When I'm writing music, so much of the time I feel like I'm being pulled around by a big dog. I've got the dog on a leash and sometimes I'm leading this dog along just where I want it to go. And then sometimes the dog gets real big and starts yanking me. I think when I'm reacting the way I should be, I let the thing yank me around. Because it yanks me into places where I wouldn't go. And I look at it and go, "Oh! Thanks, boy! It's a strange place, but there had to be a reason why I went here, so I'm just going to leave it."
Former leader of Oingo Boingo, Danny Elfman first broke into film scoring with Pee Wee's Big Adventure. Since then, he has worked steadily in Hollywood (most notably for Tim Burton), composing scores and themes for movies, TV, and even video games and a Cirque Du Soleil show (namely IRIS, a show inspired by the history of cinema).
Like John Williams, Elfman tends to compose classical, Romantically-themed music reminiscent of Bernard Hermann, although Elfman makes more limited use of Leitmotif and his music tends to have darker overtones—which seem to mesh well with Tim Burton's films.
His scores are frequently used in trailers.
- Forbidden Zone (1980)
- Pretty much all of Tim Burton's films (exceptions are Ed Wood and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street):
- Pee-wee's Big Adventure
- Batman (1989) and Batman Returns
- Edward Scissorhands
- The Nightmare Before Christmas
- Also provides the singing voice for Jack Skellington and both speaking and singing voices of Barrel.
- Mars Attacks!!
- Sleepy Hollow
- Planet of the Apes (2001)
- Big Fish
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
- Corpse Bride
- Also provides the speaking and singing voice for Bonejangles.
- 9 (Burton produced but did not direct; Elfman did the themes for this one, but not the whole soundtrack.)
- Alice in Wonderland
- Dark Shadows
- Frankenweenie (2012 remake)
- Weird Science (1985) (theme song only; but Elfman did score a film for John Hughes, Flubber)
- Big Top Pee-wee (1988 - without Burton, and with different themes)
- Nightbreed (1990)
- Mission: Impossible (1996)
- Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 (the third film had much of his score thrown out and replaced by Christopher Young.)
- And before that, he contributed a track to Army of Darkness, the "March of the Dead".
- Spy Kids (with John Debney, Robert Rodriguez and loads of others)
- Hulk (2003)
- The Men in Black films
- Fable (a video game)
- Meet the Robinsons
- Charlotte's Web (2006)
- Wanted (where he even sings rock again)
- Terminator Salvation
- Kick-Ass (one track!)
- The 2010 remake of The Wolf Man
- Real Steel
- Oz: The Great and Powerful (reuniting with Sam Raimi after a brief falling out over Spider-Man 2)
- Mystic Manor (A Hong Kong Disneyland variation of The Haunted Mansion)
NOTE: Although Elfman was originally signed to score The Hunger Games, a scheduling conflict led to him being replaced by James Newton Howard; Elfman never wrote any music for the project.
- Desperate Housewives (Emmy winner)
- Batman the Animated Series (adapted from his music for the 1989 film)
- Beetlejuice (animated version; also adapting his own work)
- The Simpsons (Emmy nominee - but amazingly not a winner)
- Sledge Hammer!
- Tales from the Crypt
- |The Flash's short-lived live action TV series
- Faster tempo, but otherwise a near carbon-copy of "Batman" (the same could be said of the series)
- Dilbert (adapted from his music for Forbidden Zone)
- According to a radio interview, this was done without his knowledge or input.
- Point Pleasant