James Horner began studying piano at the age of five, and trained at the Royal College of Music in London, England, before moving to California in the 1970s.
Horner began his career scoring films by working for B film director and producer Roger Corman. Horner’s first composer credit was for Corman’s Battle Beyond the Stars. From there, his works gained notice in Hollywood, which enabled him to take on larger projects.
His first major film score was for the 1979 film The Lady in Red, but did not establish himself as a mainstream composer until he worked on the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Horner continued composing music for high-profile releases during the 1980s, including 48 Hrs. (1982), Krull (1983), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Commando(1985), Cocoon (1985), Aliens (1986), *batteries not included (1987), Willow (1988), Glory and Field of Dreams (both 1989). He frequently collaborated with film director Ron Howard, a partnership that began with Cocoon in 1985.
Aliens earned Horner his first Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score in 1987, at the 59th Academy Awards.
Throughout the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, Horner wrote orchestral scores for children’s films, with credits for An American Tail (1986), The Land Before Time (1988), The Rocketeer and An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991), Once Upon a Forest and We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story (all in 1993),The Pagemaster (1994), and Casper, Jumanji, and Balto (all from 1995), Mighty Joe Young (1998), and How the Grinch stole Christmas (2000).
His scores have two or three main themes and one or two motifs. He was known for the integration of choral and electronic elements in many of his film scores.
He composed a lot for James Cameron.
Some of his work:
- The Lady in Red (1979)
- Apollo 13 (1995)
- Braveheart (1995)
- Avatar (2009)