James Horner’s prolific work spans over three decades. Choosing five of his works hardly seems fair since he has A LOT to choose from. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but rather my personal favorites from his works. So, without further ado and in no particular order…
1. An American Tail: Fievel Goes West
I can trace this back to the earliest James Horner score I truly started listening to. Watching this movie, the music stood out to me as a wonderful background template for all of Fievel’s adventures. From the creepy sewer ride to the epic chimes used in the wild west gunfights, this score is a masterful ode to all Westerns that came before.
2. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
I first watched Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan just after seeing Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I was convinced no one could do better than Jerry Goldsmith. I was actually expecting James Horner to use most of Goldsmith’s themes from the original; however, as I watched the vastness of space envelope my television screen, I heard Alexander Courage’s old theme, which I thought was a nice touch. But then! Then I heard Horner’s original theme for the movie. It was perfect! It was not better or worse than Jerry Goldsmith’s theme. It was its very own. This started a trend for Star Trek movies in which different composers would not recycle the themes of previous ones. Rather, they made Trek their own, the most recent being Michael Giacchino for the Abrams-verse films.
Once again, Horner was taking the reigns of the music from Jerry Goldsmith; however, in this case, Aliens was a completely different movie than Alien. Horner established a sort of slow and oncoming creepiness in his work in this film when it was needed, but during the action sequences, it was off the handle, complete with an epic theme for Ripley’s escape from the alien nest.
4. Clear and Present Danger
Clear and Present Danger represents the last of the Harrison Ford Jack Ryan movies and, to many, the last Jack Ryan movie at all. This was a very sincere score which matched the film’s theme of Jack Ryan’s honesty in everything, despite being pressured by the government to do otherwise. In a way, the score perfectly captured the true patriotism of serving your country as well as the hand-in-hand need for integrity.
5. The Rocketeer
If there is one word that can be used to summarize James Horner’s work for The Rocketeer, it would be “flight.” Soaring through the clouds and fighting to take down the diabolical Nazi plan, this score throws all of it together is a delightful mix.
As I said before, this is not an exhaustive list. James Horner has composed many other fantastic scores. Which ones were your favorites? Feel free to mention them in the comments.