RIP James Horner: His Innovative Scores Turned Good Pictures into Epics

The two time Oscar winning film composer James Horner died yesterday in a plane crash near Santa Barbara. For many of us it is easy to remember the actors and directors that make great movies, but often ignore some of the other immense talents that are responsible for ascending a good movie into a classic. Music is undoubtedly one of the most crucial parts in making a picture emotionally connect with an audience and is often the injection that turns a scene into an adrenaline rush Most directors are well aware that music is essential in turning a story into something grand and momentous, which is why you'll often see filmmakers turn to the same composer for their scores.

Director James Cameron turned to Horner on three occasions, Titanic (where Horner picked up two Oscars), Avatar, and Aliens. Horner's music played a major part in transforming Cameron's genre movies into high-class prestige pictures. Titanic is a 1970s style exploitative disaster flick that has a slick gloss that pretties it up to be awards-worthy and the music plays a huge part in making it artful and prestigious. 

The three pictures were grand special effects spectacles, but it was the music that dug memorable scenes into our guts and lifted us up to soar along with the action. It brought forth the artistry and amplified the magic. Aliens has one of the most pulse-pounding and nerve-crushing scores for an action picture that both rockets you forth with energy but then chills your spine in the darker and quieter moments. It is a masterpiece of scoring that helped turn the movie into an instant sci-fi classic.

Horner knew how to make emotion pulling compositions that heralded the pictures as something epic and can't miss. Pictures like Field of Dreams, Apollo 13, Braveheart, A Beautiful Mind and Glory are big event movies that stirred our feelings and emotions. Each of those movies have scenes that plunge right to our souls and linger inside us for years, and they're buried deep because of the perfectly accompanied scores that were innovative and unshakable. When I reflect upon my favourite moments in movies like Field of Dreams, I always hear the music playing in the background due to it being intertwined with the events as if it was a character. The movies that got Oscar nominations like A Beautiful Mind and Bravheart became awards-worthy thanks in a large part to Horner.

He played a big part in adding thrills and excitement in action fare that allowed us to race right along with the heroes. Movies like Patriot Games, The Rocketeer, Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan, Troy, and The Amazing Spider-Man flew above their genres due to their engrossing scores. Scores that trumpeted the big moments and most importantly, sucked us right into the adventure. 

We have three more picture that will contain Horner scores this year in Southpaw, Wolf Totem, and The 33. All movies that are about the human condition and will be emotional roller coasters, which needed the Horner touch to pull them off. He was one of the truly great composers and he will be deeply missed.

RIP James Horner 1953 - 2015