“When I write, I write in surround. My life is in surround.”
If there’s a more prolific and undeniably gifted composer of movie scores out there then I will eat my hat (I won’t really so don’t bother Googling it) It makes sense that he’d be rather good at his job now considering he’s been doing it for over 30 years and composed music for somewhere in the range of 100 films. In the last ten years he’s become somewhat of a household name having surfaced as the go-to-guy for big budget blockbusters – especially since his work on Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. I often find myself blasting some Zimmer soundtracks out during obligatory writing sessions. No doubt there’s plenty of obscure gems out there I’m yet to discover but here’s a list of my favourites from some of his more popular movies, judged both on individual pieces and overall score.
7. Pirates of the Caribbean
I’m not the biggest Pirates fan around but there’s no question that the soaring, swashbuckling theme tune is instantly recognisable and will forever be linked with the image of a very drunk Captain Jack Sparrow grunting inaudibly and presumably doing something “funny”. Legally Zimmer was forced to remain uncredited for the first movie which he served as a producer and was scored by Klaus Badelt, but he got full credit for the sequels Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End and On Stranger Tides. Stand out piece – Wheel of Fortune
6. The Lion King
Until recently it held the record for the longest running Number 1 soundtrack by an animated film (dethroned by Frozen) Much of it’s success was not only down to the Tim Rice and Elton John songwriting partnership but also and perhaps more importantly Zimmer’s ability to capture emotion in his compositions. Come on don’t pretend you didn’t have to wipe away a tear during Mufasa’s death or Simba’s eventual rise to being the King. Stand out piece – King of Pride Rock
5. Batman Begins
It was the beginning of a fruitful relationship between Hans Zimmer and Christopher Nolan that would span the entire trilogy and beyond. The score itself is actually a collaboration between Zimmer and James Newton Howard. Both focussed on separate elements of the movie, determined to encompass the Bruce Wayne and Batman personality traits with a different musical approach. The majority of Zimmer’s work is found during the highly paced action scenes. Stand out piece – Molossus
4. Sherlock Holmes
Often unjustly forgotten about amongst his discography, the main theme plays around with the traditional orchestral string arrangement turning it into a homage to the world of Romany gypsies. There’s lots of weird, off-tune sounds and strange instruments being used which makes the score very unique. Frantic violins and quirky banjos. It’s one of the most original and inspiring soundtracks of his collection and helped make this “reboot” stand out in the crowd from all the others. Stand out piece – Discombobulate
3. The Dark Knight
After the success of the first movie, it made sense to re-team with James Newton Howard once again telling another, darker story of the Caped Crusader’s journey. This instalment taps into the thematic constants from the first score but notably adds some insanity with the inclusion of the movie’s main villain The Joker. Many of the tracks build tentatively towards a crashing crescendo of noise. All very representative of Batman’s growing instability throughout the movie. Stand out piece – Like A Dog Chasing Cars
Definitely the soundtrack that opened ordinary eyes to the genius of Hans Zimmer. Gladiator helped to reinvigorate the historical “true story” genre with a bunch of imitators following a few years behind but never quite delivering the same epicness of Ridley Scott’s Oscar winning masterpiece. The fundamental reason being because Hans Zimmer didn’t score those copycats. There’s definitely some glaring similarities to Pirates – which was released three years later – but so what, we don’t mind. The soundtrack stirred up some controversy when Zimmer seemed to be the only one getting credit come Awards Season even though it was technically a collaboration with Lisa Gerrard and Klaus Badelt. Stand out piece – The Gladiator Waltz
One of my favourite soundtracks of all time – and up there with the best movies – so was always going to top this list. When Nolan and Zimmer get together something special invariably happens. The majority of the themes on here are actually relatively simple chord progressions and that’s exactly why it works so well. Zimmer doesn’t overcomplicate things, he does what he’s best at. He creates a a series of notes and gradually builds them in intensity. “Dream is Collapsing” is phenomenal in itself but especially when paired with the visuals of the movie. It’s everything a score should be. Powerful, moving, cinematic. Stand out piece – Time
Honorable mentions must go to Man of Steel, Rush and The Thin Red Line.
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Gavin Logan – Follow me on Twitter