He is best known for his frequent collaboration with Robert Zemeckis, composing for such major hit films as the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Forrest Gump, as well as the superhero films Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. His other film scores include The Delta Force, Predator and its sequel Predator 2, The Abyss, Stuart Little, The Mummy Returns, Lilo & Stitch and Night at the Museum.
Silvestri's grandparents emigrated in 1908 from the Italian town of Castell'Alfero, and settled in Teaneck, New Jersey, to raise a family. He grew up in Teaneck, and attended Teaneck High School. He went to Berklee College of Music for two years. Alan was a drummer for a short time in 1966 with Teaneck-based rock band The Herd.
Silvestri started his film/television composing career in 1972 at age 21, composing the score for the low-budget action film The Doberman Gang.
From 1977 to 1983, Silvestri served as the main composer for the television series CHiPs, writing music for 109 of the series' 139 episodes.
Silvestri met producer Robert Zemeckis, when the two worked together on Zemeckis's film Romancing the Stone (1984). Since then, Silvestri has composed the music for all of Zemeckis's movies, including the Back to the Future trilogy (1985-1990), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Death Becomes Her (1992), Forrest Gump (1994), Contact (1997), Cast Away (2000), The Polar Express (2004), Beowulf (2007), A Christmas Carol (2009), Flight (2012) and The Walk (2015).
In 1989, Silvestri composed the score for the James Cameron-directed blockbuster The Abyss, and is also known for his work on the films Predator (1987) and Predator 2 (1990), both of which are considered preeminent examples of action/science fiction film scores. Since 2001, Silvestri has also collaborated regularly with director Stephen Sommers, scoring the films The Mummy Returns (2001), Van Helsing (2004), and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009). His most recent work includes The Avengers (2012), The Croods (2013), and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014).
Silvestri has also composed music for television series, including T. J. Hooker (one episode), Starsky & Hutch (three episodes), Tales from the Crypt (seven episodes). In 2014, he composed the award-winning music for the science documentary series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.
On 31 January 2014, it was announced that a stage musical adaptation of Back to the Future was in production. The show, which is being co-written by original writers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, is expected to be performed in 2015, on the 30th anniversary year of the film. Silvestri will team up with Glen Ballard to compose a new score, with the addition of original songs from the film, including "The Power of Love", "Johnny B. Goode", "Earth Angel" and "Mr. Sandman".
Silvestri and his wife Sandra own a vineyard, Silvestri Vineyards, located in Carmel Valley, California.
Silvestri has received two Academy Award nominations, one for Best Original Score for Forrest Gump (1994) and one for Best Original Song for "Believe" on The Polar Express soundtrack. He also received two Golden Globe nominations: Best Score for Forrest Gump and Best Song for The Polar Express.
He has also received four Grammy Award nominations, winning two awards – Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media, for "Believe" from The Polar Express in 2004 and Best Instrumental Composition, for "Cast Away End Credits" from Cast Away in 2002. His other nomination was for Best Soundtrack Album, for Back to the Future. During the 2005 Grammy Awards, Josh Groban performed "Believe".
He has won two Emmys, both for Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey – Outstanding Main Title Theme Music and Outstanding Music Composition for a Series for the episode "Standing Up in the Milky Way".
He has won the Saturn Award for Best Music three times, for his scores for Predator (1987), Back to the Future Part III (1989/90) and Van Helsing (2004).
On September 23, 2011, he was awarded with the Max Steiner Film Music Achievement Award by the City of Vienna at the yearly film music gala concert Hollywood in Vienna.