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Keeping Score: 10 James Horner Scores You Really Should Listen To

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The entertainment world was saddened when the tragic news came earlier this week that Composer James Horner had died in a plane crash.

Horner leaves behind a rich filmography over over 100 scores ranging from sweeping emotional dramas to hard hitting action. He won 2 Oscars for TITANIC (Original Score and Song) and is known for scoring BRAVEHEART, COCOON, LEGENDS OF THE FALL, GLORY. APOLLO 13 and so many more iconic scores.

With such a impressive list of credits, it’s easy to miss some of his work that gets overshadowed by the likes of TITANIC.

Here are a few of his scores that if you haven’t had a chance to listen to, are worth checking out.

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THE ROCKETEER (1991)

The score for THE ROCKETEER is one of Horner’s best work. The movie itself is an underrated gem that has a strong cult following, and the music plays a big part of this. It’s a rousing, fun action score that also packs an emotional punch.

Sadly the original soundtrack album from Hollywood records is out of print, and only select tracks from various compilation albums are listed on iTunes, so here’s hoping that a specialty label like Intrada (who has a deal with Disney) re-releases this sometime soon.

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WILLOW (1988)

If you like big, sweeping fantasy scores, WILLOW is for you.

This Ron Howard film featuring Warwick Davis and Val Kilmer is a fantasy epic, and the score is bold and iconic. You’ll be humming the main theme long after you listen to it.

The CD soundtrack album is still in print from EMI/Virgin.

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UNCOMMON VALOR (1983)

Gene Hackman leads a group of Vietnam war vets on a mission to save POWs – one of which is his son – and James Horner was enlisted to provide the score.

Horner gave the score a mysterious, extremely foreign tone to enhance the idea that these characters are entering a world of danger, but it also contains Horner’s signature emotional resonance.

The CD score album is available from Intrada.

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COMMANDO (1985)

Hard hitting and fast paced just like the movie, COMMANDO features an almost relentless score as Arnold Schwarzenegger dispatches bad guys on a mission to save his kidnapped daughter.

This score has been available in various editions from both La-La Land (most recently, a 30th anniversary re-release) and Intrada – all of which are currently sold out/out of print.

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SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISCHER (1993)

It’s emotionally compelling dramatic scores like SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISCHER that really were in James Horner’s wheelhouse.

FISCHER like LEGENDS OF THE FALL, COCOON, FIELD OF DREAMS, GLORY, etc. adds an extra layer of gravitas that just sweeps the viewers along on an emotional journey. Scores like this work not only with the film, but still pack an emotional punch when just listening to the score on its own.

An expanded CD score album was recently released in a limited edition by La-La Land Records.

 

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CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER (1994)

Harrison Ford took over from Alec Baldwin as Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan in PATRIOT GAMES, and Horner took over the score reigns from Basil Poledouris (who did a solid job on THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER – but that’s a topic for another post).

Scoring both PATRIOT GAME and CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER, Horner again proves how he can mix emotion and action tones together seamlessly. A notable cue is ‘Ambush’, which is from the scene where Ford’s motorcade is attacked in a South American street by a drug cartel. It will really get you blood pumping.

An expanded 2CD Score album is available from Intrada.

 

Here are Some other lesser known James Horner scores worth your time – if you can find them.

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IN COUNTRY (1989)

Sadly, the limited edition CD album from Intrada is no longer in print.

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SNEAKERS (1992)

CD still in print from Sony.

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THE MASK OF ZORRO (1998)

CD still in print from Sony.

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HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (2003)

CD still in print from Outside Records.

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