There are so many things that can elicit strong emotions from an audience when they watch a movie — a solid script, stunning cinematography, noteworthy performances, and above all else, a stellar score. I dare you to listen to some of film history’s most powerful scenes on mute. It doesn’t hit the same, does it?
Without even realizing it, many of our favorite moments in cinema are pushed forward by music. While it may seem obvious when you take a second to think about it, the beauty of a near-perfect score is its seamlessness and ability to blend into the background and make itself almost unknown to the audience. A film score is an overlooked supporting actor but we’re here today to change that.
Here are some of the best film composers to keep an eye out for.
1. John Williams
Let’s get things started with an absolute legend. The number of awards and nominations this man has is more than I could ever achieve in multiple lifetimes. You probably know his name best as the credited composer of nearly all the Star Wars films and the first two Jurassic Park films. Iconic enough for you?
Williams also composed the first three Harry Potter films, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman (1978), the first two Home Alone films, all of the Indiana Jones films, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Schindler’s List. Nearly every single theme song we know (whether we follow the franchise or not) has been a product of Williams’ extensive career, making his impact on film a tale of pop culture phenomenon for many generations to come.
2. Alexandre Desplat
Alexandre Desplat is interesting because his resume boasts range. Similar to John Williams, the French composer has a healthy amount of awards and nominations to back up his work. From the whimsical world of Wes Anderson to thrilling big-budget blockbusters, Desplat shows he is up for just about any challenge.
His works include The Fantastic Mr. Fox, The French Dispatch, Moonrise Kingdom, The Golden Compass, The King’s Speech, Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Godzilla (2014) — you know, just to name a humble handful.
3. Michael Giacchino
If you’ve been paying close attention to credits recently, then you know Giacchino has stayed booked and busy for a good part of this decade. His career is beginning to mirror that of John Williams in regards to his proximity to insanely popular franchises and production companies. He is known to work closely with the Disney trifecta — Disney, Pixar, and Marvel Studios — but that doesn’t stop him from branching out into other territories and creating works of art.
Giacchino’s name is attached to projects such as The Incredibles, Up, Ratatouille, Super 8, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, War for the Planet of the Apes, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Bad Times at the El Royale, Spider-Man: No Way Home, The Batman, and more recently Thor: Love and Thunder. In addition to his mile-long roster of works, Giacchino is set to make his directorial debut with Marvel Studios’ upcoming Disney+ project Werewolf by Night.
4. Hans Zimmer
Another name you’ve definitely seen attached to your favorite films. German composer Hans Zimmer has some pretty incredible titles under his belt and you’ll recognize his style almost immediately after seeing what he’s worked on throughout the course of his career. If you still need some help remembering, let us remind you.
Zimmer’s list of works include the likes of The Lion King (1994), Gladiator, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, Interstellar, Blade Runner 2049, and Dune (2022). Catching onto the pattern?
5. Ludwig Göransson
A frequent collaborator alongside director Ryan Coogler (Black Panther, Fruitvale Station), Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson is making waves. Best known for his work on Black Panther, Göransson can spar with the rest of them through the sheer power of his wide range. Not only has he provided the score for films such as Fruitvale Station, Creed, Venom, and Tenet, but he’s also done his fair share of television work.
Shows like Community, New Girl, Patriot Act with Hasan Minaj, and the ever-so-popular Star Wars series The Mandalorian have set Göransson up as a versatile player in this industry. Did we mention he also works closely with Donald Glover and produced Camp, Because the Internet, and “Awaken, My Love!”?
6. Ryuichi Sakamoto
Alright, Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto isn’t technically known for being a film composer. However, it would be plain disrespectful to leave him off a list of composers to listen to. Sakamoto is easily one of the most influential composers in modern history. His most well-known recent work would be The Revenant (2015, directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy).
He is also known for his role as Captain Yonoi in the 1983 British-Japanese war film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence alongside rock legend David Bowie. Sakamoto not only starred in the film but also composed the score and title theme. But above all else, he is known for taking his education in classical music and blending it with electronic music, informing a lot of the electronic music we listen to and enjoy today.
Of course, these men are legends, but the film score soundtrack of this summer actually goes to the Minions.
Photo via Hillary Scott