Having watched BBC 4’s recent documentary Score: Cinema’s Greatest Soundtracks editor Emma Clarendon looks at the work of some of her favourite film composers and what makes their film scores so distinctive.

Hans Zimmer – Sherlock Holmes: Zimmer’s work in my mind always stands out for the way in which it takes musical sounds that don’t belong together and puts them together to create an exciting vibrant sound. This is really at the centre of his work on the Sherlock Holmes films, enhancing the quirky style of Guy Ritchie’s film and adding extra drama in all the right places. It really is an extraordinary score that captures the attention and imagination straight away.

Howard Shore – The Lord of the Rings : in terms of sheer scale, drama and theatricality, Shore’s stunning composition for the epic film has immense power and emotion right at its core. The way in which shore beautifully adapts the music to each scene is truly extraordinary. No matter which part of the score you are listening to (without watching the film) you know exactly where it fits into the story. It compliments the story that is unfolding perfectly.

Danny Elfman – Sleepy Hollow: having worked with Tim Burton on a number of his films including the original Batman, The Nightmare Before Christmas and the 2005 adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it is Sleepy Hollow that really stands out for me. I love the ominous and sinister quality in the music that gradually builds up beautifully, enhancing the dark qualities of the story further.

Rachel Portman – Chocolat: also known for her score for the big screen adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma starring Gwyneth Paltrow, her score for Chocolat is so delectable from start to finish. Light, delicate but also capturing the French setting for the story. It is understated but fits in perfectly with gentle quality of the story.

Alexandre Desplat – The King’s Speech: very classical and regal in sound, this score is filled with emotional connection with the characters of the film. It is a very sympathetic score that captures the sensitivity of the story at the film’s centre.

Henry Mancini – Charade: I could have picked Breakfast at Tiffany’s or The Pink Panther to concentrate on (both also excellent scores) – but I have to say this score to the 1961 thriller starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn really stands out. It’s quirky style (particularly for the opening titles) really contrasts with serious thriller side to the film, while embracing the comedy that can be found in it as well. Utterly delightful and distinctive.

Dario Marianelli – Atonement: following fast on the heels of his gorgeous score for Pride and Prejudice, this beautifully understated yet somehow still theatrical score really brings the heart and soul out of this story. When watching the film and hearing the score side by side, the pain and anguish of the characters is drawn out even more.

These are just a few of the most stunning pieces of music composed for films, of which there are many more. But no matter the film, the music is an essential element of transporting the audience into the world film makers have created.