Top 10 film composers

Or ten film composers you should currently know
Nyamka Ganbold

Top 10 film composers

Or ten film composers you should currently know
Nyamka Ganbold

When you ask someone to sing the theme of Star Wars, Harry Potter or Star Trek, and E.T., everyone can hum some part of it. This is thanks to the amazing composers who gave the films and the stories their own sound. We all have heard their names - Hans Zimmer, Ennio Morricone, John Williams and so on. You don’t have to be a film music expert to know these big name composers — you somehow know them, because they’re so huge from doing these legendary films.

But there are a whole lot of other composers scoring great movies, and this post is about them. We made a list of 10 composers we think everyone should know.

Here it is. The ten composers you should know, in no specific order.


Germain Franco

The first woman to compose a Disney feature animated film: Germain Franco got this title for scoring Disney’s animated musical “Encanto”. For this she even received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score, a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score, an SCL Award nomination for Outstanding Original Score for a Studio Film, and an Annie Award nomination for Best Music in a Feature.

Germain Franco worked on the score of the film during the pandemic, which was a great challenge, since the story takes place in Colombia. To do her research on Colombian culture and music to make the music sound as authentic as possible, she had to find another way than travelling to Colombia.

“I started listening to music from the early 1800s all the way to current pop and just had so many different videos and scores and songs … What I found was that we have so much in a common, a lot of the Latin American countries, but they’re very different in a different way, (...)
I also bought a bunch of instruments. I had a marimba made in Colombia. It’s called a marimba de chonta. It’s a special marimba that you can’t get anywhere else. It’s made out of a palm tree, so I had it built and shipped to me. I also got a lot of string instruments, like bandolas and tiples. And I actually bought a Colombian harp. I was just like, ‘Well, I can’t go there. Let me bring all the instruments to me,’” Germain Franco said in an interview with Gold Derby.

But before “Encanto”, her fame arose after she worked on Pixar’s “Coco”, where she wrote some great additional soundtracks. Here she brought her unique Latina touch and did a lot of research by visiting Mexico to work with the native musicians, in order to bring an authentic feeling to the music. (In this post you can further read how Franco brings her uniqueness into her work.)

Volker Bertelsmann

Also known as Hauschka, he is a pianist, composer and experimental musician.

He started his career as a film composer in 2012 scoring the German movie "Glück" (Luck) by Doris Dörries and the German-Israeli documentary “Farewell Herr Schwarz”.

For his score with Dustin O’Halloran for Garth Davis’s film ***“Lion” (*2016), he was nominated for an Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA.

Since his success with the film, he has been super busy, and responds to the question of whether he sees a connection between his many subsequent projects and the success with his work on Lion” in a very humble way:

Yeah, I would say so. Part of that is the discussions about reliability and responsibility – because of course it’s a question of spending money for something that has to be delivered in a certain amount of time. I think a lot of the questions, when you don’t have a lot of films out there, is if you’re trustworthy enough to get the job and then you might be too far away, say from America anyway. So I think Lion opened that door much more, but at the same time, I have to say, it’s not a guarantee for suddenly being extremely busy. I’ve heard a lot of stories about people who had a year after a nomination where nothing was happening. So I was prepared for not getting the super stardust!

Bertelsmann also worked on various TV shows, for example “Dublin Murders” (2019), Your Honor (2020) and most recently Downhill” (2020).

George Fenton

One would need years to watch all the movies George Fenton has scored. His many great achievements, such as five Oscar nominations and several award winners at BAFTA, the Golden Globes, the Emmy awards and BMI speak for his talent themselves. As for me, I was introduced to his work through the amazing BBC nature and animal documentaries “Planet Earth” and “Blue Planet”.

A very interesting fact I came across while doing a little research on the composer is that George Fenton is the guy behind the music of the BBC news programmes.

Recently he scored the British film “The Duke” from director Roger Mitchell. The soundtracks are heavily inspired by the sounds and music from the 60s. For Fenton working on the film score was lots of fun, and he tells London Jazz News how he got involved in this project:

I had worked on another lockdown project, Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads , and the producer Kevin Loader called me to ask if I would be interested in The Duke . At that time we were all locked down, so Roger Michell and I didn’t meet, we were just talking on the phone. The editor sent me the film, and I wrote some ideas and did some mock-ups, and sent them to him and we took it from there.

Martin Todsharow

is one of the best known German composers, producers and musicians.

Since 1997 Martin has been working as a professional film composer.

With his work on “Hauptmann” (2017) he received the CinEuphoria award for Best Original Music and the German Film Award.

Currently he is composing more for film rather than TV shows. In an interview, he revealed that he is focusing more on feature films, since he finds the TV industry very stressful.

The composer describes his music as minimalistic, emotional, and sound oriented. His recent work includes “Enfant Terrible” (2020) - a film about the German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder and “Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins” (2021)

In an interview Martin Todsharow opened up, saying that he would like to work more on international projects:

I would love to do international work. Europe is a bit difficult. As a German composer in France you only have very few chances because the French protect their market and thus also their composers, which I can understand. Great Britain is similar. It's difficult to break that up, but it's still becoming more and more international. I would like to do that more. I'm currently doing an American film, which I'm very happy about. It's actually always about learning something new and not just going to Hollywood, I don't want that at all. It is very inspiring to work in a completely different structure with other talents that you do not know from Germany. I want that even more. Otherwise, I would be happy if I could still make movies.

Martin is currently one of Germany's premier film composers.

Sherri Chung

Have you ever watched ‘Riverdale’ on Netflix? Well the whole series is accompanied by Sherri Chung’s amazing music. The composer, songwriter, pianist and vocalist is currently scoring for ‘Blindspot’ (NBC), and ‘Riverdale’, originally aired on CW.

Her latest work on film was for Warner Bros., Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase (2019) and her new work for television is the reboot of the series “Kung Fu”, which has gotten a lot of good reviews. Variety.com writes:

‘Kung Fu’ Composer Sherri Chung on Breaking Ground for Asian-American Representation

Her success goes further in being elected for governor of the music branch of the Television Academy and with that Sherri Chung is the first female governor for the music branch.

Jonny Greenwood

Who doesn’t know Jonny Greenwood as a member of the band Radiohead, playing the guitar and the keyboard? But Greenwood is just as successful and well known as a film composer.

In fact he composed many soundtracks of many great films, such as Norwegian Wood (2010), Inherent Vice (2014), and most recently for the biopic of Lady Diana “Spencer” (2021).

One wonders how a musician of the most famous rock band gets into film music. In an interview for The New Yorker Greenwood reveals his story on if he ever thought doing film music:

“No, I’d never thought about doing it, and never really paid attention to it, either. It all happened backwards. It’s all because Paul Thomas Anderson got hold of a bootleg recording of this early classical thing I wrote for the BBC [“Popcorn Superhet Receiver”]. He wrote to me, and I’d not heard of him, and he said, “Can I use this in the film, and will you write some more?” It still feels a bit weird to me to be writing film music, but I’m just really happy to work with people. What I love about film music is that there’s a director to spend months, hopefully, exchanging ideas and enthusiasms for various instruments and styles of music.”

And this all happened in 2007 when Jonny Greenwood stepped into the world of film music.

After his work for BBC film after film followed until he scored for Phantom Thread (2017). This was the film he got the most recognition for, receiving the nomination Best Original Score for Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe.

This and the past year were very busy for him, since he was involved not only with scoring Spencer” but also writing the soundtrack for Licorice Pizza” and celebrated for the “dark scores” for the film “The Power of the Dog”.

Ulrike Haage

Acclaimed as the most multifaceted artist in Germany, Ulrike Haage is known for her work as a composer, pianist, sound artist and radio drama author. Some of her most popular film composing works are for the documentaries Goldrausch” und “Zwiebelfische” as well as for the music of the documentary “Greeting from Fukushima” by the director Doris Dörries. It received the German Documentary Film Music Price.

Haage describes her music as:

I often hear that my music is like film music without a film or that it evokes images in the mind of the listener. With the soundtracks for radio plays or my musical-literary works for the radio, what appeals to me is that there are no images. It is an infinitely open space for acoustic worlds of sound and experiments. I can create the mood for the movie-in-the-head or add more depth, character to the characters. I can tell time or invent an unknown time.

The composer’s most recent work includes the score for the documentary „Berlin 1945 – Tagebuch einer Großstadt“ ( in English: Berlin 1945 - The Diary of a big city) .


Dustin O’Halloran

is a composer and pianist and has already released five critically acclaimed solo albums. His latest album “Silfur” was released in 2021 under the German classical music label Deutsche Grammophon. Besides his solo projects, O’Halloran is also a member of the band “A Winged Victory.”

For him the door opener to film scoring was Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette”.  Dustin O’Halloran talks about how he worked on this film:

When I was first asked to compose some music for ‘Marie Antoinette’ they hadn’t start filming yet. Sofia did show me a book of photographs for inspiration. She was looking for music that had a delicate innocence and fragility that could portray the purity of this young girl in a decadent world. I wrote a lot of music and she ended up using three pieces.

Since scoring “Marie Antoinette”, he has worked as a film composer on many other films and TV shows, such as ”An American Affair” (2009), Like Crazy” (2011) and Puzzle (2019).

For his work on Amazon’s comedy drama “Transparent” he won the 2015 Emmy Award. O’Halloran also was nominated for the score of the film “Lion” (2016) which he wrote together with the German composer Volker Bertelsmann. This was not the first collaboration of these two composers. They also worked together on his latest score for “Ammonite” (2020), which was nominated for BAFTA.

In an interview O'Halloran talks about working with Volker Bertelsmann, and how beneficial collaboration is :

Volker and I knew each other for ten years before we first started to work together on the score for ‘Lion’. Working on a score is a lot of work. It can be a very lonely job as well. We just found it was more fun to do it together. Neither of us had a problem with the egos of who is doing what. We just go into it. It makes the scores much more interesting as there are two voices. We know how to work together and how to combine sounds. If you’re creating 80 minutes of music it’s very demanding for a composer. It’s hard to sustain a creative level when you’re working on a film for four months. It’s nice to have the camaraderie. In ‘Ammonite’, there is not much music (about 20 minutes) which is the perfect amount. Most films have too much music I think. You don’t have to lead the audience with the music what they have to feel all the time.

Marcel Barsotti

is a German film music composer. He has worked on various national and international films. One of his biggest successes was with the German film “The Bern Miracle”.

The work on the film score is considered as one of the most elaborate film music productions in Germany. The film score of 72 minutes included around 110 team members for the production.

For his great works, Barsotti has received several nominations for the most famous awards in Germany and German speaking countries.

In 2003 he talked about his success and fame with “The Bern Miracle” in a very humble way:

Without a doubt, "The Miracle of Bern" is an absolute stroke of luck and also somehow a highlight! The highlight above all because "The Miracle of Bern" is already one of the most successful films of all time and there is hardly any improvement for film music in Germany. The film has already been sold in over 40 countries and will certainly be successful internationally as well. In addition, the soundtrack and the radio play for the film are also selling very well and these are all very positive components.

Beside his work as a film composer, Barsotti is also the owner of the production music company TUNEforMOVIES and since 2000 owner of the sound-library “Ethno World”.


Nicholas Becker

is probably better known for his sound design work rather than his work as a composer, since he has worked more as a sound designer than scoring films. But his work on “Sound of Metal” (2019) with Abraham Marder proves once again his outstanding talent as composer.

The secret behind his extraordinary work could lie in his way of collecting memories as he describes:

In my particular case, I never ever use library sounds; all my work is made from my recordings and all my recordings are personal moments that I have spent in the forest, at the seaside or in the studio so, when I work on a film, all these memories are coming back and create something that is very emotional for me like a layering of memories and moods and emotions from my past.

In his career, Becker has collaborated with many famous directors such as Roman Polanski, David Cronenberg, Matthieu Kassovitz, Andrea Arnold and Danny Boyle.

He also won an Academy Award for Best Sound with “Sound of Metal”, and multiple other awards such as BAFTA.

Top 10 film composers

Nyamka Ganbold

role
social media & community
age
favorite movie

When you ask someone to sing the theme of Star Wars, Harry Potter or Star Trek, and E.T., everyone can hum some part of it. This is thanks to the amazing composers who gave the films and the stories their own sound. We all have heard their names - Hans Zimmer, Ennio Morricone, John Williams and so on. You don’t have to be a film music expert to know these big name composers — you somehow know them, because they’re so huge from doing these legendary films.

But there are a whole lot of other composers scoring great movies, and this post is about them. We made a list of 10 composers we think everyone should know.

Here it is. The ten composers you should know, in no specific order.


Germain Franco

The first woman to compose a Disney feature animated film: Germain Franco got this title for scoring Disney’s animated musical “Encanto”. For this she even received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score, a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score, an SCL Award nomination for Outstanding Original Score for a Studio Film, and an Annie Award nomination for Best Music in a Feature.

Germain Franco worked on the score of the film during the pandemic, which was a great challenge, since the story takes place in Colombia. To do her research on Colombian culture and music to make the music sound as authentic as possible, she had to find another way than travelling to Colombia.

“I started listening to music from the early 1800s all the way to current pop and just had so many different videos and scores and songs … What I found was that we have so much in a common, a lot of the Latin American countries, but they’re very different in a different way, (...)
I also bought a bunch of instruments. I had a marimba made in Colombia. It’s called a marimba de chonta. It’s a special marimba that you can’t get anywhere else. It’s made out of a palm tree, so I had it built and shipped to me. I also got a lot of string instruments, like bandolas and tiples. And I actually bought a Colombian harp. I was just like, ‘Well, I can’t go there. Let me bring all the instruments to me,’” Germain Franco said in an interview with Gold Derby.

But before “Encanto”, her fame arose after she worked on Pixar’s “Coco”, where she wrote some great additional soundtracks. Here she brought her unique Latina touch and did a lot of research by visiting Mexico to work with the native musicians, in order to bring an authentic feeling to the music. (In this post you can further read how Franco brings her uniqueness into her work.)

Volker Bertelsmann

Also known as Hauschka, he is a pianist, composer and experimental musician.

He started his career as a film composer in 2012 scoring the German movie "Glück" (Luck) by Doris Dörries and the German-Israeli documentary “Farewell Herr Schwarz”.

For his score with Dustin O’Halloran for Garth Davis’s film ***“Lion” (*2016), he was nominated for an Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA.

Since his success with the film, he has been super busy, and responds to the question of whether he sees a connection between his many subsequent projects and the success with his work on Lion” in a very humble way:

Yeah, I would say so. Part of that is the discussions about reliability and responsibility – because of course it’s a question of spending money for something that has to be delivered in a certain amount of time. I think a lot of the questions, when you don’t have a lot of films out there, is if you’re trustworthy enough to get the job and then you might be too far away, say from America anyway. So I think Lion opened that door much more, but at the same time, I have to say, it’s not a guarantee for suddenly being extremely busy. I’ve heard a lot of stories about people who had a year after a nomination where nothing was happening. So I was prepared for not getting the super stardust!

Bertelsmann also worked on various TV shows, for example “Dublin Murders” (2019), Your Honor (2020) and most recently Downhill” (2020).

George Fenton

One would need years to watch all the movies George Fenton has scored. His many great achievements, such as five Oscar nominations and several award winners at BAFTA, the Golden Globes, the Emmy awards and BMI speak for his talent themselves. As for me, I was introduced to his work through the amazing BBC nature and animal documentaries “Planet Earth” and “Blue Planet”.

A very interesting fact I came across while doing a little research on the composer is that George Fenton is the guy behind the music of the BBC news programmes.

Recently he scored the British film “The Duke” from director Roger Mitchell. The soundtracks are heavily inspired by the sounds and music from the 60s. For Fenton working on the film score was lots of fun, and he tells London Jazz News how he got involved in this project:

I had worked on another lockdown project, Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads , and the producer Kevin Loader called me to ask if I would be interested in The Duke . At that time we were all locked down, so Roger Michell and I didn’t meet, we were just talking on the phone. The editor sent me the film, and I wrote some ideas and did some mock-ups, and sent them to him and we took it from there.

Martin Todsharow

is one of the best known German composers, producers and musicians.

Since 1997 Martin has been working as a professional film composer.

With his work on “Hauptmann” (2017) he received the CinEuphoria award for Best Original Music and the German Film Award.

Currently he is composing more for film rather than TV shows. In an interview, he revealed that he is focusing more on feature films, since he finds the TV industry very stressful.

The composer describes his music as minimalistic, emotional, and sound oriented. His recent work includes “Enfant Terrible” (2020) - a film about the German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder and “Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins” (2021)

In an interview Martin Todsharow opened up, saying that he would like to work more on international projects:

I would love to do international work. Europe is a bit difficult. As a German composer in France you only have very few chances because the French protect their market and thus also their composers, which I can understand. Great Britain is similar. It's difficult to break that up, but it's still becoming more and more international. I would like to do that more. I'm currently doing an American film, which I'm very happy about. It's actually always about learning something new and not just going to Hollywood, I don't want that at all. It is very inspiring to work in a completely different structure with other talents that you do not know from Germany. I want that even more. Otherwise, I would be happy if I could still make movies.

Martin is currently one of Germany's premier film composers.

Sherri Chung

Have you ever watched ‘Riverdale’ on Netflix? Well the whole series is accompanied by Sherri Chung’s amazing music. The composer, songwriter, pianist and vocalist is currently scoring for ‘Blindspot’ (NBC), and ‘Riverdale’, originally aired on CW.

Her latest work on film was for Warner Bros., Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase (2019) and her new work for television is the reboot of the series “Kung Fu”, which has gotten a lot of good reviews. Variety.com writes:

‘Kung Fu’ Composer Sherri Chung on Breaking Ground for Asian-American Representation

Her success goes further in being elected for governor of the music branch of the Television Academy and with that Sherri Chung is the first female governor for the music branch.

Jonny Greenwood

Who doesn’t know Jonny Greenwood as a member of the band Radiohead, playing the guitar and the keyboard? But Greenwood is just as successful and well known as a film composer.

In fact he composed many soundtracks of many great films, such as Norwegian Wood (2010), Inherent Vice (2014), and most recently for the biopic of Lady Diana “Spencer” (2021).

One wonders how a musician of the most famous rock band gets into film music. In an interview for The New Yorker Greenwood reveals his story on if he ever thought doing film music:

“No, I’d never thought about doing it, and never really paid attention to it, either. It all happened backwards. It’s all because Paul Thomas Anderson got hold of a bootleg recording of this early classical thing I wrote for the BBC [“Popcorn Superhet Receiver”]. He wrote to me, and I’d not heard of him, and he said, “Can I use this in the film, and will you write some more?” It still feels a bit weird to me to be writing film music, but I’m just really happy to work with people. What I love about film music is that there’s a director to spend months, hopefully, exchanging ideas and enthusiasms for various instruments and styles of music.”

And this all happened in 2007 when Jonny Greenwood stepped into the world of film music.

After his work for BBC film after film followed until he scored for Phantom Thread (2017). This was the film he got the most recognition for, receiving the nomination Best Original Score for Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe.

This and the past year were very busy for him, since he was involved not only with scoring Spencer” but also writing the soundtrack for Licorice Pizza” and celebrated for the “dark scores” for the film “The Power of the Dog”.

Ulrike Haage

Acclaimed as the most multifaceted artist in Germany, Ulrike Haage is known for her work as a composer, pianist, sound artist and radio drama author. Some of her most popular film composing works are for the documentaries Goldrausch” und “Zwiebelfische” as well as for the music of the documentary “Greeting from Fukushima” by the director Doris Dörries. It received the German Documentary Film Music Price.

Haage describes her music as:

I often hear that my music is like film music without a film or that it evokes images in the mind of the listener. With the soundtracks for radio plays or my musical-literary works for the radio, what appeals to me is that there are no images. It is an infinitely open space for acoustic worlds of sound and experiments. I can create the mood for the movie-in-the-head or add more depth, character to the characters. I can tell time or invent an unknown time.

The composer’s most recent work includes the score for the documentary „Berlin 1945 – Tagebuch einer Großstadt“ ( in English: Berlin 1945 - The Diary of a big city) .


Dustin O’Halloran

is a composer and pianist and has already released five critically acclaimed solo albums. His latest album “Silfur” was released in 2021 under the German classical music label Deutsche Grammophon. Besides his solo projects, O’Halloran is also a member of the band “A Winged Victory.”

For him the door opener to film scoring was Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette”.  Dustin O’Halloran talks about how he worked on this film:

When I was first asked to compose some music for ‘Marie Antoinette’ they hadn’t start filming yet. Sofia did show me a book of photographs for inspiration. She was looking for music that had a delicate innocence and fragility that could portray the purity of this young girl in a decadent world. I wrote a lot of music and she ended up using three pieces.

Since scoring “Marie Antoinette”, he has worked as a film composer on many other films and TV shows, such as ”An American Affair” (2009), Like Crazy” (2011) and Puzzle (2019).

For his work on Amazon’s comedy drama “Transparent” he won the 2015 Emmy Award. O’Halloran also was nominated for the score of the film “Lion” (2016) which he wrote together with the German composer Volker Bertelsmann. This was not the first collaboration of these two composers. They also worked together on his latest score for “Ammonite” (2020), which was nominated for BAFTA.

In an interview O'Halloran talks about working with Volker Bertelsmann, and how beneficial collaboration is :

Volker and I knew each other for ten years before we first started to work together on the score for ‘Lion’. Working on a score is a lot of work. It can be a very lonely job as well. We just found it was more fun to do it together. Neither of us had a problem with the egos of who is doing what. We just go into it. It makes the scores much more interesting as there are two voices. We know how to work together and how to combine sounds. If you’re creating 80 minutes of music it’s very demanding for a composer. It’s hard to sustain a creative level when you’re working on a film for four months. It’s nice to have the camaraderie. In ‘Ammonite’, there is not much music (about 20 minutes) which is the perfect amount. Most films have too much music I think. You don’t have to lead the audience with the music what they have to feel all the time.

Marcel Barsotti

is a German film music composer. He has worked on various national and international films. One of his biggest successes was with the German film “The Bern Miracle”.

The work on the film score is considered as one of the most elaborate film music productions in Germany. The film score of 72 minutes included around 110 team members for the production.

For his great works, Barsotti has received several nominations for the most famous awards in Germany and German speaking countries.

In 2003 he talked about his success and fame with “The Bern Miracle” in a very humble way:

Without a doubt, "The Miracle of Bern" is an absolute stroke of luck and also somehow a highlight! The highlight above all because "The Miracle of Bern" is already one of the most successful films of all time and there is hardly any improvement for film music in Germany. The film has already been sold in over 40 countries and will certainly be successful internationally as well. In addition, the soundtrack and the radio play for the film are also selling very well and these are all very positive components.

Beside his work as a film composer, Barsotti is also the owner of the production music company TUNEforMOVIES and since 2000 owner of the sound-library “Ethno World”.


Nicholas Becker

is probably better known for his sound design work rather than his work as a composer, since he has worked more as a sound designer than scoring films. But his work on “Sound of Metal” (2019) with Abraham Marder proves once again his outstanding talent as composer.

The secret behind his extraordinary work could lie in his way of collecting memories as he describes:

In my particular case, I never ever use library sounds; all my work is made from my recordings and all my recordings are personal moments that I have spent in the forest, at the seaside or in the studio so, when I work on a film, all these memories are coming back and create something that is very emotional for me like a layering of memories and moods and emotions from my past.

In his career, Becker has collaborated with many famous directors such as Roman Polanski, David Cronenberg, Matthieu Kassovitz, Andrea Arnold and Danny Boyle.

He also won an Academy Award for Best Sound with “Sound of Metal”, and multiple other awards such as BAFTA.