Alien Anthology Wiki

James Horner was an American composer, conductor, and orchestrator 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.

Alien franchise credit[]

Other credits[]

  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982
  • Commando (1985)
  • Cocoon (1985)
  • Aliens (1986)
  • Willow (1988)
  • Field of Dreams (1989)
  • Glory (1989)
  • The Rocketeer (1991)
  • Legends of the Fall (1994)
  • Apollo 13 (1995)
  • Casper (1995)
  • Braveheart (1995)
  • The Mask of Zorro (1998)
  • Mighty Joe Young (1998)
  • The Perfect Storm (2000)
  • A Beautiful Mind (2001)
  • Enemy at the Gates (2001)
  • Troy (2004)
  • Avatar (2009)
  • The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Biographical information[]

Early life[]

Horner was born in Los Angeles, the son of Austrian Jewish immigrants Joan (née Frankel) 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 subsequently attended Verde Valley High School in Sedona, Arizona. He received his bachelor's degree in music from the University of Southern California, and eventually earned a master's degree 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 with the American Film Institute in the 1970s, he finished his teaching of music theory at UCLA and turned to film scoring.


Horner's first major film score was for the 1979 film The Lady in Red. He began his film scoring career by working for B film director and producer Roger Corman, with his first composer credit for Corman's big-budget Battle Beyond the Stars. 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.

Aliens earned Horner his first Academy Award nomination. He has been nominated an additional nine times since. Horner's scores have been sampled in trailers for other films. The climax of the track Bishop's Countdown from his score for Aliens ranks fifth in the most commonly used soundtrack cues for film trailers. Also, an unused fragment from Aliens was featured in a scene in the 1988 film Die Hard. Several films whose scores were composed by Michael Kamen have had trailers featuring Horner's music; most notably, the music from Willow is substituted for the theme Kamen wrote for the 1993 remake of The Three Musketeers. Horner's "For the Love of a Princess" track from Braveheart was heard in the trailer for Robert Zemeckis's Cast Away. Aside from scoring major productions, Horner periodically works on smaller projects such as Iris, Radio and Bobby Jones: A Stroke of Genius. He received his eighth and ninth Academy Award nominations for A Beautiful Mind (2001) and House of Sand and Fog (2003), but lost on both occasions to Howard Shore. He frequently collaborates with film 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 recollaborated with James Cameron on the 2009 film Avatar, which was released in December 2009 and has since become the highest-grossing film of all time, surpassing Titanic (also directed by Cameron and scored by Horner). Horner spent over two years working on the score for Avatar, and did not take on any other projects during that time. Horner's work on Avatar earned him numerous award nominations, including his tenth Academy Award nomination as well as Golden Globe Award, British Academy Film Award, and Grammy Award nominations, all of which he lost to Michael Giacchino for Up.


Horner was killed on June 22, 2015 when the light aircraft he was piloting crashed near Santa Barbara, California. There were no other passengers on board.