It’s relatively common to see lists of the highest-grossing movies of all time, or even the highest-grossing actors and directors. But it’s worth remembering that filmmaking is a much more sprawling team effort, and one of the most important cogs in the machine is the composer, who creates the musical landscape for the film.
Some of the most popular composers of all time, like John Williams and Danny Elfman, can be counted among the biggest box office hits worldwide, and with good reason. After all, music can make or break the tone and mood of a film.
10) Christophe Beck can bend his artistic identity
Breaking into the mainstream with his Emmy-winning work on the popular TV show buffy the vampire slayer, Christopher Beck continued to work on all sorts of diverse projects, from Frozen to the MCUs The ant Man movies.
Beck possesses the invaluable quality of versatility. He can bend and adapt his style to whatever movie he’s working on, whether it’s a simple comedy or a full-scale action adventure, crafting mature, carefully thought out and incredibly catchy. Because of this, his films have grossed US$11,412,486,016 worldwide.
9) Brian Tyler is an acclaimed multi-instrumentalist with a colorful background
Brian Tyler is not only the mind behind the Formula 1 theme, he is also an acclaimed multi-instrumentalist who has worked on blockbusters like various fast furious movies, iron man 3and Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Tyler finds films that speak to him on a personal level and translates their hearts into creative, fresh scores. His works have brought in the admirable sum of 12,619,969,284 dollars across the world, thanks to his unique artistic voice.
8) James Horner created subtle yet epic soundscapes
The end James Horner was a musical prodigy since childhood. During his professional years, he left to the public scores as legendary and emblematic as those of Titanic, Avatarand Brave heart.
Horner has been nominated for seven Oscars and won two, proving his talent for the craft. His music is emotionally moving, often on an epic scale, but also with a very deep and subtle dimension of contemplation and careful scene building. The films of which his amazing work was a part earned a total of US$13,887,673,224 at the box office.
7) John Powell works masterfully with fire
Start as an apprentice Hans Zimmer (with whom he collaborated on a few films), the great John Powell composed the music for more than 70 films, from cult classics like Front/Off to sci-fi blockbusters like Solo: A Star Wars Storyand perhaps more particularly the How to train your dragon trilogy, having been nominated for an Oscar for the first (which is arguably one of the best scores of the 2010s).
Powell is incredibly passionate about telling stories through music. His work tends to have a very modern feel, but it can also prove the wonders an orchestra can do. Showcasing his talent, his films earned $14,362,279,264 at the box office.
6) Danny Elfman is more than Tim Burton’s favorite
Four-time Oscar nominee Danny Elfman, who is best known for his frequent collaboration with the director Tim Burton on movies like Batman and Edward Scissorhandsalso did a wonderful job on the likes of men in black and Sam Raimiit is Spiderman 1 and 2.
Elfman had one of the most prolific and acclaimed trajectories of any film composer in history. His style is undeniably distinctive, with a dark, offbeat nature that has earned films he has worked on a staggering $17,940,926,388 worldwide.
5) Alan Silvestri is a legendary composer with iconic brands
With both ancient and modern classics under his belt, from Forrest Gump and Back to the future (who was criminally snubbed at the Oscars) to MCU movies like The Avengers, Infinity Warand End of Game, Alan Silvestri is one of the most easily recognizable voices in film music.
When composing, Silvestri’s priority is always the film’s deepest message. He has an intuitive understanding of music and history that helps him create iconic scores that are always instantly recognizable. You can always be sure that his movies will have amazing music, and for that, they grossed $18,859,793,242 across the world.
4) James Newton Howard views songwriting as storytelling
Nobody tells stories with music like James Newton Howard, which has been nominated for an Oscar nine times. He is best known for films like The black Knight, The fugitiveand the fantastic beasts franchise.
Howard prides himself on not having what some would call a clear definition sound, as it has allowed him to change and adapt depending on the type of film he is composing for. His efforts earned $19,330,208,126 at the worldwide box office, a more than respectable figure for an incredibly dedicated artist.
3) Michael Giacchino is a franchise composer like no other
Like all great composers, Michael Giacchino has worked on a wide variety of films, from The Incredibles and At the top (the latter which won him an Oscar) at The Batman and A thug.
Giacchino got his start in video games and also worked in television. His vast experience is reflected in the chameleon work he does for films; his clever use of instruments is unparalleled and his understanding of the tone of every film he works on is flawless. A staggering amount of 21,870,384,816 USD is what his work has brought in worldwide.
2) John Williams: The Man, The Myth, The Legend
John Williams needs no introduction. He has been nominated for 52 Oscars (the 2nd most nominated individual, just behind waltz disney), but his greatest reward is to have composed many of the most memorable scores of all time, from star wars at jurassic park and the first three Harry Potter movies.
Williams’ style and work are so legendary that he has transcended the world of cinema: he will likely be remembered by Beethoven and Mozart as one of the greatest musicians of all time. Proof of this is the 25,514,107,549 USD that his films have brought in around the world.
1) Hans Zimmer is the godfather of modern film music composition
If there’s one musician worthy of surpassing John Williams, it’s 12-time Oscar nominee Hans Zimmer. Having worked on over two hundred film and television scores during his productive career, such as Dunes, Creationand The Lion Kinghe probably never produced a single work that was not exceptional.
Zimmer has one of the most unique and recognizable musical styles in all of cinema, without ever losing the versatility and adaptability that make him so prolific. His scores are evocative, hauntingly beautiful and often revolutionary. He certainly deserves to be the highest-grossing film composer of all time, with films grossing $31,891,972,305 worldwide.
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