Posted in Listening to Music

Film Score Geek

That’s right, you heard it here first.  When it comes to film scores – aka “the music you hear in the background of movies” – I’m a total geek.  I have been ever since childhood, ever since I heard the opening theme for Star Wars…Star Wars, of course, being the one to which I compare every score.

John Williams is sort of considered the be the Master of Film Scores, at least in my book.  I mean, check out his resume:

1. Star Wars (all six movies)

2. Indiana Jones (all four movies)

3. Jaws

4. E.T.

5. Harry Potter (the first three)

6. Jurassic Park

7. Schindler’s List

8. Superman

Blah, blah, blah…the list goes on.  Basically, just think of every movie Steven Spielberg has made, and then you have most of what John Williams has done.

Of course John Williams isn’t the only guy out there writing scores for movies.  There are many others, most of which you won’t recognize by name, but once you hear the music you’ll probably say, “Oh, hey, I’ve seen that movie!”  And don’t feel bad…most of these guys don’t want to be super famous…they just want to be respected in the world of music.

I have my favorite film scores, of course, outside of the John Williams box.  Howard Shore, for example, did the score for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which in my opinion blew Star Wars right out of the galaxy.  And he’s Canadian.

Another composer that has done a considerable body of work is Hans Zimmer, the mastermind behind such classic scores as The Lion King, Gladiator, Inception, and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  I first discovered him when I became obsessed with the movie The Power of One, which took place in South Africa.  The score was compiled mostly of African drums and choirs and sounds amazing.  In fact, if it weren’t for this movie, Zimmer would have never composed the score for The Lion King, which everyone pretty much has ingrained into their heads.

One composer whom I feel is totally underrated (not saying that the others are overrated, but whatever) is Patrick Doyle.  He has the same sort of partnership with director Kenneth Branagh that Williams has with Spielberg.  He’s composed most of Branagh’s films, from Henry V to Much Ado About Nothing to Thor.  He also composed the score for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and while I love what John Williams created for the first three movies, Doyle made a masterpiece out of it with his melodic symphonies.

And I can’t write this blog without mentioning Danny Elfman – another composer with a director teammate (Tim Burton) – who has composed a ton of my favorite movies: the first two Batman movies, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, Beetlejuice, Alice in Wonderland, and the AMAZING The Nightmare Before Christmas. Being a member of Oingo-Boingo, however, gives him a slight advantage to being awesome.

So those are my “Big Five” when it comes to film composers: Williams, Shore, Zimmer, Doyle, and Elfman.  There are a few others who are starting to get my attention like James Newton Howard (The Dark Knight), Alexandre Desplat (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 1 & 2), and Javier Navarrete (his Pan’s Labyrinth is beautiful), able to make the movie they’re composing a work of art.

So I suggest the next time you watch a movie, pay attention to the music in the background.  You might be surprised by how good it is, and how important it is not only to the movie, but to the music world itself.

Happy listening!



I have way too much information floating around in my head, which is why I write things down. I find that books, movies, music, and television are much more interesting than my local news.

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