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 Posted:   Sep 28, 2022 - 9:29 AM   
 By:   Lukas Kendall   (Member)

From my blog today...

I have a “scratch file” of ideas for blog columns that I’ve been relying upon to put up these daily thoughts. I had one on there, “My Top 5 Film Composers”...and kept putting it off.

It’s a huge topic and I never feel like I have the brain space to do it justice. So this is just the short version.

These are, in my opinion, both my favorite top 5 composers, and what I think is a reasonable choice of them historically.

It’s only sort of in an order...

1. John Williams. The GOAT (Greatest of All Time). He’s done the most famous films, written the most memorable scores that are both legitimately great and made a huge impact in pop culture. Never had a score thrown out, and even the weird career oddities (from his earlier years) are always terrific.

2. John Barry. Maybe the composer I find myself listening to the most. Nobody was better at distilling a film into a melody: the master of simplicity.

3. Ennio Morricone. My dad once asked me if I thought any of the film composers I liked could be considered a “genius.” He used Bob Dylan as an example of somebody he thought was a genius. I said yes—Ennio Morricone. Not just great scores and brilliant musicianship, but that indescribable touch of madness to create things that seem to come from another dimension.

4. Jerry Goldsmith. The composer’s composer. So many B-movies and incredible scores to undeserving films (and, to be fair, many great ones, too). I was listening to action music from The Challenge the other day and thinking—I just love this!

5. Bernard Herrmann. The only composer on my list from the Golden (not Silver) Age, and the one of the five I find myself listening to the least. And yet is probably the most influential of all. Max Steiner may have invented the film score with King Kong, but Herrmann invented the idea of the psychological film score: the unresolved repetitions and innovative use of orchestral color. He was also, I think it’s fair to say, a genius.

So there you go. I refuse to continue the list—because it’s too hard. If I try to pick six through ten, I’ve suddenly got a list of fifty—and who comes first? And then we get into comparing different eras and world regions.

But you guys are welcome to argue it out! That’s what our message board is for...I’ll start a thread there.


 Posted:   Sep 28, 2022 - 9:34 AM   
 By:   Justin Boggan   (Member)

All solid choices. Maybe expand it to a list of ten, simply because of the old cliché "Top 10" lists thing, which then gives you an excuse to include certain other solid choices we all know would have been included.

 Posted:   Sep 28, 2022 - 9:51 AM   
 By:   Yavar Moradi   (Member)

Max Steiner may have invented the film score with King Kong

He definitely didn't, though. If anyone deserves that credit, it's Camille Saint-Saens.

but Herrmann invented the idea of the psychological film score: the unresolved repetitions and innovative use of orchestral color.

This is more interesting to consider... was Korngold's The Sea Wolf (a film released months before Citizen Kane, Herrmann's film music debut) not a psychological film score? I think it was. Maybe Ernst Toch's Peter Ibbetson from 1935? I'll bet a couple Rozsa or Waxman or Webb or Newman (Wuthering Heights?) scores from the 30s qualify, too. And I certainly think even a silent film score like Florent Schmitt's Salammbô (1925) would probably qualify... here's FSM's own Doug Adams on the subject:

However, I think it's fair to say that Herrmann made such an internal scoring approach his specialty, and popularized it. Rarely did he write a film score that was just "on the surface"... though something like The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad or Jason and the Argonauts might fit that description, on the whole.

Anyhow, I think yours is a reasonable list.


 Posted:   Sep 28, 2022 - 9:55 AM   
 By:   Spinmeister   (Member)

A "My Bottom 5 Film Composers" would make for a nice change of pace.

 Posted:   Sep 28, 2022 - 10:10 AM   
 By:   danbeck   (Member)

Mine would be the same as Lukas' except for John Barry. I love his Bond scores and he could write wonderfull melodies (he certainly is among my top 10), but I think in my top 5 Miklós Rózsa needs a place and I put him above Barry. He was the master of epic and wrote some of the more memorable themes (until John Williams) that I can think of. I like almost everything he wrote from the epics to the noir movies.

 Posted:   Sep 28, 2022 - 10:23 AM   
 By:   moolik   (Member)

1.JOHN WILLIAMS Because he is the greatest ever and has the most iconic themes of all of the filmcomposers living and dead.,but...the one I enjoy most and am listening to the most is the no.
2.JERRY GOLDSMITH Love his style and listen to his stuff almost every day.
3.LALO SCHIFRIN He is Sen.Groove and his coolness in his score is beyond...
4.FRANZ WAXMANN For me he is the "Williams" of the golden age.
5.ALEX NORTH...Because he wrote the best score of all time so far "Spartacus"

...It was hard to choose.

 Posted:   Sep 28, 2022 - 11:34 AM   
 By:   MJSymphonist   (Member)

1) Miklos Rozsa
2) Maurice Jarre
3) Jerry Goldsmith
4) Bernard Herrman
5) Alex North

 Posted:   Sep 28, 2022 - 11:34 AM   
 By:   General Kael   (Member)

I am able to give a clear top 3, but below that, as with Mr. Kendall, it blows up into a large list of names. So here are my top 3

1. John Williams
2. Hans Zimmer
3. James Horner

Williams is the obvious choice for the GOAT. But I also find myself returning to Zimmer and Horner at a much higher frequency than other composers.

 Posted:   Sep 28, 2022 - 11:49 AM   
 By:   Phil567   (Member)

Here are my current top 5:

1. Basil Poledouris
2. Henry Mancini
3. Giorgio Moroder
4. Jerry Goldsmith
5. Miklos Rozsa

 Posted:   Sep 28, 2022 - 11:55 AM   
 By:   gsteven   (Member)

1. Alfred Newman
2. Bernard Herrmann
3. Miklos Rozsa
4. Elmer Bernstein
5. Hugo Friedhofer

 Posted:   Sep 28, 2022 - 11:58 AM   
 By:   Sean Nethery   (Member)

2. John Barry. Maybe the composer I find myself listening to the most. Nobody was better at distilling a film into a melody: the master of simplicity.

We need a better word for Barry's mastery. As someone who has tried playing his music and transcribing it, I can tell you that it seems simple, but it's actually not simple at all. His use of the building blocks of Western music - especially different aspects and effects of major and minor keys and consonance and dissonance - is much more sophisticated than I had realized.

Williams, Goldsmith, and Morricone could definitely write very effective simple themes (as well as complex ones). I know this, I've played them. But every time I try it with Barry, up come some surprises that throw me off.

 Posted:   Sep 28, 2022 - 12:05 PM   
 By:   BTTFFan   (Member)

1. John Williams
2. James Horner
3. Ennio Morricone
4. Vangelis
5. Hans Zimmer

 Posted:   Sep 28, 2022 - 12:11 PM   
 By:   filmusicnow   (Member)

My Top 5 Film Composers:
#01. Jerry Goldsmith - he knew how to get the feeling of a score in a film, even if he had to resort to using
everyday items in the orchestra (e.g. stainless steel mixing bowls in "Planet Of The Apes"), and the use of
02. Hugo Friedhofer - his masterful use of orchestration both as orchestrator and composer made him a unique
03. Miklos Rozsa - his distinctive, full blooded style worked on the crime films, the psychological dramas and of
course the biblical epics.
04. Herschel Burke Gilbert - though not as well known as the others on my list, yet when he got to describing the
villains in a television series or feature film through his music, he got them right on target.
05. Sir Malcolm Arnold - his brassy, bold style worked in both war films and even a slight use of jazz (just listen to
the main title to "Africa - Texas Style!" which begins with Max Steiner's opening motif from "King Kong" and
segues to and quasi African jazz rendition of "Deep in The Heart Of Texas").

And of course, Williams, Barry, Morricone and Herrmann are in my Top 10.

This was a very difficult list to compile!

Except for Goldsmith, I first time I heard these composers' film music was on records (but eventually caught up by watching the feature films or episodes of television series where I could also appreciate the music).

 Posted:   Sep 28, 2022 - 12:29 PM   
 By:   First Breath   (Member)

1. Sylvester Levay
2. Hans Zimmer
3. Harold Faltermeyer
4. Tim Truman
5. Jonathan Elias

 Posted:   Sep 28, 2022 - 1:26 PM   
 By:   Nicolai P. Zwar   (Member)

Can't argue with that list, those are just five outstandingly great composers. There is a pool of composers and if anyone grabs any five of them, they'd have a winning hand. I'd select Alex North... but who would I leave off for him? Likewise Miklós Rózsa.
Suffice to say, I love your five composer picks and greatly enjoy the music by all of them.

 Posted:   Sep 28, 2022 - 1:31 PM   
 By:   Scott McOldsmith   (Member)

Because nobody gives a shit what I think...

1. James Horner
2. Jerry Goldsmith
3. Bernard Herrmann

And then everyone else. Williams composed some of my all time favorite scores, but when you consider his entire career, that's only a fraction. I have more scores by the three I listed than I do of Williams, Elfman, Zimmer or anyone else. Of those three, I love music from all across their careers.

 Posted:   Sep 28, 2022 - 2:09 PM   
 By:   MusicMad   (Member)

Highly subjective topic ... which could lead to numerous arguments, mud-slinging and worse! But in the hope that we can list ... and if desired provide comments supporting our views ...

1st ... clear top: John Barry ... simply because I've yet to hear a score of his I don't like or don't think adds to the visuals. I've not seen every one of his films and there's the odd score which has so far not come my way (i.e. bootlegs) but, after 50 years ... so far .. so good.

And, to make the point: these last five+ years my musical tastes have incorporated more classical works. I still listen to OSTs (and theme compilations, re-recordings) but I often find these are less satisfying ... except for the John Barry ones which always come good.

2nd. Elmer Bernstein: easily the best when it comes to the (American) Western and so good with the emotional, romantic score be it from 1960 From the Terrace or 2002 Far From Heaven ... plus so many great themes

3rd. Ennio Morricone ... not an easy choice because as much as I love so much of his music I do find his music~visuals often challenging. Of course, I've seen only a small number of his scored films so my love of his music is based on CD releases.

4th. Nino Rota ... I've always liked a lot of his film themes but as time passes (i.e. I age) I find I appreciate his work more and more (I now have many of his classical works) ... he's pushing at Ennio's door ... smile

5th. James Horner ... he's far from a sure-bet for me but when he's good he's almost unbeatable. I view many of his scores as semi-symphonic: a theme is presented and then manipulated ... hints provided, variations ... a slow development ... a superb conclusion

There are many others but as much as I consider John Williams a master of his art I find many of his scores less than satisfying ... Similarly, Jerry Goldsmith: great main titles but ...

 Posted:   Sep 28, 2022 - 2:17 PM   
 By:   TacktheCobbler   (Member)

1. Miklós Rózsa
2. Bernard Herrmann
3. Franz Waxman
4. John Williams
5. Alfred Newman

 Posted:   Sep 28, 2022 - 2:19 PM   
 By:   Nicolai P. Zwar   (Member)

Highly subjective topic ... which could lead to numerous arguments, mud-slinging and worse! But in the hope that we can list ... and if desired provide comments supporting our views ...

I absolutely believe that people can just share their five favorite film composers without resorting to arguments or mud-slinging. Everybody here has their favorites, and everybody's favorites are probably among the favorites of someone else, but no favorite will be everyone else's.
It's subjective for sure, no one is "right" or "wrong" about having their favorite composers.

 Posted:   Sep 28, 2022 - 2:29 PM   
 By:   jenkwombat   (Member)

1) John Williams
2) Jerry Goldsmith
3) John Barry
4) Max Steiner
5) Lalo Schifrin

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