Top 5 Spine-Tingling Composers

By Daniel LaRue StJohn

The other day I was driving to fill up my gas tank and I had an inkling to listen to the Titanic Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (don’t judge me). To this very day I cannot listen to James Horner’s “Hymn to the Sea” without my eyes welling up (I can’t even watch the movie without a few tears escaping me). I am not sure why but there is just something so moving and epic about the combination of the recorder and the Uilliann Pipes that brings both tears and chills. Horner is no stranger to epic songs, being the driver behind so many spectacular films such as Braveheart, Avatar, Troy, Apocalypto, and The Magnificent Seven to name a few.


Here are my top 5 spine-tingling composers that I frequently go back to:

1.     Trevor Rabin


Trevor tends to have his music mainly in an upbeat fashion, often using percussion instruments like marimbas and xylophones to move the soundtrack forward at a quick pace, but when he utilizes the strings and middle range brass instruments he counteracts the quick, staccato accents of the other instruments that is just beautiful, e.g. “City of Gold” from National Treasure: Book of Secrets and “Titans Spirit” from Remember the Titans.




.   Harry-Gregson Williams

Williams uses the contrast of low instruments – Cellos, bass, trombones, French horns – with high instruments – violins, flutes, trumpets – in such a way with choral tones that it becomes angelic. Man On Fire, Kingdom Of Heaven, and The Chronicles of Narnia use these angelic tones to highlight scenes that tend to be more on the emotional side. “The Battle” from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and “The Equalizer” from The Equalizer give this sense of empowerment when hearing them that just gets you pumped up and ready to whoop some ass.


3.     Steve Jablonsky


Steve has this sound that just screams “EPIC!” He uses more of the middle-lower range to drive his songs forward. With emphasis placed on the cellos, violas, French horns, and trombones he really hits that sweet spot for chills. “Heroes Unite” from Your Highness, “Raid By The Airship” from Steamboy, “By Iron And Fire” from the Last Witch Hunter are some examples of that, despite not being the greatest of films, the soundtrack can stand alone as a masterpiece. Not only has Jablonsky composed for cinema, but he has compiled a solid resume for video game soundtracks as well. The eerie, beautiful, and intense sounds from Gears Of Wars 2, 3, and Judgement are all credits of Steve.

4.     Hans Zimmer

If you thought Mr. Zimmer was going to be left off of this list then you are CRAZY! Hans Zimmer is the epitome of an epic soundtrack. Probably the more well-known on this list, Zimmer definitely has the lengthiest resume from movies such as Crimson Tide, The Da Vinci Code, Black Hawk Down, and The Dark Knight series. Zimmer definitely loves his stringed instruments as those are the stars of his pieces with the remaining orchestra there in a supporting manner. While he does fancy the more action packed films he has also provided his chilling talents in other areas we might not have noticed. “Run Free” from Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, “Why Does Everything I Whip Leave Me” from The Simpsons Movie, “Ride” from The Lone Ranger and “You’re Fired” from Boss Baby are a few to name that may have slipped by you. There is so much to talk about regarding Zimmer that an article alone on him still would not even come close to discussing how he has influenced many others in the film composition industry.

5.     Tyler Bates

Bates is best known for his soundtrack from 300 but his epicness does not stop there. He seems to be the go-to composer for director James Gunn and the two pair very nicely together. Between Gunn’s tales of fantasy and the heartbeat from Bates, these two make an incredible team. Bates has been behind a few small movies such as Guardians of the Galaxy 1 and 2, The Day The Earth Stood Still, and John Wick: Chapter 2. He tends to use more synthesizers in his soundtracks to give that sense of hurriedness and anxiety, but he mixes them well together and pulls back at just the right moments to create a sense of awe and wonder, like in “Distress” from The Day The Earth Stood Still.



I know there are many more epic and goosebumps-giving composers out there. Tell me, who are some of your favorites?