Hans Zimmer is arguably one of the best renowned and well-respected film composers of all time. Known for his music for Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean and many Christopher Nolan films, his style has been endlessly imitated, but his own talents lie much deeper than his ability to make a lot of dramatic noise.
Zimmer began making music very young. One of his first musical appearances is in the music video for ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ (1979) and he began scoring for films five years later. His first scores were fairly electronic, utilising synthesisers and drum machines, and his earliest hits include the scores for Rain Man (which received him his first Oscar Nomination), Driving Miss Daisy and Thelma and Louise. Arguably, however, his biggest career break occurred when in 1994 he created the score for Lion King alongside Elton John and Tim Rice. This won him his first Oscar and his first Grammy, and from then on he became a household name.
Hans Zimmer’s huge sound has become a staple of modern blockbuster, just as John Williams’ sound was replicated for years. However, the complexity of Hans Zimmer’s music is often far more impressive than his often-simplified discography gives him credit for. While everyone knows the deep ‘BWARRMMM’ bass and massive drums that made him so famous (and that were subsequently used in every trailer ever), this is just a small part of his wide range of skills. He is able to say so much about the film through his music, and can score for a massive range of genres, not just dramatic actions films. Examples of his more diverse and emotional range can be found in his scores for films like ‘The Holiday’ (my sisters favourite).
Not only this, but his scores subliminally say so much about the film, and add much more depth than many other scores do. A great example of this is his work on the Robert Langdon trilogy. His score for The Da Vinci Code is very traditional, utilising a typical orchestra and choir to create a rich, classical score that reflects the story line of tracing religion through classical art. Then with Angels and Demons, he reused many themes from the previous film, but this time added more electronic elements to it. Again, this reflects the story, where new science and old religion try to exist hand in hand. With Inferno’s plot centering around an experimental bio virus that could threaten humanity, Hans Zimmer created a much more experimental score that remixed noise and instruments into a much more intense soundtrack. Other examples of Hans Zimmer’s unique methods include his use of a church organ (the biggest instrument out there) to represent all of time and space (the biggest concept out there) for Nolan’s film Interstellar.
His body of work is huge, and his range of talents are countless. He is the rock star of film composing, with his own sellout arena occurring every few years, and composes on average four scores a year. It’s understandable why he’s such a huge star, and he clearly has the skill and wit to create complex scores that add so much more to a blockbuster than most other scores do.
If you’re interested, here are my Top 10 favourite Hans Zimmer scores (as well as a key track from each that I recommend):
- The Dark Knight (‘Why So Serious?’)
- Dunkirk (‘Home’)
- Pirates of The Caribbean: At Worlds End (‘Drink Up Me Hearties Yo Ho’)
- Angels and Demons (‘Science and Religion’)
- Planet Earth 2 (‘The Sloth’)
- Blue Planet 2 (‘The Blue Planet’)
- Sherlock Holmes (‘Discombobulate’)
- Lion King (‘This Land’)
- The Holiday (‘Maestro’)
- Interstellar (‘First Step’)
For a look at some of Hans Zimmers career highlights, check out this video from Vanity Fair: