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John Williams is responsible for many, many memorable film soundtracks. Among them are the soundtracks to every single Star Wars movie and every single feature film Steven Spielberg directed (with the exception of The Color Purple, Duel, and Twilight Zone the Movie).

Star Wars

  • The Main Theme aka, Luke's Theme
  • One that's been left out up till now: When Vader breaks free of the Dark Side in RoTJ, 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 "Jedi/The Force" theme.
  • Duel of the Fates (Here's the official music video.) — also qualifies as an example of Ominous Latin Chanting, even though it's a Gaelic poem sung in Sanskrit.
  • The famous Romeo & Juliet-inspired love theme, Across The Stars.
  • Binary Sunset (proving 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.
  • Battle of the Heroes (It's endlessly compelling.)
  • Star Wars (Main Theme), also called "Luke's Theme" Arguably John Williams' most popular composition that revived the grand orchestral soundtrack.
  • Anakin's Dark Deeds.
  • City in the Clouds. Less bombastic, but utterly magnificent.
  • Not to mention the tragically underused Luke and Leia theme 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.
  • Ahem. The friggin' Asteroid Field. Never tell me the odds.
  • The entire last forty-five minutes in Return of the Jedi, three quarters of an hour of continuous, uninterrupted WIN!
  • The first half of the track 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 Tear Jerker 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. Moreso 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.
  • How has Into the Trap not been mentioned?
    • 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 (8:05-8:29). Only John Williams can packs 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, 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 "Order 66 theme". "The Immolation Scene" was another amazing, tear-inducing piece of music. YOU WERE THE CHOSEN ONE!!! The Revenge of the Sith soundtrack was one whole emotionally charged Crowning Music of Awesome. The opening credits where Anakin and Obi-Wan are flying together as friends and triumphant heroes, Grevious's choral theme, the eerie, gutteral 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 ANH, 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 March. (Not the later and more famous "Darth Vader's Theme" Imperial March, which Williams didn't compose until Empire Strikes Back — the lesser-known Imperial March from the first Star Wars movie.)
  • "TIE Fighter Attack", aka "Here They Come!" It earns that exclamation mark.
  • During the Death Star battle score for ANH, it's noticeable that the music changes from scary/foreboding to confident and heroic at the moment Luke turns off his targeting computer and trusts the Force. That's the hinge 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.
  • ROTJ 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 ROTJ has awesome music.
  • Afterwards "Victory Celebration" is just...amazing. People often call it the only good change made in the Special Editions.
  • 'Cantina Band', aka 'Mad About Me', anyone?
  • Not one of the flashiest themes, but the Jawa Theme was otherworldly.
  • The Immolation Scene - tearjerker! Yet oddly relaxing at the same time.
  • "The Destruction of Alderaan".
  • 'The Tractor Beam/Chasm Crossfire (especially the second part). Starts out with some cool spooky music, then eventually translates into an amazingly uplifting version of the main fanfare, interspliced 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!
  • Padme's Ruminations where Padme 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.

For Steven Spielberg

Everything else

  • The Accidental Tourist features the rare Williams score that isn't derivative from other composers like Ligeti, Stravinsky, or Copland.
  • The moving main theme from The Patriot.
  • The Superman March. Best Fanfare ever.
    • Oh hey, since we're on the topic of Superman, may we present, his love theme.
      • 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.
    • Planet Krypton anyone?
    • A very effective use is 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 inescapable doom. Just when the tragedy becomes too much, two red boots appear on the door window and the Superman March blasts out with full thunder as Superman saves the day!
    • 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 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 to Fiddler On the Roof.
  • John Williams had some opportunity to compose some Irish music with the Far and Away theme.
  • From Harry Potter,Williams gave us:
  • Home Alone:
  • Sayuri's theme from Memoirs of a Geisha.
  • main theme from Born On the Fourth of July.
  • Devil's Dance and 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 composed a score for a Western film? (Even better, a John Wayne film?) Check out this rousing score 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!
  • Probably no one has ever known that John had 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.