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James Horner
Reviews in Filmtracks'
Top 100 Traffic Ranks:
#2.  Braveheart
#6.  Titanic
#18.  The Mask of Zorro
#29.  Legends of the Fall
#40.  Apollo 13
#56.  Troy
#60.  Glory
#86.  The Land Before Time
#91.  Willow
#94.  Enemy at the Gates
(updated daily)

Scores in Filmtracks'
Top 100 Voting Ranks:
#5.  Glory
#12.  Apollo 13
#23.  Legends of the Fall
#24.  Willow
#38.  Braveheart
#47.  The Rocketeer
#49.  The Mask of Zorro
#55.  Titanic
#59.  Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
#61.  The Land Before Time
#77.  The Missing
#92.  The Spitfire Grill
#93.  The Legend of Zorro
(updated daily)

Filmtracks Editor's Recommendations:
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Legends of the Fall
Apollo 13
The Mask of Zorro
A Beautiful Mind
The Legend of Zorro

Related Pages of Interest:
Horner Suites and Themes
(1998 bootleg)
Heart of the Ocean
(1998 Sonic Images compilation)
Titanic: The Essential James Horner Collection
(1998 Silva compilation)

James Horner was born in Los Angeles on August 14, 1953. He began studying piano at the age of 5 and spent his formative years in London, where he attended the Royal Academy of Music. After moving to California in the early 1970s he gained a Bachelor's Degree in music from the University of Southern California. He went on to earn his master's degree and a PhD in music composition and theory at UCLA.

While teaching music theory at UCLA in the late '70s, Horner received a chance call from The American Film Institute. The AFI offered Horner the opportunity to score their 1978 film The Drought. Having had a terrible time getting his concert piece "Spectral Shimmers" performed, Horner fell instantly in love with film scoring and scored several more AFI films before getting hired at Roger Corman's New World Pictures.

In Corman's world of low-budget filmmaking, Horner made a name for himself by scoring sci-fi and horror flicks such as Lady in Red, Humanoids from the Deep, Battle Beyond the Stars. The good scores Horner produced for these awful films allowed him to be recognized by the powers that be in Hollywood, and after being hired to score Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, his career went into full gear.

His career continuing to blossom at break-neck speed, Horner's Titanic allowed him the fiscal security to choose which projects he wanted to work on and which to turn down. He was offered several Star Trek sequels, as well as the Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings series, but his love of new challenges and lack of interest in sequel franchises has led him to accept more artsy projects.

Horner continues to work with a group of friends, including synth programmer Ian Underwood, who assist him with the synthesizers and exotic instruments he uses. Among his friends --and an increasing number of fans who recognize him at the check-out counters of convenience stores-- Horner still resides in Southern California with his wife and two daughters.

Horner in the mid-1980's
Additional Quotes:
"I respect Jerry Goldsmith very much, but hope my music isn't too similar. One is always influenced by people one respects, and I'm very influenced by quite a few classical composers, and admire their work very much, so people always think they can pigeon hole my music by saying, well, it's this or that. Most of the films that I've been doing are, in fact, adventure, horror or whatever, and those are the kinds of films Goldsmith does." -- 1982, on criticism that his music resembles Goldsmith's

"My trick is that the films are all so different. I have no high ambitions to win 35 Academy Awards. I just try to be the best at what I can be and work on the best movies I can and not get too wrapped up in the day-to-day ups and downs of it, which is difficult enough." -- 1995, on his craft

"I learned long ago that the vagaries of the Academy are uncontrollable, and that you'll end up committing suicide if you think your fortune is made by them. It's very flattering to get nominated, and it means a lot to me. But the score has a deeper personal meaning to me than that." -- 1997, on losing the Academy Award to Il Postino in 1996

"What appeals to me about writing film music is that each project is completely different from the other. I could have chosen to another Star Trek or two or three Star Treks because I was certainly asked, but I wasn't interested after doing a couple of them." -- 1992, on film composers being chameleons

"I had been asked to do a couple of other big films, which I passed on, [including] Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, because I desperately wanted to do Ron's movie [A Beautiful Mind]. Those are movies that mean something to me on a very basic level. Those are really like art films as opposed to commerce films." -- 2001, on choosing his assignments

"I'm a throwback. I know all about the machines, and I work with programmers I've worked with for years. They know my tastes and predilections. When I work with synths, I don't want what you think of it as synthetic sounds. I want very organic sounds that I can manipulate. The orchestral stuff, I write at a desk and orchestrate, and then send it off to the copyist. The synth stuff, I play ideas to myself on the piano, and notate ideas, but most of it happens by coloring in, like painting, at the actual recording session, because I play everything myself on a MIDI keyboard. I have an idea, I know how it's going to work in the timing. It's all mathematically perfect, but in terms of fine tuning it, it doesn't happen until I actually get there and I start playing in the parts myself." -- 1998, on scoring without a state of the art studio

James Horner conducting Titanic in 1997

"I'm a fanatic about Irish music. I love its moody, modal and timeless quality. I'm different from some other composers, because I don't look at this as just a job. I think of music as art."

For two decades, James Horner has been a composer at the center of many soundtrack fans' controversies and discussions. His styles and techniques have been questioned again and again about repitition and attribution, even though he's quickly become one of the most easily-recognized Hollywood composers. His score for Titanic catapulted him into the international spotlight, while also advancing the cause of orchestral film music. He emphasizes, though, that he isn't particularly interested in his fame, and that it doesn't affect his professional and artistic outlook on his career.

Horner's career is still young, yet it features some striking changes in style. In the early 1980's, Horner was the master of combining several talented musicians with synthesizers (and a small orchestra) and producing a creative and innovative sound. There are many fans of Horner's early works, such as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Krull, Wolfen, and Brainstorm, and many of them believe that Horner's distinct orchestral and electronic mix of the time is some of his best material. Ironically, there aren't many people who lovingly embrace both these early classics and Horner's modern, fully-orchestral works at the same time. Much of the arguement presented by critics of Horner's recent works revolves around the belief that most of Horner's recent styles, all the way through Enemy at the Gates and The Four Feathers, are mutations of his earlier, superior work.

Regardless of the validity of these beliefs, Horner began evolving in the mid-1980's as his scoring assignments began to change. With Cocoon in 1985 came a hint of Horner's orchestral mastery. By 1988, although still utilizing his synthesizer skills in such scores as Vibes and Red Heat, Horner completed his first two massive, thematically dramatic orchestral efforts, Willow and The Land Before Time. Considered by fans to be two of his best, these scores combined Horner's interest in exotic instruments with a full orchestra and the opportunity to score popular films. A year later, along with his first Academy Award nomination for Field of Dreams, Horner received his first critical success for Glory, for which he wrote a heart-breaking theme that has been used in numerous trailers and television commercials to date. An American Tail introduced Horner's song-writing skills, which would become nationally evident a decade later with Titanic and The Mask of Zorro.

Horner in 1998
Horner, like veteran composer Jerry Goldsmith, used the early '90s to build up his resume with countless smaller films. He became a master at scoring children's films while also composing more subtle, powerful works for such films as The Man Without a Face, Searching for Bobby Fischer, and The Pelican Brief. In 1995, he burst back into the national spotlight with an amazing streak of impressive scores. Hot off the success of Legends of the Fall, Horner was nominated by the Academy for both Braveheart and Apollo 13 --two ethnically opposite, but stylistically elevated scores. He also bade a triumphant farewell to his children's scores with two of his best in the genre, Balto and Casper, while also creating controversy with his short and bitter score for the bizarre sex-thriller, Jade. After a country-magical score for The Spitfire Grill in 1996, Horner hit the financial and critical jackpot with Titanic, Deep Impact, and The Mask of Zorro in 1997-1998.

As a relatively young composer, it's possible that Horner will be remembered eventually for the classics he will undoubtedly write in the 21st Century. The current decade has included a continuation of Horner's established styles (The Perfect Storm, Windtalkers, Iris), with the culmination of his early 2000's work for the Academy Award nominated score A Beautiful Mind in 2001. He also prefers, since 1997, to include a notable soloist in all of his recordings. Yet, as critics evaluate the first twenty years of his career, his early scores of Glory and Willow stand out as his finest work. In the years since, thoughout the love and hate relationship many film music fans have had with him, Horner has continued to produce effective and thematically provocative scores.

 Filmography/Reviews at Filmtracks:  

(see legend below for information on abbreviations and codes)
 Title FRVRVT CTRD TR DatesNotes
The Amazing Spider-Man****3.7678514||||64507/12
For Greater Glory (Cristiada)****3.221973||||1,45209/12
Black Gold****3.353496|||1,26402/12
The Karate Kid***3.235457|||1,17306/10
Avatar (AW)*****3.788,459152|||||21612/09
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas****3.3433713|||71602/09
The Life Before Her Eyes**2.924761||98804/08
The Spiderwick Chronicles****3.3878519|||48401/08
All the King's Men***3.2267813||77710/06
The New World****3.591,25487|||32402/06
The Legend of Zorro*****3.991,41160||33511/05
The Chumscrubber**2.863853||1,03111/05
The Forgotten**2.7863213|||56210/04 - 10/11
Troy (co-wrote)***2.904,603427|||||5605/04 - 08/11multiple albums
Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius**3.0673312||67405/04 - 10/11
House of Sand and Fog (AW)***3.131,07524||37612/03 - 03/09
The Missing*****4.051,38250|||25111/03 - 03/09
Beyond Borders***3.201,27314||38911/03 - 03/09
Radio**2.946109||63111/03 - 03/09
The Four Feathers****3.411,94320||36809/02 - 01/09
Windtalkers***2.911,85783||37210/01 - 01/09
Iris***3.381,41612||84912/01 - 01/09
A Beautiful Mind (AW)****3.784,336146|||11212/01 - 01/09
Enemy at the Gates***3.536,583152|||9402/01 - 01/09
How the Grinch Stole Christmas***2.823,21023|||13011/00 - 11/07all albums
The Perfect Storm****3.593,37045||16206/00 - 06/08
Bicentennial Man ***3.703,20753|||27512/99 - 04/08
Mighty Joe Young**2.721,2293|34712/98 - 03/08
The Mask of Zorro*****4.138,77577|||1806/98 - 03/08
Deep Impact***3.362,1555||10705/98 - 03/08
Titanic (AW)*****4.1027,104158|||||611/97 - 04/12multiple albums
The Devil's Own***3.122484||43104/97 - 11/11
Ransom (co-wrote)**2.511523||75111/96 - 11/11
To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday**2.782140||79409/96 - 11/11
The Spitfire Grill*****3.991,5387|||37409/96 - 08/08
Courage Under Fire**3.071,0694|36209/96 - 05/07
Jumanji**2.933817||45309/96 - 11/11
Jade*1.761844|||1,46108/09 - 01/11multiple albums
Braveheart (AW)****4.1727,577188|||209/96 - 09/08all albums
Balto****3.611,16714||18309/96 - 09/08
Apollo 13 (AW)*****4.2910,22564||||4009/96 - 01/08all albums
Casper***3.632,5155||13809/96 - 02/08
Legends of the Fall (AW)*****4.249,70591|||2909/96 - 01/08
The Pagemaster (AW)***3.386181||47009/96 - 02/08
Clear and Present Danger***2.904027|||45006/98 - 06/13all albums
Swing Kids**2.831852||56606/98 - 11/11
We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story***2.932382||46809/96 - 11/11
The Pelican Brief**2.842422||65706/98 - 11/11
Once Upon a Forest****3.392775||57108/98 - 08/08
Searching for Bobby Fischer***3.372713||72306/98 - 11/11
Jack the Bear**2.841920||1,07912/01 - 11/08limited
House of Cards***2.761090||1,67005/10limited
A Far Off Place***2.921652||71406/97 - 02/15all albums
Bopha!*1.933312|99001/00 - 08/06
The Man Without a Face****3.611,0570|65206/98 - 09/06
Thunderheart****2.892104||55206/98 - 11/11
Patriot Games**2.727353|||47606/97 - 07/13multiple albums
Sneakers****3.535272||65509/96 - 09/08
Unlawful Entry*2.381522||93106/98 - 11/11
Class Action**2.551240||1,06106/98 - 11/11
An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (AW)****3.739848||25607/98 - 01/08
The Rocketeer****4.132,31716||22609/96 - 01/08
My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys***
Extreme Close-Up (TV)***2.54810||1,72705/10limited
I Love You to Death****
Once Around**2.6214810||92407/98 - 11/11
Another 48 Hrs.**
In Country****3.011670||75412/96 - 03/13multiple albums
Field of Dreams (AW)**3.4763716||24006/98 - 09/11
Glory (AW)*****4.3211,14661|||6008/97 - 07/06all albums
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids**2.921290||1,50308/09multiple albums
Tummy Trouble***animated short
Dad****2.8719013||80708/97 - 11/11
The Land Before Time*****4.094,35111|||8607/98 - 12/07
Cocoon: The Return**2.701020||1,54108/09
Willow*****4.245,77211||||9105/98 - 12/07
Red Heat*2.3618010||72707/98 - 11/11
Vibes**2.5918216||63509/96 - 02/14multiple albums
*batteries not included***2.751040||1,56008/09
Project X***2.802162||62110/97 - 09/08all albums
Off Beat
An American Tail (co-wrote) (AW)****3.922553|||1,37508/09
Where the River Runs Black**2.501000||1,57608/09
Aliens (AW)***3.451,48648|||20405/01 - 10/08all albums
The Name of the Rose**2.591145||1,42008/09multiple albums
Commando**2.8343924||33812/03 - 09/11multiple albums
In Her Own Time
The Journey of Natty Gann (co-wrote)****3.201150|||1,53808/09multiple albums
Cocoon****3.748132|||43210/97 - 12/13all albums
Heaven Help Us
The Stone Boy
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock***3.1364619|||54306/03 - 06/10all albums
Uncommon Valor***2.791100||1,65810/10all albums
Something Wicked This Way Comes (co-wrote)***3.041594||||1,44408/09 - 12/11multiple albums
Krull****3.609656|||28008/97 - 09/10all albums
Gorky Park***2.941140||1,50108/09 - 02/15all albums
Testament***2.881443|76312/96 - 03/13multiple albums
48 Hrs.*2.351022||1,60903/11limited
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan*****4.101,29334||||30906/03 - 07/09all albums
P.K. and the Kid
Rascals and Robbers (TV)***2.75734||1,65304/11limited
Wolfen***2.661362|||1,43708/09 - 08/12multiple albums
The Hand*
Deadly Blessing**2.661362|||1,43708/09 - 08/12multiple albums
The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper**
Humanoids from the Deep**2.42520||1,71811/11multiple albums
Battle Beyond the Stars****3.604083|||67009/01 - 11/11multiple albums
The Lady in Red
Up from the Depths
The Drought
(reviews listed with a "co-wrote" indicate that either the composer wrote the score with another person or that more than one composer worked separately to provide a score for the production)

- indicates a new review that has been published in the last 90 days
- indicates an older review that has been significantly revised in the last 90 days
Awards: AW - indicates that the music won or was nominated for a major award
Ratings: FR - Filmtracks Rating ("Varied" indicates a split rating with no overall designation)
VR - Viewer Rating (overall average)
VT - Vote Total (for viewer ratings)
Comments: Comment Total (the number of messages posted in the review's comment area)
Review Depth: ||||| - Massive Review (over 4,000 words)
|||| - Very Long Review (between 2,200 and 4,000 words)
||| - Long Review (between 1,200 and 2,200 words)
|| - Average Review (between 800 and 1,200 words)
| - Short Review (under 800 words)
Traffic Rank: Popularity Rank (lower numbers indicate more cumulative reads; new reviews take time to climb the ranks)
Dates: 1st - indicates the month and year during which the review was first published
2nd - indicates the month and year of the review's most recent significant revision (if any)

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