Brandon's Corner: My Top 5 Favorite Composers For Movies and TV

6a00d8341c630a53ef012875f27459970c-600wiOriginally I was going to talk about the beautiful film Love & Mercy this week, but something greater has come to my attention. One of the greatest composers of our time, James Horner just passed away suddenly in a plane crash. His immaculately constructed scores were part of such films as Braveheart, Titanic, A Beautiful Mind, Avatar, Aliens, Balto, or - my childhood favorite - An American Tale: Fievel Goes West. His moving music was, while not immediately noticeable, a significant part of my childhood. He will be missed. In honor of him, I am writing this. To put it simply, music is so unbelievably difficult to define. It evokes images and emotions we can't readily put to words. It can be terrifying, beautiful, sad, cathartic, humorous or all of those all at once. I wish I had the words to describe such elegance, but - more often than not - I do not. Its role in films, and any visual narrative for that matter, is so hard to pinpoint; but without it we are left grasping at the wind wondering what we were missing. With it, even if at first its not at the forefront of our mind, it can evoke the most provocative and poignant of responses.

These composers still working bring these unreachable, wordlessly beautiful sounds to us for us to enjoy again and again. Everyone is different, so your list might be drastically different than mine, but these are my favorite. Enjoy.

5. James Newton Howard

I kept going back and forth on this one after James Horner died. I couldn't pick an adequate replacement to put in the five spots, not because they weren't so good, but there were so many that were so good. There were many that could have made it, particularly Philip Glass (The Truman Show) and Howard Shore (The Lord of the Rings) who kept battling it out for the position. In the end the spot had to go to James Newton Howard. His music, more than the others gets me to cry. There is just an emotional depth in his score that overwhelms time and time again. He might not be quite as diversified, iconic, or have dozens of scores I love. It is the ones I do love though, that I can't get out of my head.

Top 3 Favorite Scores:

1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire; 2. Unbreakable; 3. Batman Begins

4. Michael Giacchino

Michael Giacchino very much could be labeled "The Next John Williams". He already swapped place with him scoring Jurassic World when John Williams started working on Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens. Those are enormous shoes to "fill", but if there was anyone, it might as well be him. For over a decade Giacchino has developed quite an impressive track record, scoring for the likes of J.J. Abrams, and Brad Bird. His emotional depth as well as his uncanny ability to write exhilarating scores for action pieces is simply fantastic. He is one of the many reasons I have faith that we will have brilliant scores for decades to come, long after the greats have passed away.

Top 3 Favorite Scores

1. Star Trek Into Darkness; 2. Lost; 3. The Incredibles


3. Alan Silvestri

Silvestri understands and gets evocative, sentimental themes maybe better than anyone on this list. There is an emotional purity and mixed emotions with his music being so unbearably sad, yet hopeful you could cry. This is shown in many of his scores for the director Robert Zemeckis, as there is that childlike innocence in his music as well as unmistakable sorrow and hope. With this type of style, his music could easily overstep and go into a cheese territory, but it doesn't. There is an elegant simplicity that grows in feeling as it builds to something so beautiful that words can't describe.

Top 3 Favorite Scores:

1. Cast Away; 2. Forrest Gump; 3. The Avengers


2. Max Richter

Max Richter has quickly risen in my awareness in just the last year, with one of the greatest scores I have ever heard on The Leftovers. There is a a sweet simplicity in his music which plays off of heartbreaking themes that it is so difficult not to get wrapped up in the emotion. One could say that he is a minimalist who just plays to the piano and violins with simple themes. While this is partially true, and a reason he is brilliant, he also has the ability to go anywhere with his music. He can utilize every instrument to whatever effect he wants whether it is the frighteningly beautiful and eerie opening montage music for the Leftovers, to his twisted, partially symphonic track for The Congress. I just can't get enough. Being part of Michael Giacchino's generation, he hopefully has a long career ahead of him. I can't wait to see what he has ahead for us next.

Top 3 Favorite Scores:

1. The Leftovers; 2. The Congress; 3. Shutter Island


1. John Williams

Was there any doubt? John Williams is so above and beyond superb. It is not one, two, three or even four scores that I particularly like of his. Nearly everything that Mr. Williams has put out has been iconic masterpieces. We could talk about his ability to inspire adventure with Indiana Jones; his ability to scare with Jaws; his ability to get us to soar with emotion (Superman); or nearly any other emotion possible (Star Wars, E.T., Saving Private Ryan, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...). His long and industrious career is nearing its end, even though as much as I pray it isn't; but whatever is ahead of us I have faith will only be telling of what a legend he is.

Top 3 Favorite Scores:

1. Star Wars; 2. Superman; 3. Indiana Jones


Honorable Mentions:

Howard Shore

Philip Glass

Hans Zimmer

Michel Legrand

Nathan Johnson