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The Good, the Bad and the Badass: Hans Zimmer

Sep. 5, 2013by:

Last week, we took a look at the career of a truly badass helmer, Kathryn Bigelow. However, while people are quick to praise directors, actors and writers when a movie goes over well, often a crucial component, that of the film score, is overlooked. The following badass is without a doubt, the go-to guy for pretty much every genre of film score out there, and a guy we all know and love.

Hans Zimmer

I've often found that today's musical scores are lacking. Too often, they're just sonic wallpaper, with absolutely no life of their own outside the films they appear in. Back in the seventies and eighties, there were plenty of composers doing amazing work, like Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams in his prime. Today's go-to-guys, meh. If you think of the great scores of the last few years, chances are they were done by an off-kilter choice (like The Chemical Bros. doing HANNA) or, the subject of this column, Hans Zimmer.

Any way you slice it, Hans Zimmer is the man. Not only is he extremely prolific, but often, the scores he doesn't do, he produces through his company Remote Control Productions. Composers like Ramin Djawadi (GAME OF THRONES), Harry Gregson-Williams (MAN ON FIRE) and Henry Jackman (X-MEN: FIRST CLASS) all work for him.

But back to the man himself. German-born Zimmer first made a splash in Hollywood with his avant-garde score to the Dustin Hoffman-Tom Cruise classic RAIN MAN, which got him his first Oscar nomination. It kicked off an ongoing collaboration with Cruise, with his score for DAYS OF THUNDER kicking off a long-term relationship with Jerry Bruckheimer, for whom Zimmer constantly works (if Bruckheimer movies aren't composed by Zimmer, you can bet he at least produces them). Zimmer's professionalism, mixed with a healthy dose of genius, has led to many fruitful partnerships with directors like Ridley Scott (BLACK RAIN, GLADIATOR), Ron Howard (BACKDRAFT, RUSH) and most recently Christopher Nolan INCEPTION, the THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy).

His Best Score

For my money, Zimmer's best score is his music for Ridley Scott's GLADIATOR. A masterful score, Zimmer's music helped take a genre everyone thought was dead (the historical drama) and make it contemporary for a modern audience. Coupled with Lisa Gerrard's vocals, it's alternately haunting and thrilling, and has gone on-to be much imitated, but seldom equalled.

His Most Underrated Score

After GLADIATOR, Zimmer became the go-to-guy for historical dramas, but rather than just recycle his own material, Zimmer continued making inspired, unique music. His score for the Tom Cruise vehicle,THE LAST SAMURAI is one of his all-time best scores, with a stirring main theme perfectly conveying all the ideals the film champions, such as honour and sacrifice. It's a wonderful piece of work.

His Most Overrated Score

OK, so here's one that's going to be controversial. For me, Zimmer's most overrated score is the work he did on the PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN series. The first, and best score of the series was composed by Klaus Badelt, a former protege of Zimmer's, who took over at the last minute when Alan Silvestri's score was rejected. The score was produced by Zimmer, and definitely had his sound (it owed a lot to his GLADIATOR score), but for the sequel, Zimmer took over himself. The music was fine, and occasionally quite good (I like the Ennio Morricone-influenced parts of AT WORLD'S END) but to me, the music for the series on the whole is overrated. Also, Zimmer's subsequent scores were never as memorable as Badelt's original work.

His Most Memorable Piece of Music

This was actually suggested to me by several readers on Facebook and Twitter. Terrence Malick's THE THIN RED LINE contains one of Zimmer's most memorable scores, and provides an intriguing counterpoint to Steven Spielberg's own WW2 movie, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, that came out the same year, and set the standard for war movies to follow. While Spielberg mostly eschewed music, Malick used a lot of it, with an extremely emotional score by Zimmer being front and center during the film's big battle sequence. Just listen the the music here (the selection is called Journey to the Line) and tell me this is not one of the most stirring themes you've ever heard. Zimmer himself must appreciate it to, and he essentially plagiarized himself two years later for his PEARL HARBOR score.

UP NEXT

As always, Zimmer's a busy guy. He's got RUSH and 12 YEARS A SLAVE both coming out this fall, and next summer he's (intriguingly) doing to score for THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2. After that he's got INTERSTELLAR, and presumably BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN. I also hope that one day, he'll finally get to do his dream James Bond score (INCEPTION & his recent score for SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS are both very Bond-like).

1. GLADIATOR
2. THE DARK KNIGHT
3. THE THIN RED LINE
4. INCEPTION
5. TRUE ROMANCE

What are your favourite Hans Zimmer scores? Least faves? Best pieces of music? Strike back below!
Source: JoBlo.com

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12:41PM on 09/06/2013

Pirates of the Caribbean Scores

Whilst I agree that the Pirates scores are not his greatest work, I did find it interesting that with the series he was able to build upon the themes that he wrote for the first film that Chris has incorrectly credited to Klaus Badelt. Klaus did compose the score but the themes were composed by Hans himself and given to Klaus to orchestrate.
As for a favourite, I've always leaned towards Crimson Tide
Whilst I agree that the Pirates scores are not his greatest work, I did find it interesting that with the series he was able to build upon the themes that he wrote for the first film that Chris has incorrectly credited to Klaus Badelt. Klaus did compose the score but the themes were composed by Hans himself and given to Klaus to orchestrate.
As for a favourite, I've always leaned towards Crimson Tide
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1:45AM on 09/06/2013
One of the greatest. I think there's something to be said when he mentored several other composers, only for them to have prolific careers of their own.
One of the greatest. I think there's something to be said when he mentored several other composers, only for them to have prolific careers of their own.
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8:02PM on 09/05/2013

Greatest Composer

ok maybe not the greatest of all time but he is in todays generation of films. His films scores are genius through and through and he has at least two tracks on every soundtrack that I will listen to all the time. His music made the end of Dark Knight and Dark Knight Rises 10x better. I'll have to disagree and say that Pirates 3:Worlds End was a great score and the best of the series. It brought in new themes and made the film better for it. Even the lack-luster film KING ARHUR had a great
ok maybe not the greatest of all time but he is in todays generation of films. His films scores are genius through and through and he has at least two tracks on every soundtrack that I will listen to all the time. His music made the end of Dark Knight and Dark Knight Rises 10x better. I'll have to disagree and say that Pirates 3:Worlds End was a great score and the best of the series. It brought in new themes and made the film better for it. Even the lack-luster film KING ARHUR had a great soundtrack by Zimmer. But does anyone remember his work in the movie TOYS with Robin Williams?....golden! My favorite tracks from his movies are....
#1 - Journey to the Line (Thin Red Line) - used for Man of Steel Comic Con trailer.
#2 - Time (Inception)
#3 - Rise (Dark Knight Rises)
#4 - Theme from The Da Vinci Code
#5 - Mines (Matchstick Men)
#6 - Death of Pvt Witt (Thin Red Line) - Unreleased track from the film
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7:30PM on 09/05/2013

Zimmer makes me Soar!

I LOVE the score of the last Samurai, and right now I can't stop listening to Man of steel, beautiful work!! he accentuates what the movie director is trying to explain, the director shows you, Zimmer makes you feel it! I LOVE him! Thank You Zimmer, for making me soar through life! : )
I LOVE the score of the last Samurai, and right now I can't stop listening to Man of steel, beautiful work!! he accentuates what the movie director is trying to explain, the director shows you, Zimmer makes you feel it! I LOVE him! Thank You Zimmer, for making me soar through life! : )
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7:00PM on 09/05/2013

Love Zimmer, but he can be hit or miss

My favorites of his are Lion King, Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End, Last Samurai, and Pearl Harbor. Lone Ranger is one of the best scores of this year.
Overrated would be Man of Steel. His main theme for Superman was good, but everything else was just Zimmer on action-music auto-pilot. I think it was his worst score in years, and I'm worried about the sequel.
My favorites of his are Lion King, Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End, Last Samurai, and Pearl Harbor. Lone Ranger is one of the best scores of this year.
Overrated would be Man of Steel. His main theme for Superman was good, but everything else was just Zimmer on action-music auto-pilot. I think it was his worst score in years, and I'm worried about the sequel.
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6:00PM on 09/05/2013

One thing is for certain...

If you think of a movie or a scene that you love and Zimmer composed the score for that particular film, 98-99% of the time you cannot think about it without hearing his music.
If you think of a movie or a scene that you love and Zimmer composed the score for that particular film, 98-99% of the time you cannot think about it without hearing his music.
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5:04PM on 09/05/2013
I can only imagine the challenge it'll be for him scoring the Man of Steel sequel, trying to create a new and original theme for Batman after spending the last 8 or so years perfecting his epic and amazing score for The Dark Knight Trilogy, then having to toss it all away and start from scratch.
I can only imagine the challenge it'll be for him scoring the Man of Steel sequel, trying to create a new and original theme for Batman after spending the last 8 or so years perfecting his epic and amazing score for The Dark Knight Trilogy, then having to toss it all away and start from scratch.
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4:42PM on 09/05/2013
While Gladiator is a landmark, I've always had a soft spot for his score for The Rock. So epic and badass in all the right places.
While Gladiator is a landmark, I've always had a soft spot for his score for The Rock. So epic and badass in all the right places.
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4:09PM on 09/05/2013
Inception became one of my favorite scores of all time.
You forgot to mention Man Of Steel, which is pretty decent.
Inception became one of my favorite scores of all time.
You forgot to mention Man Of Steel, which is pretty decent.
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2:58PM on 09/05/2013
I'm so glad you mentioned "The Last Samurai". Such an underrated movie and one of Zimmer's best for sure.
I'm so glad you mentioned "The Last Samurai". Such an underrated movie and one of Zimmer's best for sure.
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1:55PM on 09/05/2013
I've always been very conflicted in regards to Hans Zimmer. On one hand, he has done some of my absolute favorites - Thin Red Line, Gladiator, Dark Knight. I greatly enjoy his scores to Sherlock Holmes and The Last Samurai and the like, however, his style has also led directly to the death of the more grand orchestral scores of the previous decades. So much of the music inspired by his style is so derivative and could go in the background of any movie. I'm actually quite disappointed to
I've always been very conflicted in regards to Hans Zimmer. On one hand, he has done some of my absolute favorites - Thin Red Line, Gladiator, Dark Knight. I greatly enjoy his scores to Sherlock Holmes and The Last Samurai and the like, however, his style has also led directly to the death of the more grand orchestral scores of the previous decades. So much of the music inspired by his style is so derivative and could go in the background of any movie. I'm actually quite disappointed to know he's scoring The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I loved Horner's score for the 1st.
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1:49PM on 09/05/2013

Original Iron Chef

Used his epic score to Backdraft in their opening credits.
[link]
Used his epic score to Backdraft in their opening credits.
[link]
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1:20PM on 09/05/2013
The man really knows the exact music to set the mood for a scene. I know he only produced it, but Vide Cor Meum from Hannibal is one of my all time favourites [link]
The man really knows the exact music to set the mood for a scene. I know he only produced it, but Vide Cor Meum from Hannibal is one of my all time favourites [link]
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1:17PM on 09/05/2013

Funny, I was posting my top ten favorite Zimmer scores on FB today!

With about 150 composer credits on imdb.com. here's my take.
1. The Dark Knight trilogy- Not because it's Batman. Sharing the collaboration with James Newton Howard for the first two films, Zimmer (and Howard) challenged and even guided audiences to take a whole new look at world of Batman, outside the Tim Burton and Danny Elfman comfort zone audiences had been in for over a decade. The results are historic! Not only crafting a great Batman theme, Joker theme, Bane theme, but even crafting
With about 150 composer credits on imdb.com. here's my take.
1. The Dark Knight trilogy- Not because it's Batman. Sharing the collaboration with James Newton Howard for the first two films, Zimmer (and Howard) challenged and even guided audiences to take a whole new look at world of Batman, outside the Tim Burton and Danny Elfman comfort zone audiences had been in for over a decade. The results are historic! Not only crafting a great Batman theme, Joker theme, Bane theme, but even crafting deep music for the exploration of the character Bruce Wayne, something no film had bothered with before. It wasn't easy getting audiences to look away from Burton's Batman films and try something completely new, but with a masterful Zimmer and Howard score it made things much easier for Christopher Nolan.

2. Gladiator- Still to this day I can't believe this score did not win the Oscar. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is a great score, but Gladiator's score is stronger than the Roman Empire was.

3. Pirates of The Caribbean: At World's End- Disappointed to see Chris Bumbray labeled this score overrated. The first two films both had highly entertaining music, but not only does At World's End continue it, but all it's completely NEW themes (At World's End theme, Will and Elizabeth's love theme, Hoist The Colours, Jack Sparrow's theme, music track- Up Is Down, shit even the music for Lord Beckett's death is masterful) are brilliant and go far beyond expectations. Zimmer's music in At World's End really stands out, and gives the film the right sound of epic conclusion to a trilogy.

4. Inception- Here is a score which if you listen to the soundtrack without seeing the movie, you would probably not be able to follow it or understand it at all. A score, which may not be as epic as Pirates or Batman but is driven with terrific suspense, psychological themes, and sounds straight out of a dream world. Most notable feature in this score is Zimmer's use of horns mixed with Edith Piaf. Never forget how big I smiled when seeing and listening to Zimmer's music in the famous tumbling hallway scene. Best track to me is the bonus track, Projections.

5. The Lion King- Last year, I went to see the re-release in theaters, and this is a "kids film classic" which did not hold up for me over time like I thought it would. However, I the score not only holds up, but is the film's most powerful character. I found more appreciation and love for this score than ever before. As much as I hate to say that Zimmer's only Oscar wasn't for Gladiator or The Dark Knight, the music in The Lion King is truly a masterful score.

6. Rain Man- This is where Zimmer's career took off. It's one of his most heart felt scores. How can you not get choked up when Charlie tells Raymond he loves having him for a brother? Plus the Vegas montage score is classic.

7. The Last Samurai- A Way of Life is probably the most soothing and relaxing piece of Zimmer's work. Whenever you need to take your mind off of things, play this track. It's the music most notably played when Cruise is being dressed for battle, which to me was the best scene in the film. No words, very little action, but so much emotion conveyed and heard in the scene.

8. The Thin Red Line- Terrence Malick makes it a habit to cut out a lot of music composed for his films with classical pieces. To the point of pissing of film composers like James Horner. The Thin Red Line is one of Malick's few films with most of the composed film score actually used in the film, and it is indeed a powerful and very pyschological piece of music.

9. Broken Arrow- 90s Zimmer action music rocks! The Rock, Backdraft. However, Broken Arrow's theme is one of the most badass themes ever. The theme was even used in Scream 2 for Dewey's theme. I love this score, love it, love it!

10. Pearl Harbor- The film may have been good when first seeing it in the theater as a teenager, but it's lost it's audience over the years. However, there are still amazing things to see and hear in the film, most notably is Zimmer's music, especially when the Japanese planes head for the island, and when seeing the aftermath of the attack.

Most Honorable mention: King Arthur, and Sherlock Holmes 1 & 2

Other notable mentions: The Rock, Backdraft, his collaboration on The Pacific, As Good As It Gets, Black Hawk Down, Rango, and Toys.
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12:48PM on 09/05/2013
Favorite score is Inception. The Dark Knight Rises, mainly the chant. Gladiator is phenomenal. Sometimes, I drag myself to the movies mainly because of Hans Zimmer. I wasn't really interested in Pirates, but I knew he scored them, and it flew me to the theaters. I liked the Lone Ranger because of his score. Great article this week.
Favorite score is Inception. The Dark Knight Rises, mainly the chant. Gladiator is phenomenal. Sometimes, I drag myself to the movies mainly because of Hans Zimmer. I wasn't really interested in Pirates, but I knew he scored them, and it flew me to the theaters. I liked the Lone Ranger because of his score. Great article this week.
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11:51AM on 09/05/2013
It's like Zimmer has the Midas touch. Everything he touches (composes) turn into masterpieces. I think his best work are The Dark Knight and Inception. For underrated score, I'd go with Black Rain Suite from "Black Rain". It really blends the whole East Meets West perfectly.
It's like Zimmer has the Midas touch. Everything he touches (composes) turn into masterpieces. I think his best work are The Dark Knight and Inception. For underrated score, I'd go with Black Rain Suite from "Black Rain". It really blends the whole East Meets West perfectly.
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+2
11:23AM on 09/05/2013

Driving Miss Daisy

Zimmer is the best. He picked up where Jan Hammer, Brad Fiedel, and Harold Faltermeyer left off and paved the way for Thomad Newman and countless others.
The opening scores for DAYS OF THUNDER and TRUE ROMANCE (You're So Cool) are highly underrated, but DRIVING MISS DAISY is the top dog.
Zimmer is the best. He picked up where Jan Hammer, Brad Fiedel, and Harold Faltermeyer left off and paved the way for Thomad Newman and countless others.
The opening scores for DAYS OF THUNDER and TRUE ROMANCE (You're So Cool) are highly underrated, but DRIVING MISS DAISY is the top dog.
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11:27AM on 09/05/2013
And MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2!!!
And MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2!!!
11:14AM on 09/05/2013
Glad to see a composer get highlighted. I enjoy his work but I wouldn't say I hold him in as high a regard as, say, John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Alan Silvestri or Ennio Morricone. Now, that's not a knock, it's just that he is pretty well-known for reusing a lot of work. I completely agree about his Pirates score being overrated, especially when you consider the bit of "He's a Pirate" that is most recognisable sounds really similar to snippets from Gladiator, The Peacemaker, even The Lion
Glad to see a composer get highlighted. I enjoy his work but I wouldn't say I hold him in as high a regard as, say, John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Alan Silvestri or Ennio Morricone. Now, that's not a knock, it's just that he is pretty well-known for reusing a lot of work. I completely agree about his Pirates score being overrated, especially when you consider the bit of "He's a Pirate" that is most recognisable sounds really similar to snippets from Gladiator, The Peacemaker, even The Lion King. However, he has pretty much defined what "epic" sounds like to kids today and his music does a good job at enhancing the energy of an action scene. One of my favourite melodies of his is the theme from Crimson Tide: [link] I also like his theme for Broken Arrow [link] and I think his score for Driving Miss Daisy sort of plays against his "type" and is very jovial and captures the mood and time period of the film nicely. [link]
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