was educated at Pleasant Hill High School; attended San Francisco State College on piano scholarship; studied composition with Dr. Roger Nixon; and piano with Harald Logan of Berkeley, California. She was soloist with San Francisco Symphony while in high school; performed with various hotel, jazz & art bands in San Francisco, 1964 - 1967...
 
28.
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...
 
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31.
David Raksin
Music Department, Ben Casey
David Raksin's father Isidore, who both conducted and owned a music store, taught his son to play piano as well as woodwind instruments at an early age. He eventually studied music with Arnold Schönberg, but became by-and-large a self-taught multi-instrumentalist (organ and percussion), as well as composer and arranger for radio and for his own jazz/dance combo which he led at the age of 12 ...
 
32.
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...
 
33.
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...
 
36.
Jerome Moross
Music Department, Wagon Train
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...
 
37.
Marc Shaiman
Music Department, Hairspray
A great talent who started his career in Saturday Night Live, where he worked with colleagues like Rob Reiner or Billy Crystal. He worked for some great stage values as Eric Clapton, Rosemary Clooney, Harry Connick Jr., Billy Crystal, Lauryn Hill, Jennifer Holliday, Nathan Lane, Jenifer Lewis...
 
38.
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".
 
40.
Michael Kamen
Music Department, Lethal Weapon
 
41.
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...
 
42.
Luis Bacalov
Music Department, Django Unchained
 
43.
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...
 
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45.
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...
 
46.
Richard Rodney Bennett
Richard Rodney Bennett was an eclectic composer of serious orchestral works, jazz songs and music for stage and screen. Of the former, his most famous compositions include a First Symphony, a piano concerto and four string quartets. Among the latter are scores for operas, such as the dramatic "The Mines of Sulphur" and the more light-hearted and satirical "A Penny for a Song"...
 
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49.
Carter Burwell
Music Department, Fargo
 
50.
Franz Waxman
Music Department, Peyton Place
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...
 
51.
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...
 
52.
Alan Menken
Music Department, Beauty and the Beast
New York-songwriter and film composer, Alan Menken is best known for his unforgettable music for Disney movies like Calypso music of The Little Mermaid, the tale as old as time of Beauty and the Beast, the Arabian tale Aladdin or the beloved song Colors of the Wind from Pocahontas just to name a few...
 
53.
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...
 
54.
Bear McCreary
Bear McCreary is a degreed graduate of the prestigious USC Thornton School of Music (in 'Composition and Recording Arts'). Bear McCreary was one of a small and select group of proteges of the late, many-honored film composer Elmer Bernstein. Although he is now firmly in the mainstream of film composition...
 
55.
John Corigliano
Composer, The Red Violin
Composer, educated at Columbia College (BA, cum laude). He was music director for WBAI.
 
57.
Marvin Hamlisch
Music Department, The Spy Who Loved Me
Composer, songwriter ("Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows"), and conductor, educated at the Professional Children's School, Juilliard, and Queens College. He was the musical director for Equity Library Theatre productions, and wrote songs for Liza Minnelli and for Julius Monk's 'Upstairs at the Downstairs' revues...
 
59.
Joseph LoDuca
By the age of 15 (1973), Joseph LoDuca was opening for rock legends Bob Seger and Ted Nugent in smoky Detroit clubs and sneaking into Jeff Beck concerts. He was hooked. He went on to train formally in classical music at the University of Michigan and in New York City. He plugged into the jazz scene and submerged himself in cultures from around the world...
 
60.
Roy Budd
Music Department, Get Carter
Born on the 14th March, 1947, Roy Budd the musician was entirely self-taught, and was hailed as a child prodigy. At the age of four he began to play the piano, initially by ear and then by copying various melodies he heard by listening to the radio. By the age of six he had appeared in public at The London Coliseum...
 
61.
John Scott
Music Department, The World About Us
For nearly forty years, John Scott has established himself as one of the finest composers working in films today, having collaborated with foremost producers and directors worldwide, including Richard Donner, Mark Damon, Hugh Hudson, Norman Jewison, Irvin Kershner, Daniel Petrie, Roger Spottiswoode and Charlton Heston...
 
62.
Randy Newman
Music Department, Toy Story 3
 
63.
Leonard Bernstein
Soundtrack, Moonrise Kingdom
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...
 
64.
William Walton
Music Department, Battle of Britain
William Walton came from a musical family. He entered Christ Church, Oxford at the early age of sixteen but left without a degree in 1920. A fine musician, he was essentially self-taught as a composer, except some instruction from Hugh Allen, the cathedral organist. Through literary friends and other associations he became acquainted with the London music and cultural scene...
 
65.
Quincy Jones
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 in grade school at Seattle's Garfield High School...
 
66.
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...
 
67.
Victor Young
Music Department, Logan
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...
 
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Michel Legrand
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...
 
70.
David Shire
Music Department, Zodiac
 
71.
Jack Nitzsche
Music Department, Death Proof
 
72.
Frank De Vol
Music Department, Kiss Me Deadly
Frank DeVol was born to Herman Frank DeVol and Minnie Emma Humphreys DeVol in Moundsville, West Virginia, on September 20, 1911. He grew up in Canton, Ohio. His father had a "pit" orchestra at the local movie house, and his mother had a sewing shop in Canton. His father was also an accountant. Frank De Vol graduated from McKinley High School in 1929...
 
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75.
Craig Armstrong
Composer, Moulin Rouge!
Craig Armstrong, born in Glasgow, 1959. Studied composition and piano at the Royal Academy of Music, London from 1977 to 1981. From his base in Glasgow he has written for film, classical commissions and solo recordings. He has composed for Baz Lurhmann's Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge!, The Quiet American...
 
76.
John Ottman
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...
 
77.
Hugo Friedhofer
Music Department, Casablanca
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...
 
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81.
Anne Dudley
Music Department, Les Misérables
English composer and pop musician. Was a prominent member of the synthpop band The Art of Noise. Now, a critically acclaimed composer. Won an Oscar for Best Original Music or Comedy Score for work in The Full Monty. Since has composed music for more than forty films, including: The Crying Game, American History X...
 
83.
Stephen Warbeck
Stephen Warbeck began studying piano and composing at the age of four. His parents were keen amateur musicians who encouraged Stephen to pursue his musical talents. By his mid-teens, Stephen developed an affinity for rock 'n' roll as well as for theatre. He studied Drama and French at Bristol University...
 
84.
Leith Stevens
Music Department, Climax!
 
85.
Mark Mothersbaugh
Composer, The Lego Movie
Graduate of Woodridge High School in Peninsula, Ohio. Attended Kent State University (1970-73) in Kent, Ohio, to focus on attaining an art degree. While at Kent State Mothersbaugh met Jerry Casale and Bob Lewis, who ultimately joined him in forming the 1970-80s avant-garde band Devo. Awarded an honorary doctorate degree (2008) from Kent State in humane letters...
 
86.
André Previn
Music Department, Fight Club
 
88.
Richard Harvey
Music Department, The Prince of Egypt
Richard Harvey recently scored the music for Mark Osborne's 'The Little Prince' (2015/16) with long term collaborator and Hollywood legend Hans Zimmer. Alongside a very proactive writing output over the last few years, he is perhaps otherwise best known for his work on The Da Vinci Code (2006), Eichmann (2007)...
 
89.
John Addison
Music Department, Murder, She Wrote
 
90.
Gerald Fried
Composer, The Killing
Composer, author and oboist, educated at Juilliard (BS). He was first oboist for the Dallas Symphony and the New York Little Orchestra between 1948 and 1956. Then he joined Revue Studios in California, lasting until 1960, thereafter working freelance. Joining ASCAP in 1956, his chief musical collaborators included Johnny Mercer and Jack Brooks.
 
92.
Laurent Eyquem
Composer, Winnie Mandela
French composer Laurent Eyquem has beat the odds, overcoming a series of major tragedies - including a near fatal accident that almost cost him his right arm - to become one of the most talked-about talents to arrive on the film music composing scene in recent years. Winner of the International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA) Breakthrough Composer of the Year award...
 
93.
Bronislau Kaper
Music Department, A Day at the Races
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...
 
95.
Herbert Stothart
Soundtrack, Wreck-It Ralph
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...
 
96.
Johnny Mandel
Music Department, M*A*S*H
 
97.
George Duning
Music Department, The Big Valley
George Duning was educated in Cincinnati, Ohio, and during his early 20s played trumpet and piano for the Kay Kyser band, later arranging most of the music for Kyser's popular "Kollege of Musical Knowledge" radio program. It was during the Kyser band's appearance in Carolina Moon that Duning's work was noticed, leading to a contract with Columbia Pictures.
 
98.
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...
 
99.
Bill Conti
Music Department, Falcon Crest
 
100.
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)...