Heart-swelling romance, pulse-pounding action – James Horner could do it all. Where to begin with a career that reaches all the way back to 1978 and includes an amazing 125 credits as a film composer, many of them iconic, all of them made better for Horner‘s contribution? Not only was he an incredible musician, he was one of the kindest and most giving individuals I ever met.
There are so many great scores by this man, but I have whittled it down to ten! I’d love to hear from you and learn your favorite scores from James Horner.
A BEAUTIFUL MIND
The haunting, always shifting “A Kaleidoscope of Mathematics” is one of Horner’s best moments. Charlotte Church provides vocals for the score.
Haunting, somber and majestic, the score to this 1989 Civil War drama employed the Harlem Boys Choir. The climactic scenes of this film are unforgettable. I remember watching this film in high school and specifically, a moment that remains with me today. In the closing moments of the movie, Shaw stands on the beach looking out into the ocean wondering whether it was his last breath, his last view of life. At that moment, Horner’s gorgeous theme entered. It was a very moving moment for me.
The entire score is haunting and beautiful, but it’s the main theme captures a sweeping romanticism that few epics have been able to match. The impact of Horner’s score can not be overstated. Whether it be in the “Gift of a Thistle” scene or the “Execution,” his score elevates Gibson’s film.
The film that won Horner both his Oscars, for Best Score and Best Original Song, Titanic saw him shatter records and become one of the best-selling albums of all time. It is an incredible testament to Horner that Titanic is and remains the best-selling soundtrack album with over 30 million copies sold worldwide. The score is magnificent and was a big part of Titanic’s success.
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN
His first true triumph, the soundtrack to the second Star Trek film features some of Horner’s very best work. Horner had the insurmountable task of filling the shoes of composer, Jerry Goldsmith who wrote the brilliant score to Start Trek: The Motion Picture. Horner delivered in a big way, composing my personal favorite from The Star Trek franchise. He captures the against-all-odds optimism of Captain Kirk, the brutal bloodlust of Khan and the selfless dignity of Spock’s death. This is one of the best scores in all of film music.
As a young teen, I traveled to Los Angeles with a friend, Jeron , I met over the internet. We became friends on a site called MovieMusic.com, which had a forum for film score lovers. It was a place to talk with individuals that shared a passion for film music. And talk we did… Many of my musical discoveries were because of them, including the score to Krull. A group of us met in LA and that is where I was introduced to this incredible adventure score. After hearing it for the first time, I remember asking to borrow Jeron’s headphones to listen to the rest of the score on the way back to the hotel. If you love sweeping adventurous music, with great lush themes, and intelligent scoring, this score is for you. The moment at 3:06 of the main title does it for me everytime.
AN AMERICAN TAIL by James Horner
This was one of Horner’s first scores right before he burst out of the bubble. I love this score. It is so charming and a lot of fun. It has some great songs penned by Horner, most notably Somewhere Out There, one of my favorites.
One of my childhood favorites. I loved this movie and its score. There’s a lightness to this work that plays beautifully against the more sinister cues. The main theme is still one of my favorites’s from Horner.
The music for The Rocketeer is a sweeping and largely romantic score that Horner executed so well. There are soaring strings, twinkling pianos, and very inventive writing that harkens back to the great scores of Korngold and Waxman. It’s a lush, full-bodied, swinging score, with swagger to spare. The film bombed, but Horner’s score was immediately accepted and is one of the best scores of the Nineties.
THE MASK OF ZORRO
This score deserves more attention in my opinion. It is solid from start to finish. This is one of Horner’s finest action scores and is always fun to listen to.