Ranking the Star Wars scores piece by piece

Along with rewatching the movies, playing the video games, and arguing whether or not the prequels were good, Star Wars fans listen to the music. Music is so important in this saga that seemingly one fourth of the movies are made up of music. John Williams has numerous fans worldwide and I’d argue Star Wars makes up a good number of them. He composed the music for every live-action film in the saga until Rouge One, when Michael Giacchino handled composition duties.

I’m going to list off my favorite pieces from the first six films in the saga, plus Rogue One. The only pieces I’m not going to rank are the main theme and the throne room/end titles, because they’re so well known and recognized as stellar compositions already. The Force Awakens will not be here because I want to keep the focus on the original saga. Rogue One counts because it takes place right before Episode IV. I’ll also list honorable mentions after the main list.

 

Jedi Temple March, Episode III- Originally composed for the arena sequence in Episode II but replaced by other music, this march got its due in the shots of Vader and his clone legion marching up the steps of the Jedi Temple. Its one of the more iconic marches in the saga, and uses the thundering drums and brass to full effect.

Leia’s Theme/Light of the Force (Medley), Episode IV- Don’t worry, there’s a lot of Episode IV music to get to. This particular selection is an arrangement of ‘Binary Sunset’ and I actually prefer it to the former. It’s got a bit more depth to it both in actual instruments used and the way it transitions from happy to foreboding back to happy again.

Swimming to Otoh Gunga/Passage Through the Planet Core, Episode I- These pieces represent a more ethereal, yet mysterious side to Williams’ scores. We don’t hear such airy yet haunting music much but when we do, like with these selections, it sticks with you.

Han and the Princess, Episode V- One of two love themes composed for the saga (though arguably Leia’s theme in Episode IV is another), this is a sweeping romance tune intercut with Imperial undertones. It starts out light; then it becomes dark for the remaining runtime, giving some possible foreshadowing of later events in the film.

Hope, Rouge One- “Hope” was the first track I listened to from Rouge One‘s score and I loved it. Upon listening to the remaining score I thought Giacchino had done a wonderful job. This remains the standout track because if nothing else it incorporates many classic themes from Williams’ extensive collection.

Battle of the Heroes, Episode III- Arguably the best lightsaber duel of the saga has the second-best action theme playing along in the background. It’s got everything you’d expect from a Star Wars composition and keeps darker undertones, as does most of the music in the film. And yet…

Padame’s Ruminations, Episode III- If there’s one track in the Episode III score that beats out Battle, its this one. The piece is rather simple compared to most, yet it manages to be so deep and dark (along with the scene it accompanies) that “Ruminations” is among my favorite tracks from Episode III.

Cantina Band, Episode IV- I made up the title because I’m pretty sure we all know this one. It’s catchy, easy to listen to, and synonymous with the scenes and film its from.

Leia’s Theme, Episode IV- After the tragic events of late 2016 it’s only right I put this song on the main list. What was it doing in the honorable mentions? The first time I listened to this was the day after I heard the news and I almost cried. It’s another example of Williams’ ability to make every piece connect with the viewer.

Duel of the Fates, Episode I- Nearly every Star Wars fan can agree this song was the best thing to come out of the much-scrutinized Episode I. It became iconic on its own, earned reprises in the following two films, and is still a delight to listen to.

Across the Stars, Episode II- I love this piece, one of Williams’ best overall. It’s the love theme from Episode V done right, a sweeping, five-plus minute long medley of a quiet tune that captures the love between the to-be Skywalker’s perfectly. If romance could be heard musically, I’m sure this piece would be part of it.

Yoda and the Force/Yoda’s Theme, Episode V- Oh Yoda. He’s been a puppet, a CGI character, and one of the most popular Jedi Masters ever. These themes are so similar they’re basically one long track, and capture Yoda’s calm, clear outlook and his wisdom perfectly. The theme made reappearances in Episode II and Episode III in a deleted scene.

The Imperial March, Episode V- Who doesn’t like this song? The march has become synonymous with Darth Vader and the Galactic Empire as a whole. Whenever I hear it I get an image of the Empire blasting this theme every morning on the Death Star. Despite it being the signature “bad guy theme” it’s so good that even people who don’t like the Empire probably enjoy this song! And I know the fans do.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Anakin’s Dark Deeds, Episode III

Binary Sunset, Episode IV

Asteroid Chase Sequences, Episode V and Episode II

Invasion of Naboo, Episode I

Battle Over Coruscant (DVD Release version), Episode III

Luke and Leia, Episode VI

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