Hans Zimmer is one of the most prolific background music composers working in Hollywood today. The musical pursuit and journey of diligence that started way back in early 1980’s, finally started getting its due when he composed the background music for 1988 film, ‘Rain Man’, from which he rose to prominence. During his career which spans over 35 years now, he has produced movie soundtracks for many films. Now, he has established himself as the most acclaimed music producer.
As a background music producer, Hans Zimmer has shunned the old ways of composing film music, and the iconoclastic music director has come up with avant-garde ways of music arrangement. The background music style of Hans Zimmer can be characterized by an innovative blend of organic and synthetic musical elements and percussion based aggressive style of music arrangement. In all the films he has given background music for, we can observe exuded use of leitmotifs. For an instance, the score of 2008 magnum opus The Dark Knight has a lot of leitmotifs that appear at the countenance of characters of Joker, Batman (and Bruce Wayne had a different kind of score). Moreover, the flamboyant music producer utilizes steel drums and his music arrangement is an output of painstaking technical drudgery, for the kind of sounds he produces isn’t possible with a normal orchestra.
To pick out the best movie soundtracks by Hans Zimmer is a difficult task to do. However, I have handpicked some of the films or Television series which have different musical archetypes. These depict the maestro’s unparalleled skills in background music composition.
Here’s the list of best movie soundtracks by Hans Zimmer –
1. Rain Man  –
It was Rain Man with which Hans Zimmer became famous. While the songs of Rain Man are mostly Pop songs of the 1980s that evoke a certain sense of nostalgia. Hans Zimmer’s background music does add to the flavor. Most part of the background music is composed on instrument du jour of the 1980s, which was the new electronic keyboard. It was an audacious move by Zimmer because the synthesizer back then didn’t have that cinematic effect. To add to the woe, it sounded cheesy. The lonely atmosphere imbuing ‘End Title’ track and adrenaline rush producing ‘Las Vegas’ are the highlights of this movie soundtrack by Hans Zimmer. It was one of the nominations in Academy Awards for Best Original Score.
2. The Lion King  –
The Lion King is the most unique movie soundtrack Hans Zimmer has ever given. It captures the essence of the movie. Composing a soundtrack of an anime is a great deal because it should have an impish tone. At the same time, the emotions should be palpable, which is what Hans Zimmer does in The Lion King. The soundtracks, ‘The Circle of Life’ and ‘Hakuna Matata’ are the best ones from the album along with a song called ‘The Morning Report’, which Disney had released it later. This is one of the best movie soundtracks by Hans Zimmer. It went on to win ‘Academic Award for Best Original Score’ and ‘Golden Globe for Best Original Score’ as well.
3. The Thin Red Line  –
This is not the only war film in which Hans Zimmer has produced movie soundtrack. His majestic skill was evident in the recent Christopher Nolan war film, Dunkirk. However, ‘The Thin Red Line’ makes it to this list because of its unique archetype. The film is full of anti-war philosophies and unlike other such films, this was not a satire and rather had poetic storytelling. So, the background music needed a perfect blend of philosophical elements with an overtone of war. The movie soundtrack consists primarily of long, string-laden pieces and also includes a mesmerizing chant that became ‘The Chant of The Thin Red Line’. It was nominated in Academic Awards for the Best Original Score but did not go on to win it. However, as per my personal preference, it is the best movie soundtrack by Hans Zimmer.
4. Gladiator  –
This movie soundtrack was composed in association with ‘Dead Can Dance’ member Lissa Gerrard. In Gladiator, a rather progressive Hans Zimmer, time travels back and incorporates elements of the traditional orchestra with ancient musical instruments, which perfectly suits the dramatic premise of the film. Lisa Gerrard’s vocal does create an ambiance of the tale of a warrior. The best soundtracks of Gladiator are ‘Elysium’ and ‘Now We Are Free’. The film went on to win The Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score. It was also nominated in BAFTA and Academy Awards.
5. The Last Samurai  –
This is one of the best movie soundtracks by Hans Zimmer. Most of the tracks in this album are soft, but there are some musical pieces that rise to a crescendo during the action sequences. The best soundtrack of ‘The Last Samurai’ is ‘A Way of Life’ and ‘The Way of Sword’. Golden Globe Awards had nominated this film’s soundtrack for Best Original Score.
6. 12 Years A Slave  –
The film is based on black slavery and it weaves a poignant story of a guy who is enslaved. So, according to the dramatic premise, the film needed a blend of powerful and melancholic background music, which should evoke an emotion of pity, suffering, and devastating despair. Hans Zimmer delivers it to the utmost perfection. ‘Washington’ and ‘Solomon’ are best soundtracks of ‘12 Years a Slave’, but it is ‘What does Freedom mean’ which packs a wallop. It’s among great movie soundtracks by Hans Zimmer and BAFTA had nominated it for Best Film Music and Golden Globe Awards for Best Original Score.
7. The Da Vinci Code  –
The film had a cryptic, dark theme, and Hans Zimmer backed it with a thrilling background score. What’s so great about The Da Vinci Code is that its movie soundtrack matches with the extravagant visuals. The music is full of Hans Zimmer’s dynamic tropes that create chest-thumping background score – something we observe in his association with Christopher Nolan. The best soundtracks are ‘Fructus Gravis’ and ‘Kyrie of the Magdalene’. The background music by Hans Zimmer was also nominated for The Golden Globe Awards for Best Original Score and Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media.
8. Sherlock Holmes  –
A picture that stars the most prominent sleuth in the history of literature needed an enthralling background score which can evoke an element of thrill. Those intermittent crescendos backed with sudden quirky sounds do help the dramatic premise of Sherlock Holmes. Some of the parts of background music also imbue a humorous effect. ‘Discombobulate’ and ‘My Mind Rebels at Stagnation’ are the best soundtracks from this film. Academic Awards had nominated the background score for Best Original Score and Grammy Awards for Best Soundtrack for Visual Media.
9. BBC’s Planet Earth – II and Blue Planet – II –
Hans Zimmer gave appropriate background music to these well-researched and insightful documentaries by BBC. The music in Planet Earth – II and Blue Planet – II documentaries works as an undercurrent theme that is in alignment with the concepts narrated and the music is strangely soothing when you listen without video. Unlike his film background scores, Hans Zimmer makes sure that his music doesn’t overshadow important aspects of the documentaries, but rather adds to the flavor of information in it. Planet Earth – II won BAFTA Award for the best original music.
10. Hans Zimmer’s Association with Christopher Nolan –
This list will definitely fall short of being an essential Hans Zimmer, if I miss out on any of his background music in Christopher Nolan’s films. Perhaps, it’s the association both the masters that have made Hans Zimmer famous all around the world (including Asian countries). Take the background music of Batman Begins which is like a hand in glove for the dramatic premise of Batman’s reigning realm, or the chest-thumping score of The Dark Knight which becomes a style that is taken forward in The Dark Knight Rise, Hans Zimmer has not seized to amaze fans all over the globe.
How Hans Zimmer evokes the emotion of Interstellar with his soundtrack is commendable. On the other hand, he also creates an eerie atmosphere with his tension inducing background music. The background score of Man of Steel is equally wonderful, wherein Nolan was the producer. All of these movie soundtracks either won accolades, or made it to nominations.
Among all his associative acts with Christopher Nolan, the one that stands out is Inception. The film also had a surrealistic dreamy feel and Zimmer’s background score does add up to the effect. The film was nominated in Academy Awards, BAFTA Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Grammy Award and went on to win Saturn Award for Best Music. This is arguably the best movie soundtrack by Hans Zimmer.
Hans Zimmer has gained popularity all over the globe. He is one of the rare music film music composers, who has travelled the world for concerts. He has produced background music for different genres of films and has also been inventive with technology.
Zimmer will be giving background score for The Lion King once again in 2019 and fans are expecting a masterpiece soundtrack yet again…