Hans Zimmer doing what he does best (owning)

I've always been a big fan of film music. It's hard to find a type of music that is as open, emotional and dramatic as film music. From peaceful strings to uplifting brass, film music really covers the full musical spectrum.

Listed below you will find 10 film composers which I find to be geniuses. These people all create such unique, beautiful music that just takes you away into another world.

Honerable Mention: Nobuo Uematsu

Nobuo Uematsu is just amazing. When I was younger I played nearly every Final Fantasy video game and I remember just sitting at home each day listening to the music. Nobuo Uematsu is one of the most talented composers there is. If he were to ever start scoring music for film I am certain that he would be at the top of the game.

Notable Works

  • Final Fantasy video game series (1987 - present)

10. Joe Hisaishi

I came across Joe Hisaishi while watching the movie Spirited Away. I was blown away by how carefully crafted these pieces were. If I was more familiar with Hisaishi's music he would probably be higher on my list.

Notable Works

  • Spirited Away (2001)

9. Philip Glass

Philip Glass has a very simple, melodic style which I find enjoyable. He isn't one to use lots of instruments and lots of flare. He more or less finds a very good melody and then repeats it over and over to let it slowly take over you. What a great composer.

Notable Works

  • Koyaanisqatsi (1983)
  • Kundun (1997)
  • The Hours (2002)

8. Danny Elfman

Danny Elfman is a name that most people will probably recognize -- he certainly is not new to creating great music. There are many great memorable scores that he has created throughout his career.

Notable Works

  • Beetlejuice (1988)
  • Batman (1989)
  • Edward Scissorhands (1990)
  • Spider Man (2002)
  • Hulk (2003)
  • The Kingdom (2007)

7. Harry Gregson-Williams

I think Harry Gregson-Williams is a very under-rated composer. His music is simply magical. I think he is one of the best composers at creating that climax point in music where everything fits together and builds together to bring you to a place of pure ecstasy. His work on Narnia is simply amazing and let's not forget the memorable Metal Gear Solid 2 theme.

Notable Works

  • Shrek (2001)
  • Metal Gear Solid 2 (video game) (2001)
  • Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
  • The Chronicles of Narnia (2008)

6. Howard Shore

Howard Shore is a brilliant composer and his talent culminated into perfection with the score for Lord of the Rings. The music is enchanting, touching and timeless.

Notable Works

  • Big (1988)
  • Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
  • Seven (1995)
  • Lord of the Rings (2001)
  • The Aviator (2004)

5. James Newton Howard

James Newton Howard is another under-rated composer. I think JNH is capable of producing some of the most powerful melodies imaginable. His work on the little-known film Lady in the Water was incredible. He is definitely one of my favorite composers of all time.

Notable Works

  • The Fugitive (1993)
  • The Sixth Sense (1999)
  • Signs (2002)
  • The Village (2004)
  • Batman Begins (2005)
  • King Kong (2005)
  • Lady in the Water (2006)
  • The Dark Knight (2008)

4. Alan Menken

Alan Menken is simply amazing -- back to back Oscar wins has got to tell you something. His work on The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast is some of the best musical material ever created. This guy knows how to write.

Notable Works

  • The Little Mermaid (1989)
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  • Aladdin (1992)
  • Pocahontas (1995)
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
  • Hercules (1997)

3. James Horner

And now we reach the top 3. Of course James Horner has to be part of this list. His work on Titanic is some of the best music ever created. But it doesn't stop there. Horner has a plethora of film scores which are simply amazing. The Land Before Time, Casper, Braveheart and Avatar are more examples of how talented and gifted James Horner really is.

Notable Works

  • Commando (1985)
  • Aliens (1986)
  • The Land Before Time (1988)
  • Willow (1988)
  • Glory (1989)
  • Apollo 13 (1995)
  • Casper (1995)
  • Braveheart (1995)
  • Titanic (1997)
  • A Beautiful Mind (2001)
  • Avatar (2009)

2. Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer is the number 2 film composer. When I heard the song "Time" from Inception I was taken into a new world. This song really brings you into another world. Hans Zimmer is one of the most decorated composers in all of music. With a portfolio like The Lion King, The Rock, Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Dark Knight and Inception it is easy to see why Hans Zimmer is one of the greatest composers of all time. This guy knows how to tell a story with music, and he does it time and time again.

Notable Works

  • The Lion King (1994)
  • Crimson Tide (1995)
  • The Rock (1996)
  • Gladiator (2000)
  • Black Hawk Down (2001)
  • Pearl Harbor (2001)
  • The Last Samurai (2003)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (2003)
  • King Arthur (2004)
  • Madagascar (2005)
  • Batman Begins (2005)
  • The Da Vinci Code (2006)
  • The Dark Knight (2008)
  • Inception (2010)

1. John Williams

And of course, the number 1 film composer of all time is the great John Williams. Williams is on a level of his own. Nobody can touch the memorable moments that John Williams has created through his music. Williams is capable of scoring many different styles of music while always keeping things interesting and engaging. His music from Jaws was original. His music from Star Wars brought the movie into a whole new galaxy. His music from Superman was breathtaking. His music from Indiana Jones was fun and exciting. His music from E.T. was sad and uplifting. His music from Home Alone was touching. With Hook John Williams took us to a far away land, with Jurassic Park he brought us into the past. With Schindler's List Williams showed us that he is completely capable of scoring a more simple, emotional score through the use of solo violin. His list of music just goes on and on. The guy is a genius and hands down the best film composer of all time. The music industry would not be what it is today without the scores of John Williams and the childhood and lives of many would be lacking without the memorable brands that Williams has created through music. Bravo!

Notable Works

  • Jaws (1975)
  • Star Wars (1977)
  • Superman (1978)
  • Indiana Jones (1981)
  • E.T. (1982)
  • Home Alone (1990)
  • Hook (1991)
  • Jurassic Park (1993)
  • Schindler's List (1993)
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998)
  • The Patriot (2000)
  • Harry Potter (2001)

 Filed under: Music, Music, Film, Composers, Top 10

About The Author

Quinton Figueroa

Quinton Figueroa

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El Paso, Texas

I am an entrepreneur at heart. Throughout my whole life I have enjoyed building real businesses by solving real problems. Business is life itself. My goal with businesses is to help move the human ...



Anonymous: A little late. But great list

A little late. But great list.

Brian: Huh?

No Jerry Goldsmith or Bernard Hermann? No excuse. You need to watch some more movies if you're going to post such a list.

Anonymous: you just mentioned main

you just mentioned main stream movies :)
you didn't even mention Ennio Morricone which is already way better then anybody you mentioned above ( movies like "Mission", "God Father","Cinema Paradisso" ,Malena" and so many more.....)
then there is Vanelis and many others from French and Italian cinematography which are astonishing ......

Anonymous: I agree with your thoughts
@Anonymous (view comment)

I agree with your thoughts about Morricone...

BUT... it was Nino Rota, not Morricone, who composed the music for "The Godfather."

Hammy Havoc: Great List

Great list! Nobuo has been a life-long favourite of mine.

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