Carter Burwell
Birth nameCarter Benedict Burwell[1]
Born (1954-11-18) November 18, 1954 (age 69)[2]
New York City, U.S.
Occupation(s)Film composer
Years active1984–present

Carter Benedict Burwell (born November 18, 1954) is an American film composer. He has frequently collaborated with the Coen brothers, having scored most of their films. He has also scored films by other directors such as Bill Condon, Todd Haynes, Spike Jonze, Martin McDonagh, James Foley, Brian Helgeland, and John Lee Hancock. Burwell received Academy Award nominations for Best Original Score for Haynes's Carol (2015) and McDonagh's films Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), and The Banshees Of Inisherin (2022).

Early life and education

Burwell was born in New York City, the son of Natalie (née Benedict), a math teacher, and Charles Burwell, who founded Thaibok Fabrics, Ltd.[1] He graduated from King School in Stamford, Connecticut[3] with George Hofecker and other notables and Harvard College, where he was a cartoonist for The Harvard Lampoon.


As a film composer, Burwell has had a long-working relationship with the Coen brothers, providing music for every film they have made (except for Inside Llewyn Davis and O Brother, Where Art Thou). Among his best known film scores are Miller's Crossing (1990), And the Band Played On (1993), Conspiracy Theory (1997), Hamlet (2000), The Spanish Prisoner (1997), Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007), In Bruges (2008), Twilight (2008), Where the Wild Things Are (2009), The Blind Side (2009), and Breaking Dawn - Part 1 (2011) and Part 2 (2012). Burwell wrote and recorded the original score for the film The Bourne Identity, but director Doug Liman wanted something else and replaced it with a score by John Powell.[4]

The ethos of the punk rock movement gave Burwell the impetus to start performing. He performed in New York with several bands, notably The Same, Thick Pigeon, and Radiante. Burwell played in Thick Pigeon with Stanton Miranda; the group released two albums, Too Crazy Cowboys (Factory) and tracks on Miranda Dali (Crepuscule), originally released as a Miranda solo project but later reissued as a Thick Pigeon release. On Burwell's soundtrack for Psycho III, Miranda was a featured singer.

By 1986 he had composed the music for a dance piece, RAB, which premiered at the Avignon Festival. At the same time, he was touring worldwide with The Harmonic Choir, David Hykes' experimental vocal group, which specialized in overtone singing.

Burwell used the country music genre as the basis for his score for the Coens' Raising Arizona in 1987. From 1982 to 1987 he worked at the New York Institute of Technology.[5][6]

His work has alternated between live performance, dance and theater commissions, and film scoring. His chamber opera, The Celestial Alphabet Event, was presented in New York in 1991, and other theater pieces include Mother (1994) and Lucia's Chapters (2007), both with the experimental theater group Mabou Mines.

In April 2005, Burwell composed and conducted music performed by The Parabola Ensemble for the plays Sawbones, written and directed by the Coen brothers, Hope Leaves the Theater, written and directed by Charlie Kaufman, and Anomalisa, written and directed by Kaufman as Francis Fregoli. This was a segment of the sound-only production "Theater of the New Ear", which debuted at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, New York, with support from Sirius Satellite Radio.[7][8][9] It was also performed at the Royal Festival Hall in London, England, in May 2005, and at Royce Hall in Los Angeles, California, in September 2005, as part of the UCLA Live Festival.

In 2009, Burwell was the recipient of the ASCAP Henry Mancini Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.[10] In 2010, he was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score for Where the Wild Things Are.[11]

In 2015, he received the Distinguished Film Composer award from the Middleburg Film Festival,[12] and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association award for Best Music Score for Anomalisa and Carol.[13][14] He was nominated for the Annie Award for Music in an Animated Feature Production for Anomalisa[15] and the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score for Carol.[16] In 2016, he received the Satellite Award for Best Original Score and the Best Score award by the International Cinephile Society for Carol.[17][18] Burwell was awarded Film Composer of the Year by the World Soundtrack Awards, and the score for Carol received the Public Choice Award for the Best Score of the Year.[19][20]

Burwell received his first Academy Award for Best Original Score nomination for Carol,[21][22] his second for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and his third for The Banshees Of Inisherin .

Personal life

Burwell married Christine Sciulli in 1999.[23]

As of 2022, Burwell lives in Napeague, New York.[24]



Year Title Director Notes
1984 Blood Simple Joel and Ethan Coen
1985 A Hero of Our Time Michael Almereyda Short film
R.A.B.L. Patrice M. Regnier
1986 Psycho III Anthony Perkins
1987 Raising Arizona Joel and Ethan Coen
Pass the Ammo David Beaird
The Beat Paul Mones
1988 It Takes Two David Beaird
Checking Out David Leland
1990 Miller's Crossing Joel and Ethan Coen
1991 Barton Fink
Doc Hollywood Michael Caton-Jones
Scorchers David Beaird
1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fran Rubel Kuzui
Waterland Stephen Gyllenhaal
Storyville Mark Frost
1993 This Boy's Life Michael Caton-Jones
Kalifornia Dominic Sena
A Dangerous Woman Stephen Gyllenhaal
Wayne's World 2 Stephen Surjik
1994 The Hudsucker Proxy Joel and Ethan Coen
It Could Happen to You Andrew Bergman
Airheads Michael Lehmann Replaced David Newman
1995 Bad Company Damian Harris
A Goofy Movie Kevin Lima
Rob Roy Michael Caton-Jones
The Celluloid Closet Rob Epstein
Jeffrey Friedman
Documentary film
Two Bits James Foley
1996 Fargo Joel and Ethan Coen
Fear James Foley
Joe's Apartment John Payson
The Chamber James Foley
1997 Picture Perfect Glenn Gordon Caron
Assassin(s) Mathieu Kassovitz
Conspiracy Theory Richard Donner
The Locusts John Patrick Kelley
The Spanish Prisoner David Mamet
Girls Night Out Myra Paci Short film
The Jackal Michael Caton-Jones
1998 Gods and Monsters Bill Condon
Mercury Rising Harold Becker Composed with John Barry
The Big Lebowski Joel and Ethan Coen
Velvet Goldmine Todd Haynes
The Hi-Lo Country Stephen Frears
1999 The Corruptor James Foley
The General's Daughter Simon West
Being John Malkovich Spike Jonze
Three Kings David O. Russell
Mystery, Alaska Jay Roach
2000 Hamlet Michael Almereyda
What Planet Are You From? Mike Nichols
O Brother, Where Art Thou? Joel and Ethan Coen
Before Night Falls Julian Schnabel
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 Joe Berlinger
2001 A Knight's Tale Brian Helgeland
The Man Who Wasn't There Joel and Ethan Coen
2002 The Rookie John Lee Hancock
Searching for Paradise Myra Paci
Simone Andrew Niccol
Adaptation. Spike Jonze
2003 Intolerable Cruelty Joel and Ethan Coen
2004 The Ladykillers
The Alamo John Lee Hancock
Kinsey Bill Condon
2006 Fur Steven Shainberg
The Hoax Lasse Hallström
2007 No Country for Old Men Joel and Ethan Coen
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Sidney Lumet
2008 In Bruges Martin McDonagh
Burn After Reading Joel and Ethan Coen
Twilight Catherine Hardwicke
2009 A Serious Man Joel and Ethan Coen
Where the Wild Things Are Spike Jonze
The Blind Side John Lee Hancock
2010 Howl Rob Epstein
Jeffrey Friedman
The Kids Are All Right Lisa Cholodenko
True Grit Joel and Ethan Coen
2011 Midnight Run Neil Shelley Short film
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 Bill Condon
2012 Seven Psychopaths Martin McDonagh
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 Bill Condon
2013 The Fifth Estate
2015 Mr. Holmes
Carol Todd Haynes
The Family Fang Jason Bateman
Legend Brian Helgeland
Anomalisa Charlie Kaufman
Duke Johnson
2016 The Finest Hours Craig Gillespie
Hail, Caesar! Joel and Ethan Coen
The Founder John Lee Hancock
2017 Wonderstruck Todd Haynes
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Martin McDonagh
Goodbye Christopher Robin Simon Curtis
2018 The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Joel and Ethan Coen
2019 Missing Link Chris Butler
The Good Liar Bill Condon
2021 The Tragedy of Macbeth Joel Coen [25]
2022 Catherine Called Birdy Lena Dunham
The Banshees of Inisherin Martin McDonagh [26]
2023 To Catch a Killer Damián Szifron
2024 Drive-Away Dolls Ethan Coen


Year Title Network Notes
1990–1991 Clash! Ha! / Comedy Central Main title theme
1993 And the Band Played On HBO Television film
2011 Mildred Pierce Miniseries; 5 episodes
2011 Enlightened Episode: “Pilot”
2014 Olive Kitteridge Miniseries; 4 episodes[27]
2019–present The Morning Show Apple TV+ Series
2020 Space Force Netflix Season 1 only[28]


Year Association Category Project Result Ref.
2001 BAFTA Award Best Original Music The Man Who Wasn't There Nominated [29]
2009 Golden Globe Award Best Original Score Where the Wild Things Are Nominated [30]
2011 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (Original Dramatic Score): Part Five Mildred Pierce Won
Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music Nominated
2015 Academy Award Best Original Score Carol Nominated [31]
Golden Globe Award Best Original Score Nominated [32]
2017 Academy Award Best Original Score Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Nominated [33]
Golden Globe Award Best Original Score Nominated [34]
2022 Academy Award Best Original Score The Banshees of Inisherin Nominated [35]
BAFTA Award Best Original Music Nominated [36]
Golden Globe Award Best Original Score Nominated [37]


  1. ^ a b "Natalie Benedict Burwell Obituary: View Natalie Burwell's Obituary by Northern Virginia Daily". February 24, 2010. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
  2. ^ "Carter Burwell". AllMusic Guide. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  3. ^ "Carter Burwell Biography - Yahoo! Movies". Archived from the original on November 7, 2011. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
  4. ^ Walker, Tim (June 1, 2014). "John Powell interview: 'I sold myself to the Devil, just a bit'". The Independent. Retrieved June 5, 2014.
  5. ^ "Carter Burwell - Biography". Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  6. ^ "Love The Music Of Coen Brothers Films? You Can Thank Carter Burwell". NPR. February 7, 2016. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  7. ^ "Carter Burwell to score "Theater of the New Ear" with Coen Brothers and Charlie Kaufman". March 3, 2005. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  8. ^ Schillinger, Liesl (April 10, 2005). "Celebrities Opt to Be Heard Rather Than Seen". The New York Times. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  9. ^ Learmonth, Michael (May 8, 2005). "Theater tunes 'Ear'". Variety. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  10. ^ Burlingame, Jon (May 14, 2009). "Carter Burwell Receives ASCAP Mancini Award". The Film Music Society. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  11. ^ "Golden Globes nominations: the 2010 list in full". The Guardian. December 15, 2009. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
  12. ^ Shoukri, Tarek (September 2, 2015). "Middleburg Film Festival to Honor Composer Carter Burwell and Cinematographer Dante Spinotti". IndieWire. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  13. ^ "41st Annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards". Los Angeles Film Critics Association. December 2015. Archived from the original on December 7, 2015. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  14. ^ Tapley, Kristopher (December 6, 2015). "Los Angeles Film Critics Name 'Spotlight' Best Film of the Year". Variety. Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  15. ^ "Nominations for 43rd Annie Awards Announced". Film Music Reporter. December 1, 2015. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  16. ^ The Golden Globes (December 10, 2015). "2016 Nominations Announced!". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
  17. ^ "Satellite Awards 2015". International Press Academy. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  18. ^ "'Carol' Named Best Picture by Intl. Cinephile Society". Variety. February 21, 2016. Retrieved February 22, 2016.
  19. ^ World Soundtrack Awards (October 19, 2016). "Winners of the 16th World Soundtrack Awards". World Soundtrack Academy. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  20. ^ "Carter Burwell Named Film Composer of the Year at World Soundtrack Awards". Film Music Reporter. October 19, 2016. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
  21. ^ "Oscar Nominations: The Complete List". The Hollywood Reporter. January 14, 2016. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  22. ^ Heigl, Alex (February 27, 2016). "Where You've Heard First-Time Oscar Nominee Carter Burwell's Scores Before". People. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  23. ^ "Notes on Hamlet Soundtrack". Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  24. ^ Fairbanks, Amanda M. (June 24, 2022). "Truck Beach Was For Locals. Then the Oceanfront Homes Arrived". The New York Times. Retrieved June 27, 2022. Carter Burwell, a film composer who has lived year-round in Napeague since 2009....
  25. ^ "Carter Burwell to Score Joel Coen's 'The Tragedy of Macbeth'". Film Music Reporter. June 1, 2020.
  26. ^ "Carter Burwell Scoring Martin McDonagh's 'The Banshees of Inisherin'". Film Music Reporter. March 30, 2022.
  27. ^ "Carter Burwell to Score HBO's 'Olive Kitteridge' - Film Music Reporter". Filmmusicreporter. Retrieved July 10, 2017.
  28. ^ "Carter Burwell Scoring Netflix's 'Space Force'". Filmmusicreporter. May 12, 2020. Retrieved May 13, 2020.
  29. ^ "Film in 2002". Retrieved June 11, 2023.
  30. ^ "Winners & Nominees 2010". Golden Globe Awards. Retrieved June 11, 2023.
  31. ^ "2015 Academy Awards". Retrieved June 11, 2023.
  32. ^ "Winners & Nominees 2016". Golden Globe Awards. Retrieved June 11, 2023.
  33. ^ "2017 Academy Awards". Retrieved June 11, 2023.
  34. ^ "Winners & Nominees 2018". Golden Globe Awards. Retrieved June 11, 2023.
  35. ^ "2022 Academy Awards". Retrieved June 11, 2023.
  36. ^ "Film in 2022". Retrieved June 11, 2023.
  37. ^ "Winners & Nominees 2023". Golden Globe Awards. Retrieved June 11, 2023.