It’s been a big week for Star Wars, hasn’t it? From the announcement of its new cast to the new trailer of the upcoming Star Wars Rebels interquel TV series, to the fact that today is International Star Wars Day, there is ample reason for the less jaded fan – some might say less discerning fan – to be excited.
True, there are reasons to gripe and groan about the impending expansion of the Star Wars universe (some are fair, others are not). But I opt for blind optimism, dammit! After all, even if the JJ Abrams movies prove to be the nadir of this series (very unlikely) at least there will be more lightsaber battles, a most-welcome return of old faces and, most importantly… more John WIlliams scores.
Seeing what John Williams would provide to each subsequent installment of the Star Wars trilogy has always been my favorite part of seeing the new movies. Largely, this is because he is the most reliable creative force behind the movies. His themes are continually memorable, and they expand the mythology of the Star Wars universe in ways its creative mastermind George Lucas never could have imagined. They also make for terrific additions to my iTunes library, completely removed from the movies (I’m embarrassed to say how many Star Wars fanfares litter my Workout playlist).
So in honor of International Star Wars Day, and in hopefulness that being a Star Wars Fan may someday become a lighter cross to bear in the nerd-universe, I’ve compiled an exhaustive list of the recurring musical themes, melodies, motifs and leimotifs that occur across all six of John Williams’ Star Wars scores, and I rank them from worst to best.
Actually, “exhaustive” is a bad word, if only because I’m sure I missed a lot of small themes whose absences the Star Wars pedants will eagerly cite. (and for that, SW pedants, I’ll always love you.) Still, the big ones are there, as are many of the smaller ones. I also tried to include music samples where I could.
Happy reading, and happy listening. And, of course, May the 4th be with you.
The 5 Best Suites and One-Off Melodies of Star Wars:
5) “Victory Celebration” (Special Edition) – The universe is right to largely despise the “updates” George Lucas made to his classic trilogy, which mostly adds unnecessary scenes (you don’t need to see CGI Jabba or any kind of Wampa) and poorly-dated CGI. But Williams’ lone contribution to the 1997 update is also the only actual improvement made to the trilogy. As the series prepared itself for expansion, this more bittersweet alternative to the irritating “Happy Ewok” music in the 1983 soundtrack helped evoke a more meaningful sense of accomplishment for the rebellion. This was their victory. And boy oh boy, they earned it. (listen)
4) Battle of the Heroes – While it’s admittedly an inferior rejiggering of what “Duel of the Fates” did, there is still an emotional undercurrent to the melody that genuinely enhances the fateful final battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan. (listen)
3) Asteroid Chase – The best, most memorable action sequences in Star Wars often have a memorable tune to accompany them. It’s no accident, then, that one of the series’ best action set-pieces boasts one of the series’ best one-off tunes. Without Williams’ soaring music navigating the Millenium Falcon across that asteroid field, I doubt the ship would’ve made it through. (listen)
2) The Forest Battle – Unquestionably the best music to come from Return of the Jedi – it’s the series’ weakest score overall – it’s sad how poorly represented this suite is (the closest we get is when Chewbacca commandeers the AT-ST); you can only hear it on the movie’s soundtrack. But it’s an incredibly fun, bombastic piece of music, energetic and sweeping and triumphant. The last minute and a half is pure, John Williams-y bliss. (listen)
1) Cantina Band – Largely considered A New Hope‘s Master Moment when it first released in 1977, the cantina sequence captured everybody’s imagination for its remarkable, grotesque collection of alien species. Most noteworthy, of course, were the alien creatures playing that jazzy tune as Luke and Ben first enter the cantina. Even removed from the movies that spawned it, it’s an unforgettable piece of music, unlike anything else the series has seen. (listen)
The Star Wars Themes & Motifs, Ranked:
28) Jabba’s Theme
Jabba the Hutt is an obese and grotesque slug, his sheer mass rendering him immobile. It only makes sense that the tuba would be used to encapsulate the musical essence of the fearsome crime lord of Tatooine. The choice makes so much sense, that you might even go so far as to say it’s lazy. Lazy in the same way most of the Return of the Jedi score is lazy. (It’s easily the weakest of the six.) It’s also hackneyed, a musical trope so common that it’s even been lampooned by Family Guy, pop culture’s quintessential picker of low-hanging fruit. In a series teeming with diverse melodies and themes, Jabba’s ode is basically a musical fat joke.
Best Use: It’s tough to say, given it’s not used very much. I guess I’ll go with its use on the sail barge, as it precedes Jabba’s pretty terrific strangulation scene. I’ll say, though, this dude in the above sample plays the theme pretty well.
Starts at 2:00
27) Imperial Motif
Not to be confused with the “Imperial March” (don’t worry; that one’s quite a bit higher), it’s no surprise that this generic ditty was jettisoned once The Empire Strikes Back found a theme of far greater pomp and wickedness. In A New Hope, this motif is distinctive enough to underscore the menace of the Empire. But seeing how A New Hope belongs to the good guys, this was clearly not William’s top priority.
Best Use: There’s not much worth noting, but it’s most prominent when Stormtroopers in A New Hope stumble across the droids in the Death Star hangar bay control room. It gives the faceless drones a systematic, no-nonsense, goose-stepping quality.
26) Jar-Jar’s Theme
Jar-Jar Binks will never be forgotten, if only because fans have solemnly adopted a “never forget” attitude towards him. His theme – played quietly and mostly on a bouncy clarinet – is far less memorable. (or is it infamous?) By nature, admittedly, it’s meant to be playful, yet unobtrusive. In other words, it’s the complete antithesis of what the actual Jar-Jar brings to the screen. It’s not a bad melody (little of what Williams wrote in Star Wars is ever bad). But it’s unmemorable, affixed incongruously – and tragically – to the series’ most bombad misstep.
Best Use: On Track 3 of the Phantom Menace Soundtrack, ensuring that Jar Jar’s “Weesa-Gonnas” and “Okee-Days” have no chance of polluting the music.
25) Qui-Gon’s Theme
For so pivotal a character in the Star Wars universe – he is all but the lead in The Phantom Menace – Williams hardly seems to have given the “venerable Jedi Knight” much thought by way of melody. Of course, Han Solo never got much of a theme either, so he’s at least in good company. Considering the Guinness-like British class that Liam Neeson’s performance lent to an otherwise classless Phantom Menace, though, it’s a shame how little his theme evokes about the character. It’s a fairly run-of-the-mill John Williams motif.
Best Use: Undoubtedly during Qui-Gon’s first battle with Darth Maul in the deserts of Tatooine. With the brass blaring and the strings soaring, the melody shows its (modest) capacity for swashbuckling and derring-do. It’s used far more movingly here than anywhere else, even during Qui-Gon’s disappointingly stiff death scene.
Starts at 6:22
24) R2-D2 and C-3PO’s Theme
R2-D2 and C-3PO are the backbone of this series, being consistently featured across all six movies. Yet like the Hidden Fortress duel that inspired them, they take an observational backseat to most of the plot’s more significant goings-on (though R2 does save the day more than once). Their melody’s lack of prominence makes perfect sense, though I do wish it had been used in more films beyond The Empire Strikes Back. It’s a fun, unassuming melody whose mix of slurs and light syncopation captures the jumpy relationship of the two robots. It should have survived into future installments.
Best Use: As R2-D2 is rushing to fix the hyperdrive at the end of Empire Strikes Back, with C-3PO screaming about his delusions of grandeur behind him. it embeds itself quite seamlessly into the musical narrative of the entire sequence, which is otherwise defined by its sense of pulsation and rhythm.
23) Parade of the Ewoks
Nobody hates ewoks more than I do. One of the reasons I think Return of the Jedi is one of the series’ weakest installment (I’d rank it even lower than some of the prequels) is how little the movie got me to believe such a snuggly little army could overthrow an entire legion of Stormtroopers. That said, the march Williams wrote for them is effective. It’s jumpy and childlike, rhythmic without sounding feeling overly military-like. It fits for the ewoks, and the melody is Jedi’s most instantly memorable new tune.
Best Use: Probably when the one Ewok distracts the Stormtroopers by stealing one of their speeder bikes. One of their few successfully cute/funny moments.
22) Sandpeople’s Theme
With a mixture of wild brass crescendos and savage percussive gimmickry (it sounds like the bludgeoning of bone against god-knows-what), this perfectly captures the savagery of Tatooine’s Tusken Raiders. Even the Raiders’ fierce howls and war-cries – no doubt added to the soundtrack separately – manage to harmonize with Williams’ score here. It’s not used much, and it’s not Williams’ most consequential bit of scoring, but it’s a perfect fit for its subjects.
Best Use: When Luke is ambushed by the Sandpeople after finding R2-D2 in the desert. Along with their terrifying screech and the imagery of their gaffi sticks landing inches from Luke’s vulnerable head, it makes for an uncomfortably terse moment of low-key action.
Starts at 1:30
21) Jawa’s Theme
While it has no hint of a march’s two-step like the Ewok’s theme does, the two are fairly similar in that Williams employs a child-like quality to match the beings’ diminutive side. Unlike the Ewok theme, however, the tempo of the plucking strings and the eerie invasiveness of the oboe give a workmanly quality to their theme. The Jawas have business to get done: droids to sell, and money to make.
Best Use: At their introduction, when they capture R2-D2 for the purposes of selling him off. When they short-circuit our hero and carry him off, we don’t quite quite yet what their plans are, so there is an implied menace to the theme. Yet it’s still too playful a melody to think they’ll truly harm the robots.
20) Anakin’s Theme
It’s not an easy theme to love, because Anakin is such an easy character to hate. What little was accomplished of Anakin by way of George Lucas’ writing or Jake Lloyd’s acting oughtn’t count against what Williams does with his theme. There’s a narrative to the melody (especially visible in the full suite), which captures the hopeful innocence of a young boy with grand ambitions, before gently hinting at the darkness lurking underneath him with small hints of the Imperial March. As is the case with so much in the prequels, Williams’ contribution to Anakin is the most successful.
Best Use: As Anakin is being tested – and perturbed – by the Jedi council. Anakin’s theme is not particularly versatile, but it does ease the score into a rendition of the Force Theme, as Yoda begins his “fear leads to anger” speech. With that transition to one theme to another, Anakin’s journey with the Force has begun.
Plays at introduction to track
19) Boba Fett’s Motif
Used only thrice in The Empire Strikes Back, it’s arguably the series most effective motif. Mostly, all we hear is a bassoon, gently alternating between sixteenth notes and quarter notes. Effectively menacing, and deliberately incomplete, it puts you on your toes waiting for more. That’s a terrific fit for Fett, who goes through the series as largely taciturn presence whose pivotal role in the story is largely unheard and unseen.
Best Use: As Fett tracks down the Millenium Falcon following the Star Destroyer Avenger’s jump into hyperspace. Fett hides in the trash as the Falcon sets its trajectory for Bespin, not one soul aware he’s lurking in the periphery. Fett’s theme perfectly captures his menace here.
Starts at 1:59
18) Luke and Leia
Leia gets her name attached to three different melodies throughout the series, more than almost any other character (Anakin/Darth Vader is her lone competition). This one’s undoubtedly the weakest, both for its late introduction and sporadic use throughout the series (a major misstep is its conspicuous absence from the Episode III coda). On its own terms it’s still a lovely, somber melody; a harmonious tribute to a sibling pair now fully reunited after decades apart.
Best Use: When Luke finally reveals everything to Leia concerning the Skywalker family history. As Luke speaks, the ever-familiar Force Theme plays on amidst a dissonant backdrop. Once the cat is out of the bag, that backdrop becomes harmonious and the theme starts playing. For such an oddball twist (if you think about it, it’s an all-too-convenient means of getting somebody out of the Han-Leia-Luke love triangle), it’s delivered rather beautifully.
17) General Grievous’ Theme
The cyborg pseudo-Jedi and nimble leader of the Separatist armies is hardly the most memorable Star Wars villain. Nor is his accompanying theme, for that matter. There’s still a catchy, bouncy, hummable quality to it; it’s the closest thing the series has to anything resembling a sea shanty. Considering Grievous is only around to give Obi-Wan something to do while Anakin makes his final slip into the Dark Side, it is nonetheless a serviceable theme for a serviceable baddie.
Best Use: When Grievous lands on Utapau after Escaping from Coruscant, to confer with Darth Sidious. All the qualities of the theme are there, in full force.
Starts at 3:53
16) Shmi’s Motif
Easily the most human component of The Phantom Menace is in the relationship between Anakin and his slave mother Shmi. And while she’s a minor character in the grand scheme of things, her role is crucial. The motif meant to signify her role is a rather short glissando – a mere two measures – but effective enough to be remembered in Shmi’s pivotal final scene halfway through Attack of the Clones.
Best Use: Its first use in The Phantom Menace, in the scene when Anakin bids his mother goodbye. It’s the most (only?) human moment in that whole movie, and its placement here by WIlliams is well-chosen.
15) The Emperor’s Theme
This is where they start to get good. I don’t know if William’s eleven-note tribute to Return of the Jedi’s ignominious ruler was written to have the kind of legs it had. But what was originally intended as a quieter, more serious evocation of Emperor Palpatine’s quieter, more serious evil became remarkably useful in the Prequel trilogy, when it became the banner theme for the Sith and their slow, insidious corruption of the Old Republic.
Best Use: If you listen closely – and I do mean very closely – to the Parade March at the end of The Phantom Menace, I think you’ll recognize the melody coming from that happy, innocent chorus of falsetto voices. It may be unconventional use of the theme, but it is also Williams’ slyest, smartest moment of melodic reappropriation in the entire series.
Starts at 1:40
14) Kamino Motif
It recurs only in Attack of the Clones, which many (but not I) consider the least memorable of the Star Wars movies. So I won’t be surprised if you don’t remember this one. Used when Obi-Wan first discovers the clone factory on the oceanic planet that is its namesake, the Kamino motif is itself oceanic in flow, evoking the sense of mystery needed as Obi-Wan is doing his detective work.
Best Use: Its reprise at the very end of Clones, as Padmé fires off a couple of (comically futile) shots after Count Dooku as he escapes. The real mystery of the Clone Army’s origins go away with him.
13) Lando/Cloud City’s Theme
The theme itself boasts a kind of suave braggadocio. That’s a perfect fit for a guy like Lando, who is all too eager to entice his friends (and unwitting bait) with the splendor of the City he’s in charge of. It’s an appropriately brittle theme, given that the braggadocio it represents is itself rather brittle. But there’s no denying its irresistible, semi-romantic sweep.
Best Use: In the rush to flee Cloud City, Lando orders an evacuation before the arrival of more Imperial troops. This is a more intense rendition of the piece, easing us into Empire Strikes Back’s spectacular chase sequence involving Lando, Leia and Chewie dodging Stormtroopers on their way to the Millenium Falcon.
Begins at 1:46
12) The Death Star Motif
A simple and effective four-note burst of fanfare, it’s a nicely understated, bombastic kernel that really allows the gargantuan space station to speak for itself. Mostly, it is used whenever Lucas does a wipe-cut from the heroes’ action for a big exterior shot of the Death Star. It’s utilitarian, yes, but it really gets the job done.
Best Use: Its reprise in Return of the Jedi, when the Super Star-Destroyer Executor crashes into the second Death Star at the Battle of Endor. You almost can’t hear it, the explosion is so loud. But it’s a welcome call-back to the series’ first installment, and a reminder that maybe recycling one failed idea (an easily-destructed space station) isn’t always the best idea.
11) The Funeral Motif
With its baritone lyricism and its initial use in the Funeral scene at the end of The Phantom Menace, there is a solemnity to this motif – even a religiosity – that hints at the way of life the Jedi and the Old Republic embody. Considering how few of the rituals we see enacted by the Jedi throughout the series, it’s nice at the very least to see some hints of the culture of the Jedi, even if it’s primarily musical.
Best Use: Surprisingly, its best use is not at the funeral of an actual Jedi. Instead, its use at Padmé’s funeral is the most moving rendition we get in the series. The male baritones are for the first time replaced with an all-woman chorus and, as the camera moves from the late Mrs. Skywalker’s face to the hand-crafted necklace in her hand (a gift from her husband), we know that there’s a whole lot more being mourned at this funeral than the loss of a Queen-turned-Senator.
10) Princess Leia’s Theme
The score to A New Hope is unabashedly, relentlessly brisk, often whisking along from one fanfare to another without much breathing room. What gives those fanfares their true impact, however, is the grounding quality of this sweeping interlude. While this theme doesn’t quite capture Princess Leia’s spitfire personality (look farther down the list for that), it’s still one of the score’s few suppliers of deliberate lyricism. It’s gentle, it’s romantic and it’s as memorable as any other theme written for the movie. That there exist several other themes even more romantic than this one should speak to how terrific Williams’ scores truly are.
Best Use: I’m actually a sucker for its (most welcome) return at the end of Revenge of the Sith, when Senator Organa resolves to adopt Leia and love her as his own. It’s an unexpected reprise, but it signifies the true moment when this series comes full circle. If I had to choose a moment from the original trilogy, though, I would choose the moment when Leia kisses Luke right before they swing across the Death Star chasm, “For luck.”
9) Battle Droid Theme
In general, I’m not a huge fan of marches. Intrinsically tied to many of them is a militaristic, even jingoistic quality I can’t help but resist. That said, the theme Williams wrote for the Trade Federation’s thin-framed battle droids is best (real) march in the whole Star Wars saga. It’s also one of the most memorable things to come out of that Prequel trilogy. The militarism here is well-used, though, seeing as the droids are meant to goose-step their way into the worlds of Naboo and Kashyyyk for the deliberate purpose of occupation. Which is to say nothing of the theme’s innate catchiness.
Best Use: In The Phantom Menace, when the droid armies are preparing to attack the Gungans on the battlefield. In robotic lockstep, the droids assemble, assume their positions, and march together with a most-perfect unison. The way they march eerily evokes to the march of the broomsticks in the “Sorcerers Apprentice” segment of Fantasia, and manages to be (almost) as unsettling. Captain Tarfull’s utterance of “Ouch Time” here is the only utterance of annoying Gungan pidgin that ever feels particularly earned.
Starts at 2:00
8) The Rebel Fanfare
It’s hard to imagine what Star Wars would sound like without this theme. It may not be the most versatile or the most well-recognized of Williams’ tunes, but it is nonetheless as spectacular a marriage of brass and rhythm as anything else the series has to offer. It evokes the Rebellion’s scrappiness, its sense of gumption and its near-stupid boldness in deigning to take on the whole Galactic Empire. It’s one of the original trilogy’s most fast-paced themes, and one of its most reliable when scoring an action scene.
Best Use: Its most full representation, in the A New Hope shootout between the Millenium Falcon and a small battalion of TIE fighters. As the camera cuts – masterfully – between Han and Luke at the gun turrets, between Leia and Chewie in the cockpit, and R2-D2 and C-3PO doing… whatever, the fanfare blares, jazzing up the rhythm of the editing and propelling the feelings of satisfaction as Han gloriously destroys the last TIE on their tail.
7) The Main Title Melody (Luke’s Theme)
It should also speak for WIlliams’ accomplishments with this series that his banner theme – the one that bookends every installment of the series – is ranked relatively low. This should say nothing about the theme’s qualities; it accomplishes everything a main theme needs to accomplish: it is so memorable that those who’ve never seen a Star Wars (that’s right, both of them) can still recognize the theme if somebody so much as whistles it. It is rousing, it is hair-raising, and it is remarkably flexible throughout the series (it is as easily used for moments of excitement as it is for solemnity). No movie series could ask for a better, more epitomizing score.
Best Use: Again I will refer to A New Hope’s Death Star chasm shootout. Along with the breakneck editing and sound design, the sequence showcases the most sprightly employment of the main theme. It’s a surprisingly thrilling scene if you consider, basically, the only action being depicted is of people aiming guns at each other… and generally missing. It’s a great instance of how the score enhances the experience.
6) Duel of the Fates
As far as most people are concerned, this is the only part of The Phantom Menace (or the entire prequel trilogy) that is worth a damn. The piece marks a watershed moment for the series in several respects. Musically, it’s the first Wars tune Williams wrote that calls for a choir to be featured, alongside the full London Symphony Orchestra, the performed lyrics written in sanskrit. The piece also represents everything fans had hoped the new Star Wars trilogy would be: an epic expansion of a favorite story, a mythical, memorable update told with impeccable execution. Fans by and large didn’t get that, but for good reason they still loved this spectacular new theme.
Best Use: When the final duel between Darth Maul, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon begins. Needless to say, after almost two hours of waiting patiently as Lucas got the pieces on his chessboard set, this was the first moment in The Phantom Menace where it felt like things were finally starting to move forward. For a brief spell, the disappointment of Episode I was largely forgotten.
5) Han and Leia
The most playful and flirtatious of the romantic themes throughout Star Wars, this is a perfect accompaniment to the perfect movie romance that is Han and Leia. It encapsulates the couple’s mutual love, their mutual condescension and their mutual ability to drive each other bananas. This is a more lighthearted romance, one meant to add levity to the action in a much-darker film. But by the last time we hear it at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, with Leia pining for a long-lost Han, we realize how well it has us tethered to that relationship. Han and Leia love each other. Thanks to this theme, we know.
Best Use: The scene of their first kiss, which uses a very gentle rendition of the theme, which alternates between a french horn, then to a flute, then to an oboe, and then to a brief swelling of strings. There is a near-dialectical quality to how the instruments play off of each other, playfully stealing the main melody as if it were a relay baton. That, along with Han and Leia’s repartee (“You like me because I’m a scoundrel. There aren’t enough scoundrels in your life.”) encapsulate everything irresistible about their romance.
4) Imperial March
John Williams, for all his skill (or lack thereof, depending on whom you ask), is at his most expert when innovating musical representation of the evil bastard. For examples, you need only look to his Jaws theme, or his Jurassic Park T-Rex music, or even Episode I’s own Duel of the Fates. Do any of them come close to epitomizing the glory of pure evil than Darth Vader’s theme? I say “hell, no!” (Well, maybe Jaws… but that’s another discussion.) Certainly, the Imperial March must be the most well-recognized tune to come from the Star Wars musical canon, and the one now most inextricably linked to evil bastardry. Hell, even Mr. Burns re-appropriated the fanfare as his own on multiple occasions. But beyond its cultural prevalence, it’s a brilliant piece of popular music; its violent marriage of brass and snare and string is chaotic, unpredictable and ridiculously fun.
Best Use: While I’m tempted to go with his big reveal to Luke at the end of Empire, I think I’ll instead go with the much-earlier scene when he simultaneously promotes Captain Piett to Admiral, and “fires” Admiral Ozzel. Via a conference call. The whole time, the theme is playing gently, menacingly in the background, as Vader lets loose his murderous and unpredictable rage. He may be a great Sith Lord, but Darth Vader is the worst kind of boss (maybe Piett sticks with the job for the dental plan).
3) Yoda’s Theme
As gentle and unassuming as the 900-year-old Jedi Master it represents, Yoda’s theme epitomizes everything about a subject who, in turn, epitomizes everything that is graceful and elegant about the Force. The melody is sweeping and effortless, and even deceptively simple. The tune is a reminder that, for all the leaping and superpowers and spectacular swordplay that come with being a Jedi, there will always be a side of the Force for the more diminutive, the more thoughtful, and the more peaceful. Yoda’s theme offers a softer, yet equally necessary, expansion of the Star Wars Universe. Yoda is unquestionably the best single character in Star Wars. It only makes sense that he get one of the best single-character themes.
Best Use: When Yoda exhumes Luke’s X-Wing from the Dagobah swamps. At this point, we have become fairly accustomed to the gentility of Yoda’s theme. But as the Jedi master plucks the fighter out further from its hiding place, his theme achieves a greater crescendo. Once the ship is resting soundly on terra firma, Yoda’s unassuming theme has hits an unexpected, near-fanfare high. “Size matters not,” Yoda tells Luke. And now, we believe him.
2) Across the Stars
I expect to get the most grief for this choice, and not merely because it’s the banner theme to what many consider the biggest failing of the worst Star Wars movie. (Many will complain about its melodic similarity to another John WIlliams score, Hook.) But “Across the Stars: The Love Theme of Attack of the Clones” deserves to be considered as great an achievement as the many themes it’s outranked here, if simply because no other Star Wars theme better encapsulates the value John Williams adds to these blockbusters. With its searing intensity, its aching melody and its ability to flex from playful romance to brisk action to (sorry) star-crossed love, this theme is the closest the prequel trilogy ever comes to convincing me that the love between Padme and Anakin is so genuine, so overpowering, that it would trigger the latter’s slide into the Dark Side. Williams achieves here what neither Lucas nor his romantic leads ever could; his score finds something in the story that the script intended, but was never fully realized.
Best Use: Its return following the big opening sequence of Revenge of the Sith, when Anakin and Padme embrace in the shadows, and when Padme announces her pregnancy. If you can endure the flat line delivery and the stilted dialog, you can hear the romantic intensity and ache of that romance return. Again, if you can endure the dialogue and delivery.
1) Obi-Wan’s Theme (Theme of the Force)
What was meant originally as the melody for Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope has since become the chief emblem for the presence of the Force in these movies, as well as most prolific musical theme of the Star Wars saga. For that reason – and many, many others – it should be no surprise that it would top my list. It is the one theme that suits every criterion needed to consider it the best component of this six-part (and soon to be nine-part) score. It is versatile, equally capable of serving fanfare and gentility and emotional sweep. It is unforgettable, at once distinctly memorable and idiosyncratic, and eminently hummable. It never tires on the ear either; I can listen (and have listened) to the countless renditions of the theme over and over again, and its power never waned.
Most importantly, The Force Theme serves to define the Star Wars mythology better than literally anything else: Better than the other musical theme does, better than any director or screenwriter has, better than any actor or special effects technician did, and better than any of John Williams’ successors will. This theme – potentially the best melody Williams has ever written – is more than a great tune. It’s what brings me back to Star Wars, year after year. And it’s a big part of what keeps me hopeful, against my instincts, for the expansions sure to come.
Best Use: There are so many – oh, so many – to choose from. But if I had to choose one, I guess it would be the scene that even Pauline Kael – who mostly hated Star Wars – admitted to liking: the scene of Luke Skywalker on Tatooine, staring off into the binary sunset, pining boyishly for his hopes and dreams for adventure. It’s an encapsulation of everything Star Wars is, and everything we want Star Wars to be.