Best Movie Score Composers

The Top Ten
1 John Williams John Williams is an American film composer. He often collaborated with Steven Spielberg on his films.

John Williams literally revolutionized the film music industry with lush, full orchestras chock full of iconic melodies and colorful instrumentation. Not only that, but Williams married classical techniques with the modern tastes of changing American audiences, producing scores that are literally ingrained into the minds and ears of people around the world. This is more than a matter of whose music is more recognizable: this is about someone who changed forever the format, quality, and brilliance of the modern film score.

John Williams is still alive and the guy you have in the picture isn't John Williams the composer. And ANYONE that says Hans Zimmer is the best is an imbecile. I would put Star Wars and Indiana Jone against The Lion King or Inception any day of the week. Star Wars alone is probably the Greatest Music piece ever written. Along with The Godfather, these are the 2 greatest movie pieces of all time. John Williams isn't even in this category, he should be compared with Beethoven and Mozart. Not people who wrote music for Pirates of the Caribbean.

Being born in 1970, I have had the pleasure of growing up with John Williams music running in my head. Pretending to be Luke, Indy or Superman replaying his music in my head made all of my childhood play all to real. Swimming in our pool in the back yard became a frightening experience when thinking of the jaws soundtrack, which by the way can be heard daily at any given waterpark in American to this day. "DA,NA,DA,NA". There is no doubt the Johns music is, and will be, part of the American experience and it will remain so forever. To John, Thank you.

It's amazing how much originality this man can produce after working on so many films. Love all the usual recognizeable scores everyone else already listed, but the one that really made me appreciate his versatility is the music for the Intersection Scene in War of the Worlds. The sound of the orchestra as the tripod began rising out of the ground added some creepy dread to what came next.
"For Always" from AI is another truly unique and beautiful melody.

2 Hans Zimmer Hans Florian Zimmer is a German film score composer and record producer. Since the 1980s, he has composed music for over 150 films.

I don't think there is one piece of Hans Zimmer's that doesn't have emotion and charachter. John Williams is great, Harry Potter, Jaws, Star Wars are all great themes, but I feel as if John Williams' scores are just the main theme and that's that. I feel as if Hans Zimmer always goes a step further and makes the soundracks as good as he possibly can. John Williams made a good theme for Superman, which fits the charachter. But, Hans Zimmer made the soundtrack for Man of Steel seem more human, and better suited to our world, and the darker, gritier charachter, instead of having the plain happy heroicness that I feel isn't so powerful anymore. I feel at peace when I am listening to any of his songs because I think his songs are the ones that people can relate to.

I love John Williams, and when it comes to legacy, he probably is the best composer. But present day, Hans Zimmer is definitely the best. He's composed Gladitaor, Lion King, Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, Pirates of the Carribean, Prince of Egypt, Inception, Interstellar, and many movies in the DCEU that are among his underrated soundtracks, such as Man of Steel and Batman v Superman.

His music is beautiful. I can see why people would want John Williams in the lead but Hans Zimmer is extraordinary by his music and has different variety. Jaws, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Superman, all big and flashy but that's it. It's nothing like the true beauty in the childhood soundtracks- The Lion King, Prince of Egypt, etc.

He is really the best there is no one better than him. He proved multiple times that he can create something beyond imagination. I wonder who where those dumps that gave Oscar to Alexandre Despelat for Grand Budapest Hotel instead of Interstellar, interstellar was the best score ever for scientific films.

3 Ennio Morricone Ennio Morricone (10 November 1928 – 6 July 2020) was an Italian composer, orchestrator, conductor, and trumpeter who wrote music in a wide range of styles. With more than 400 scores for cinema and television, as well as more than 100 classical works, Morricone is widely considered one of the most prolific and greatest film composers of all time. His filmography includes more than 70 award-winning films, all Sergio Leone's films since A Fistful of Dollars, all Giuseppe Tornatore's films since Cinema Paradiso, The Battle of Algiers, Dario Argento's Animal Trilogy, 1900, Exorcist II, Days of Heaven, several major films in French cinema, in particular the comedy trilogy La Cage aux Folles I, II, more.

His scores can be either eclectic and strange, or harmonious and heavenly, or both at the same time. His theme to 'The Red Tent' is simply sublime, the Stereo version of 'The Ecstasy of Gold' is like a religious experience, and his work with Christy is just magnificent. His scores for 'Red Sonja' are the best thing about the movie.
He's had a few speed bumps here and there, but those scores are creative and eclectic.
I think he's one of the best composers of all time, and has worked on an entire range of genres.

Simply the best ever. he can do cheerful: Cheyenne's theme, Once Upon A Time In The West; Wacky, Main Theme from My Name is nobody; Dramatic, Man With A Harmonica, Once Upon A Time again, Sad, The Funeral, American Sniper ( even though a lot of credit goes to Nino Rossi For writing the trumpet tune, Downright beautiful, gabriels oboe from the mission and Good Luck Jack from My name is nobody, and of course, totally iconic, Theme from The Good The Bad And the Ugly. John Williams comes a close second for me, but Morricone I feel is simply more sophisticated and original. Hans Zimmer is good, but once you've heard on song you've heard it all. Another really great, but underrated composer is Earle Hagen, for his brilliant work on the Andy Griffith Show, with it's iconic theme, and tender moments. Yeah, I know I'm gonna get some Eye Rolls for that one, but he should at least be on the list.

The greatest Italian film composer of all time. His work with Tim Burton just added to it & so did his versatility in all fields. R.I.P. (1928-2020).

Best of the best, hands down my favorite movie composer. It is amazing that he isn't more widely known. I'm sure a lot of people enjoy his music without knowing it is him but he has immortalized himself with the Sergio Leone Westerns, making those good movies great.

4 Danny Elfman

I love many of the composers on this list and their themes are on my iPod, but self-taught Oingo Boingo lead singer/writer Danny Elfman... just look at the themes: Batman, MIB, Spider Man, The Simpsons, Tales From The Crypt, Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, Black Beauty, Sommersby, Hulk, Planet of the Apes, Sleepy Hollow, Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory...just amazing.

Equal to Zimmer and following to Williams, Danny Elfmans superb changes in style and odd variations of sound make the films more tantalizing, his iconic themes and specifically his scores for the Tim Burton films make him one of the most recognized film composers of the modern age.

Better than Williams. This guy should be #1, he's made songs for Nightmare Before Christmas and he's made some of the Best Opening Themes, like the ones in Batman and Mars Attacks.

Waltz of Death from Batman and Proposal/Down Rabbit Hole from Alice in Wonderland are just 2 of his highlights. Ennio WISHED he could work with Tim Burton.

5 Howard Shore

No words. None at all. Not the most eloquently phrased paragraph or beautifully crafted poem. The only thing that can express the impact Howard Shore left on the world of cinema is his own music. No composer will ever do a better job at bringing to life a fictional world in the way that Howard Shore plucked to life the strings of Middle Earth. I cannot help while reading Tolkien's Lord of the Rings novels but to hear the cozy melodies of the Shire, the majestic and enchanting tunes of Rivendell and Lothlórien, and the thrilling and roaring themes of Rohan and Gondor. Shore is the only composer in Oscars history to win two Oscars within a single trilogy. I would have him in the 2nd slot in the All Time Best Film Score Composers for his work on The Lord of the Rings, Hugo, Silence of the Lambs, The Hobbit, Se7en, The Aviator, The Departed, and The Fly.

I have to admit that, though I knew of him, I hadn't heard much of Howard Shore's work before LOTR. I think I was actually dissappointed at the time when I saw his name on the upcoming posters for the film and not some of the more mainstream composers of that time...and it was a most awesome unexpected surprise.

Never would I have gotten so emotionally invested in those films without his style. It was exactly what those stories needed. I had heard that James Horner was originally offered to do the films and couldn't due to the travel/scheduling. Though I am a big JH fan, I am so glad the job went to Shore. It was even better when they released the complete scores for all three films!

I highly recommend seeing the LOTR Live performances. The orchestra is so incredible I frequently forget there is one actually performing the music.

The music of the Lord of the Rings is without doubt the best movie score ever, it fits extremely well with every scene or every feeling and I never heard a better score in any movie.The musis is so full of emotions, like happiness and courage, but also sadness and fear. I think no one else but Howard Shore with his beautiful and melancholic themes is the number one. Compare this to the childish Hans Zimmer pirate themes I can't even try it.

Really he is 2nd in my opinion. Lord of the rings trilogy scores are the greatest scores ever each track has its own life and match the situation. The best film, the best story line and the best musics ever made

6 James Horner James Roy Horner was an American composer, conductor and orchestrator of film scores, writing over 100. He was known for the integration of choral and electronic elements, and for his frequent use of motifs associated with Celtic music.

He has many great soundtracks, like titanic, avatar, and perfect storm, but to me his greatest was braveheart, particularly "the execution" and "end credits! Fantastic work and although the movie wasn't historically accurate, the soundtrack was incredible!

Truly heart-touching, emotional and magical music. Rest in peace maestro.

Field of dreams, Dad, Searching for bobby fischer and many more.

Second only to John Williams. See you in the next life.

7 Alan Silvestri

Grew up with Silvestri's music embedded in my head.
Back to the Future, Rambo, Forrest Gump, Flight of the navigator.
But his crown jewel of scores to me is Predator

Back to the Future
The Avengers
Night at the Museum
This genius has created numerous memorable movie scores. The second best, behind only John Williams (hard to beat Star Wars, Jaws, Indiana Jones, and Superman)

Watch Endgame and tell me Alan isn't one of the most badass composers of all time.

Back to The Future and everything else - just epic! No words...

8 Jerry Goldsmith

Jerry is the only one I could understand putting over Herrmann. He was a true visionary
Alien, Chinatown, Legend, Total Recall
His body of work is just bonkers

The ultimate chameleon, a fearless experimenter, capable of excelling in any genre. Jerry Goldsmith's discography is an absolute treasure trove, a gift that never stops giving: The Omen, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Patton, Chinatown, Alien, Poltergeist, Under Fire, Planet of the Apes, The Wind and The Lion. The list goes on, believe me it does.

This list is a popularity contest. Anyone who studies Goldsmith's music as a whole will know that he should be in the top 2 at the very least, the most innovative composer of our time bar none.

If you ask other Hollywood composers, there is no question. Goldsmith. Simply, Goldsmith.

9 James Newton Howard

The gravel road from the village is the best movie soundtrack ever, followed by the 6th sense, both of which he made. Unbreakable also had great music, and avatar, king kong, and batman had cool soundtracks too.

The Fugitive, Falling Down, The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, The Village, The Devil's Advocate, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, I Am Legend, Defiance, King Kong... so much awesome osts! This guy is a genius!

Hunger games and Maleficent have incredible music making him without a doubt one of the best!

Should be top 5. Excellent match with Shyamalan

10 Alexandre Desplat

He has his unique style that you can hear in many of his pieces like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Valerian and the city of a thousand planets, Girl with a pearl earring, The Golden Compass, Ghost Writer,...
His music makes me happy and sad at the same time, the music just takes you into the movie.

Did you ever listen his music, Harry Potter And the deathly hallows; Girl with a pearl earring; Lust, Caution; Argo; Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close. In his music you can feel the pain, joy, in other words, it will take you into the movie. I think he deserve a chance to be on the top.

Merlins beard! Are you serious? #18? NO! Mr. Desplat is by far second, only to be beaten by the almighty John Williams. He is then followed by Hans Zimmer, and then Nicholas Hooper (where even is he, on this screwed up list? ).

What!? Eleventh!?

Desplat is in my opinion the most talented soundtrack composer out there. He should be #1, then followed by Williams and Craig Armstrong (he's not here either! )

The Contenders
11 Thomas Newman

Ever since I saw Road to Perdition, I feel like Thomas Newman is deserving of being in the top 5 greatest film composers of all time the soundtrack was that good (especially when listening to Rock Island, 1931 and Road to Chicago, two scores that are beautiful and haunting, reaching your very core and being).

Every piece he composes is just magic, it makes any movie become so real and each tone is captivating. My personal favorite goes to Road to Chicago by my all time favorite film "Road to Perdition". He is as good as people like Hanz Zimmerman and John Williams, and surpasses Danny Elfman.

Newman's music is so beautiful, it haunts your soul (just listen to Road to Chicago). Ever since I discovered him, I feel he is deserving of top 3 at least, if not best composer of all time.

Even though he is not deserving of the Number 1 spot, no other composer on this list would be ashamed to be listed below Thomas Newman. He's really THAT good.

12 John Barry

Unlike all the others - all great, all amazing - he understood better than anyone before, now, or ever, the inseparable relationship between Music and Image. In order to bring meaning to the image, one must first interpret the image, become emotionally tied to it, then LIFT it to the heavens with the one universal language that binds us all. All these composers are genius, but Mr. Barry is the only one who also understood his role. He is Number 1. He is the mentor and role model for all the others topping this list.

Over his career he has scored the most diverse range of films from the Knack to the whisperers, from Mary queen of Scots to the cotton club. He also used melody like no other composer even within the body of his scores not just the main titles. He achieved this very simply, with few notes but massive amounts of heart and emotion that fit the film perfectly. He may have become a little repetitive in terms of tempo, style and arrangements during the last 15 years of his work but overall he can and could not be bettered. AMAZING

All his Bond-scores beat the most movie music out there.
I think that his other scores are brilliant too, especially "Dances with wolves" and "The Specialist".

He recorded the songs for Once upon a time in the west before Leone started filming it an he was squeezing the throat of the harmonica player while he was playing to get the tone he had in his mind. that's a genius mate

13 Harry Gregson-Williams

Sure he wasn't as iconic as John Williams but god damn I was hoping for top 20 at least, come on guys pick up your game, I thought the music for Shrek was probably one of the most memorial movies of my childhood, and yeah Narnia wasn't just awesome it was SPECTACULARLY in the moment perfectly timed scores.

How was Harry Gregson-Williams not on this list? There is a certain magical quality in his scores for the Shrek and Chronicles of Narnia films.

Shrek, Enemy of the State, The Chronicles of Narnia, Total Recall, Unstoppable and more. This guy's awesome, definitely up there.

Should be higher. The music to the Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was just beautiful.

14 Vangelis Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou, known professionally as Vangelis, was a Greek composer of electronic, progressive, ambient, jazz, and orchestral music.

Can do classical, rock, new age, jazz, opera, electronica, pop... Some very atmospheric compositions. Academy award winner don't forget. Chariots of Fire.

He seems a great wealth of emotion.
He once was a member of "Aphrodite's Child" in which "Demis Roussos" joined.
His notable OST are "Chariots of Fire", 'Blade Runner" and ""Conquest of Paradise".

Conquest of Paradise, the most illusive piece ever. Probably my number 4 or 5.

Blade Runner is pretty much the reason why I adore this composer.

15 Patrick Doyle

Very underrated.
Remember Harry Potter 4 and the Thor Soundtrack.
He just needs more good requests

He also did the score for Nanny McPhee.

This guy is cool

16 Henry Jackman

Loved what he did with Wreck-It Ralph!

17 Max Steiner

Max Steiner is the quintessential film composer. He invented the field. He should be at the top of the list, the top ten of which are all the millennials' favorites growing up. Steiner, Waxman, Tiomkin, Newman (Alfred, not Randy) should all be in the top ten.

He was the "Father of Film Music" and he composed the music of Gone With the Wind in one only month.

Gone with the Wind had such a beautiful soundtrack. It was way ahead of its time.

Max Steiner should be on 2, but you guys are only listening to popular.

18 Joe Hisaishi

22!? This is outrageous, I wasn't expecting him to be in top 5 in all honesty or even the top 10 for that matter, but top 15 at least, I had to go searching for him on this god damn list, they still got it right with Williams, Zimmer and Elfman at the top, but someone who has worked on films for Studio Ghibli that can be just as iconic as Star Wars or Harry Potter isn't even in the top 15!? SHAME!

John Williams has had lackluster scores (more recent movies), and Hans Zimmer has had bad scores. (The Amazing Spider-Man 2, just listen to "Electro's Theme", ugh)

Joe Hisaishi NEVER had even a mediocre score, his music is lovely and wholesome, or confident and daring. His epic scores from Princess Mononoke ring to me more than any Star Wars soundtrack. Listen to "The Legend of Ashitaka" from Princess Mononoke for something epic. Or for something anxious listen to "The Sixth Station" from Spirited Away. Looking for something wholesome? Try Kiki's Delivery Service or My Neighbor Totoro's soundtrack. I don't care if you hate anime to the bone. Danny Elfman started as a Disney composer and is considered the best too by today, why not Japanese-equivalent Disney's lead composer?

He composed music for Studio Ghibli films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky, Howl's Moving Castle, etc. I'd say he's right up there with John Williams even.

He produces music that pulls at all of your emotions at once. He has a gift and that should be respected by putting him at the top of the list. Do it now.

19 Bernard Herrmann

From Citizen Kane to Taxi Driver. Herrmann was the absolute master. Scoring is about transferring emotion to the listener, and no one did it better. Hitchcock fell off the map after he ditched Herrmann. Coincidence?
North by northwest
The ghost and mrs muir
Fahrenheit 451
The bride wore black
... are just a few of his best

Bernard Herrmann's use of the voices of the harp and low woodwinds is something else. Absolutely incredible. His work on the Ray Harryhausen films like "Jason and the Argonauts", "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad", and "Mysterious Island" were incredible. He also wrote music for arguably the most iconic American horror/thriller film known as "Psycho". Although television does not encompass the genre of film, his compositions for the first season of the Twilight Zone depicted the science fiction/drama genre perfectly. Without Bernard Herrmann's compositions, the films/shows would definitely not be as recognizable as they are to us.

He wrote some of the best Sword and Sandal scores of all time, The Egyptian, 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts! Not to mention his iconic work on the Hitchcock classics. He deserves to be in the top 10.

Years ahead of his time. Invented countless musical techniques, had a career that started with Citizen Kane and ended with Taxi Driver. He also trained John Williams.

20 S. D. Burman

His music was slick and stylish.

21 Michael Giachinno

Prediction: this guy will be the next John Williams. He's already done Jurassic World and now Rogue One. Though I don't like to think about it, John Williams is pretty old, and Giacchino will do amazing once he's gone, though I hope that will not be anytime soon.

Respect the incredible talent and creativity of all of these composers, but Giacchino can tackle any project. He uses the full orchestra plus unique and atypical instruments and should easily be in the top 3 with Williams and Zimmer.

He has created some of the best scores of all time: The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up, Inside Out. Giacchino can just perfectly capture every moment of a film in a piece of music. His soundtracks are absolutely wonderful.

Between Star Trek, UP, The Incredibles (which I believe is the best Pixar soundtrack), and Rogue One, this guy is something special.

22 John Powell

Should be in the top ten. How to Train Your Dragon has one of the best movie soundtracks I have ever heard. He also did other movies, such as Chicken Run. All of his soundtracks are good.

Same as other commenters, How to Train Your Dragon score truly elevated that film. Felt there was such a variety and originality between each of the cues that somehow fit the entire film wonderfully as a whole and make a great listen on the soundtrack. Definitely his best work of all. Forbidden Friendship, Test Drive and Romantic Flight the most.

...And then then he went and pulled it off again with How to Train Your Dragon 2 score (Battle of the Bewilderbeast, Flying with Mother, Stoick's Ship). Excellent mix of both previous and new themes. Am greatly anticipating his score for HTTYD3 which sounds to be even more dark and dramatic.

The soundtracks to the How To Train Your Dragon movies are among my favorites of all time. I think he really did right by those movies with music that was at time just out right fun and at others beautiful moving.

Personally best composer. Really How To Train Your Dragon was supernatural. Love tracks like Forbidden Friendship, Test Drive Romantic Flight. He has potential to be finest music composer of all time.

23 Ramin Djawadi

He is a great composer and well-known one.Game of throne, clash of titans, iron man aren't these enough to be amongst the top 20. It is a pity of course when I didn't saw his name on this list.

Every single track is unique on its own. That automatically makes him #1. It's injustice to see him at #20.

From Pacific Rim, to Westworld, to the Great Wall, to Game of Thrones, all of Ramin's music is absolutely exhilarating.

One epic composer, for some reason he reminds me of Two Steps from Hell, his music just drives the films like the Pacific Rim theme, gets me right in the moment

24 Akira Ifukube
25 John Debney

Seek out "Mary Goes to Jesus" from The Passion of the Christ. Then there's the swashbucking Cutthroat Island.
Sadly, Debney hasn't had the best gigs in Hollywood. With the exception of Passion, he tends to elevate his films, rather than the other way around. Too bad, since he's a very vesatile composer and his music is emotionally resonant. He deserves more acclaim.

A very good and underrated composer. He did a fantastic job on CutThroat Island, one of the greatest pirate movies and one of the biggest box office flops of all time! He deserves an Oscar for it because it's one of my most favorite scores of all time!

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