Top 5 Film Composers Article

McNeill: What’s up everybody welcome back to another episode of season four of the McNeill and Friends Podcast. Today, I’m here with my friend Tim Morgan and we’re gonna talk about our top five favorite film composers. How’s it going dude?

Tim: Dude it’s going well man, this is very exciting. I’m excited about this. We did something like this before, but I think this will be a little bit more interesting.

McNeill: Yeah yeah, youre talking about, we did the top ten favorite scores episode. I think it was summer of 2020, I believe. Something like that. And that was fun. You and I were just talking about how we have all of our favorite scores and it depends on the day and our mood because I can like these particular top ten more one day and then the next week it could be something drastically different because there are so many good ones. It really just comes down to the mood and what you want to listen to.

Tim: Yeah, oh yeah.

McNeill: There’s probably going to be some inconsistencies with what we said last time haha. 

Tim: Haha yeah don’t go back and listen to that episode after this one.

McNeill: Or do if you guys want to judge us haha. 

Tim: Yeah that’s true. 

McNeill: But I’ve been looking forward to this topic because I absolutely love music in movies. A lot of people, when you hear that, probably think of soundtracks and they think of Guardians of the Galaxy and stuff like that but we’re talking about the actual musical scores composed by film composers with a live orchestra.

Tim: Yes. 

McNeill: But talk a little bit about why you like musical scores and composers and why that’s important to you?

Tim: Ah man, for a long time I think when I first started getting into what people described as soundtracks was when I started watching movies but I didn’t really watch the movie for the movie’s sake. I started watching the movie and started listening to the soundtrack. So the, like, first ever CD soundtrack I bought was Star Wars: Episode I, actually.

McNeill: A great one.

Tim: “Duel of the Fates” was it for me. If I can envision the scene from the movie by the soundtrack, you’ve done a great job because I can almost relive that movie continuously without having to watch it. I can just hear it and know what’s happening. I think that’s one of the coolest things that composers can do these days.

McNeill: Yeah and there’s a lot of songs I’m sure we’ll talk about that I think are good examples of that. Music in a movie is so important because it does two things: It enhances the tone of the film and the emotion of the story. I think musical scores are not talked about as much amongst the film community, and people who like movies in general, because I don’t think it is as noticed by people who aren’t musicians. 

Tim: Yes. A movie will be that much better if the score is amazing.

McNeill: Yeah, and so as we go through our top five after we do our honorable mentions here, we’re going to talk about our favorite songs from each composer of our choice and we’ll have a brief clip of the song in there as well just for context for you guys. Tim, do you have any honorable mentions?

Tim: I definitely do. So, I have four honorable mentions. 

McNeill: I do too, yeah four!

Tim Honorable Mentions:

  1. Michael Giacchino
  • Star trek: Into Darkness
  • Jurassic World
  • Spiderman: Far From Home
  • Video game works
    • Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond
  1.  James Newton Howard 
  • The Village 
  • The Dark Knight (with Hanz Zimmer)
  1. Howard Shore
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • The Hobbit
  1. Harry Gregson-Williams
  • The Chronicles of Narnia
  • The Last Duel

McNeill Honorable Mentions:

  1. Clint Mansell 
  • Requiem for a Dream 
  • The Fountain 
  • Black Swan
  1. John Powell 
  • How to Train Your Dragon 
  • Kung Fu Panda 
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story
  1. Michael Giacchino 
  • Up 
  • Ratatouille 
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  1. Alan Silvestri 
  • The Avengers 
  • Back to the Future 
  • Forrest Gump

McNeill: So, with that in mind, coming into the top five what is your number five, Tim?

Tim #5: James Horner

  • A Beautiful Mind 
    • “Car Chase” 
      • Tim: If you haven’t seen A Beautiful Mind go see it because it’s amazing, it’s heavy, and it just has a lot of weight to it. I think James Horner does a great job in bringing that out to light especially with Russell Crowe’s character and how he’s having to deal with all this mental instability. I enjoyed that whole score as well. That particular track is great, but the entire score from A Beautiful Mind is dope to me.

McNeill #5: Alexandre Desplat 

  • Little Women 
    • “It’s Romance” 
      • McNeill: This guy has eleven Oscar nominations and only two wins for The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Shape of Water. I’ve gotten to the point where it’s like anytime I watch a movie and I hear some music and I’m like ‘I’m pretty sure this is Alexandre Desplat’ and I’m usually right. He has a very distinct style. It’s a really elegant sound. 

Tim #4: John Williams 

  • Jurassic Park 
    • “Theme from Jurassic Park
      • Tim: I think his themes are incredible. You immediately know what Star Wars is, you immediately know what Indiana Jones is, you immediately know what Jurassic Park is.
      • McNeill: He’s phenomenal. He’s arguably the most iconic film composer of all time. Everything he did is a classic. 

McNeill #4: James Horner 

  • Titanic 
    • “Rose”
      • McNeill: A lot of his scores have that celtic inspiration. Especially if you go and listen to Titanic and Braveheart. James Horner, he’s incredible. There’s not a bad song on that soundtrack. 

Tim #3: Alan Silvestri

  • Avengers: Engame
    • “Portals”
      • Tim: Surprisingly enough, that’s one of the few songs that has snuck into my workout playlist. There’s something about it. I remember seeing the whole scene, everybody coming in. It’s like ‘This is so dope!’ 

McNeill: #3: John Williams 

  • Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
    • “Battle of the Heroes” 
      • McNeill: Try to wrap your mind around this number: he has fifty-two Oscar nominations and five wins. So that means collectively, he was nominated fifty-seven times for an Oscar.

Tim #2: Danny Elfman 

  • Mission Impossible
    • “Main Title Theme”
      • Tim: He has a lot of great superhero type scores, but he also has a lot of mixture of great scores in general.
      • McNeill: I love Danny Elfman. He is a phenomenal composer. 

McNeill #2: Hans Zimmer

  • Man of Steel
    • “What Are You Going to Do When You’re Not Saving the World” 
      • McNeill: Hans Zimmer is probably in the same conversation as one of the most legendary film composers of all time, along with John Williams. He’s done so many movies, it’s insane. 

Tim #1: Hans Zimmer 

  • Inception
    • “Dream is Collapsing”
      • Tim: It’s not fast, but it makes you wanna move quicker. Every once in a while I’ll experiment with my students in class and just start playing random music, usually scores, to just see how they’ll react. And some of them are like, ‘I just feel a lot of pressure while you’re playing this song.’ And I’m like ‘hey, it’s a cool song.’ If the soundtrack helps enhance the movie, I’m in. I’m all in for that. And he does an excellent job of doing that. 

McNeill #1: Danny Elfman 

  • Edward Scissorhands
    • “Ice Dance” 
      • McNeill: Danny Elfman is my number one. I love his style. I think it’s so distinct. I love that song. It’s actually my personal favorite song from any movie out of any score. I think it’s absolutely beautiful.

Tim: Solid picks. Always solid, all around. I may have to research this, but I’m so confused as to how these guys haven’t just won (the Academy Awards) every year. And they’d be like the titans. Because we all know them as the legends. 

McNeill: It’s kind of like Alfred Hitchcock, arguably one of the most famous directors of all time, never won an Academy Award.

Tim: It’s so weird.

McNeill: It’s so strange. David Fincher I don’t believe has won either.

Tim: It’s so odd.

McNeill: Well that was an interesting topic. I really enjoyed this topic, it was a lot of fun.

Tim: It’s always good to hear different tracks.

McNeill: We have a lot of the same composers in our lists but we have different songs we like. I think our picks show different sides of the composers that we chose.

Tim: Oh yeah, 100%. 100%. And I think that goes to show how great and versatile the composers are.

McNeill: Once again, Tim, thanks for joining me today on this episode. This was a lot of fun.

Tim: Dude, always so good man. Always so good.

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