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The 17 Best Living Film Composers You Need To Know.

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Think about the last time you watched a movie. Chances are, you didn’t just hear the actors’ voices and the sound of items crashing or characters walking. But, if you’re like most people, you also cathed music in the background that helped set the mood, move the story along, and enhance your experience.

Movie composers play an important role in films by creating those memorable melodies and instrumental pieces. 

This blog post will introduce you best living film composers working today. Whether you’re a fan of classical or contemporary music, you’ll appreciate their work!

Who is the greatest modern day composer?

If we judge by the number of Oscar statuettes, it is undoubtedly John Williams. He has five awards. Also, he was nominated for Oscar 51 times! 

But I want to tell you about 16 more modern film score composers to inspire you to listen to good music.

So without further ado, let’s get started. 

17 best living film composers.

Thoman Newman.

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Born October 20, 1955, USA.

American Beauty (1999), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), WALL-E (2008), Passengers (2016), The Green Mile (1999), Scent of a Woman (1992), The Help, (2011), Erin Brockovich (2000), Skyfall (2012)...

Thomas Newman was born in Los Angeles to a family whose head, Alfred Newman, is a nine-time Academy Award winner for Best Original Score. Also, several other members of his family are composers. So it is not surprising that family influence affected the choice of Thomas’s life path.

The first film that brought Thomas Newman wide success and fame was Scent of a Woman, which Martin Brest directed.

In 1994, Newman received two Academy Award nominations at once. The first for the music for the story of one big family, Little Women, 1994. And the second for the soundtrack to the Frank Darabont film The Shawshank Redemption, which became so cult that it still tops many cinema ratings.

 Newman’s work on the music for Sam Mendes’ American Beauty is fascinating. The soundtrack was deliberately built not on traditional symphony orchestra instruments but drums. For American Beauty and Skyfall, he received the BAFTA award. In addition, the score for the film The Client is Always Dead earned Thomas a Grammy Award.

Thomas Newman also worked on many animated films. Here you can note the music for the cartoon Finding Nemo. The soundtrack received an Academy Award nomination and won the Annie Award for Best Music for an Animated Film.

Summing up, it is easy to see that the hero of our today’s story left a significant mark on cinematic music and received a total of 15 nominations from the American Film Academy. Still, until this year, he has never won it.

James Howard.

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Born June 9, 1951, USA.

 I Am Legend (2007), The Dark Knight (2008), The Sixth Sense (1999), The Hunger Games, Pretty Woman (1990 ), The Devil’s Advocate (1997), and The Bourne Legacy (2012)...

He made his film debut in 1985, writing music for the black comedy Head Office 1986. Since then, the American has created more than 100 film soundtracks and won Emmy, Saturn, and Grammy awards and multiple nominees for Oscar and Golden Globe.

 In 2008, he joined the ranks of honorary members of the Royal Academy of Music in London and was named Composer of the Year by the World Soundtrack Awards.

James is the type of composer who can handle soundtracks for movies of any genre. His career has included many romantic comedies, psychological thrillers, big-budget blockbusters, and modest films.

So, in the film Wyatt Earp, 1994, Howard showed that he could write music in the western spirit, and for The Prince of Tides, 1991, he wrote a passionate love theme with many violins. In the thriller The Fugitive, 1993, he turned to a jazz sound, and for The Interpreter, 2005, he composed music full of suspense using African drums and a wooden flute.

In addition, many of his works are distinguished by a gloomy, brooding mood. These include films The Devil’s Advocate, 1997; Michael Clayton, 2007 and several films by Night Shyamalan.

Alexandre Michel Gérard Desplat.

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Born August 23, 1961, France.

The King’s Speech (2010), The Ides of March (2011), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), Harry Potter, The Shape of Water (2017), The Imitation Game (2014)...

Alexandre Desplat is one of the most sought-after film composers globally, a versatile person with an incredible range, a subtle sense of musicality, and a refined taste. He is a two-time Oscar and Grammy winner, Golden Globe, and BAFTA winner.

Desplat received his first Oscar for his work on the score for Wes Anderson’s 2014 film The Grand Budapest Hotel. The French composer created an ironic and witty musical setting for the fictitious socialist country Zubrovka. Dashing balalaikas and psaltery, pompous brass, and soulful Slavic melodies. Desplat involved an authentic ensemble of Russian balalaika players to work on the soundtrack for greater expression.

In addition to the invariably present folklore motifs, his music contains instruments that take you to the fairy-tale world of childhood – xylophone, bells, harp, celesta.

Alan Anthony Silvestri.

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Born March 26, 1950, USA.

Forrest Gump (1994), Cast Away (2000), Van Helsing (2004), Back To The Future (1985)...

Little Alan, from early childhood, felt a craving for music. Even at preschool age, he began to play the drums, and in the school orchestra, he learned to play the bassoon, clarinet, and saxophone. Not surprisingly, having bought a guitar at 14, he wanted to become a professional musician.

At that time, Alan Silvestri received the first offer to write music for the film The Doberman Gang, 1972. In 2 weeks, the young composer, surrounded by textbooks on musical composition, wrote more than an hour of music. The film, alas, failed, and after, if Alan was offered cooperation, then only in low-budget films.

These creative achievements brought him closer to the fateful acquaintance with Robert Zemeckis, which took place in 1983 and from which their long friendship began. Working together, they gave the world such film masterpieces as Forrest Gump, 1994, Back To The Future, 1985, Contact, 1997, and many others.

The soundtrack to Forrest Gump is one of those striking examples when the music for the film is perceived not only as a means of expression but is itself a complete work of art. This soundtrack is as pure, gentle, almost weightless as a feather, from which the fantastic story of the character of Tom Hanks begins.

It is also interesting to observe that in his works of recent years, he remains an adherent of the classical instrumentation of the symphony orchestra, almost not succumbing to the influence of modern trends, for example, electronic music or something like that.

Alan Silvestri has two Oscar nominations and two Emmy awards.

John Williams.

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Born February 8, 1932, USA.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), Jurassic Park (1993), Home Alone (1990), Jaws (1975), Schindler’s List (1993), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Star Wars...

Oh, he is a dinosaur among film composers.

Ninety years ago, on February 8, one of the most popular modern movie composers of our time, John Towner Williams, was born. In 1952, he was drafted into the army and served in the US Air Force. Unfortunately, he did not have a chance to fly fighters, but Williams received extensive practice as a conductor in a local orchestra.

It is tough to write a couple of paragraphs about John Williams. But, to show his contribution to film and music, I will say Williams is a five-time Oscar winner and a 52-time Oscar nominee. Also, he got 25 Grammy Awards, 7 BAFTAs, and three Emmys.

Phew, I hope this enumeration wasn’t too tedious.

Let’s take a look at his hits. The dramatic works of Saving Private Ryan, 1998, and Schindler’s List, 1993 immediately come to mind. Both melodies are tuned sentimentally, creating the right atmosphere.

Next is a disturbing composition from Jaws, 1975, which brought Williams an Oscar for the original piece.

Music from the Harry Potter films takes place in John Williams’ collection. Both in joy and grief, the young wizard flew, jumped, and waved his sword and magic wand to the beautiful sounds of music.

And, of course, the leader of our minor Star Wars hit parade. There is nothing to say here. You have to watch and listen.

In addition to composing soundtracks, John Williams is widely known for his work as a conductor with the Boston Orchestra. He also performed more than once with the orchestras of various cities, performing his popular melodies from famous films.

Howard Shore.

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Born October 18, 1946, Canada.

The Lord of the Rings (film series), The Departed (2006), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), The Aviator (2004), Gangs of New York (2002), Hugo (2011), Seven (1995), Panic Room (2002)...

Canadian composer Howard Shore, the author of famous symphonic works, is considered by many to be a modern classic. He owes his world fame to the soundtracks of more than eighty films. His music is heard in concert halls and performed by the most prestigious orchestras and in cinemas worldwide.

Howard Shore has several dozen professional awards. Of these, three Oscars and three Grammys.

The first film for which Howard Shore wrote music was the drama I Miss You, Hugs and Kisses, 1978. But the work on the soundtrack for David Cronenberg’s film The Brood, 1979 was significant for the composer.

And yet, working with Martin Scorsese brought Shore a prestigious award. The film The Aviator, 2004 was awarded the Golden Globe in the nomination “Best Soundtrack”.

Due to his collaboration with Cronenberg, many positioned Howard Shore as a horror composer. And it contributed to his invitation to work on the music for The Silence of the Lambs, 1991. In the entire history of the Oscars, this film became only the third to win all five major awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. But the soundtrack did not even receive a nomination. However, the compositions created by Shore contributed to the superb success of the picture.

But Howard Shore’s most outstanding achievement has been working with Peter Jackson on The Lord of the Rings. The soundtrack to this film trilogy brought the composer the greatest fame and worldwide recognition.

Even while working on the soundtrack, Shore dreamed of creating a separate show where Tolkien’s great trilogy would be told by music. As a result, twelve hours of original orchestral music written specifically for the film trilogy turned into an independent work – a two-hour symphony in six parts for orchestra, choir, instrumental and vocal solos, united by a single storyline. Howard Shore toured worldwide in the show “The Lord of the Rings: A Symphony in Six Parts.”

Hans Zimmer.

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Born September 12, 1957, Germany.

 Pirates of the Caribbean, Interstellar (2014), The Rock (1996), The Lion King (1994), Angels & Demons (2009), Sherlock Holmes (2009), Gladiator (2000), Pearl Harbor (2001), Rain Man (1988), Dune (2021)...

Recently, I found a post on the social network dedicated to Han Zimmer in four words. «He is great. Period.» However, I fully agree with these words, but I will try to tell a little more about him.

Hans Zimmer is one of the most famous, influential, and commercially successful modern film composers of the 21st century. A man who has had a tremendous impact on the recent history of Hollywood cinema and pop culture in general.

He was born to a Jewish family in Germany but moved to London as a child. Having lost his father early and grieving for the loss, Hans found refuge in music.

His debut soundtrack for the 1988 film A World Apart went unnoticed, but Hans was in for a triumph the following year. For the music for the cult film Rain Man, 1988, he received an Oscar nomination.

Since then, the career of the German composer has gone up. Each year he wrote music for an average of six to seven films. He received dozens of nominations and several awards, including an Oscar for The Lion King’s animated movie, 1994, a Grammy for the action movie Crimson Tide, 1995, and a Golden Globe for historical drama Gladiator, 2000.

In Hollywood, Hans Zimmer is called the “German machine .”During his long career, he never paused in work and did not lower the bar of quality. A master of dizzying, suspenseful symphonic parts and electronics, Zimmer became especially popular thanks to his collaboration with director Christopher Nolan.

Clint Mansell.

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Born January 7, 1963, England.

Requiem for a Dream (2000), Black Swan (2010), Noah (2014).

Clint Mansell has scored almost 40 films over the past 20 years – all blockbusters for worldwide distribution.

But the creative rise of the British composer came at the very beginning of his career. In 1999, he received an offer from director Darren Aronofsky to work on the music for his upcoming low-budget art house film Requiem for a Dream.

Requiem for a Dream became a generation’s staple, and Mansell wrote one of the film’s most popular tunes of the decade. Performed by the American Kronos Quartet, the film’s title track, “Lux Aeterna” instantly acquired the status of a modern classic.

Later, Clint Mansell, a big fan of dark electronica, took his proprietary, dramatic sound to many other directors. But he never came close to the dizzying success of his early work.

Goran Bregović.

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Born March 22, 1950, Bosnia and Herzegovina

 La Reine Margot (1994), Emir Kusturica movies. 

He is the most famous Balkan musician and composer globally, a former member of the rock band Bijelo Dugme, and the author of music for many films by many films Emir Kusturica.

Interestingly, Goran studied violin at a music school and was expelled for lack of talent.

Goran Bregovic wrote music for many of Emil Kusturica’s films. And also among his works is the music for La Reine Margot (1994), The Lost Son, 1999, “) 27 Missing Kisses, 2000

Despite his success in writing soundtracks, Goran Bregovic does not burn with a great desire to devote his whole life to this. In his opinion, modern cinema, thoroughly subordinated to the market, is not worth good music.

Since 1998, Goran Bregovic has been giving concerts worldwide with his “Wedding and Funeral Orchestra .”He performs traditional Balkan, Gypsy, Bulgarian, etc., music, passing from one hundred to fifty concerts a year.

Ludovico Einaudi.

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Born November 1955, Italy.

1+1 (2011), Mommy (2014), mini series Doctor Zhivago (2002).

The Italian composer and pianist works in the direction of minimalism and skillfully combines classical music with other musical styles.

He is known to a wide circle for his atmospheric compositions that have become film soundtracks. For example, you will surely recognize the music from the French tape “1 + 1.”

He finished his studies at the age of 31, and for another ten years, he was looking for his unique sound. He did not want to be “one of” and did not want to become “second after,” as is often the case with modern composers. And I must admit, he achieved his goal. “A classic of the YouTube era,” critics jokingly say about him.

You can check out his YouTube channel. It is great!

Philip Morris Glass.

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Born January 31, 1937, USA

The Truman Show (1998), No Reservations (2007), Fantastic Four (2005), Leviathan (2014)...

The melodies of the American minimalist composer blur the line between classical and popular music.

He has been with his Philip Glass Ensemble for half a century and has composed music for over 50 films, including The Truman Show, 1998, The Illusionist, 2006, No Reservations, 2007, and Fantastic Four, 2005.

In music, absolutely everything is subject to him. During his long career, the American master proved that his talent knows no bounds. He made a massive contribution to the development of minimalism, and wrote the famous operas Satyagraha, Einstein on the Beach, and many popular movie soundtracks.

Philip Glass began his career in the 1960s in Paris. He was fortunate to meet two mentors – the teacher, conductor Nadia Boulanger, and the outstanding Indian musician Ravi Shankar, the most influential people in the composer’s life.

In the 80s, Glass went global: he wrote some of his best albums and created the soundtrack for the opening of the Olympic Games.

Finally, Philip Glass developed his musical theory, which today is inherited by many young composers – “music with repetitive structure .”In 2007, the documentary Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts was released, telling the story of the life and work of the great musician.

Joe Hisaishi.

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Born December 6, 1950 , Japan

Films by Takeshi Kitano, cartoons by Hayao Miyazaki.

Hisaishi is one of the most famous Japanese composers, having won four Japanese Academy Film Awards for the best film score.

Joe became famous for composing the soundtrack for the Hayao Miyazaki anime with Hisaishi’s music.

He has worked extensively on soundtracks for movies, anime, computer games, television, and commercials throughout his long career.

In the middle of the 2000s, the composer fulfilled his old utopian dream. He led the World Dream Orchestra formed within the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra framework.

In addition, Jo, obsessed with the idea of combining classical and modern music with the techniques of symphonic writing, gathered the best musicians and compiled an original program that is still popular all over the world to this day.

Ramin Djawadi.

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Born July 19, 1974, Germany. 

Iron Man (2008), Game of Thrones 2011–2019 , Westworld (2016), Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), Batman Begins (2005)...

Indeed, not only is Hans Zimmer famous for the modern film composing school in Germany, but also Ramin Javadi.

Ramin Djawadi is a student of Hans Zimmer, with whom he collaborated on the scores for the films Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) and Batman Begins (2005).

Djawadi’s most famous work is the soundtrack to the TV series Game of Thrones. All seasons of the show have received Emmys, awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, and the Online Film & Television Association.

In addition, the title theme of the series has become one of the most recognizable melodies in the world and the occasion for a record number of various covers.

Before joining HBO, Djawadi composed soundtracks for films such as Open Season, Animation, 2006, Warcraft, 2016, Pacific Rim, 2013, Clash of the Titans, 2010, The Strain, Dracula Untold, 2014, and Marvel’s fantasy superhero action film Iron Man , 2008.

Ethnic influences, Middle Eastern influences, and a love of drums helped the young talent earn the status of a leading composer and the first American television musician to embark on his national concert tour.

Angelo Badalamenti

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 Born March 22, 1937, USA

 Twin Peaks (1990–1991), Mulholland Drive (2001), The Beach (2000), Stalingrad (2013 film)

The title theme from Twin Peaks is familiar to everyone, but only fans will be able to name the composer.

The famous Twin Peaks theme (aka Falling – with Lynch-written lyrics and Julie Cruise’s angelic voice) was composed in just 20 minutes. Upon hearing the rough cut, Lynch, according to Badalamenti, exclaimed, “You already did 75% of the music for the series! This is the sound of Twin Peaks!” And the film “Twin Peaks: Through the Fire” deserved the “Grammy.” The music for these works the composer recognition among musicians playing in the genres of funeral jazz and doom jazz.

An alliance with David Lynch turned an obscure vocal teacher into one of the most sought-after film composers. his name is in the credits of Arlington Road, 1998 Michael Pellington, La Cité des enfants perdus, 1995 Gene et Caro, Witch Hunt, 1994 Paul Schroeder, The Edge of Love, 2008.

Pop idols did not stand aside either. For example, Pet Shop Boys invited Badalamenti to make string arrangements, and the cult singer Marianne Faithfull also released a disc of his compositions.

Yann Tiersen.

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Born June 23, 1970, France

Amélie (2001)

Maestro of airy music, as the people called Jan Tiersen.

French composer and multi-instrumentalist Jan Tiersen spent most of his career in the shadow of his fame. In 2001, he composed the music for the film Amélie by Jean-Pierre Genet. And immediately after the release of the film became famous all over the world.

Light, touching melodies on the piano, piercing strings, and a warm, romantic sound of the accordion – this is how France sounds in many people’s minds. Yet, Tiersen came up with music that has everything – the country’s taste, color, and smell, its extraordinary architecture, nature, and culture.

The soundtrack to Amelie is a superb achievement and a heavy burden for the French composer, who is often remembered as the “hero of one hit.»

However, listening to this famous soundtrack should not be limited. The breadth of the composer’s creative concept is well revealed in his studio albums, in the tragicomedy Good Bye Lenin!, 2003, and in the biopic Tabarly, 2008, about the father of French yachting.

The circle of his interests in music is much broader. Yann is a supporter of experiments. At live shows, the musician often takes up the electric guitar or plays the violin with the expression of a rock star, sings, and collaborates with many performers and musicians.

Einar Selvik.

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Born November 18, 1979, Norwey

Vikings, mini series 2013–2020

Einar Selvik is the founder of Wardruna, Norway’s most popular neo-folk band. Also, he is the movie composer for the historical series Vikings and a duo with Enslaved’s Ivar Bjornson.

In addition to being the frontman of his main project, Einar Selvik composes solo acoustic numbers to the accompaniment of Old Norse instruments.

The stocky musician has nothing in common with the film industry except for the soundtrack to the historical blockbuster Vikings. Still, it was thanks to his participation in its creation that the career of the Norwegian skald was catapulted to new heights of popularity, and the series gained new fans. Einar’s solo numbers and the ritual chants of his band adorn the show’s most spectacular scenes.

Jan A.P. Kaczmarek.

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Born April 29,1953, Poland

Finding Neverland (2004), Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009).

As a child, the future composer adored cinema and froze when he heard the music in the film. Music and cinema – these emotions were deeply imprinted in his soul and primarily predetermined the future.

A native of the small Polish town of Konin, Jan moved to Los Angeles in the late 80s. Hollywood needed such specialists. Kaczmarek worked hard, taking on completely different projects: from music for the touching drama “Hatiko” to little-known art-house films by Polish directors.

Forty years later, Jan Kaczmarek won the Oscar for Best Original Score for the film Wonderland. Music for theater and cinema is an essential part of the composer’s long musical career.

“A film composer must be an erudite and a psychotherapist,” Kaczmarek used to say.


I hope I inspired you to listen to soundtracks and watch good movies.

Share this blog post if you enjoyed it. I would really appreciate it! 

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I`m in love with movies and psychology. Here I write how we can use movies for healing and self-growth. Also, be sure to check out my movie lists. You will find cool suggestions for movie night.

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  • Thank you for this post. I do enjoy listening to the music of movies and wonder who wrote it, sung it, played it, etc. Some brilliant people in your post.

  • This is very eye opening- I admit when watching a movie I don’t really take into consideration all the composers and their talent when creating music for a movie. My fiancé does though, and he listens to soundtracks all the time! These are all such talented film composers, thank you for sharing!!

  • I am familiar with some of the movies here, good to know who are the composers behind those films.

Good Movie Finder


I`m in love with movies and psychology. Here I write how we can use movies for healing and self-growth. Also, be sure to check out my movie lists. You will find cool suggestions for movie night.

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