Behind almost all of the beautiful cinematic experiences you’ve had in your life is a brilliant music composer. The way the movie industry rewards its creators, it can sometimes overlook the composer’s effect on the final outcome. In this list, we pay tribute to 10 great film composers who completely changed the history of movies and cinema.

By Danny Bou Maroun


1. John Williams

Most people would agree that John Williams is the godfather of Film Music. He’s a master at writing memorable tunes, and probably has the largest library of work: from 1954 till the latest Star Wars in 2018. He’s best known known for Star Wars, Superman, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List *insert intensely excited interjection* I could name at least 50!

2. Hans Zimmer

His is one of the most copied sounds, and not just in cinema. Even in the music industry, several bands refer to certain parts of their music as “very Hans Zimmer”. He blends orchestral music with synthesizers seamlessly and very effectively. He’s the guy that switches between cellos and guitars playing the same riff. Known for Gladiator, Inception, Batman The Dark Knight.

3. Alexander Desplat

Being a little biased here, Desplat is one of my personal favorite composers. His music is very difficult to define; it’s mostly always in the background (unless it’s an action scene of course), but adds so much beauty and color to a scene. If I had to use one word: sensual. He’s known for The Imitation Game, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The King’s Speech. You probably don’t remember the music from any of those movies, but if you truly listen, it’s wonderful shit.

4. Alan Menken

Very few know him by name, but this is the man behind the soundtrack to your childhood. This is the Disney guy. Musically speaking? The songs are so damn complex, people don’t usually play them. But most of us can sing them quite easily. Known for Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Hercules. He embraces the culture of wherever the movie takes place, and takes it to another level.

5. James Horner

I can describe James with a story. Ridley Scott had worked with another composer for Troy, and hated it. He went to James, and the score for the whole film was written in just 2 weeks. That’s gotta be a record. The man knows what the film needs. Known for Braveheart, Titanic, Avatar.

6. Thomas Newman

You know that song from American Beauty that everyone uses for ads? That’s Thomas. Anytime you hear soft, emotional piano music with light orchestral backgrounds, that’s either Thomas, or someone imitating Thomas. Even his big orchestral moments sound light and optimistic. Known for The Shawshank Redemption, Wall-E, Pay it Forward.

7. Ennio Moriccone

Film composers are either very eclectic and good at many different styles of music, or associated with one very specific sound. This guy somehow someway manages to be both. Ennio is known throughout European cinema as the melodic classical guy (Cinema Paradiso, The Mission), but also as the godfather of Westerns. He’s behind The Good The Bad and The Ugly, the famous whistling motif.

8. Max Steiner

Many probably haven’t even heard of Max Steiner, but any list of top film music composers needs to include him. He was one of the first people to write music for a film. His score for King Kong in 1933 completely changed the art form. Known for: King Kong mainly, and Gone with the Wind.

9. Vangelis

One of the main pioneers in using synthesizers in film music. Way back when, the norm was to only use orchestral music; but Vangelis felt otherwise. A lot of his scores might sound a bit dated now, but they paved the way for composers of today for sure. Known for: Blade Runner (1982), Conquest of Paradise, Chariots of Fire.

10. John Powell

John Powell is usually known for his explosive orchestral scores. Highly dynamic and lively. I’d very much like to meet this guy to see if he’s as positive in person as his music is. Known for: Ice Age, How to Train your Dragon, X-Men.


Editor: Diva Khoury