Ladies and gentlemen, we can finally answer, “Who’s the Greatest Film Composer of All Time”? It’s John Williams. Yes, the No. 1 choice for Steven Spielberg and George Lucas is apparently also our readers’ top pick. Surprisingly, the 82-year-old composer came out on top after a hard, hard round that involved both Ennio Morricone and Philip Glass. Our hats are off to you.
Although he’s not my first choice, you can’t really go wrong with Williams. Over the course of six decades, the man has won five Academy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, seven British Academy Film Awards, and 21 Grammy Awards. Also, at 49 Academy Award nominations, Williams is the second most-nominated person in the history of film. (Good ol’ Walt Disney gets top pick.)
Awards aside, Williams is responsible for inarguably the most iconic themes of all time. Anyone who’s even remotely interested in film might whistle the “Raiders March” before boarding a plane, hum “The Imperial March” as their boss walks by, scare off beachgoers with a Jaws warning, or obnoxiously vocalize the Jurassic Park titles while walking out of a bar drunk.
What separates Williams from just about every composer out there is that his music has become a lexicon of pop culture and an entity that doesn’t exactly require the film itself. In his glory days — because, c’mon, I’ll bet $100 nobody could remember a note from Lincoln — he could sink a hook into just about any film, injecting the sort of magic that’s typically attributed to Spielberg or Lucas.
Looking back, I’d argue for Williams as the true magician. Go watch E.T. again. Check out Home Alone, despite it being summer. Or fast-forward to the credits of Richard Donner’s Superman. Mute everything. Not the same, huh? Of course, that could apply to just about every film (see: Halloween), but great blockbusters rely on the sparkles.
For a long, long time, Williams has been able to draw from the same hat. And by not having his signature notes, shit gets real pretty fast, and there’s nothing worse than watching a puppet stalk a young Drew Barrymore. Nothing.
Good job, folks.