Who are the Best Film Composers of All-Time?



Film music compositions are often overlooked. They make up an integral part of movie-making and one can say they are the closest to new classical compositions since its demise in the early 20th century. But film scores have a lot more to live up to. The music has to set the tone and establish the mood of a movie in ways that dialogue cannot achieve. Some of the most memorable movies are associated with their iconic film scores such as Psycho, Star Wars, and Jaws. But who are the best film composers of all time? We share the list in this post.


Rachel Portman


There are only four women in cinematic history who have won the Academy Awards for Best Original Score. They are Ann Dudley for The Full Monty, Hildur Guonadottir for Joker, Marilyn Bergman for Yentl, and Rachel Portman for Emma.


Of the four, Portman is the one who made history as the first female film score composer to win the Oscars for Best Original Score. Not only is she the most respected female film composer in the UK, but she has also scored films for numerous directors from Mike Leigh, Wayne Wang, John Madden, Robert Redford, Lasse Halstrom to Jonathan Demme.


The prolific film music composer also won Oscars nods for Chocolat and The Cider House Rules.


Maurice Jarre


Remember the classic film Lawrence of Arabia? Maurice Jarre is the first French composer to win an Oscar for the film. He enjoyed a very successful career in his native land, France as well as the UK and Hollywood. His keen sense of melody was matched by his willingness to experiment. Jarre’s works often integrate ethnic instrumentation and electronic sounds into his music. Jarre passed away in 2009.


Hans Zimmer


Hans Zimmer can be considered a household name as a film score composer. He scored his first Oscar nomination for Rain Man in 1989. Five years later, he won the Academy Award for scoring The Lion King. In the next 27 years, he added eight more Oscar nominations to his resume.


Zimmer frequently collaborated with Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Ron Howard, Christopher Nolan, and many more. He is best known for his sweeping operatic scores for big-budget movie spectacles. Zimmer has collected over 300 credits since 1984.


Joe Hisaishi


Who can forget the memorable scores from Japanese animation? Joe Hisaishi, who is also dubbed “the Japanese John Williams” is a household name in Japan. He has won many fans to his music thanks to his sweeping, characterful scores for the films of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. He has bagged a total of eight Japanese Academy Awards.


Ennio Morricone


The late Italian film composer Ennio Morricone is as iconic as filmmaking itself. He wrote music in a wide range of styles and created more than 400 scores for cinema and television including more than 100 classical works. Morricone’s portfolio includes more than 70 award-winning films from Cinema Paradiso, Exorcist II, Days of Heaven, including French films, La Cage aux Folles I, II, III, and Le Professional. His score to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in 1966 is regarded as one of the most recognisable influential soundtracks in history, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.


John Williams


John Williams, like Hans Zimmer, is a household name for the memorable films he was responsible for scoring: Jaws, Star Wars, Superman, and several of the most popular films made. He was nominated for the Academy Awards a staggering 38 times and has won the golden statuette five times.


Williams has become synonymous with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, two of the most iconic filmmakers in Hollywood. He has over 450 soundtrack credits under his belt, more than 250 music department credits, and over 150 credits as a composer. His reach in the realm of movie and TV music is hard to eclipse.


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