Best Director/Composer Relationships

Throughout their careers, certain filmmakers will inevitably form professional relationships with other artists. Be it actors, cinematographers, set designers, etc. But one of the most profitable relationships a director can cultivate is that with his composer.

Certain directors over the years have developed strong artistic relationships with composers which can be of the utmost benefit to both parties. Certain directors and composers simply thrive when working together, producing the highest quality of art which will elevate the audience’s overall experience.

These are the greatest director/composer match-ups of all time.

1. Christopher Nolan and Hans Zimmer


Kicking off our list are the masters of modern blockbusters. These two men produce the greatest art when working together. It is as if there is some unspoken understanding between the two of them. Whenever Nolan points a camera at something, Zimmer knows exactly the tone and sound the scene deserves. Whether they are travelling through space or through a dream world, these artists are always on the same page when it comes to tone.

The highlights of their collaborations are The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception and Interstellar.

Future Projects: Nolan has begun production on his next untitled film, but there are no details regarding its content. Zimmer’s next project will be a collaboration with fellow composer, Junkie XL, on the highly anticipated superhero flick, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.

2. Steven Spielberg and John Williams


For years these two artists have produced some of the most memorable material. Williams’ grand scores are a perfect compliment to Spielberg’s colossal blockbusters. From the darkness of the deep blue’s greatest monster to the magic of an extraterrestrial visitor, there is no limit to the diverse films Spielberg produces which are always adequately accompanied by Williams’ score to solidify the tone.

The highlights of their collaborations are Jaws, Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park.

Future Projects: Spielberg’s most recent film, Bridge of Spies is currently playing in theaters. Williams’ next score can be heard in the long awaited space opera, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. The two will be working together on Spielberg’s family film, The BFG, set to release in 2016.

3. Sam Mendes and Thomas Newman


Director Sam Mendes is a master of drama, and his films are always accompanied by the soft, sometimes dark scores of Thomas Newman. While Newman has a very familiar sound and has worked with many directors over the years, his sound tends to best accompany Mendes’ darker introspective dramas. Whether it be capturing the hidden shame of a failing marriage or building up the suspense in an action-packed spy thriller, Mendes and Newman elevate one another’s crafts better than most artists.

The highlights of their collaborations are American Beauty, Road to Perdition and Skyfall.

Future Projects: Mendes and Newman’s next collaboration is their James Bond film, Spectre, which can be seen in theaters everywhere. Newman also composed the music for Steven Spielberg’s film, Bridge of Spies, which is currently in theaters.

4. Tim Burton and Danny Elfman

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It would be difficult to make a list of great director/composer team-ups and leave out the strange dynamic duo. Ever cryptic, always dark, and sometimes depressing, Burton and Elfman create some of the most outlandish art of all time. It is hard to think of a composer who grasps the complexities of a director’s mind better than Elfman does for Burton. From the grim alleys of Gotham City to the magical Wonderland, Burton and Elfman can always be counted on to generate a wildly entertaining and offbeat masterpiece.

The highlights of their collaborations: Batman, Beetlejuice and Alice in Wonderland.

Future Projects: Burton’s next film will be the fantasy/adventure film, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which will hit theaters sometime in 2016. Elfman’s sound can currently be heard in Rob Letterman’s film, Goosebumps, playing in theaters now, and he will also be providing the score for Alice Through the Looking Glass, premiering in 2016, which will be produced by Burton.

5. John Hillcoat and Nick Cave & Warren Ellis


Hillcoat and Cave have a particularly special artistic relationship. Not only has Cave assisted in composing the music for Hillcoat’s films, but he also co-wrote the screenplay for two of them. Assisting in the films’ conceptions has no doubt given Cave & Ellis the insight needed to create the most appropriate sound possible. Whether it be capturing the ominous tones of a father and son walking through a desolate wasteland or a group of bootleggers whimsically escaping the clutches of the Law. Cave & Ellis are talented musicians, but their craft is only strengthened by the backdrop of Hillcoat’s masterful films.

The highlights of their collaborations are The Proposition, The Road and Lawless.

Future Projects: Hillcoat’s next project will be the crime thriller, Triple 9, which will open in theaters early in 2016. Cave & Ellis’ music can be heard in the recently released documentary, Prophet’s Prey, as well as in the independent film, Far From Men, starring Viggo Mortensen, who starred in the Hillcoat/Cave & Ellis collaboration, The Road.

What do you think of my list? Do you agree? Did I leave anyone out? Let me know in the comments! Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog so you can read more fun lists and other features, as well as movie reviews.


One thought on “Best Director/Composer Relationships

  1. I enjoyed reading your work, Adam. I hadn’t realized that such important connections exist between the director and composer in a work, manifest in the movie itself. I see that the aesthetic successes of a movie are highly dependent upon the relationship between the production of a work and the intonations of a composer to take the life beyond the screen.


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