Awesome Music: John Williams
is responsible for many, many memorable film soundtracks. Among them are the soundtracks to every single Star Wars
movie and almost every Steven Spielberg
film (the exceptions being his Made for TV Movies
, The Color Purple
and Twilight Zone: The Movie
). In short, John Williams has made a career out of writing Awesome Music.
Williams' contributions to the Harry Potter
films can be found here.
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- The main theme, aka Luke's Theme.
- When Vader breaks free of the Dark Side in Return of the Jedi the music switches from an "evil victory is imminent" rendition of the Emperor's Theme to a kick-in-the-gut minor chord version of the "Force Theme".
- "Duel of the Fates" also qualifies as an example of Ominous Latin Chanting, even though it's a Welsh poem sung in Sanskrit.
- The famous Romeo & Juliet-inspired love theme, "Across The Stars".
- "Binary Sunset" proves that even contemplative interludes are totally awesome when placed in the hands of John Williams. Just amazing.
- The Imperial March. The Star Wars Expanded Universe hints that the Imperial March really is the martial theme of the Imperial Navy.
- Turned Up to Eleven with the pants-wettingly terrifying "The Emperor Arrives".
- And wonderfully spoofed by Family Guy when used as background elevator music in "Something, Something, Something, Dark Side".
- Transformed into a haunting funeral dirge in "Darth Vader's Death".
- "Battle of the Heroes" is endlessly compelling.
- "Anakin's Dark Deeds".
- "The City in the Clouds". Less bombastic, but utterly magnificent.
- The tragically underused "Luke and Leia" in Return of the Jedi, which may very well be the best music in the entire saga.
- "The Battle of Hoth" (part 1, part 2) is almost 15 minutes of sheer awesome. Highlights include the anthem for Humongous Mecha (part 1, 4:02-7:40), some preposterously heroic music when Luke pwns the AT-AT with the grenade (part 2, 2:45-3:40), and what can only be described as a gleefully malicious version of the Imperial March (3:40-4:10). Good times.
- The friggin' Asteroid Field. Never tell me the odds.
- The first half of the track "The Final Duel/Into the Death Star", the part of the film when Luke snaps and goes all-out against his father. The mournful male vocals combined with the tragic strings nearly make the music a tearjerker without any context whatsoever. The tune was tweaked into the song for the opening screen of Knights of the Old Republic.
- The very avant-garde "Chase Through Coruscant" from Episode II. It's like a nightly news theme on speed, combined with electric guitar and percussion that can be charitably described as insane.
- "Augie's Great Municipal Band", the celebratory music from the end of The Phantom Menace. More so when you realize that the vocals have the exact same melody as those in the Emperor's theme, just in a major key, faster, and sung by laughing children.
- ... which leads us to mention "The Emperor's Theme", the perfect conveyance of the deep, dark evil that is the Emperor.
- "Into the Trap".
- That repeating motif when Lando, Wedge, and the other group leaders check in perfectly captures the determination of the Rebellion at that moment.
- "The Battle of Yavin". Swirly, Lock and Load Montage style strings at the beginning, total non-stop badassery for the rest of the track. Then there's the ending. Only John Williams can pack so much HSQ into so small a time.
- Say what you want about the prequel trilogy, Episodes II and III have brilliant ending themes. Episode II has the first prolific use of the Imperial March as a major foreshadowing, dovetailing into an awesome rendition of "Across the Stars". Episode III has three minutes of no dialogue which lets John Williams flex his arms like he wants to, cycling from Padme's funeral theme to Leia's theme, then to a small snippet of Harry Potter-esque music before launching into the Force Theme over a binary sunset to create one of the most awesome bookends ever.
- No mention of the ending theme is complete without the extended end credits on the soundtrack, which includes an amazingly bittersweet rendition of the Throne Room theme from A New Hope that perfectly captures the mix of despair and hope that the end of the movie conveyed.
- The chilling and sad "Anakin's Betrayal". "The Immolation Scene" was another amazing, tear-inducing piece of music. YOU WERE THE CHOSEN ONE!!!
- The Revenge of the Sith soundtrack was basically one whole emotionally charged Crowning Score of Awesome. The opening credits where Anakin and Obi-Wan are flying together as friends and triumphant heroes, Grevious's choral theme, the eerie, guttural music playing during the Mon Calamari ballet as Palpatine begins to ensnare Anakin with whispers of the power of the Dark Side...all wonderful.
- "That's no moon..." Especially brilliant since it's the Darkest Hour of A New Hope, and Williams could have scored it with something soul-crushingly hopeless. Instead, we hear an incredibly rousing version of the Rebel Fanfare to remind us that our heroes aren't licked yet...
- The main theme threaded throughout that cue isn't the Rebel Fanfare, it's the Imperial Motif. (Not the later and more famous "Darth Vader's Theme" Imperial March, which Williams didn't compose until Empire.)
- "TIE Fighter Attack", aka "Here They Come!" It earns that exclamation mark.
- During the Death Star battle score for A New Hope, it's noticeable that the music changes from scary/foreboding to confident/heroic at the exact moment Luke turns off his targeting computer and trusts the Force. That's the turning point of the movie and the music (literally) underscores it.
- In one early interview, George Lucas said he had very high expectations when he made Star Wars in the mid-1970s. The only thing that exceeded his expectations was the music.
- Jedi has all the best themes of the original trilogy, such as "Leia's News/Light of the Force". Starts off with Luke and Leia's theme, rolls into the love theme, and then the EPIC force theme at the cremation. But pretty much the whole of the second half of Jedi has awesome music.
- Afterwards "Victory Celebration" is just...amazing. People often call it the only good change made in the Special Editions.
- Flag Parade, the music that plays when Anakin gets ready for his first podrace, is a fantastic, bombastic march. No wonder the Battlefront games used an extended version of it for when the player gets General Greivous.
- "Cantina Band", aka "Mad About Me", anyone?
- Not one of the flashiest themes, but the Jawa Theme was otherworldly.
- "Destruction of Alderaan".
- "The Tractor Beam/Chasm Crossfire", but especially the second part. Starts out with some cool spooky music, then eventually translates into an amazingly uplifting version of the main fanfare, intermingled with Leia's theme and some other great stuff. Combined with the bottomless pit, aka the "I think we took a wrong turn" scene, it's just pure awesome.
- The music that plays as the newly-christened Darth Vader marches on the Jedi Temple. Sadly, it is absent from the soundtrack (although the theme appears in part in "Love Pledge and the Arena".
- "The Battle of Coruscant" at the beginning of Episode III! Just Epic!
- "Padmé's Ruminations" where Padmé looks across Coruscant at the Jedi Temple from her apartment and Anakin in the Temple seems to look back. Featuring the only use of the One-Woman Wail in Star Wars music.
- "The Clash of Lightsabers", where the crew escapes to the Falcon in Empire.
- "The Rebel Fleet/End Titles". For a film that ends on quite a downer, the beginning of this piece focuses purely on the hope for the future with a stirring rendition of the "Han Solo and the Princess" theme which ascends into the standard End Titles music. Cutting this theme a bit shorter than the other films, it segues into reprises of "Yoda's Theme" and "The Imperial March" that are anything but unnecessary repetition. After that, the most soaring rendition of "Han Solo and the Princess" builds and builds until we are presented with what is possibly the greatest climax to a score in film history.
- "The Throne Room" ending theme from A New Hope. You will rarely find another closing score that embodies pure triumph and happiness (and of course the cute fluttery riff from the main theme when we find out R2's okay after all). Another theme plucked in it's entirety by Family Guy (before their own parody trilogy in fact).
For Steven Spielberg
- ''The Sugarland Express'', the first ever collaboration between Williams and Spielberg.
- "The Raiders' March", a theme that has become synonymous with adventure itself. Indeed, if adventure has a name...
- The main theme from Jaws. Spielberg reportedly assumed the unusually simple theme was a joke when Williams first presented it to him. But just try to forget it.
- The Flying Theme) from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. It's particularly neat in how it times up with the bicycle flying "against" the moon; it's like you can hear the wheels turning. Spielberg stated himself that technical wizardry and special effects can get those bicycles to fly, but only upon John Williams' strings do the characters become truly airborne.
- Christian Bale (at a very young age) singing "Suo Gan" (a Welsh lullaby) in Empire of the Sun, just as the Japanese Kamikaze pilots are about to take off for their mission. You'll cry at about the same moment the Japanese characters in the film start crying because of the sheer gallantry of it all.
- The sheer joy in this piece, "Exsultate Justi", as it plays in the end when Jim makes it back to the now-abandoned internment camp with virtually no hope in sight, but in spite (or because) of this, he still rides his bike around the inside of the buildings like the little kid that he is.
- "Cadillac of the Skies" is also amazing.
- The Jurassic Park Suite. Cue childhood nostalgia kicking in.
- When Spielberg asked John Williams to write the music for Schindlers List, Williams tried to beg off, saying "I'm not good enough for this." Spielberg's reply was simple, and quite true: "Anyone who is better is dead." (Itzhak Perlman performed the violin solo.)
- "The Flight to Neverland" from Hook.
- "Dry Your Tears, Afrika" from Amistad.
- "Hymn to the Fallen" from Saving Private Ryan.
- The entire soundtrack from Lincoln.
- "Anderton's Great Escape" as well as "Minority Report" from Minority Report.
- John Williams returned to his jazz-influenced roots when he scored the music for Catch Me If You Can.
- Here's the main theme of Catch Me If You Can. Jazz at its finest.
- John Williams also played session piano for composer Henry Mancini and played the piano part to Mancini's famous theme from Peter Gunn.
- "The Tale of Victor Naborski" from The Terminal.
- Music from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
- "Avner's Theme" (who says John Williams doesn't know guitar music?) from Munich, "Thoughts of Home" as well as the end credits music.
- Speaking of John Williams guitar music - ladies and gentlemen, the DreamWorks logo.
- "Where Dreams Are Born" as well as the theme song, "For Always" from A.I.Artificial Intelligence.
- The main theme of The War of the Worlds.
- Steven Spielberg's comedy 1941 was a critical and box-office failure but John Williams' march for it is probably one of his best ever! It's fun, bombastic, and patriotic at the same time. Spielberg even said it was his favorite march of Williams, even more than the Raiders' March! Practically every junior high and high school band learns this great piece of music.
- And what better way to end this section than with his music for the Amblin Entertainment logo? Which incidentally is heard on only three of the company's movies - Young Sherlock Holmes, The Color Purple (the only one directed by Spielberg, and ironically one of the very few Spielberg movies Williams didn't score) and The Money Pit. Even more ironically, it's available on the Amazing Stories soundtrack albums despite it never being heard on any of Amblin's TV shows.
- The Accidental Tourist features the rare Williams score that isn't derivative of other composers like Ligeti, Stravinsky, or Copland.
- The moving main theme from The Patriot.
- The Superman March. Best Fanfare ever.
- Very effectively used in the helicopter scene that begins with a growing sense of urgency as Lois faces greater and greater peril until Clark Kent appears. When he realizes he has to change, the growing musical swell that climaxes when he rips open his shirt to reveal his chest symbol is a classic of the superhero film genre.
- Not to mention John Ottman's use of said theme, as well as his own music, to create a soundtrack that is pretty much non-stop Heartwarming and tearjerking for Superman Returns.
- A leading example is when Lois Lane's family is trapped in Luthor's sinking ship. The music begins with a mournful dirge as the trio are pulled under to their seemingly-inescapable doom. Just when the tragedy becomes too much, two red boots appear on the door window and the March blasts out with full thunder as Superman saves the day!
- Smallville ends with Clark Kent running out onto the Daily Planet's roof, ripping open his shirt to reveal the S-shield beneath as he prepares to take flight, the camera focusing on that iconic symbol all while that classic Superman theme song plays ever so magnificently in the background and into the end credits.
- Oh hey, since we're on the topic of Superman, may we present his love theme.
- In addition to the main fanfare and "Can You Read My Mind?", there is a really moving musical moment after young Clark Kent tells his mother Martha that he's leaving Smallville to pursue his destiny up north. It's called "Leaving Home", and starts a minute-and-a-half into that track.
- "The Planet Krypton" anyone?
- The music from JFK.
- Much less well known, but just as awesome as all of the above, is the nine-minute piece from The Towering Inferno that accompanies Paul Newman and Steve McQueen rigging explosive charges to the burning skyscraper's water tanks. One of the greatest examples of music used for a rising tension/countdown effect.
- John Williams won his first Oscar for his adapted score for Fiddler on the Roof.
- John Williams had some opportunity to compose some Irish music with the Far And Away theme.
- Home Alone:
- "Sayuri's Theme" from Memoirs of a Geisha.
- The main theme from Born on the Fourth of July.
- "Devil's Dance" and "The Dance of the Witches" from The Witches of Eastwick. Shades of Hector Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, great orchestral Halloween music.
- We all know John Williams can compose music for virtually everything, but did you know that he also scored a Western film? (Even better, a John Wayne film?) Check out this rousing piece from ''The Cowboys''.
- On a related note, just watch this John Williams tribute. Corey Vidal combines lip-synching, video magic and a genius arrangement by four-man comedy/a cappella band Moosebutter for instant fame. (When Moosebutter released their own video version, they did it via Corey's Youtube account. Ascended Fanboy indeed!)
- Note that, despite the lyrics being about Star Wars, the song uses music from every film but Star Wars!
- Almost no-one knows that Williams has composed a score for Dracula himself.
- His score for Family Plot. John Williams and Alfred Hitchcock together? Awesome!
- The season 3 theme for Lost in Space (although he did the one for seasons 1 and 2 as well).
- "Olympic Fanfare and Theme", although he was not the original composer of the famous "bum bum, ba-du bum".
- Both theme songs for Kraft Suspense Theatre, but especially the second one.
- The discordant, almost avant-garde theme music for The Time Tunnel, especially the longer version played over the closing credits.