Hans Zimmer - photo by Dita Vollmond
Hans Zimmer performs live. Photo by Dita Vollmond.

Hans Zimmer is one of the world’s most distinguished and recognised film score composers in cinema history. Over a career spanning 38 years, Zimmer has been responsible for the soundtracks of 151 films, including seven that are still to be released. Added to all this, he’s also composed for short films and TV shows. Hans Zimmer still finds time to take his show Live with Hans Zimmer on tour and that makes him worth a feature.

Hans Zimmer awards won

The German-born composer has won several major awards – in fact, 50 of his songs and soundtracks have been nominated for awards. His honours include:

  • Academy Award (Best Original Score for 1994’s The Lion King, nominated for a further 10)
  • Four Grammy Awards (Best Instrumental Arrangement With Accompanying Vocals, The Lion King (1994) and Best Musical Album For Children, The Lion King (1994); Crimson Tide (1996); The Dark Knight (2009))
  • Three Classical BRIT Awards (The Dark Knight (2008); Best Composer of the Year (for The Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel (2013); Outstanding Contribution to Music (2013))
  • Two Golden Globes (1994’s The Lion King and 2001’s Gladiator)
  • Four Satellite Awards (The Thin Red Line (1998), Gladiator (2001); The Last Samurai (2003); Inception (2011))
  • Three Saturn Awards (The Dark Knight (2009); Inception (2011); Interstellar (2014))
  • Two WAFCA Awards (Inception (2011); 12 Years A Slave (2013))
  • One BFCA Award (Gladiator (2000))
  • One DFWFCA Awards (Interstellar (2014))
  • One World Soundtrack Awards (Inception (2011))
  • Stephen Hawking Medal (Interstellar (2016))

 What type of music is Hans Zimmer?

Hans Zimmer is contemporary orchestral music, blending electronic elements with traditional orchestral style. The music he writes has influences that are specific to each film, so while the symphonic element is consistent, each sound track has a unique identity – this is something that makes Hans Zimmer so popular in Hollywood and why he’s scored for dark Christopher Nolan films (The Dark Knight) and light-hearted animations like Madagascar.

What makes Hans Zimmer unique?

Compare him to John Williams (Superman, Star Wars and many others) who’s music style is heavily inspired by early modern classical music, as a listen to Wagner’s Planets will show and you’ll see that Zimmer’s trademark is getting the right sound and atmosphere for the film – that can involve bringing in synthesisers, electric guitars or even ukuleles.

What band was Hans Zimmer in?

Not that it’s a claim to fame for Zimmer, but before his first ever film score, Hans Zimmer played keyboards for the band Krakatoa in the 70s while living in London. He also lent his talents to The Buggles, Krisma, Helden, Mecano, Shriekback, and also spent some time writing advertising jingles – so he really paid his dues.

During this time, in 1987, he also wrote the theme song for BBC game show Going For Gold.

How did Hanz Zimmer become a Hollywood film score composer?

While living in London and being a professional musician, Zimmer had the opportunity to partner with film score composer Stanley Myers and together they composed Hans Zimmer’s first 11 films. Zimmer then went on to compose for a number of British and international films, including the anti-Apartheid film A World Apart (1988). It was through his work for A World Apart that he eared is first Hollywood gig – Barry Levinson’s Rain Man (1988). By the next year, Hans Zimmer was composing for Ridley Scott’s Black Rain, the first of nine projects together.

Famous directors Hans Zimmer has worked with

In addition to Barry Levinson and Ridley Scott, Zimmer has worked with many film directors of a diverse array of styles, and has a few long-time partnerships with them. These include:

  • Barry Levinson (three collaborations beginning with Rain Man in 1988)
  • Ridley Scott (nine collaborations beginning with Black Rain in 1989)
  • Tony Scott (four collaborations beginning with Days of Thunder in 1990)
  • Ron Howard (eight collaborations beginning with Backdraft in 1991)
  • Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff
  • Chris Columbus
  • Michael Bay (six collaborations beginning with The Rock in 1996)
  • Gore Verbinski (seven collaborations beginning with The Ring in 2002)
  • Christopher Nolan (seven collaborations beginning with Batman Begins in 2007)
  • Nancy Meyers
  • Guy Richie
  • Zack Snyder
  • Jon Favreu

Hollywood really is male-dominated!

Films you wouldn’t think Hans Zimmer composed for (if you didn’t already know!)

With 151 films under his belt and four decades of experience, Hans Zimmer has been involved in diverse kinds of projects. He’s most well-known for his Oscar-winning The Lion King, but his soundtracks for Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and Interstellar are probably his most recogniseable. Here’s some films he’s composed for that you may have not been aware of:

  • True Romance (written by Quentin Tarantino)
  • Cool Runnings (1993)
  • Muppet Treasure Island (1996)
  • The Road To El Dorado (2000)
  • The Ring (2002)
  • Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002)
  • Madagascar (2005)
  • The Holiday (2006)
  • The Simpsons Movie (2007)
  • Chappie (2015)
  • The Boss Baby (2016)

Hans Zimmer acting credits

As per IMDB, Hans Zimmer has a total of five Actor credits, for various documentaries, so by no stretch of the imagination is he an actor.

  • Hans Zimmer & Alan Walker: Time Remix (Short) (2020)
  • Walmart: The Box (2018 video short)
  • Alicia Keys Feat. Kendrick Lamar: It’s on Again (2014 video short)
  • Man kann ja nie wissen (1987)
  • The Buggles: Video Killed the Radio Star (1979 video short)

Hans Zimmers soundtracks are perhaps the most influential in contemporary cinema, and his name in the credits are as big a selling point as the director’s and lead performer’s, and in some cases a bigger attraction.

Run Free, from Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

Hans Zimmer performing a medley of The Lion King tracks

Listen to Hans Zimmer on:

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