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24 Jul

Intern Corner: Emilee’s Top 5 Film Composers

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Emilee Delaisse

What lures you into a movie and helps you feel the emotions of the characters? Some argue that the actors provide the connection. Others point out that it’s the cinematographer's choice to zoom in on the characters' faces, or maybe the screenwriter’s choice of words.

There’s no doubt that all of these things play a role, but many people overlook the impact film scores play in the expression of emotion in movies. Although scores can make finales even more exhilarating (see: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial), they can lace tension into seemingly innocuous scenes (like in Psycho). They can even act as a cover up for not so strong acting performances. However, great film composers know when the absence of music better serves the scene (check out The Shining).

My passion for film scores stems from when my high school band played The Cowboys. All without words, the almost 10 minute piece seamlessly intertwines joyous, heroic, and sometimes sad emotions into one experience. Film scores fuse imagery and narrative together, creating movie magic. Plus, they provide some great background music whether you’re listening to The Dark Knight while working out or How to Train Your Dragon while cooking dinner.

It is difficult to determine the top five film composers because each movie requires different music and each of them have perfected their own style. However, here are five composers to keep an eye out for when watching your next movie. In no particular order:

1. Michael Giacchino

Kids movies tend to have some of the greatest emotional scores integrated into them. Michael Giacchino, who has worked primarily with Pixar and Disney, composes rich scores that sweep the audience into the movie. His work also includes scores for video games and television.

Check out his work in:

  • Up
  • Jurassic World
  • Inside Out
  • Ratatouille
  • The Incredibles
  • Zootopia
  • Rogue One
  • Lost

2. Jerry Goldsmith

Nicknamed “Gorgeous,” Goldsmith was as sweet as honey when creating his scores. Goldsmith knew how to directly pull the emotion from the scene and express it to the audience. His unique style utilized an array of instruments, textures, and techniques, which allowed him to compose for many different genres of film.

Check out his work in:

  • Rudy
  • Star Trek
  • Chinatown
  • Alien
  • The Omen
  • Mulan
  • Planet of the Apes

3. Hans Zimmer

Zimmer is fairly different from the other composers listed because of his use of synthesizers. He is known for integrating electronic music with orchestras, which perfectly fits into the heavy hitting movies he is casted for. He is especially influential in teaching composers how to write for film.

Check out his work in:

  • The Lion King
  • Crimson Tide
  • The Dark Knight
  • Inception
  • Gladiator
  • Intersteller

4. John Powell

Powell was originally a part of Hans Zimmer’s music studio, but came into his own with his composition of How to Train Your Dragon. Although Powell uses similar techniques as Zimmer, Powell uses the orchestra to showcase his talents. Just as Giacchino, he is known for his work on children’s films while working with DreamWorks.

Check out his work in:

  • The Bourne Series
  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • Ice Age
  • Kung Fu Panda
  • X-Men: The Last Stand

5. John Williams

At age 85, Williams is by far the most prestigious composer of the group. Unlike many composers today, he still uses his home piano and reams of sheet music to create his scores. At the moment, he is the second most nominated person for an Oscar, behind Walt Disney. Not only has he composed for film, but wrote the theme to The Olympics, Sunday Night Football, NBC Nightly News, and many others.

Check out his work in:

  • Star Wars
  • Jaws
  • Indiana Jones
  • E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
  • Schindler’s List
  • Harry Potter
  • Jurassic Park

Honorable mentions: Danny Elfman, Max Steiner, Bernard Hermmann, Nino Rota, Leonard Bernstein, Elmer Bernstein, Ennio Morricone, Thomas Newman and Randy Newman.