Today’s Underrated/Underused Film Composers

I’m considering this a continuation of “My Favorite Movie Composers”. As such, I’d suggest you read that post (if you haven’t already) before reading this one. Movie scoring has its highs and lows like any profession. You have your Williams’ and Goldsmiths’ for your very good, and then you have your Henry Jackman’s for your not-so-good. What about the underused ones? Those composers that really never get a good chance to show what they can do, or only seem to do certain films when they’re capable of more? That’s whom I’ll be looking at today.


Christophe Beck

Christophe Beck’s always been a composing enigma while also being one of my favorite composers, someone who’s a jack-of-all-trades. Despite his large amount of work he never received many major motion pictures or real blockbusters until recently. Beck’s star has risen considerably over the past few years, leading him to compose the scores for such films as Frozen, The Peanuts Movie, and Ant-Man. He’s finally getting the sort of projects he’s deserved for years. Here’s to hoping he gets some major award nominations soon.



John Ottman

Composer/occasional editor Ottman was on top of the superhero composing world in the mid-2000s. He wrote scores for Fantastic Four and it’s sequel, Superman Returns, and perhaps his most lasting work, X2: X-Men United. Luckily, after a multi-film absence he returned for X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men Apocalypse. What he needs is a wider range of films because he has a good composing range. Ottman’s one of the few composers currently doing superhero films not to fall into the ‘Zimmer method’ of superhero film scoring, and thank goodness for it.


Trevor Rabin

Like Ottman, Rabin’s never gotten a huge film to propel himself forwards. However, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t snuck his way into our public consciousness. Rabin’s major film credits are widespread, varying from Armageddon to The Guardian to Remember the Titans. None of those films are exactly new, however, that doesn’t mean he’s completely forgotten. Around the 2004 Olympics, NBC decided to use Rabin’s suite from Remember the Titans (sadly the only piece of his score released to the public) as their closing credits background music. It stuck and NBC used it for almost the next decade. Around a decade later, CBS asked Rabin to re-orchestrate their theme for NCAA March Madness. He did so and CBS still uses his orchestration on March Madness telecasts.


Patrick Doyle

Sure, Doyle’s bombastic; it’s how he’s always composed. Yet for movies that need a bombastic score, he’s a good choice. Doyle’s worked in the industry for years, grabbing his solo Oscar nom in the late 1990’s. Recently, he hasn’t done much in the way of blockbusters (I don’t consider The Emoji Movie a blockbuster). The major films he’s scored over the past sixteen years are Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Thor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Brave. Seriously, can this guy not find any more work? He’s not terrible!


Christopher Young

Longtime horror composer Christopher Young first caught my attention when I saw Flowers In the Attic (not the Lifetime movie). His score is simple but haunting. Then I came across The Fly II. Young’s score is fantastic and full of unsettling moments. His score to Spider-Man 3, while perhaps not quite on Danny Elfman’s level, is also worth checking out.


Harry Gregson-Williams

I’m putting him on the underrated side more than under-appreciated. Another Zimmer protege, Gregson-Williams has scored his fair share of hits, including the Shrek franchise, Unstoppable, The Chronicles of Narnia franchise, and The Martian. Despite this I never see his name in the talk for any sort of major award. Why? Sure, his music may not be instantly recognizable (aside from his use of electronics), but he’s composed catchy themes that are instantly recognizable to the movie they’re from. That should qualify you for some sort of award, right?


Daft Punk

Okay, you may be thinking, why are the most famous and under-appreciated techno musicians of my generation here? Their one and so far only blockbuster score didn’t get enough praise is why! Daft Punk’s score for Tron: Legacy was and is stunning: I’ve never heard a score quite like it. Unlike some composers who overuse electronic music in their scores when it isn’t necessary (looking at you, Jackman), Legacy’s score mixes the two seamlessly to create a blend of both. And did this unique score get any sort of awards? No! I’m not talking Oscars or Golden Globes (would’ve been great), but some awards show, somewhere, should’ve given this score an award. And we haven’t heard a major Daft Punk film score since! What a shame.


Elliot Goldenthal

He’s not the most underrated composer ever, besides, he has an Oscar win! Despite that, I think its his choice of movies (Alien 3, Heat, Batman Forever, to name a few) that keeps Goldenthal from the mainstream recognition. Not helping was that much of his work was in the 1990s. His music and style was unique even by today’s standards. He may not compose much anymore but I’m putting him here anyway. See my other posts about him and his music for more.


Craig Armstrong

I didn’t know anything about Craig Armstrong for years. Armstrong’s so obscure and underused that he seemingly fades away behind other composers. However, he doesn’t need to because he’s excellent. His scores for The Incredible Hulk, World Trade Center, Moulin Rouge! (earning him BAFTA, Golden Globe, and AFI awards), Ray (earning a Grammy), and The Great Gatsby all contain catchy themes and unique sounds without sounding too bombastic or familiar. Even his scores to lesser-known movies like Victor Frankenstein contain the same depth and unique sound as larger films he worked on. And he also has something few living composers can claim to possess: he’s a member of the Order of the British Empire.


One thought on “Today’s Underrated/Underused Film Composers

  1. Good list. I would add for your consideration Craig Armstrong who composed the score for “Love Actually” in which he tied together a number of well known pieces by The Beatles, The Beach Boys, the Pointer Sisters and others with his lovely, well placed musical transitions.


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