The 5 Composers Behind Almost All of Your Favorite Movies

There’s a lot that goes into making a great movie. Typically it requires a solid script, a talented director, and a cast of stars. But one often overlooked yet incredibly important part of the puzzle is the one creating the music that sets the tone for the entire film. Sometimes the score will call attention to itself in the best sort of way. Other times, you won’t even realize it’s there. Either way though, you can’t undercut the importance of hiring on a composer who knows what they’re doing.

Within Hollywood, there’s an elite club of composers that dominate the landscape for our biggest blockbusters. This is the first tier: the top of the pile. Whenever Marvel Studios, Disney, Sony, or Warner Bros. are looking for someone to score their cash-cow movies, these are the names that come up. If you ever find yourself humming the theme song to one of your favorite films, odds are one of these men created it.

1. John Williams

Known for: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, and Harry Potter

John Williams is the ultimate celebrity composer, as the one responsible for some of cinema’s most iconic film scores. From Star Wars to Harry Potter, he’s had his hands in a treasure trove worth of movie franchises, making him one of, if not the, most prolific composers Hollywood as ever had. Nowadays he gets most of his work from Steven Spielberg and anything remotely Star Wars related, but with a new Indiana Jones film rumored to debut in the next few years, he’ll be delving back into more than one old series coming up.

2. Hans Zimmer

Known for: The Dark Knight, Inception, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Gladiator

Williams may be the king of our childhood franchises, but Hans Zimmer is the lord of just about everything else. His trademark booming scores have come to define his work, but he’s not simply the man behind the Inception “BWOMMMMMMMMMM.” His history goes back as far as Matchstick Men and Rain Man, having composed for everything from action/adventure all the way down to quiet character dramas. His next big release will be Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, meaning we’ve seen far from the last of the German virtuoso.

3. Howard Shore

Known for: The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, High Fidelity, and Se7en

Before he got himself lifetime job security as the composer for any and every Lord of the Rings movie, Howard Shore was busy scoring some of cinema’s most lauded classics of the ’80s and ’90s. Movies like Philadelphia and Se7en grace an already impressive resumé that extends back through an almost 40-year career in Hollywood. With Peter Jackson’s run at J.R.R. Tolkien adaptations finally at an end, perhaps Shore will finally extend out to other projects reminiscent of his earlier work.

4. Danny Elfman

Known for: Edward Scissorhands, Mission: Impossible, Good Will Hunting, and Milk

Danny Elfman may be known as Tim Burton’s go-to composer thanks to his haunting style of music, but his wide-reaching legacy goes far beyond simply that. His talent has been called upon for everything from Fifty Shades of Grey to Men in Black; basically, if you close your eyes and pick a movie, there’s a solid chance that Elfman scored it. He’ll always be attached to Tim Burton at the hip, but to remember him for just that title wouldn’t be doing justice to a career that’s seen him become one of the hardest working composers in the business.

5. John Ottman

Known for: X-Men: Days of Future PastValkyrie, Fantastic Four, and The Usual Suspects

Ottman may not have the name recognition of luminaries like John Williams or Danny Elfman, but his career is equally as impressive. He’s known more for scoring movies in the second tier (i.e. a step below franchises like Star Wars), but he’s the composer dominating that realm of cinema. Currently he’s working on scoring X-Men: Apocalypse, giving him steady work in a superhero universe that’s keeping so much of Hollywood gainfully employed right now. Rewind back in his career though and you see offerings like Lake Placid, The Cable Guy, and Gothika peppering his IMDB page.

Follow Nick on Twitter @NickNorthwest

More from Entertainment Cheat Sheet: