James Horner
Biographical Information
Birth Name

James Roy Horner


August 14, 1953


June 22, 2015





Eye Colour


Hair Colour

Dark brown


Official Site

Years Active


Avatar Role

Composer of the Avatar score

Academy Awards

Best Original Drama Score
Best Original Song

James Roy Horner (born August 14, 1953 - June 22, 2015) was an American composer, orchestrator, and conductor of orchestral and film music. He is noted for the integration of choral and electronic elements in many of his film scores, and for frequent use of Celtic musical elements. He was responsible for composing the score for the 2009 film Avatar, and was scheduled to score future installments in the franchise before his untimely death in an airplane crash on June 22, 2015.

Early LifeEdit

Horner was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Austrian immigrants Joan (née Fraenkel) and Harry Horner, who was a production designer, set designer, and occasional film director.

Horner started playing piano at the age of five. His early years were spent in London, where he attended the Royal College of Music. He received his bachelor's degree in music from the University of Southern California, and eventually earned a master's and started working on his doctorate at the University of California, Los Angeles where he studied with Paul Chihara, among others. After several scoring assignments in 1978-79 with the American Film Institute, he finished his teaching of music theory at UCLA and turned to film scoring. In his youth, Horner was acquainted with Carrie Goldsmith, daughter of the famous composer and peer Jerry Goldsmith.

Film and Television ScoringEdit

Just like his counterpart Jerry Fielding, Horner's scores blends the musical essences of Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams. Also, like his other counterpart Les Baxter, he began his film scoring career by working for B movie director and producer Roger Corman, with his first composer credit for Corman's big-budget Battle Beyond the Stars. It was thought Horner contributed in scoring the 1982 horror film The Beast Within and some of the elements from his piece were used by composer Les Baxter, this was later proven false. His works steadily gained notice in Hollywood, which led him to take on larger projects. Horner made a breakthrough in 1982, when he had the chance to score for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, establishing himself as a mainstream composer. Horner continued composing music for high-profile releases in the 1980s, including 48 Hrs. (1981), Krull (1983), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Commando (1985), Cocoon (1985), Aliens (1986, earning his first Academy Award nomination), Willow (1988), Glory and Field of Dreams (both 1989).

Horner's scores also began to see a secondary life with their usage in film trailers for other movies. Excerpts from his score for Aliens rank second in the most commonly-used soundtrack cues for film trailers. Also, an unused fragment from Aliens was featured in a scene from Die Hard. Several films whose scores were composed by Michael Kamen have had Horner music for the trailers; most notably, the music from Willow is substituted for the theme Kamen wrote for the 1993 remake of The Three Musketeers.

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Horner also displayed a talent for writing orchestral scores for children's films (particularly those produced by Amblin Entertainment), with credits for An American Tail (1986), The Land Before Time (1988), An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991), We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story (1993), and The Pagemaster, Casper, Jumanji and Balto(1995). Mighty Joe Young (1998), and Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas. 1995 saw Horner produce no fewer than six scores, including his commercially successful and critically-acclaimed works for Braveheart and Apollo 13, both of which earned him Academy Award nominations.


Horner's greatest financial and critical success would come in 1997, with the incredibly successful score to the blockbuster motion picture, Titanic, which was greatly influenced by the music of Clannad. James Cameron recalled the first time Horner played the soundtrack for him: "I literally teared up at each one, and it was just him at his piano, by himself, no technical people around or anything and I knew it was going to be a fantastic score at that point."

The album became the best-selling primarily orchestral soundtrack in history, selling over 27 million copies, worldwide. At the 70th Academy Awards, Horner won Oscars for Best Original Dramatic Score and Best Original Song for "My Heart Will Go On" (which he co-wrote with Will Jennings), In addition, Horner and Jennings won three Grammy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards for the soundtrack and "My Heart Will Go On".

Since Titanic, Horner has continued to score for major productions (including The Perfect Storm, A Beautiful Mind, The Mask of Zorro, The Legend of Zorro, and Bicentennial Man). Aside from the major projects, Horner periodically tackles smaller projects as well (such as Iris, Radio, and Bobby Jones: A Stroke of Genius). He frequently scores for the films of director Ron Howard, a partnership that began with Cocoon in 1985. Coincidentally, Horner's end title music from Glory can be heard in the trailer for Howard's Backdraft.

Horner composed the current theme music for the CBS Evening News. The theme was introduced as part of the debut of Katie Couric as anchor on September 5, 2006. It has since been adopted by most other CBS News programs as well.


Avatar Soundtrack

The soundtrack CD

Horner was responsible for the soundtrack to Avatar in December 2009. The CD was released three days before the film, and a deluxe edition followed in April 2010. Additionally there was an unreleased five score edition that was leaked in early 2010.

AVATAR has been one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever been involved with, and I have never worked so closely with a group of musicians as I did on this film. My usual writing process is a very solitary experience, with the music being realized for the first time on the recording stage. On Avatar, synth programmers Aaron Martin, Ian Underwood and Simon Franglen, music editors Jim Henrikson and Dick Bernstein, my recording mixer Simon Rhodes and I spent the past year mocking up and editing the music as I’d write and orchestrate it each day. This allowed us to give Jim Cameron a facsimile of what my music sounded like against his film as the score developed. And this unique process enabled me to explore musical ideas that were both exotic and “other-worldly” as well as orchestral and conventional.

His final film score was for Southpaw, a boxing film that premiered a week before his death in 2015.[1]


On 22 June 2015, Horner, a trained pilot, was flying a S-312 Tucano MK1 turboprop light aircraft that was registered to him. It crashed in California that day, in the Los Padres National Forest north of Santa Barbara.[2] It was a two-seat craft, but he was the only man aboard.

In response to the tragic accident, Jon Landau and James Cameron released a joint statement the following day.

James's music affected the heart because his heart was so big, it infused every cue with deep emotional resonance, whether soaring in majesty through the floating mountains, or crying for the loss of nature's innocence under bulldozer treads. The beauty and power of Avatar lay not just in the superb performances and the visual splendour, but in the music that made us cry and exult along with our characters. Irayo, James. Fly brother.[3]


List of Avatar related awards and nominations. Underlined categories → won

82nd Academy Awards

  • Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score (nominated)

Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films: Saturn Awards

  • Best Music (nominated)

BAFTA Film Awards

  • Best Music (nominated)

Golden Globes

  • Best Original Score - Motion Picture (nominated)
  • Best Original Song - Motion Picture, for the song "I See You" (nominated)
    Shared with: Simon Franglen and Kuk Harrell



Gallery eye There is an image gallery for