Leo’s Top 5 Director/Composer Collaborations

Written by Leo Panasyuk September 11, 2013


Music is, often times, one of the most defining aspects of a film. It can evoke warmth, terror, suspense and wonder and leave you breathless. That is why when a director finds a composer to create the score for their film, they choose very carefully a composer that not only brings each scene to life but leaves a lasting impression on the viewers so that they may never forget what it was that they witnessed. And while some directors bounce to and fro from composer to composer, some happen to find ‘the one’: the composer whose artistry and brilliance they want in every one of their films.

5. Nicolas Winding Refn & Cliff Martinez (“Drive,” “Only God Forgives”)

The youngest collaboration on this list, the combination of Nicolas Winding Refn’s smooth direction and Cliff Martinez’s droning, haunting score bring a certain uncomfortable atmosphere to their films. Whether it’s a harrowingly low piece to accompany a murder or a lighter, more melodic piece to complement a scene of peace and serenity, Cliff Martinez knows exactly how to capture a moment in Refn’s films and with the success of their past two collaborations, I certainly hope they continue working together in the future.

4. James Cameron & James Horner (“Titanic,” “Avatar”)

Creating the two highest-grossing films of all time is no easy task and creating memorable soundtracks to go along with them is just as difficult a challenge. James Horner first worked with James Cameron on his 1986 sci-fi thriller “Aliens” – a sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1979 horror masterpiece “Alien.” Horner gives Cameron’s already-epic films an extra surge of energy and his music fits perfectly with the tone and mood of the scenes under Cameron’s direction. Though he did describe the scoring of “Aliens” and the overall collaboration with Cameron to be a ‘nightmare,’ I am more than happy that these two crossed paths again and made cinematic/musical magic happen.

3. David Fincher & Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross (“The Social Network,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”)

I’ve always been a fan of David Fincher and Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails, by extension) and to have them collaborate on 2010’s Facebook biopic “The Social Network” was a real treat. It was even better when they re-collaborated on Fincher’s 2011 adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s novel of the same name “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Reznor – accompanied by English musician Atticus Ross – created deep, electronic soundtracks for both films that, despite their robotic feel, had a very human aura about them. Trent Reznor has a penchant for creating dark, sombre pieces of music that feel almost too real and having his musical mastery clash with Fincher’s fixed, unabashed direction truly brings the best out of two great artists.

2. Christopher Nolan & Hans Zimmer (“The Dark Knight” Trilogy, “Inception”)

Hans Zimmer. That name is synonymous with words like ‘epic,’ ‘bombastic’ and ‘grandiose.’ Hans Zimmer knows how to knock you flat on your ass with his sweeping scores and the work he has done with Christopher Nolan is timeless. Nolan’s films – particularly his Batman trilogy – are an extraordinary adventure in and of themselves and only Zimmer’s musical talent is capable of producing such memorable tracks to accompany such memorable films. It’s difficult not to picture Batman soaring over the streets of Gotham City when you hear Zimmer’s iconic theme for the Dark Knight.

1. Steven Spielberg & John Williams (“Schindler’s List,” “Jurassic Park,” “Munich”)

Spielberg; one of – if not the most – recognizable names in film has always had a natural talent behind the camera, creating outstanding works of art time and time again for decades. But while he’s hard at work crafting cinematic masterpieces, there’s another bit of unparalleled talent working behind-the-scenes, and his name is John Williams. These two are probably the most famous director/composer duo in Hollywood as they almost always collaborate on the same films. There have been times where Spielberg contracts a composer other than Williams to score a film but almost always he ends up working alongside Williams. These two are certainly heavyweights in film history and I cannot wait to see (and hear) what they conjure up next.

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About Leo Panasyuk

A fan of all things film, Leo never really lets himself get tied down to one specific genre. He's always interested in watching new and old films and especially loves the IMAX format. When he's not choosing which movie to watch next, he's studying Film and English at Western University.

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