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Top 10 James Horner Scores

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script Written by Q.V. Hough. He was a musical treasure of modern cinema. Join as we count down our picks for the top 10 James Horner scores. For this list, we’re focusing on the most brilliant soundtracks of feature films composed by this composer and conductor of film scores. Special thanks to our users Brennan Young, Godslayer79, Joseph Solano, Martin Ström, Andrew Mayer, senecawithaz, Tdi7457, Jedimperial96, PersonWhoIsntYourMot, Leonardo Klotz and Tudor Baltoiu for submitting the idea on our Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Top 10 James Horner Scores

He was a musical treasure of modern cinema. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 James Horner scores.

For this list, we’re focusing on the most brilliant scores of feature films composed by this composer and conductor.

#10: “Glory” (1989)

Based on the Union Army’s first African-American unit of the Civil War, this film was lent a heavy dose of emotion thanks to the poignant score of a young Los Angeles composer. Whether it was the battle marches of the soldiers, or the personal dynamics between Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and his troops, Horner offered just the right amount of drama without overreaching. It’s no easy task to compose music for a war film, especially one of this nature, and the Foreign Press acknowledged Horner’s polished work with a Golden Globe nomination.

#9: “Cocoon” (1985)

Not even 32 years old at the time of the release of this sci-fi fantasy flick, James Horner teamed up with an even younger cinematic prodigy by the name of Ron Howard to make
“Cocoon.” Together, the two future legends brought a child-like wonder to elderly characters that found themselves reinvigorated by the extra-terrestrial. This magical score reminded us that life is what you make of it, and even if you’re kicking back in retirement, there’s always a new adventure awaiting. “Cocoon” also marked the first of many collaborations between Horner and Howard.

#8: “A Beautiful Mind” (2001)

The mind truly is a beautiful thing, and James Horner channeled the cerebral kaleidoscope of John Nash to produce his Academy Award-nominated score. Horner symbolically connected the dots of a life in turmoil, thus establishing a powerful musical backdrop for the heart-breaking story of a legendary mathematician. Nearly fifteen years after the release of “A Beautiful Mind,” both Nash and Horner would pass away within five weeks of each other, but their paths will always be connected through this poetic composition.

#7: “The Rocketeer” (1991)

Though this superhero film is proof that Disney DOES occasionally stumble at the box office, it nonetheless managed to stand the test of time thanks to the playful soundtrack of James Horner. Partly truth and mostly fiction, “The Rocketeer” was set in 1938 Los Angeles, as an airborne man earns the attention of both Howard Hughes and the Nazis.

#6: “An American Tail” (1986)

As the most successful non-Disney film of its time, this animated Steven Spielberg-Don Bluth flick introduced a promising new composer to an international audience. With a focus on young Fievel Mousekewitz and his arduous journey from Russia to the United States, James Horner joined forces with The London Symphony Orchestra for a score that ultimately triumphed above all. In fact, a song composed specifically for Linda Ronstadt, “Somewhere Out There,” later won the Grammy Award for “Song of the Year.”

#5: “Avatar” (2009)

When James Cameron began working on his long-awaited sci-fi epic, it was only natural that he reached out to an old friend. In fact, James Horner proclaimed “Avatar” to be the most difficult project of his career, and he actually worked with an ethnomusicologist to establish a musical history for a fictional alien race. Former “X-Factor” contestant Leona Lewis was tapped to perform the theme song, which later earned an Golden Globe nomination, while “Avatar” went on to earn a few BILLION dollars.

#4: “Aliens” (1986)

Nearly 25 before the cultural phenomenon that was “Avatar,” Cameron and Horner worked together on a chaotic collaboration for a classic sci-fi sequel – and no one expected they’d ever work together again. Without an approved final cut just a mere six weeks before release, Horner was concerned about meeting his deadline. But like the true musical magician that he was, he locked himself down at Abbey Road Studios and finished the score in only four days. While Horner wasn’t entirely satisfied with the hectic finish, he still managed to earn his first Academy Award nomination for his work.

#3: “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982)

As the first prominent theatrical work of his career, this film propelled a 28-year-old James Horner into the realm of big-budget Hollywood productions. Already known for his versatility and ability to think outside the box, Horner provided each main character with a subtle motif, thus providing depth to both Spock and Captain James T. Kirk, along with their superhuman nemesis. It was Shatner’s scream that is most remembered, however it was Horner’s inventive musical bed that set the tone complete with a 91-piece orchestra.

#2: “Braveheart” (1995)

Political freedom and musical ecstasy: these two forces met in Mel Gibson’s acclaimed historical drama, as William Wallace fought for Scotland’s independence. Yet another score performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, Horner’s creative chemistry with Gibson shines through the extravagant notes, and given the monumental nature of the film, the composer produced a heroic soundtrack for one of the decade’s most respected films. Once again, a collection of nominations was bestowed upon Horner, although “Braveheart” was just another example of a man doing what he loved most.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- “Field of Dreams” (1989)
- “The Land Before Time” (1988)
- “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” (1989)
- “Apollo 13” (1995)
- “The Perfect Storm” (2000)

#1: “Titanic” (1997)

Believe it or not, the iconic theme song for James Cameron’s 1997 film was never supposed to be. After being instructed that vocals should not be included on the soundtrack, James Horner secretly wrote “My Heart Will Go On” with Will Jennings and approached his friend Celine Dion about lending her voice. When the time was right, the track was unveiled to the stern director, and the rest is history. Then again, it was the chilling vocals of Sissel that accompanied the composer’s elegant musical framework for the majority of the film. “Titanic” further established James Horner’s reputation as one of Hollywood’s most brilliant composers, and his legacy will continue to reach beyond the realm of cinema.

Do you agree with our list? What is your favorite James Horner movie score? For more mind-blowing Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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