- Published Jul 13, 2013 in Badass Players
- Read time: about 15 minutes
The original music created for our favorite films becomes part of our culture, transcending language and communicating on the most fundamental levels. Zoey Francis takes us on a tour of the best and brightest through history.
Movies are a completely subjective experience. This is true of any art form. An audience can watch the same film, and then walk away with different opinions, insights and varied levels of enjoyment. We each bring our own expectations, and everything that we see and hear in a movie is filtered through our unique scope of experience.
The majority of people who fall in love with movies do so because of the visual spectacle. This shouldn't be surprising, given that sixty percent of the population are visually oriented and seek activities that stimulate the sense of sight. For me, the auditory experience of watching a film is just as important as the visual aspect of it; perhaps even more. I recall my introduction to American cinema at the age of six; I didn't speak a word of English. But the music and sound effects from epic movies such as 'Superman' and 'Jaws', thrilled me to no end. And I've been addicted ever since.
Many of us who appreciate cinema for its achievements can comprehend the importance of musical scores. We develop not only a deep fondness and respect for the music, but also for the gifted composers who create such grand works of art. Some of these compositions are tremendous contributions to a film for three reasons: The music becomes a permanent part of your memory because it resonates on a personal level; as soon as you hear it, you long to watch the movie again; and because of that particular music, the film has succeeded in a way that it wouldn't have otherwise.
Listed below are thirty composers who are legends in their own right, with a spotlight on my personal favorite, John Williams. Please enjoy their music, along with a brief history about their backgrounds.
1) Bill Conti - 'Rocky' Theme (Video)
Born: April 13, 1942 in Providence, Rhode Island. Italian-American.
Awards: An Oscar for 'The Right Stuff' in 1984. Nominated for two other Oscars, as well as Golden Globes, multiple Emmys, and a Grammy.
Sample of Movies: Rocky (1976), For Your Eyes Only (1981), The Right Stuff (1983), The Karate Kid (1984), and Broadcast News (1987).
2) James Horner - 'Glory' Music (Video)
Born: August 14, 1953 in Los Angeles, California.
Awards: Two Oscars, a Golden Globe & a Grammy for 'Titanic'. Also, Grammys for 'An American Tail' and 'Glory'. Nominated for eight other Oscars, as well as BAFTAs and Golden Globes.
Sample of Movies: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Cocoon (1985), Aliens (1986), Field of Dreams (1989), Glory (1989), Braveheart (1995), Titanic (1997), A Beautiful Mind (2001), Avatar (2009), and The Amazing Spider-Man (2012).
3) Randy Newman - 'Monsters, Inc.' Theme (Video)
Born: November 28, 1943 in Los Angeles, California.
Awards: Oscars for 'Monsters, Inc.' and 'Toy Story 3'. Grammys for 'A Bug's Life', 'Toy Story 2', 'Monsters, Inc.', 'Cars', and 'Toy Story 3'. Nominated for eighteen other Oscars, as well as Golden Globes and Grammys.
Sample of Movies: The Natural (1984), Parenthood (1989), Awakenings (1990), Toy Story (1995), Pleasantville (1998), Meet the Parents (2000), and Seabiscuit (2003).
4) Brad Fiedel - 'The Terminator' Theme (Video)
Born: March 10, 1951 in New York City.
Awards: American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) for 'Terminator 2: Judgement Day' and 'True Lies'.
Sample of Movies: The Terminator (1984), Fright Night (1985), The Big Easy (1986), The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), Blue Steel (1989), and True Lies (1994).
5) Rachel Portman - 'Emma' Theme (Video)
Born: December 11, 1960 in Haslemere, England.
Awards: An Oscar for 'Emma' in 1997. Nominated for two other Oscars, as well as BAFTAs, Grammys, Emmys, and a Golden Globe.
Sample of Movies: The Joy Luck Club (1993), Addicted to Love (1997), The Cider House Rules (1999), Chocolat (2000), Infamous (2006), and Bel Ami (2012).
6) Danny Elfman - 'Batman Returns' Theme (Video)
Born: May 29, 1953 in Los Angeles, California.
Awards: A Grammy for 'Batman' in 1990. Nominated for four Oscars, as well as BAFTAs, Golden Globes, and numerous Grammys.
Sample of Movies: Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), Mission: Impossible (1996), Good Will Hunting (1997), Chicago (2002), The Kingdom (2007), Real Steel (2011), Silver Linings Playbook (2012), and Oz: The Great and Powerful (2013).
7) Alan Menken - 'I See the Light' ~ 'Tangled' (Video)
Born: July 22, 1949 in New York.
Awards: Oscars, Golden Globes and Grammys for 'The Little Mermaid', 'Beauty and the Beast', 'Aladdin', and 'Pocahontas'. Also a Grammy for 'Tangled' in 2012. Nominated for eight other Oscars, as well as BAFTAs, Golden Globes and Grammys.
Sample of Movies: The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), Pocahontas (1995), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Enchanted (2007), Tangled (2010), and Mirror Mirror (2012).
8) Michael Giacchino - 'Star Trek' 2009 Theme (Video)
Born: October 10, 1967 in Riverside Township, New Jersey. Italian-American.
Awards: An Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globe and Grammy for 'Up'. Also a Grammy for 'Ratatouille' in 2008. Nominated for a second Oscar, as well as Emmys and Grammys.
Sample of Movies, TV & Video Games: Medal of Honor (1999; VG), Call of Duty (2003; VG), The Incredibles (2004), Mission Impossible III (2006), Alias (2001-2006; TV), Ratatouille (2007), Star Trek (2009), Up (2009), Lost (2004-2010; TV), Let Me In (2010), Super 8 (2011), and Fringe (2008-2012, TV).
9) John Barry - 'Body Heat' Music (Video)
Born: November 3, 1933 in York, England.
Died: January 30, 2011 at his Oyster Bay home in New York.
A truly prolific legend of cinema, John Barry composed 11 of the James Bond film scores.
Awards: Oscars for 'Born Free' (two awards for this film), 'The Lion in Winter', 'Out of Africa', and 'Dances with Wolves'. BAFTA for 'Lion in Winter' in 1969. Golden Globe for 'Out of Africa' in 1986. Grammy for 'Dances with Wolves' in 1992. Nominated for two other Oscars, as well as Grammys, Emmys, BAFTAs, and multiple Golden Globes.
Sample of Movies: Dr. No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), Born Free (1966), You Only Live Twice (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968), On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), Walkabout (1971), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), King Kong (1976), Moonraker (1979), The Black Hole (1979), Somewhere in Time (1980), Body Heat (1981), Octopussy (1983), A View to a Kill (1985), Jagged Edge (1985), Out of Africa (1985), Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), The Living Daylights (1987), Dances with Wolves (1990), and Enigma (2001).
10) Jerry Goldsmith - 'Poltergeist' Music (Video)
Born: February 10, 1929 in Los Angeles, California.
Died: July 21, 2004 in Beverly Hills, California.
A powerhouse of a composer, Jerry Goldsmith effortlessly crossed genres and scored for film and television.
Awards: An Oscar for 'The Omen' in 1977. Nominated for seventeen other Oscars, as well as BAFTAs, Grammys, Emmys, a Palm d'Or, and multiple Golden Globes.
Sample of Movies & TV: Twilight Zone (1960-1961; TV), Gunsmoke (1960-1966; TV), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964-1967; TV), Planet of the Apes (1968), Chinatown (1974), Logan's Run (1976), The Omen (1976), Coma (1978), The Boys from Brazil (1978), Alien (1979), Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), Outland (1981), Poltergeist (1982), First Blood (1982), The Lonely Guy (1984), Gremlins (1984), Legend (1985; European version), Innerspace (1987), Total Recall (1990), The Russia House (1990), Basic Instinct (1992), and L.A. Confidential (1997).
11) Hans Zimmer - 'Gladiator' Music (Video)
Born: September 12, 1957 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
Awards: An Oscar and a Golden Globe for 'The Lion King'. Also, a Golden Globe for 'Gladiator' in 2001. Grammys for 'Crimson Tide' and 'The Dark Knight'. Nominated for eight other Oscars, as well as BAFTAs, Golden Globes, and Grammys.
Sample of Movies: Rain Man (1988), Driving Miss Daisy (1989), Backdraft (1991), Thelma & Louise (1991), A League of Their Own (1992), The Lion King (1994), The Rock (1996), The Prince of Egypt (1998), The Thin Red Line (1998), Gladiator (2000), Black Hawk Down (2001), The Ring (2002), Batman Begins, with James Newton Howard (2005), Kung Fu Panda (2008), The Dark Knight, with James Newton Howard (2008), Inception (2010), Megamind (2010), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), and Man of Steel (2013).
12) James Newton Howard - 'Batman Begins' Music (Video)
Born: June 9, 1951 in Los Angeles, California.
Awards: A Grammy for 'The Dark Knight' in 2009. Nominated for 8 Oscars, as well as Golden Globes, Grammys and Emmys.
Sample of Movies: Pretty Woman (1990), The Man in the Moon (1991), The Prince of Tides (1991), Falling Down (1993), The Fugitive (1993), Primal Fear (1996), The Devil's Advocate (1997), A Perfect Murder (1998), The Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000), Collateral (2004), Batman Begins, with Hans Zimmer (2005), Blood Diamond (2006), The Dark Knight, with Hans Zimmer (2008), and The Hunger Games (2012).
13) Thomas Newman - 'Skyfall' Music (Video)
Born: October 20, 1955 in Los Angeles, California.
Awards: A BAFTA and a Grammy for 'American Beauty'. Also a Grammy for 'WALL-E' in 2009. An Emmy for 'Six Feet Under' (TV) in 2002. Nominated for 10 Oscars, as well as Golden Globes, Grammys, and a BAFTA.
Sample of Movies: Revenge of the Nerds (1984), Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), The Lost Boys (1987), Less Than Zero (1987), The Great Outdoors (1988), Scent of a Woman (1992), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Little Women (1994), American Beauty (1999), and Finding Nemo (2003).
14) Alexandre Desplat - 'Argo' Music (Video)
Born: August 23, 1961 in Paris, France.
Awards: A BAFTA and a Grammy for 'The King's Speech'. A Golden Globe for 'The Painted Veil' in 2007. Nominated for 4 Oscars, BAFTAs, Grammys, and several Golden Globes.
Sample of Movies: Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003), Syriana (2005), The Queen (2006), The Painted Veil (2006), The Golden Compass (2007), The King's Speech (2010), The Tree of Life (2011), The Ides of March (2011), Argo (2012), and Zero Dark Thirty (2012).
15) Bernard Herrmann - 'Psycho' Suite (Video)
Born: June 29, 1911 in New York City.
Died: December 24, 1975 in North Hollywood, California.
An integral collaborator of Alfred Hitchcock's, Bernard Herrmann also contributed extensively to radio dramas with Orson Welles.
Awards: An Oscar for 'The Devil and Daniel Webster' in 1942; also nominated for 'Citizen Kane', 'Anna and the King of Siam', 'Obsession' and 'Taxi Driver'. A posthumous BAFTA for 'Taxi Driver' in 1977.
Sample of Movies: Citizen Kane (1941), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959), Psycho (1960), Cape Fear (1962), Fahrenheit 451 (1966), Obsession (1976), and Taxi Driver (1976).
16) Michael Nyman - 'Gattaca' Music (Video)
Born: March 23, 1944 in London, England.
Awards: AFI for 'The Piano' in 1993. Nominated for BAFTAs, Golden Globes, and a Cesar (France).
Sample of Movies: The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover (1989), The Piano (1993), Gattaca (1997), Ravenous (1999), The End of the Affair (1999), The Libertine (2004), and Man on Wire (2008; documentary).
17) John Carpenter - 'Halloween' Theme (Video)
Born: January 16, 1948 in Carthage, New York.
Awards: L.A. Film Critics Association in 1979. CableACE in 1991. Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement in 2008. Nominated for Edgar Allan Poe, Hugo, and Nebula Awards.
Sample of Movies: Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), Halloween (1978), The Fog (1980), Escape from New York (1981), Christine (1983), Big Trouble in Little China (1986), Prince of Darkness (1987), They Live (1988), In the Mouth of Madness (1994), and Village of the Damned (1995).
18) Alan Silvestri - 'Forrest Gump' Suite (Video)
Born: March 26, 1950 in New York City.
Awards: A Grammy for 'The Polar Express' in 2006. Nominated for numerous Oscars, Golden Globes and Grammys.
Sample of Movies: Romancing the Stone (1984), Back to the Future (1985), Predator (1987), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), The Abyss (1989), Father of the Bride (1991), Death Becomes Her (1992), Forrest Gump (1994), The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996), What Lies Beneath (2000), Cast Away (2000), and The Avengers (2012).
19) Ennio Morricone - 'The Mission' Suite (Video)
Born: November 10, 1928 in Rome, Italy.
Awards: Honorary Oscar in 2007. BAFTAs for 'Days of Heaven', 'Once Upon a Time in America', 'The Mission', 'The Untouchables' and 'Cinema Paradiso'. Golden Globes for 'The Mission' and 'The Legend of 1900'. A Grammy for 'The Untouchables' in 1988. Career Achievement Honors from ASCAP, European Film Awards, Fantafestival, L.A. Film Critics Association, National Board of Review, and Venice Film Festival.
Sample of Movies: La cage aux folles (1978), The Professional (1981), The Thing (1982), Once Upon a Time in America (1984), The Mission (1986), The Untouchables (1987), Frantic (1988), Cinema Paradiso (1988), Casualties of War (1989), Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990), Bugsy (1991), City of Joy (1992), Lolita (1997), and The Phantom of the Opera (1998).
20) Jack Nitzsche - 'Starman' Love Theme (Video)
Born: April 22, 1937 in Chicago, Illinois.
Died: August 25, 2000 in Hollywood, California.
A talented film composer, Jack Nitzsche was also a successful songwriter, arranger and producer who worked with the Rolling Stones, Sonny Bono, Neil Young and many others.
Awards: An Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe for 'An Officer and a Gentleman'. Nominated for two other Oscars, as well as BAFTAs, a Golden Globe, and an Emmy.
Sample of Movies: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), The Razor's Edge (1984), Starman (1984), Nine 1/2 Weeks (1986), Stand By Me (1986), The Seventh Sign (1988), and Mermaids (1990).
21) Howard Shore - 'The Fly' Music (Video)
Born: October 18, 1946 in Toronto, Canada.
Awards: Three Oscars for the 'Lord of the Rings' films. Two Golden Globes for the LOTR films and one for 'The Aviator'. Four Grammys for the LOTR films. Nominated for an AFI, an Oscar, several BAFTAs, Golden Globes and Grammys.
Sample of Movies: Scanners (1981), Videodrome (1983), The Fly (1986), Big (1988), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Se7en (1995), Copland (1997), The Cell (2000), LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), Gangs of New York (2002), The Aviator (2004), A History of Violence (2005), The Departed (2006), Eastern Promises (2007), Cosmopolis (2012), and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012).
22) Marc Shaiman - 'The American President' Theme (Video)
Born: October 22, 1959 in Newark, New Jersey.
Awards: Honors for the Hollywood Film Festival and the L.A. Film Critics Association Awards. Nominated for five Oscars, along with a BAFTA, Grammys, and numerous Emmys.
Sample of Movies: Misery (1990), City Slickers (1991), A Few Good Men (1992), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), The American President (1995), Hairspray (2007), and The Bucket List (2007).
23) Vangelis - 'Blade Runner' Music (Video)
Born: March 29, 1943 in Volos, Greece.
Awards: An Oscar for 'Chariots of Fire' in 1982. Nominated for BAFTAs, Golden Globes, Honors at the Ghent International Film Festival and the RTL Golden Lion Awards.
Sample of Movies: Chariots of Fire (1981), Missing (1982), Blade Runner (1982), The Bounty (1984), and 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992).
24) Elmer Bernstein - 'Stripes' Music (Video)
Born: April 4, 1922 in New York City.
Died: August 18, 2004 in Ojai, California.
Elmer Bernstein's impressive career spanned five decades, with hundreds of film and television compositions.
Awards: An Oscar for 'Thoroughly Modern Millie' in 1968. Golden Globes for 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and 'Hawaii'. L.A. Film Critics Association Honors for Career Achievement and 'Far From Heaven'. Nominated for thirteen Oscars, as well as several Golden Globes, Grammys, and an Emmy.
Sample of Movies: To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), True Grit (1969), Animal House (1978), Saturn 3 (1980), Airplane! (1980), Stripes (1981), Heavy Metal (1981), An American Werewolf in London (1981), Trading Places (1983), Ghostbusters (1984), My Left Foot (1989), The Grifters (1990), The Age of Innocence (1993), and Far From Heaven (2002).
25) Tangerine Dream - 'Legend' American Score (Video)
Years Active: 1967 to present; music group from West Berlin, Germany.
Sample of Movies: Risky Business (1983), Firestarter (1984), Vision Quest (1985), Legend (1985), and Near Dark (1987).
26) Maurice Jarre - 'A Walk in the Clouds' Music (Video)
Born: September 13, 1924 in Lyon, France.
Died: March 28, 2009 in Malibu, California.
A frequent collaborator with David Lean, Maurice Jarre's compositions were often beautiful and haunting, long remembered after seeing the film for the first time.
Awards: Oscars for 'Lawrence of Arabia', 'Doctor Zhivago', and 'A Passage to India'. BAFTAs for 'Witness' and 'Dead Poets Society'. Golden Globes for 'Doctor Zhivago', 'A Passage to India', 'Gorillas in the Mist' and 'A Walk in the Clouds'. A Grammy for 'Doctor Zhivago'. Nominated for six Oscars, as well as several Golden Globes, Grammys, and a BAFTA.
Sample of Movies: The Man Who Would Be King (1975), Taps (1981), The Year of Living Dangerously (1982), Top Secret! (1984), Dreamscape (1984), Witness (1985), Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), No Way Out (1987), Fatal Attraction (1987), Gorillas in the Mist (1988), Dead Poets Society (1989), Ghost (1990), Jacob's Ladder (1990), and A Walk in the Clouds (1995).
27) Nino Rota - The Godfather Trilogy Music (Video)
Born: December 3, 1911 in Milan, Italy.
Died: April 10, 1979 in Rome, Italy.
Nino Rota was an extremely prolific and inspired composer of international films, writing more than 150 scores over 46 years.
Awards: An Oscar for 'The Godfather: Part II' in 1975. A BAFTA , Golden Globe, and a Grammy for 'The Godfather'. Nominated for an Oscar, as well as BAFTAs, Golden Globes, and a Grammy.
Sample of Movies: La Dolce Vita (1960), 8 1/2 (1963), Romeo and Juliet (1968), Fellini's Roma (1972), The Godfather (1972), The Godfather: Part II (1974), Fellini's Casanova (1976), Death on the Nile (1978), and Hurricane (1979).
28) Dave Grusin - 'The Goonies' Theme (Video)
Born: June 26, 1934 in Littleton, Colorado.
Awards: An Oscar for 'The Milagro Beanfield War' in 1989. Grammys for 'The Graduate' and 'The Fabulous Baker Boys'. Nominations for seven Oscars, as well as BAFTAs, Golden Globes, an Emmy, and multiple Grammys.
Sample of Movies: Three Days of the Condor (1975), Heaven Can Wait (1978), The Champ (1979), On Golden Pond (1981), Tootsie (1982), Falling in Love (1984), The Goonies (1985), Tequila Sunrise (1988), The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989), Havana (1990), and Selena (1997).
29) Trevor Jones - 'The Last of the Mohicans' Music (Video)
Born: March 23, 1949 in Capetown, South Africa.
Awards: ASCAP Honors for 'Cliffhanger' and 'Notting Hill'. Nominations for BAFTAs, Golden Globes, and an Emmy.
Sample of Movies: Excalibur (1981), The Dark Crystal (1982), Runaway Train (1985), Labyrinth (1986), Angel Heart (1987), Sea of Love (1989), Arachnophobia (1990), The Last of the Mohicans (1992), In the Name of the Father (1993), G.I. Jane (1995), Dark City (1998), Notting Hill (1999), and Thirteen Days (2000).
Spotlight: John Williams
John Towner Williams was born on February 8, 1932 in Long Island, New York. He developed a love for music while very young, as his father was a jazz percussionist for the Raymond Scott Quintet and CBS Radio. The piano was his instrument of choice and by age 15, he had the goal of becoming a concert pianist. At 19 years, he premiered a sonata, his very first musical composition.
Early on in his career, he orchestrated for Franz Waxman, Dimitri Tiomkin, Alfred and Lionel Newman as well as other Golden Age composers. He became close friends with colleagues, Bernard Herrmann and Jerry Goldsmith. During the 1960's, Williams composed music for television shows which included 'Gilligan's Island', 'Lost in Space', and 'Land of the Giants'. During the 1970's, he scored music for disaster films such as 'The Towering Inferno', 'Earthquake', and 'The Poseidon Adventure'.
In 1974, Steven Spielberg approached the gifted musician to compose music for his first feature film, 'The Sugarland Express'. This would be the start of an enduring and personal partnership, one of the most successful in American film history. Their collaborative efforts span a total of 38 years, with 'Lincoln' marking their 26th movie together. (Williams has scored all of Spielberg's films, with the exception of 'Duel' and 'The Color Purple'.)
As a result of their partnership, Spielberg recommended Williams to his friend and fellow filmmaker, George Lucas. Since then, Williams has scored all six of the films in the 'Star Wars' franchise. He also composed the music for 'Superman', 'Dracula', 'Home Alone', 'Catch Me If You Can', the first three Harry Potter films and many others, with a total of 136 compositions so far.
In a career that spans six decades, John Williams has garnered tremendous accolades for his contribution to music and movies. He's won five Academy Awards, and was nominated 47 times in all, the most for any living artist and only second to Walt Disney. He's also won four Golden Globes, seven BAFTAs, five Emmys, and 21 grammys. He was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl of Fame in 2000, received the Olympic Order (the International Olympic Committee's highest honor) in 2003, and was a recipient of the 2009 National Medal of Arts from the White House.
Several years ago, I had the privilege and honor of seeing John Williams conduct his greatest cinematic scores at the Hollywood Bowl. It was an evening that I'll never forget, and a childhood dream come true. If there's any one person responsible for my enduring love and appreciation of films, it would have to be Mr. Williams. He's inspired countless people, and brought a profound sense of joy, adventure, and wonderment to our lives.
Copyright 2013 Zoey Francis and licensed to Sessionville, Inc. All rights reserved.