In 1986 Zimmer joined David Byrne and Ryuichi Sakamoto on their Oscar-winning score to The Last Emperor; his work on the apartheid drama A World Apart was his first major solo credit, and led to his Academy Award-nominated score for 1988's Best Picture-winning smash Rain Man. The following year Zimmer again composed the soundtrack for a Best Picture winner, this time Bruce Beresford's Driving Miss Daisy; a remarkably prolific writer, by the time the '90s dawned his music was a Hollywood staple, with a list of hits including Black Rain, Backdraft, Thelma & Louise, A League of Their Own, and Days of Thunder. Zimmer scored his biggest commercial hit in 1994 with his work on Disney's The Lion King; the film's soundtrack garnered countless awards, including an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and two Grammys. Later adapted for the Broadway stage, The Lion King took home the 1998 Tony for Best Musical as well.
In 1995, Zimmer also earned a Grammy for his work on Crimson Tide, which was honored as Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture. Another Academy Award nomination followed for 1996's The Preacher's Wife; that same year, he earned BMI's prestigious Richard Kirk Award for lifetime achievement. Zimmer earned another Oscar nomination for his work on the James L. Brooks comedy As Good as It Gets in 1997, repeating the feat for the third consecutive year in 1998 with his score for the Terrence Malick masterpiece The Thin Red Line. His contributions to The Prince of Egypt also earned a Golden Globe bid earlier that same year.
The 2000s marked an auspicious time in the composer's career, as he continued scoring the biggest A-list films of the season, averaging two or three blockbusters a year, including Hannibal, Gladiator, The Last Samurai, and The Da Vinci Code. In 2007, Silva Screen Records released Film Music of Hans Zimmer, a double-disc set highlighting his achievements as a movie music-maker. Later in 2007, he reworked Alf Clausen's zany Simpsons theme into a traditional symphonic film score on The Simpsons Movie. As the 2000s came to a close and the 2010s began, Zimmer's name remained synonymous with blockbusters as he scored later installments in the Sherlock Holmes, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Batman franchises, including 2012's The Dark Knight Rises. His score to Christopher Nolan's 2010 film Inception was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music and Original Score, and also earned a Saturn from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films for Best Music. Devastated by the Aurora, Colorado shootings in 2012, Zimmer composed a choral arrangement of the Dark Knight Rises theme, simply entitled "Aurora," to help raise money for the victims of the tragedy.
In 2014 Zimmer released the score for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which was issued under the moniker Hans Zimmer & the Magnificent Six and featured contributions from Johnny Marr (the Smiths), Junkie XL, Michael Einziger (Incubus), Andrew Kawczynski, Pharrell Williams, and Steve Mazzaro. Early the next year, he learned he'd been nominated for another Academy Award, this time for his work on Christopher Nolan's sci-fi hit Interstellar. Among other franchise entries, he went on to provide music for 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which was co-scored with Junkie XL. ~ Jason Ankeny