Heil was born in Schlüchtern, in the state of Hesse, West Germany. He grew up twenty meters from Schlüchtern's 10th century monastery, where he was introduced to classical music. Heil learned to play church organ at a young age and in adolescence began training to become a pianist. In his teenage years, Heil's father, who owned the town's only record and hi-fi store, put Heil in charge of selecting all the records sold in his store, inadvertently giving Heil access to the most influential pop music of the times. Heil eagerly immersed himself in rock, soul, jazz, and electronic music.
After graduating from high school in the mid 1970s, Heil left Schlüchtern for West Berlin. At the time, West Berlin was an island of western culture isolated in the middle of communist East Germany and a fertile breeding ground for experimentation and artistic and political self-expression.
While a student at the Berlin Music Academy, Heil supplemented his studies of classical music with studies in musique concrète and early electronic music. He was also deeply influenced by pioneering jazz and rock musicians such as Miles Davis and Frank Zappa.
Rock music career
In 1977, Heil met a dissident artist from communist East Germany, the young Nina Hagen, who was electrifying Berlin's punk world with her powerful operatic voice and genre-defying musical style. Hagen asked Heil to join her band as her keyboardist, co-writer and co-producer and for the next few years he honed his craft what became the legendary Nina Hagen Band. After Hagen left the group to pursue a solo career, the remaining band members formed Spliff, one of Germany's most successful rock bands of the 1980s. In the 1980s and 1990s, Heil was widely regarded as one of the best keyboardists in Europe. He is also known as the producer of German Neue Deutsche Welle band Nena's albums and singles, including the hit songs "99 Luftballons" (1983) and "Irgendwie, irgendwo, irgendwann" (1984).
Film composing career
In 1994, Heil became friends with Australian expat and bass player Johnny Klimek, a producer of Berlin underground techno DJs. What began as a casual partnership producing trip hop tunes in a Berlin studio, led Heil and Klimek to collaborating with German director Tom Tykwer on scoring Tykwer's second feature, Winter Sleepers. Two years later, the trio scored Tykwer's breakthrough hit, Run Lola Run and all Tykwer's subsequent films with the exception of Heaven in 2002.
Heil moved to California in 1997 and Klimek followed him three years later. The international success of Run Lola Run, which came out in the US in 1999, got Hollywood's attention. Run Lola Run's soundtrack album sold half a million copies worldwide, with 50% of those sales occurring in the US. These were huge numbers for a soundtrack album, let alone a subtitled German-language movie.
Heil and Klimek continued their film scoring collaboration for a dozen years on such varied projects as One Hour Photo, The International, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, HBO’s Deadwood, CBS’s Without a Trace, NBC’s Awake, and the epic adventure drama Cloud Atlas, based on a best selling novel by David Mitchell, directed by Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer. The score for Cloud Atlas was nominated in 2013 for a Golden Globe award.
In 2011, Heil and Klimek ended their musical partnership though they continue to collaborate on selected projects, most notably for director Tom Tykwer on Cloud Atlas (2012) and director Stuart Beattie's feature, I, Frankenstein (2014).
Heil's musical style is characterized by memorable and unusual cord progressions as well as surprising juxtapositions of organic and electronic custom sounds, which he creates himself using his large collection of obscure musical instruments, as well as vintage and cutting edge computer software.
Heil completed scoring the first season of Syfy's hit series Helix in March 2014. The Helix score displays Heil's wide composing range, from atonal textures and electronica to classical, emotionally inflected cues with a pop twist, all the way to vintage 60s easy listening music.
- Helix (Syfy) (2014)
- I, Frankenstein (2014)
- Haunt (2013)
- Cloud Atlas (Nominated for Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score) (2012)
- Awake (NBC) (2012)
- Locke & Key (TV Pilot, Fox) (2011)
- 6 giorni sulla Terra (2011)
- Killer Elite (2011)
- Three (2010)
- Tomorrow When the War Began (2010)
- The International (2009)
- Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Nominated for Saturn Award for Best Music and German Film Awards, Film Award in Gold for Best Film Score) (2006)
- John From Cincinnati (HBO) (2007)
- Anamorph (2007)
- Blood and Chocolate (2007)
- Deadwood (HBO) (2006)
- Paris, je t'aime (2006)
- Land of the Dead (2005)
- The Cave (2005)
- Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005)
- Iron Jawed Angels (HBO) (2004)
- Without A Trace (CBS) (2002)
- One Hour Photo (Nominated for Saturn Award for Best Music) (2002)
- The Princess and the Warrior (2000)
- Run Lola Run (Nominated for Chicago Film Critics Association award for Best Original Score) (1999)
- Winter Sleepers (1997) 
- Records of Nena produced by Reinhold Heil at the official Nena website, with lyrics and samples for music. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
- "Dynamic Duo: A Composer Team On The Rise". ASCAP. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- "ASCAP Sponsored Hollywood Reporter/Billboard Film & TV Music Conference". ASCAP.
- "Film Music Friday: Johnny Klimek/Reinhold Heil on Cloud Atlas". ASCAP.
- Schweiger, Daniel. "On the Score with Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil and Tom Tykwer". Film Music Magazine.
- "Internet Movie Database".