Top 10 Best James Horner scores (VIDEOS)

Jun 23, 2015 at 11:41 a.m. ET

You don't have to be a movie or music buff to know or recognize James Horner's work.

You know it. Even if you don't know you know it.

Horner has scored and composed for some of the greatest movies in all of history. From huge, epic sci-fi thrillers like Avatar and Aliens to heartbreaking dramas like Titanic and A Beautiful Mind.

But tragedy struck late Monday night, and Horner was killed in a plane crash. His death was confirmed by his assistant, Sylvia Patrycja, on her Facebook page, and the outpouring of emotion from Hollywood and the world has been immediate.

Horner had won two Oscars and leaves behind a seemingly endless and impressive catalog of movie scores.

Few other composers had the knack for bringing you to the edge of your seat with music the way Horner did. And many of the emotions you have felt while watching films are due in large part to his scores. Let's take a glance at some of the best. Grab some popcorn and hold onto your seat.


So, all of my Highland Games friends will chide me for picking Braveheart to be my No. 1 best Horner score. I can hear them now, "It's so inaccurate!" Well, story line aside, the music does something that few others do in any film. The highs and lows are so extreme; you nearly can't stand it. The score brings you to tears in one minute while rallying you to battle the next. It is quite literally the most moving piece of cinematic music I have ever heard.



OK. So I'm probably going to catch some flak from everyone else for not making Titanic No. 1. I would go so far as to say this might be a tie with Braveheart. Not only did Titanic win Horner two Oscars, but "My Heart Will Go On" is one of the most recognizable songs in all of film.


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This sci-fi epic was on scale with Titanic for the composer, Horner swearing off all other work during its production. With Cameron, he helped create the Avatar language and in the process created one of the most monumental scores ever produced. It truly makes you feel as if you've been transported to Pandora.


Period instruments, drums, piccolos and trumpets all mark this tragic and historical film with some strong emotional punch. No one could have scored such emotional scenes as well as Horner. The following scene is difficult to watch — proceed with caution.



The sequel to the original needed someone worthy enough to create a score that would still scare the daylights out of audiences — again. And, once again, Cameron called on Horner as he had and would many times after.

If there is one thing you want from a score during the telling of the tale of a brilliant but unbelievably troubled man, it is a haunting and tragic feel. You get both of these in spades with this score.


An American Tale

If you're not singing this beautiful and sad song from your childhood, I just don't know what to tell you. Adorable, heart-warming, iconic. This song will get you in all the feels.



Going deep into the cut with this one. This is another one of Horner's iconic big, rolling, building melodies that make what is happening on the screen seem larger than life. The sweeping sounds Horner creates makes you feel like the waves of the ocean are swirling around you. It is simply beautiful.


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So this one only makes the cut because Horner scored it in nine days. Yes. James Horner produced the score for the epic, expensive and insane two-hour movie in less than two weeks. He built drama and suspense in this hunky showdown flick, and I love it. Big booming drums and timpani rolls have never been more fitting than in a battle between Hector and Achilles.

Field of Dreams

Sometimes Horner didn't need sweeping melodies; sometimes he would use soundscapes and atmospheric bits to create a brooding and supernatural backdrop to one of the best-loved, cheesy movies of all time.

Field of Dreams Clip

Field of Dreams Clip

There are literally so many amazing movies that I could hardly narrow it down. Star Trek usually makes most people's top 10, but not being a fan, I don't think I could include it in mine. And with films like Mighty Joe Young Windtalkers, Deep Impact, A Perfect Storm, Apollo 13, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and The Karate Kid, this list could go on and on.

The world has truly lost a great one.

What is your favorite James Horner moment?