I’m not sure when I first became consciously aware of the art of film scoring, but one of the earliest works to stand out as something different from the pack was James Horner‘s music for Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s “Commando.” Dripping in synths and steel pan percussion, while some of Horner’s approach work on the movie is marked by the musical atmosphere of the 1980s, it’s also an example of his bold and distinct vision for creating movie scores. And it’s a quality that has made him stand out for decades, working across a variety of genres, with some of the best directors in the business. Sadly however, James Horner has left us too soon, passing away tragically at the age of 61 in an airplane accident.
Horner’s path to music composing was relatively straightforward: he attended the Royal College Of Music, the University Of Southern California, and UCLA, and moved into movies, cutting his teeth like so many in the industry have on Roger Corman productions. “The Lady In Red” and “Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan” were some of the earliest major Hollywood films he worked on, and from there Horner never looked back, becoming a frequent collaborator with James Cameron, Jean-Jacques Annaud, Mel Gibson, Walter Hill, Ron Howard, and Joe Johnston.
“My job—and it’s something I discuss with Jim [Cameron] all the time—is to make sure at every turn of the film it’s something the audience can feel with their heart,” Horner told IFC in 2009. “When we lose a character, when somebody wins, when somebody loses, when someone disappears—at all times I’m keeping track, constantly, of what the heart is supposed to be feeling. That is my primary role.”
And Horner successfully stuck to that motto resulting in 10 Oscar nominations, winning two for his work on “Titanic,” one of his best known pieces. However, the breadth of Horner’s talent is quickly seen in the other films he was nominated for which range from “Aliens” to “Field Of Dreams” to “Braveheart” to “A Beautiful Mind.”
At the time of his passing, Horner was preparing music for the “Avatar” sequels, and his last compositions will be heard in the upcoming Jake Gyllenhaal boxing drama “Southpaw,” and the true story tale “The 33.” Horner was a celebrated composer, collaborator, and friend in Hollywood and his absence will be deeply felt.
Below, check out a couple of interviews with Horner along with our selection of this 10 best film scores. And be sure to hit the comments section and share with us your favorite James Horner scores.