Hans Zimmer is arguably the greatest action movie composer of all time; during the 90’s especially he was the master of military-style bombast and memorable themes, without ever sounding cheesy.
From looking at his resume on IMDB, it’s a tough one to choose only 10 movie scores and there were several that I would have put on this list as honourable mentions (The Peacemaker, Pacific Heights and Days of Thunder to name but a few).
Then I sat down and thought what Hans Zimmer scores have I listened to the most? Which ones are the most memorable?
Bear in mind, this is only his action movie music so starting from number 10, here are the greatest Hans Zimmer action movie scores.
10.Backdraft: Ron Howard’s action thriller about two feuding brothers (Kurt Russell & Steven Baldwin) who are firefighters is not only moving but also really introduced us to Zimmer’s militaristic sound which would become his trademark. It was so good that they used it in the trailer to one of the Jurassic Park movies and about a billion other action movies during the 90’s.
9. Inception: This is one of Zimmer’s most influential scores because it has been ripped off in every trailer and movie since. The “Durrrmmm” sound especially is now so overused in trailers that it is beginning to lose its dramatic effect. However, there is more to it with the beautiful piece of music called “Time” which you can listen to below.
8. Man of Steel: Hans had the very difficult job of following on from the greatest superhero theme tune of all time. John Williams “Superman Theme” is so iconic that we all scoffed at the idea that someone would try to create something different. If anyone could do it, it was Hans and he came up with a whole new “Superman Theme” and although it never reaches the lofty heights of Williams’ classic, it gives it a damn good try. Stand out tracks include “Flight”, “What are You Going You Do When You’re Not Saving the World?” and “Arcade” but the whole score is excellent and gives us a new sound for a new generation.
7. The Dark Knight Trilogy: Although never really giving us a new theme tune and not as good as Danny Elfman’s perfect score to the 1989 Batman, the TDK trilogy has some great tracks like “Why So Serious?” and “Bane’s Chant”. In Batman Begins especially the music actually sounds like the flapping of bat’s wings and it’s incredibly imaginative.
6. Broken Arrow: This John Woo movie with John Travolta and Christian Slater uses the music almost to comedic effect and is rather different from what you’d expect from a Zimmer score from the 90’s. Any time Travolta is on-screen we get the cool twanging Duane Eddy guitar tune and the main “Broken Arrow Theme” is a personal favourite. Also, horror fans may recognise the music from Scream 2; any time Dewey is on-screen we get Travolta’s “cool” music. I remember being the only person in the cinema smiling as no one else seemed to notice.
5. Mission: Impossible II: Hans worked with John Woo again on my favourite of the Mission: Impossible movies. It’s a very different sound for the M:I movies giving us a kick ass electric guitar flavoured version of the classic theme but also introducing new themes in tracks like “Injection” and “Bare Island”.
4. Crimson Tide: Hans is at his militaristic best with this score to the Tony Scott classic starring Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington. With Russian choirs that build up to one of the most spine-tingling and exciting pay offs, the “Main Theme” is easily one of his best pieces. If I had to walk away from an explosion in slow motion, it would be to this tune.
3. King Arthur: Not a movie anyone really talks about and it’s understandable why; it wasn’t all that great but the one thing I took away from it was Zimmer’s stellar work. Tracks like “Woad to Ruin” and “Budget Meeting” will make you want to ride out into battle as they are exhilarating and tuneful, giving us one of Hans’ best Main Themes too.
2. The Rock: To me this movie will always be Michael Bay’s finest hour; I love it and Sean Connery/Nicolas Cage’s buddy banter is brilliant. Hans Zimmer’s score is almost like a sequel to Crimson Tide as it’s similar thematically with the huge military bombast. It has various themes in it but the opening music during the theft of the VX gas “Hummell Gets the Rockets” is a highlight.
1. Gladiator: Russell Crowe won the Oscar for what remains Ridley Scott’s finest hour. I’m still annoyed Crouching Tiger won the Best Score instead of this as it was utterly undeserved. Scott has always been known as a visual director and Gladiator mixes visuals, story, performances and music to perfection. This is number 1 because it’s Zimmer’s most moving score as well as exciting. Tracks like “Honor Him” and “Wheat” will have you wiping away tears… of manliness. Then you can compose yourself to the epic battle sounds of… “The Battle”.
So those are my ten favourite Hans Zimmer action scores, but his music to The DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons, Rush and more deserve mentions too. Ah, so many great tunes!