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.

The Mozart of our time. He endured the most out of all, composing the scores for films such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park 1 & 2, the Star Wars movies, Home Alone 1 & 2, the Jaws movies, the Harry Potter movies, and the list goes on.

He will always be a staple in cinema.

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.

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.

Hans Zimmer is the Beethoven of our time. He has dark and epic-sounding scores, including The Lion King, Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean, Pearl Harbor, Inception, and more.

I don't think there is one piece of Hans Zimmer's that doesn't have emotion and character. John Williams is great. Harry Potter, Jaws, and 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 soundtracks as good as he possibly can.

John Williams made a good theme for Superman, which fits the character. But Hans Zimmer made the soundtrack for Man of Steel seem more human and better suited to our world and the darker, grittier character, instead of having the plain happy heroism 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.

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... read more

He was known for making scores based on the themes of movies, from Westerns such as The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, to space movies such as The Mission.

He was one of a kind. R.I.P. (1928-2020).

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.

4 Danny Elfman

He adds dark music to his movies, which are already somewhat dark to begin with. He's done Batman, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice 1 and 2, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Dr. Seuss' The Grinch (2018), and more.

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.

5 Howard Shore

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 disappointed 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. 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 but couldn't due to the travel and scheduling conflicts. 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.

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 composed the best-selling score My Heart Will Go On from Titanic and the score of the highest-grossing movie of all time, Avatar. He also composed the score for the best adaptation of the Grinch (with Jim Carrey), along with Braveheart and so much more.

R.I.P. way too soon (1953-2015).

He has many great soundtracks, like Titanic, Avatar, and The 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!

7 Alan Silvestri

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).

He adds cheesy but epic music to his movies, including Back to the Future, The Polar Express, and the Avengers movies.

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

8 Jerry Goldsmith

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 two at the very least. He is the most innovative composer of our time, bar none.

9 James Newton Howard

The gravel road from The Village is the best movie soundtrack ever, followed by The Sixth 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 many awesome OSTs! This guy is a genius!

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

10 Alexandre Desplat

He has a 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, and Ghost Writer.

His music makes me happy and sad at the same time. The music just takes you into the movie.

Have you ever listened to 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 and joy. In other words, it will take you into the movie. I think he deserves a chance to be at the top.

The Contenders
11 Thomas Newman

Ever since I saw Road to Perdition, I feel like Thomas Newman is deserving of being in the top five greatest film composers of all time. The soundtrack was that good, especially when listening to Rock Island, 1931, and Road to Chicago.

These scores 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 from my all-time favorite film, Road to Perdition.

He is as good as people like Hans Zimmer and John Williams and surpasses Danny Elfman.

12 John Barry

Unlike all the others - great and 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 geniuses, 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.

13 Harry Gregson-Williams

Sure, he wasn't as iconic as John Williams, but goddamn, I was hoping for the top 20 at least. Come on, guys, pick up your game. I thought the music for Shrek was probably one of the most memorable movies of my childhood.

Yeah, Narnia wasn't just awesome. It was spectacularly in the moment with perfectly timed scores.

How is 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.

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

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

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

Conquest of Paradise is the most elusive piece ever. Probably my number four or five.

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.

16 Henry Jackman

Loved what he did with Wreck-It Ralph!

17 Bernard Herrmann

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 and shows would definitely not be as recognizable as they are to us.

18 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, and Newman (Alfred, not Randy) should all be in the top ten.

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

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

19 Joe Hisaishi

22!? This is outrageous. I wasn't expecting him to be in the top 5, in all honesty, or even the top 10 for that matter, but at least the top 15. I had to go searching for him on this list. They still got it right with Williams, Zimmer, and Elfman at the top, but someone who has worked on films for Studio Ghibli, which 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 in more recent movies, and Hans Zimmer has had bad scores. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - just listen to "Electro's Theme." Ugh.

Joe Hisaishi has never had even a mediocre score. His music is lovely and wholesome, or confident and daring. His epic scores from Princess Mononoke resonate with 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 one of the best today. Why not the Japanese-equivalent Disney's lead composer?

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. 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 three with Williams and Zimmer.

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

22 John Powell

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

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

23 Ramin Djawadi

He is a great and well-known composer. Game of Thrones, Clash of Titans, Iron Man - aren't these enough to be among the top 20? It is a pity, of course, that I didn't see his name on this list.

Every single track is unique on its own. That automatically makes him #1. It's an 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.

24 Akira Ifukube
25 John Debney

Seek out "Mary Goes to Jesus" from The Passion of the Christ. Then there's the swashbuckling 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. It's too bad since he's a very versatile 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 favorite scores of all time!

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