10. Thomas Newman
Okay, even I'll admit that he's overrated sometimes. But he's often justifiably lauded. He's an eight-time Oscar nominee, though he's never won (I was surprised to find this out). He probably came closest to the win for his American Beauty score, which was lovely, but definitely not my favorite of his. I think that Newman's scoring works best when he underscores. Sample the scores from Todd Field's In the Bedroom and (even better) Little Children for some of Newman's best work. Field is just one director who has had their entire filmography scored by Newman. Sam Mendes went there for all three of his films and his upcoming fourth feature Revolutionary Road.
9. Jon Brion
His score for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind still gives me goosebumps. And his work in I Heart Huckabees, Boogie Nights and Magnolia are no slouches either.
8. Rolfe Kent
He is Alexander Payne's go to man for music. Listen closely next time you watch Sideways, Election or About Schmidt (which is his Kent's best work). That's some beautiful music, n'est pas? Oh, and if you watch "Dexter" that's Kent doing the theme at the beginning. Good stuff, I must say.
7. Alberto Iglesias
I love his work in The Constant Gardener, for which he is Academy Award nominated. But his real genius is in scoring just about every Almodovar film, which all have great scores. Particularly his Volver score, which is my personal favorite.
6. Mark Mothersbaugh
He lent his talent to The Royal Tenenbaums in 2001, Thirteen in 2003, and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou in 2004. And although I preferred David Byrne's scoring of the second season of "Big Love," I definitely love what Mothersbaugh did in the the first season. His music is rather lovely and strange.
5. Alexandre Desplat
His score for The Painted Veil was a thing of utter beauty, but I first took notice of him in 2005. And believe it or not, it was his score for The Upside of Anger that turned me into a fan. Check it out. I think it will pleasantly surprise.
4. Gustavo Santaolalla
While I don't feel it was at all necessary to reward him at the Oscars two years in a row (his score for Babel is rather derivative) he did create the simple and now iconic Brokeback Mountain score which is likely to live on as a classic. His Motorcycle Diaries score also impresses.
3. Philip Glass
Some felt that his score for The Hours was...a bit much, to say the least. He's very communicative, that's for sure. Unforgettable, definitely.
2. Howard Shore
Not for The Lord of the Rings, which was a fine score. But for The Departed, which was a departure for Shore, yet totally matched the tone and feel of the film. Astounding.
1. Mychael Danna
Okay, so perhaps I'm biased because he's Canadian. He's probably most famous for scoring parts of Little Miss Sunshine. But that's only the tip of the iceberg. His beautiful, often guitar-based scores are simply elegant. From Girl, Interrupted, to his clear standout, the haunting and graceful score for The Sweet Hereafter. Danna's one to listen for.