I want to clarify before we start this list that this is scores, not his soundtracks, that will be later and I want to hear from you on your favorites any time so don’t be shy. I was listening to some Zimmer in the car (because that’s what I do) and I was just in awe that someone can bring so many rare talents together to create such diverse music and beauty all through the sounds of instruments and various contraptions to provide the sounds to some of our favorite films. It’s something I have and always will admire and I figure it’s time to give My Top 10: Favorite Hans Zimmer Scores to date.
To clarify, this won’t be a list of his best soundtracks, but rather his best single song and score from a film that he created music for. This may be the main theme of the movie(s) or it may just be a standout piece that really struck a chord with me once I heard the soundtrack or saw the film with the music in action. Without further ado, let’s check out the list…
1. King of Pride Rock – The Lion King (1994): The crescendo builds and swells like an ocean of nostalgia and the rawest of emotion through an animated medium. Zimmer is undervalued for bringing some of the most iconic animated film scores and soundtracks of all time alongside two of the best songwriters of our time in Elton John and Tim Rice, but without words beyond some beautiful African lyricism, Zimmer provides an Oscar-winning score that shot him and The Lion King into the stratosphere and pop culture history as it tells it’s own story just through the title and composition alone. It’s without a doubt one of his less complex, but even through classic formation of the music itself, it has a powerful elegance that is hard to match.
P.s. Chills start at 4:24
2. The Burning Bush – The Prince of Egypt (1998): I’m not going to waste time being politically correct because beautiful music is not limited to any one group of people and The Prince of Egypt is in fact a film based off the story of Moses from the Christian biblical book of Exodus, it is perhaps one of the most astoundingly scored films of all time. Yes, of all time. The track featured below is a piece that goes through so many switches and changes that you’d think it could never work, but it does. It tells a story of highs and lows just through its swelling horns and chorus pounding us with near flawless notes to a point you can’t help but want to cry and even though I’ve listened to it a million times, I still get a visceral reaction that completely takes over.
3. A Way of Life – The Last Samurai (2003): To hearken back to the era of warring Japan in a time that is the Meiji Restoration, it took a captivating musical suite to bring to life the world of a honor driven warrior people. With Hans’ inspirations of Japanese music with flutes and specific Asian instrumentation, he was able to create an almost phantom-like theme to the film that deals with dealing with the ghosts of your past. Along with being an underrated film overall, what also gets overlooked is the music. If you really watch and listen to the film you’ll never forget how significant the music is to creating atmosphere of the movie.
An Honorable Mention from the soundtrack is Spectres in the Fog which may be the most memorable tune of the film, but it’s not (IMO) the best musical creation on the album.
4. Flight – Man of Steel (2013): Trying to take on a film about such an iconic character is hard enough, but it’s even harder when another legendary composer already gave us one of the most iconic scores of all time. John Williams graced us with a Superman theme that will forever be embedded in our hearts and heads for a lifetime, but to reinvent a score with a reinvented Superman just seems impossible, but not for Hans. Bringing in an electric guitar to compliment the booming and insanely inspiring drums and French horns Zimmer is known for is something else entirely. It’s the ideal theme music to when someone is truly rising to become something more than any man or woman could imagine. To aim for the stars and inspire those below you as you become “super”.
5. He’s A Pirate – Pirates of the Caribbean (2003): I bet you can all whistle the theme to Captain Jack and his crew thanks to the slightly rehashed melody of Zimmer’s award winning compositions of Gladiator, but to be entirely honest, this is way better. Not only does the music fit the film all the more, but it’s become more synonymous with swashbuckling pirates than it has gladiators. Thankfully, no one loses because of it. He’s A Pirate is actually only a minute and a half long, but as it is known to many i.e. The Pirates Theme, it later spanned to be exactly that and flows into other tunes through the films and soundtracks. If you want to know why it’s five, please enjoy this gem I found:
6. I’m Not A Hero – The Dark Knight (2008): The beloved Dark Knight trilogy wouldn’t be complete without a roaring score behind it. Zimmer meticulously crafted scores for each character and situation to a tee with The Dark Knight from the intro scene aptly titled Why So Serious? and later his score for Harvey Two-Face Dent, but does it get any better than when you can literally see every scene of our night time hero dashing through the shadows of Gotham? The title itself says so much about the evolution of Batman/Bruce Wayne and the score takes different shapes similar to Batman during the processes of the scenes. It’s remarkable.
7. Cornfield Chase – Interstellar (2014): One of the most experimental ventures for the diverse composer, credit has to go to director Chris Nolan for understanding that artists don’t work well with constraints, and he let Hans run free by making what came to his heart. Later realizing that the gratuitous instrument that is the pipe-organ would be the ideal instrument to recruit into the musical pieces, the pay off was as wide as space itself. It’s a compelling and relatively simple melody with one of the most complex instruments ever created, but thanks to the ear of Zimmer and the organ player, we were given one of the most experimental and unique scores to bring in a new era of science fiction films.
8. Stampede – The Lion King (1994): You know the scene, you remember the heartbreak, and the music is what did you in. One of the most iconic and technology advanced scenes in animation history, the stampede and later death of Mufasa will go down in history as one of the saddest moments to exist in film, but if there wasn’t a score to barrel through your soul and use your emotions as it’s punching bag you wouldn’t feel the way you do when you hear the music. It’s specific to each scene and doesn’t do anything generic throughout the scene it’s scored with. It’s one of the many iconic tracks from The Lion King, but also one of it’s most heartbreaking.
9. Time – Inception (2010): Hans is always great when Chris Nolan lets him strut his stuff and this may be one of the latest scores in the modern era that became a pop culture phenomenon after Inception’s conception. The melodic feeling it gives before and after it swells with power, thanks to Hans’ love for big drums and horns, it captures everything that film is about and then some. It’s like ocean waves or a top spinning with predictable unpredictability consuming it’s notes and the song will live on as one of the great scores in his career.
10. Leave No Man Behind – Black Hawk Down (2001): The emotions and terror of war can be juxtaposed by a calming and beautiful piece of music and bring the full rainbow of feelings to the forefront in the best way. Black Hawk Down is a terrific film on it’s own, but I can’t think of a war film that didn’t have a noteworthy score to bring it all together, and since we’re talking Hans Zimmer today then this counts as the standout of them all. I think I love it so much because around the same time this film came out, we were given my favorite film and that’s Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring which have similar inspirations in the melody with the flutes and Irish tones to it all.