Music Break: Five Favorite JOHN POWELL Scores

John Powell is one of the most versatile composers working today. Just looking at his filmography, his work spans multiple genres: animation, romantic dramas, action/adventure, thrillers, etc.


I’ve been a fan of his work for some time, but for some reason I don’t always recognize that it’s him behind the great music I enjoy. So for that reason, and because I’m such a fan of his work, he’s the perfect subject for my Music Break! According to this Spitfire Q&A, early in his career Powell worked with Hans Zimmer at Media Ventures. His music influence also came from his dad, a tuba player with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the 50s and 60s, who performed on a lot of film scores.

Powell has been nominated for various major awards, including one Academy Award nomination (for How To Train Your Dragon) and three BAFTAs. I’ve said it before that composers are instrumental (pardon the pun) in the filmmaking process. A great score adds so much to the experience as a whole, and at times it could be the best thing about the movie itself.

So for this music break, here are my five favorites  from the talented British composer:

Bourne Ultimatum

Powell did all the Bourne films’ soundtrack except Bourne Legacy, and this one from Bourne Ultimatum is my favorite. He also worked with Moby on the Extreme Ways track that I’ve featured here.

P.S. I Love You

It’s interesting how he could go from an action theme like Bourne to something tender and sweet like this one. But I LOVE this music, I actually have the soundtrack in my car and I always replay this last theme on the CD.


One of my fave soundtracks from the 90s and it’s still awesome to listen to today. I love both the slower theme as well as the action-packed version. This is Powell’s big film project and at times it sounds a bit like something Hans Zimmer would’ve done. Of course over the years Powell’s created his own unique style in his music.

How To Train Your Dragon

This score won a bunch of awards, including an Oscar nomination. It’s perhaps one of my favorite scores of all time! The entire soundtrack is excellent but my all time favorite is this one that I’ve highlighted in this post. It literally makes my heart soar!

The Italian Job

Some of Powell’s music has that tribal sounding and this is one of them. Yet it sounds very cool, modern and exciting. I like this boat chase one a bit more than the mini cooper chase through the tunnel. Fun stuff overall.

Hope you enjoy today’s music break, folks.

So which John Powell’s score is YOUR favorite?

37 thoughts on “Music Break: Five Favorite JOHN POWELL Scores

  1. Ted S.

    I love his work on The Bourne films and Face/Off. I think I mentioned the last time you posted an article about his music that Woo wanted Hans Zimmer to score Face/Off but Zimmer was busy so he suggested Woo to hire Powell. I’m glad Woo hired him because he did a great job with that soundtrack.

    1. Yep I remember that bit of info. At times there’s a bit of Zimmer style in his music but mostly it’s Powell’s own. I really like Face/Off, amazing that it was his big break! Clearly he’s Zimmer’s brightest *protege.*

      1. Ted S.

        Yeah I think his earlier work, particularly for Face/Off, they sounded too close to Zimmer’s work. But again I’m pretty sure Woo told him to make the score as close to Zimmer’s as possible. Funny enough in Woo’s next film, Mission: Impossible 2, he got Zimmer work on it. Powell and Woo didn’t work together again till Paycheck, which was a pretty crappy film but the soundtrack was good.

        1. I don’t think I’ve heard the Paycheck one. I think I saw the movie but can’t remember any of it, must be pretty bad, ahah. Yeah, some of the tracks in Face/Off does sound like Zimmer’s but I think Powell’s later works is very different.

  2. Tom

    Cool little breakdown, I really like how you turn a spotlight to these oft-overlooked aspects of the industry. Music is always so important. And it must be even harder to make a memorable piece of music without it dominating the visual elements. . .a very under-rated contribution I’d say

    1. Thanks Tom! I LOVE soundtracks. It’s perhaps my fave genre of music so yeah I love doing these. I do think composers don’t get enough credit, much like editors and cinematographers, their work is so critical to the film industry IMO. Glad you appreciate them too!

  3. Victor De Leon

    Those Bourne scores are so cool! So different and innovative in a way that action scores were never done before. I didn’t know he did Face Off. I may have to track that one down. Thanks for the video clips. Love that Waterloo track. So incredibly layered.

    Once again, great movie music post, Ruth. Nice job! 🙂

    1. Hi Vic! Yeah I think so too about Bourne’s soundtrack. It still sounds fresh even years later, too. Yeah, Face/Off is Powell’s first film project and it’s really awesome! Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  4. Important spotlight, Ruth! Couldn’t agree more with your tribute. The Italian Job. I love that film and didn’t know he did that film. If I could produce a film, I’d hire John Powell. He has the ability to elevate one’s mood through notes. Zimmer sometimes, but Powell reminds me of John Williams. He uses the orchestra to all his advantage. Excellent!

    1. Hi Cindy! Ha..ha.. I’d love to hire him too if I were to do my own film 🙂 He’s quite an underrated composer I think, hope he wins his Oscar one day.

    1. Hi Alex! I haven’t seen United 93 yet but I trust that the score is very good indeed. It’s great when a score actually matches the sentiment of the film perfectly.

  5. jackdeth72

    Hi, Ruth:

    I get a distinct “The Chieftains” vibe from Powell’s work in ‘How To Train Your Dragon’. But, hey. I’m a sucker for bagpipes and period instruments in a soundtrack.

    Mr. Powell is very much in the vein of John Willaims. Though with more of a penchant for the electronic than brass, reeds, strings and percussion.

    Good stuff all the way around!

    1. I love bagpipes sound too Kevin! Interesting how some people say Powell is similar to Williams but yeah I’d agree they’re both top notch composers!

  6. I feel terribly guilty that I didn’t know this name. Like you said, he has an impressive body of work. Seems like the sort of person I should have noticed before.

    Especially since, like you said, The How To Train Your Dragon score is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Great work, Ruth!

    1. Hey that’s understandable Josh! That’s why I like to highlight the lesser-known composers. There are still a lot I’m just learning about just from the comments people made here.

  7. Nice post! My favorite Powell score would probably be The Bourne Supremacy, though I’d say his best is How to Train Your Dragon.

    1. I think How to Train Your Dragon is truly his best, too! I do love the Bourne scores but HTTYD just has such a rousing quality, superior work all around.

  8. Pingback: Music Break: Top 5 Fave Soundtracks from Henry Jackman |

  9. shano

    Honestly! I find His work in the ice ages series to be beautiful as well as intricate not to mention a bit under rated, I find his animated works to be some of the best

  10. The Happy feet score is seriously overlooked. It’s an amazing score with some brilliant themes and instrumentation. I think that comes first, in my opinion, or definitely on that list.

    1. Hi William, thanks for your comment. I haven’t seen Happy Feet so that’s why it’s not on here. I’ll take a listen and I’m sure it’s as great as you say.

  11. Dominique

    I’m surprised nobody mentionned “Robots”. Especially the song “Bigweld Workshop” is so beautiful. The only pity is the beautiful melody doesn’t last longer. There are a lot more pearls in this soundtrack like “Homecoming”, Bigweld TV/Creating Wonderbot, “Dad’s dream” and many others. There are tons of tempo changes so you’ll either get crazy about this soundtrack or it will drive you crazy 😉

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