Let’s start by looking at some of the animated children’s movies that he supplied the music to, because this is how I personally was introduced to James Horner and why I have so much sentimental attachment to his craft. The 1986 Don Bluth classic “An American Tail” was the big one that got the ball rolling for his music in animated movies as he captured both the whimsical charm, and heart touching moments just beautifully. He also wrote the main song of the film “Somewhere Out There” which latter won a Grammy award for best original song of the year. He also returned to do the score for its sequel “An American Tail: Fival Goes West”, and his original song in that film titled “Dreams to Dream” earned him another Grammy nomination. As far as his animated movies were concerned, I always felt like I could identify his music style even at a young age, as they all carry similar melodies and that same nostalgic charm, but they could also stand apart from one another too. Other note worthy scores would be incorporated in animated films like “The Pagemaster” (1994) and “Balto” (1995), which had terrific original songs titled “Whatever You Imagine” and “Reach for the Light”. One other animated movie that disserves mention is the 1993 picture “Once Upon a Forest”, which featured the original song “Once Upon a Time With Me”. Personally, I think this was his most nostalgic original song as it just embodied the magic and joy of childhood and times long past.
Of course he had his fare share of providing the music to live action family films as well, including “The Rocketeer” (1991), “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” (1989), “Jumanji” (1996) and “Willow” (1988). I will admit that while James Horner could compose some terrific whimsical music for his live action family films, they also sounded a little interchangeable at times. Perhaps the most underrated of all was the 1987 family Sci-Fi “*batteries not included”. By the way, who else remembers that film, that was such a sweet movie that more people need to discover, or re-discover. Some of my favorite holiday movies like “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, “Casper” and “Hocus Pocus” also got the James Horner stamp of quality, as the guy definitely knew how to compose music that captured the spirit and tone of each season.
As I grew up I started to take note of his different styles and strengths in other big films of the 80’s and 90’s like “Braveheart” (1995), “Commando” (1985), “Field of dreams” (1989), “Apollo 13” (1995) and “Aliens” (1986) which got him his very first academy award nomination for best original score. His first theatrical score and launching pad of his carrier came in the form of “Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan” (1982), and of course being a long time “Star Trek” fan, I immediately gained respect for him after hearing that classic score. His score for the 2001 picture “A Beautiful Mind” helped introduce him to modern movie going audiences. Now of course James Honers resume is about a mile long, and I’m not going to list every single score he ever composed over the decades, but to properly close out this post, here’s a quick list of my top 5 personal favorite James Horner movie scores that in my opinion highlights him at his best.
#5 His soundtrack to “Glory” (1989)
#4 His music track for “Titanic” (1997)
#3 His music track for “Avatar” (2009)
#2 His music track for “The Mask of Zorro” (1999)
#1 His music track for “The Land Before Time” (1988)
To sum things up, James Horner was an artist like no other, and his passing is a tragic one that will have a lasting impact on us movie goers for years to come. If you’ve never hared of James Horner before, I hope this little tribute came off as informative, interesting and hopefully it peaked your interest in some of his music and original songs. Personally, I feel very blessed to have grown up listening to so many of his wholesome musical scores and as someone who loves music, he’s been a real inspiration to me. May he rest in peace and may his music continue to touch the hearts and souls of anyone who listens to his work.
James Horner (Born 1953 – Died 2015)