Jonathan Elias was born in New York in 1956. He is a composer, producer, arranger, songwriter, keyboardist and singer with a varied and broad career behind him, both in and outside of the film medium – having worked with the likes of Grace Jones and Duran Duran.
Here is an overview of all the films and TV projects that Elias has worked on in his career so far, with important music or film clips featured. Please note that this filmography does not include the music he did for movie trailers, like Alien, Blade Runner, Gandhi and Back to the Future, nor the tons of music he has done for commercials via his Elias Arts company which he formed with his brother Scott Elias.
Murder by Phone (1982)
In the early 80s, Jonathan Elias met and formed a close friendship with legendary composer John Barry and worked with him on several film projects. On this horror/thriller (also known as Bells) directed by Michael Anderson, Elias and co-musician John Petersen (later of Miami Vice Season 4 fame) are credited with orchestration and music performance of the electronic score composed by Barry.
Still of the Night (1982)
For this Robert Benton film starring Roy Scheider, Meryl Streep and Jessica Tandy and scored by famous musical composer John Kander, Jonathan Elias is credited with (additional) electronic music.
Children of the Corn (1984)
The debut movie of director Fritz Kiersch was also Elias’ first film score. An endorsement from John Barry to producer Donald Borchers secured Elias the gig, and he wrote a haunting score consisting of a 30-piece string orchestra and electronics. Varese Sarabande released it on LP at the time of the film’s release, and 25 years later the same label put it out on a limited edition 1000 copy CD with new and informative liner notes.
Almost You (1985)
Elias scored this unsuccessful drama/comedy directed by Adam Brooks. The score is totally acoustic and kind of European-sounding with double string quartets and woodwinds. An out-of-the-box score from the composer. Elias also wrote the fine pop song «Closer To Near Than Far» for the end credits, the most interesting part of the soundtrack, performed by an unidentified female singer. Soundtrack unreleased.
Tuff Turf (1985)
The composer continued working with Fritz Kiersch on the director’s second movie, Tuff Turf. This youth action-comedy starred young versions of James Spader and Robert Downey Jr., and Elias’ energetic and contemporary electronic score was just what the film needed. The soundtrack vinyl album and cassette did sadly not include any score material, but the great Elias-penned songs «Love Hates» by Marianne Faithfull and «Breakin’ The Rules» by Lene Lovich did appear, along with other songs written or produced by Elias. We can only hope that a score album will see the light of day sooner or later, maybe for the 40th anniversary of the film in 2025? Elias also formed a long-lasting friendship with Downey Jr. on this film, and they continued working together on several other projects.
Jagged Edge (1985)
Elias is credited as synthesizer perfomer on this score composed by John Barry.
A View to a Kill (1985)
Elias worked with Duran Duran (and John Barry) on their title song for this James Bond movie. He is credited with “digital sampling”. The song became a hit all over the world.
A Killing Affair (1986)
Another John Barry score where Elias performed on synthesizers.
9 1/2 Weeks (1986)
Jack Nitzsche scored this Adrian Lyne film. Jonathan Elias co-wrote and co-produced the song «I Do What I Do» («Theme From 9 1/2 Weeks») performed by John Taylor of Duran Duran. The song became quite a big hit thorughout the world.
Richard Wenk fantasy-comedy starring Grace Jones. The electronic score by Elias is among his very best. Hiring a host of synthesists, the composer wrote an exciting, melodic and propulsive film score for Vamp. The soundtrack album received a Varese Sarabande LP/MC release in 1986, and a CD release on the same label in 2008. The choral opening theme called «The Vampire Coven’s Prayer» remained unreleased until 1993, when Silva Screen Records released it as part of the album Vampire Circus. Elias also co-wrote the song «Vamp» performed by Grace Jones, which later appeared as «Seduction Surrender» on her partly Elias-produced 1989 album Bulletproof Heart.
Tales from the Darkside (1988)
Elias scored episode 14 («The Cutty Black Sow») of Season 4 of this series. The playing time of the episode is 22 minutes.
James Glickenhaus directed this Peter Weller/Sam Elliott action movie, also known as Blue Jean Cop. Elias characterized this as a pretty easy project with a good director/producer team giving him a lot of leeway. The score is primarily electronic, and sadly unreleased. Only the short cue «I Gotta Go» appeared on the 1992 promotional CD Music For Film by the composer. Elias also wrote (together with John Waite) the memorable (but unreleased) song «Lookin’ For Love» sung by Nikki Ryder, who may or may not be John Waite under a pseudonym.
Two Moon Junction (1988)
Elias was brought in to score this erotic drama starring Sherilyn Fenn by director Zalman King, who had been the producer of 9 1/2 Weeks. The composer brought in classy soloists like Michael Brecker on saxophone and Mark Egan on fretless bass, and wrote a beautiful and primal score with a lot of electronics in the floating and relaxing soundscape. Again, Varese Sarabande released the score, this time on LP and CD simultaneously. A gorgeous listening experience from start to finish.
Jonathan Elias also co-produced the Duran Duran album Big Thing in 1988, before starting on an extremely busy 1989. Parents was a black comedy directed by Bob Balaban and starring Randy Quaid. Angelo Badalamenti had written an orchestral score that the director/producer weren’t happy with, so Elias was brought in. He tried to keep some of Badalamenti’s work while adding a very experimental quality to it, in that way bridging the gap between the two scores. Listening to Elias’ score outside the movie would indeed be difficult, as it doesn’t include themes or melodic elements at all.
Elias scored this TV movie directed by Dick Lowry. The producer was J. Boyce Harman Jr., who also worked with Elias on Shakedown the year before. This score is rather unremarkable and not a highpoint in the composer’s career.
Grave Secrets (1989)
Donald P. Borchers has produced 10 movies scored by Jonathan Elias, but on this overlooked horror film, Borchers took on directing duties himself, with variable success. Elias’ score features clear elements of his Children of the Corn music from five years earlier, including the unavoidable children’s choir.
Forced March (1989)
Rick King directed this drama film starring Chris Sarandon. The score features a lot of flute, and also the hurdy gurdy, an instrument sounding somewhat like the bagpipe. There is also a Hungarian orchestra and choir featured, as well as Elias’ synth soundscapes sounding a bit like Two Moon Junction, although not as exciting as that score. Several tracks from this score are featured on his early 90s Music For Film promo CD.
Rude Awakening (1989)
Troubled comedy starring Cheech Marin and Eric Roberts. The cue «Pack Goodbye» and the romantic-sounding «Petra’s Theme» are available on his Music For Film album, but the best parts are the unreleased, suspense-based music, somewhat similar to the darker stuff on Two Moon Junction. Beyond that, there isn’t much score in the film. The soundtrack album features songs only, which Elias had nothing to do with. Remarkably, on the B-sides of the 7″ vinyl singles «Revolution» by Mike & The Mechanics and «Rude Awakening» by Bill Medley (this is also on cassette single), the score-track «Leave Love Behind» by Elias appears. This is kind of an extended version (but still just 2:28) of «Pack Goodbye». Trivia: Elias wasn’t paid his overages on this score.
Far from Home (1989)
One of Elias’ most enjoyable and exciting scores is from this Drew Barrymore thriller by music video director Meiert Avis. Again, the composer hired a host of synthesizer players, among them noted recording artist Michael Whalen, giving the score a very dreamlike and flowing, almost ambient quality, evident in opening and end credits. In addition, orchestral elements appeared, and here we can hear the composer almost sounding like his old friend John Barry, with flute as an important instrument. Elias himself felt that the score became a little too much patchwork than he would have liked. The score is still completely unreleased. (PS: In addtion to his film work in 1989, Elias also released the massive, and very good, concept rock album Requiem For The Americas – Songs From The Lost World that year with a host of guest artists.)
Tales from the Crypt (1990)
If 1989 was a busy year for Jonathan Elias, with six differrent film projects plus an album, 1990 saw him mostly staying in the studio working as producer on the album Union by legendary rock group Yes. But at least he took the time out to score the Tales from the Crypt episode «The Sacrifice». This music is remarkably similar to Two Moon Junction, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Michael Brecker turned out to be the sax player here too.
The Heart of Justice (1992)
1992 was another rather laidback musical year for Elias, but he scored this Bruno Barreto TV movie. The music is quite orchestral and unusual for the composer, orchestrated by occasional collaborator Leland Bond. The opening titles cue appeared on the Music For Film promo CD that Elias produced the same year.
For this Richard Attenborough biopic, Elias, along with studio assistants Fritz Doddy and Alex Lasarenko, produced the song «Smile», performed by Robert Downey Jr. as the titular character, giving the song an updated 90s feel with drum machines and synthesizers. The song appeared on the soundtrack album along with John Barry’s score, and on an intriguing CD single with 3 additional mixes.
Morning Glory (1993)
For this drama movie starring Christopher Reeve, Elias composed a quite enjoyable score with elements of Vangelis and Enya, even if the music has a “TV movie feel” about it at times. Also a few trademark Elias elements here and there, but mostly an atypical score for him. Once more, it was John Barry who secured the gig for Elias, as he knew the film’s co-writer and actress Deborah Raffin.
Mi Vida Loca (1993)
John Taylor from Duran Duran wrote the only film score of his career for this film. Jonathan Elias is credited with writing the «La Blue Eyes Theme» along with Taylor.
Also known as Jailbait, this Rafal Zielinski movie starring C. Thomas Howell features a wonderful score by Jonathan Elias, Fritz Doddy and Alex Lasarenko, composed on a non-existant budget, according to producer Donald Borchers. The electronic, melodic and pop-based score is coloured greatly by the wordless vocals of the late Vikki Sue Robinson and the sultry saxophone of Andy Snitzer. An extended love theme shows the full power of Snitzer’s sax, and Elias also co-wrote the song «Sinsation Station» sung by Lori Rose. The score music is featured on both the opening and quite lenghty closing credits. Unfortunately, none of the music has ever been released in any shape or form. Sadly, co-composer Alex Lasarenko, who in the new millennium scored several films on his own, passed away in 2020, only 57 years old.
Leprechaun 2 (1994)
For this horror/fantasy film directed by Rodman Flender, Elias wrote an electronic score (with an Irish twist) that Roger Feigelson described as “dreadful” in Soundtrack Magazine. It isn’t quite that bad, but maybe not up there among the composer’s best. Perhaps feeling a bit uninspired, Elias hired no less than eight musicians to write additional cues for the film. Nevertheless, Varese Sarabande decided to release the score on CD, and that was when Feigelson’s ill-informed judgement fell. 12 years would pass before Jonathan Elias scored a feature film again, as he decided to concentrate on record producing, music for commercials and releasing his own albums.
Elias scored this 10 minute thriller short film starring Peter Gabriel(!) and directed by film student Breck Eisner. The score sounds quite exciting and spooky.
Celebrity Deathmatch (1998-2002)
This was an American stop-motion claymation series created by Eric Fogel for MTV. Elias is credited with music for 72 episodes of the show between 1998 and 2002. The music is apparently limited to a faux-metal theme for the end credits. There is a soundtrack album available, without any material by Elias.
The Century (1999)
IMDB credits Elias with some music for this documentary reviewing some of the most important events of the 20th century. It’s unclear whether this is original music or material taken from his critically acclaimed choral/religious album The Prayer Cycle, which was also released in 1999.
Pensacola: Wings of Gold (1999)
Elias and assistant Jimmy Haun scored 9 episodes in 1999 of this action/drama series about an elite naval force based in Pensacola, Florida. The series ran for three seasons between 1997-2000. I have not seen the series or heard the music. (PS: Elias and John Taylor also released a CD called Resume: Urban Experimental Works 1985/86 in 1999, including several intriguing tracks like the instrumental «Dance For Freedom» and a John Taylor vocal version of the track «Katrina’s Club» from Vamp, re-christened «Shine On».)
The Invisible Man (2000-2002)
Kevin Kiner scored all episodes of this series, but Elias is credited as composer of “unknown episodes” on IMDB alongside assistants Jimmy Haun and Ryan Rehm. It’s unclear what this is, but it’s possible that they provided some additional music for the series.
The Singing Detective (2003)
Elias produced and arranged the song «In My Dreams» performed by Robert Downey Jr. for this film. (Elias also produced the album The Futurist that Downey Jr. released in 2004, and Elias released the roots-infused instrumental/spoken word album American River the same year.)
Elias’ old friend Dito Montiel (who had been a member of the rock group Gutterboy that Elias produced an album for in 1990) directed this “comeback” film for the composer. Elias even co-produced the film. The score is used sparingly and doesn’t sound much like how the composer appeared in the 80 or 90s. It has a certain Thomas Newman vibe here and there, and some of it is rather jazzy. Trivia: Dito Montiel wrote additional music for the Elias-scored Leprechaun 2 in 1994.
A rather surprising assignment for Elias was this action/adventure film directed by Marcus Nispel, a loose remake of the Norwegian film Veiviseren from 1987. The director called Elias “a new guy on features”, so he was clearly not informed about the composer’s CV. According to Elias, the big problem on Pathfinder was that it started out as a choral score and then mid stream switched to a much more percussion-driven score. The movie was cut from 3 hours to 1 hour and 40 minutes, but the composer enjoyed working on the score and film. Elias hired The City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra for the performance, and Varese Sarabande released the unfortunately somewhat themeless score on CD.
Another Dito Montiel film. Elias scored the movie starring Channing Tatum together with David Wittman, but it’s another rather anonymous and shapeless score where Elias wrote the tender moments and Wittman the more hip-hop-influenced score. Four composers are credited with writing additional music.
Children of the Corn (2009)
25 years after the first and original film in this franchise, Donald Borchers decided that a remake for TV was needed. Jonathan Elias returned for the score, and this may be the first and only time in history that the same composer has scored both the original and the remake of a movie. Nathaniel Morgan is co-composer, and for the sixth time in Elias’ career, one of his scores was released by Varese Sarabande Records. The score is somewhat more synthetic-sounding than the original.
The Son of No One (2011)
Film number three by Dito Montiel, this interesting and enjoyable movie starring Al Pacino again featured a score by Jonathan Elias and David Wittman. The music here is rather orchestral, serviceable and fitting for the film. Enough music for a soundtrack release that never came. Dito Montiel has directed four more films after this one, but other composers than Elias have been hired for the music. (PS: 2011 also saw the album Prayer Cycle: Path To Zero, the follow-up to Elias’ 1999 Prayer Cycle album.)
This 30 minute documentary scored by Jonathan Elias and Sarah Trevino is the only thing he has done for the film medium in the last 10 years.
Elias, 65 years old in 2021, has stated that he is probably “done” with writing film music at this stage of his career. Instead, it seems like he has concentrated on writing library music. Literally dozens of library music albums, with titles such as Anthems Of Hope, Postchill, Dream Cycle and Power And Politics, are listed as downloads on various online platforms. I have yet to investigate these properly.