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Album Cover Art
1991 Milan
2005 Milan
Album 2 Cover Art
Composed and Produced by:

Orchestrated and Conducted by:
Shirley Walker
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(August 11th, 1991)

Milan Records
(March 1st, 2005)
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Both Milan issues are regular U.S. releases.
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   Availability | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you own several scores from later in Hans Zimmer's career and seek his first, highly successful and enjoyable large-scale merging of an orchestra and choir with his electronics.

Avoid it... if no variant on the extremely masculine tones and simplistic themes consistent to Zimmer's style (from any era in his career) will fit with your preference for subtlety and delicacy.
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WRITTEN 9/24/96, REVISED 3/25/10
Backdraft: (Hans Zimmer) The forces of good and evil were hard at work against each other in Backdraft, but not in the ways you'd expect. Ron Howard's character story of firefighters in Chicago's Chinatown had one of cinema's most spectacular assets in its favor: the best portrayal of flames ever produced. In fact, even many years later, no film has treated the personality of a fire with such menacing dignity as Backdraft. So brilliant is its realistic qualities on screen that audiences were willing, for the most part, to forgive an absolutely terrible script by Gregory Widen to witness them. The slow and predictable narrative of Backdraft couldn't be salvaged by even an expert cast led by a few outstanding conversational duels between Donald Sutherland and Robert DeNiro. The reconciliatory side-stories of the brothers played by Kurt Russell and William Baldwin are so wretched that you sit waiting for the next cut to the maniacal Sutherland or, in his honor, another scene of arson to feature the mesmerizing special effects. While Howard had established a strong collaboration with composer James Horner at the time, he had been impressed by Hans Zimmer's Black Rain, and depending on what source you talk to, the director's high opinion of that 1989 score was either a blessing or a bad omen. While some accounts indicate that Howard wanted a different variation on the style of Black Rain to provide a hard edge to Backdraft's masculine tones, Zimmer himself has indicated that to appease the director, he ended up having to copy some of the earlier score almost precisely for the fire scenes in particular. Either way, Zimmer was on the verge of being fired from Backdraft because of the miscommunication between them, and the production's music director had to step in at last minute and help explain to Zimmer what Howard was seeking in his approach. Inconvenient technical glitches didn't help, either. The two eventually worked very closely on a cue-by-cue basis for the score, with Zimmer in attendance on the set during the filming of live-blaze action. But the two men reportedly did not speak again until their reconciliation more than a decade later led to Zimmer's involvement in Howard's The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons.

The composer had already been recognized with an Academy Award nomination by 1991, but Backdraft's score was a significant wake-up call to casual film score collectors. The thrilling role of Zimmer's music in Backdraft and on its powerful album helped launch him beyond the promise of Rain Man and Driving Miss Daisy into the top tier of composers where he would remain for decades. In interviews, Zimmer has stated that he's proud of the somewhat unorthodox method of writing and recording soft music for scenes of fiery destruction, and although that technique is used a few times, don't be fooled into thinking that Backdraft is anything less than Zimmer's bombast at its best. His bass-heavy, percussive score is loud enough to be heard over any of the stunning sound effects mixed throughout the film. Prominent composers of the era (such as Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner) had already experimented with a combination of orchestral players, choir, and electronics in their film scores, but never with the resounding power that Zimmer introduced with Backdraft (he would later elaborate upon this style in Crimson Tide and many others, of course). Between the perpetual snare drum rhythms, the light female chorus, and Zimmer's robust and simplistic themes, the Backdraft score, despite whatever difficulty it may have had in the conception stage, is exactly what Zimmer and Howard wanted it to be: an ode to firemen. For Zimmer, the opportunity to work with 95 orchestral players, a chorus, and his library of synthesized samples led to the difficult task of combining all three without drowning any one of them out. Many film score collectors credit orchestrator and conductor (and good composer in her own career) Shirley Walker for helping to guide the score's consistently intelligent balance between the organic and synthetic. The same people often state that Walker also played a bigger role in the success of Danny Elfman's Batman, and in regards to the situations that accompanied both inexperienced composers into large-scale orchestral assignments, as well as the strong results that followed, there might be merit to such claims of credit. Zimmer's detractors, who followed in the days of Media Ventures' height, were quick to jump on that bandwagon, though nearly any Zimmer listener will surely admit that there's a fresh ambience to Backdraft that is missing from the scores that he only co-wrote or produced later in his career.

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Average: 3.67 Stars
***** 875 5 Stars
**** 1,013 4 Stars
*** 765 3 Stars
** 331 2 Stars
* 152 1 Stars
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Original mixes
Per Markus Dahl - January 27, 2015, at 4:58 a.m.
1 comment  (829 views)
Show me your fire truck is from the funeral scene?   Expand >>
Richard Kleiner - November 7, 2009, at 10:07 p.m.
2 comments  (5130 views)
Newest: December 30, 2009, at 2:36 p.m. by
Frans Postma
Backdraft music favorite.
Sharon Akins - November 23, 2007, at 9:19 a.m.
1 comment  (3522 views)
So good makes me cry when i listen to it
Joe - April 27, 2006, at 9:26 a.m.
1 comment  (3079 views)
Iron Chef puts this great music to better use than some gay firefighter movie *NM*   Expand >>
The Chairman - July 7, 2005, at 11:59 p.m.
3 comments  (7113 views)
Newest: December 7, 2006, at 8:11 a.m. by
Iron Chef
Eric James - July 4, 2005, at 2:56 a.m.
1 comment  (4643 views)

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
1991 Milan Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 42:54
• 1. Set Me in Motion - performed by Bruce Hornsby & the Range (5:20)
• 2. Fighting 17th (4:26)
• 3. Brothers (3:32)
• 4. The Arsonist's Waltz (1:58)
• 5. 335 (3:02)
• 6. Burn It All (5:19)
• 7. You Go, We Go (5:11)
• 8. Fahrenheit 451 (2:59)
• 9. Show Me Your Firetruck (3:31)
• 10. The Show Goes On - performed by Bruce Hornsby & the Range (7:32)
2005 Milan Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 52:22

Notes Icon
The inserts for the albums contain extensive credits, but no extra information about the film or score.
Copyright © 1996-2021, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Backdraft are Copyright © 1991, 2005, BMG/Milan, Milan Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 9/24/96 and last updated 3/25/10.
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