Five stirring film scores by James Horner

US film composer James Horner during an interview in Vienna, Austria, on Oct 3, 2013.
US film composer James Horner during an interview in Vienna, Austria, on Oct 3, 2013.PHOTO: EPA

The late American film composer James Horner left behind an enormous legacy of classic film scores, tackling almost every genre of film from cutesy animated features to sprawling science fiction. He died in a plane crash aged 61 on June 22, 2015. These are some of his most memorable compositions for film.

1) Titanic (1997)

From the sonorous, haunting strain of the bagpipes to the soaring flute introduction of the instant classic My Heart Will Go On, the score of Titanic is arguably Horner's most recognisable work. It won him an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Grammy, as well as a Bafta nomination. The tragic drama focuses on a fictional, doomed romantic relationship set against the sinking of the Titanic on its ill-fated maiden voyage. It starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as the star-crossed lovers, launching their careers, and was directed by James Cameron. My Heart Will Go On, written with Will Jennings for Celine Dion, also won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

2) Avatar (2009)

Another James Cameron epic, this marked Horner's third collaboration with Cameron after Aliens (1986) and Titanic (1997). The science-fiction film is set in the future, where humans are brutally colonising a lush, habitable moon in the Alpha Centauri star system inhabited by the blue-skinned alien race Na'vi. Sam Worthington, a human soldier, and Zoe Saldana, a Na'vi warrior princess, are drawn together despite the impending war. Horner worked with ethnomusicologist Wanda Bryant to create a musical culture for the Na'vi. He garnered Oscar, Golden Globe and Bafta nominations for this score.

3) Braveheart (1995)

Horner gained another triple whammy of Oscar, Golden Globe and Bafta nominations for the score of Braveheart. He conducted the prestigious London Symphony Orchestra for the soundtrack of the film, an epic medieval war drama directed by and starring Mel Gibson, marking the second of Horner's three collaborations with him. Gibson plays 13th-century Scottish warrior William Wallace, who led the Scots in a war against King Edward I of England. The story was based on the epic poem The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir, written sometime before 1488 by a bard who went by the name of Blind Harry.

4) Apollo 13 (1995)

Horner scored this historical docudrama directed by Ron Howard, which gave him yet another Oscar nomination. The film dramatised the aborted 1970 Apollo 13 lunar mission, and starred Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, and Ed Harris. It depicts a group of astronauts aboard the Apollo 13 who must fight for their survival after an explosion on board the space craft. The Apollo 13 theme, a haunting interpretation of the taps traditionally played on the bugle (in the film, it is played on the trumpet), is at once forlorn and majestic.

5) The Land Before Time (1988)

This children's dinosaur film became a cult classic, spawning 13 sequels, a television series and a multi-million dollar franchise. The animated movie revolves around a young Apatosaurus named Littlefoot who is orphaned after his mother is killed by a Tyrannosaurus Rex. On his journey to the Great Valley, where he hopes to find a home, he meets four other young dinosaur companions, including a Triceratops and a Stegosaurus. Horner also wrote the trademark theme song If We Hold On Together with lyricist Will Jennings for singer Diana Ross.

Other iconic films scored by Horner include: Aliens (1986; Golden Globe and Oscar nomination), Field Of Dreams (1989; Oscar nomination), Jumanji (1995), A Beautiful Mind (2001; Golden Globe and Oscar nominations), House Of Sand And Fog (2004; Oscar nomination) The Amazing Spider-Man (2012).