The music of Star Wars consists of the scores written for all six Star Wars films by composer John Williams from 1977 to 1983 for the Original Trilogy, and 1999 to 2005 for the Prequel Trilogy. Williams’ scores for the double trilogy count among the most widely known and popular contributions to modern film music. Additionally, music for Star Wars: The Clone Wars was written by Kevin Kiner, and further music has been composed for Star Wars video games and works in other media.
The scores utilize an eclectic variety of musical styles, many culled from the Late Romantic idiom of Richard Strauss and his contemporaries that itself was incorporated into the Golden Age Hollywood scores of Erich Korngold and Max Steiner. While several obvious nods to Gustav Holst, William Walton and Igor Stravinsky exist in the score to Episode IV, Williams relied less and less on classical references in the latter five scores, incorporating more strains of modernist orchestral writing with each progressive score. The reasons for Williams’ tapping of a familiar Romantic idiom are known to involve Lucas’ desire to ground the otherwise strange and fantastic setting in well-known, audience-accessible music. Indeed, Lucas maintains much of the trilogy’s success relies not on advanced visual effects, but on the simple, direct emotional appeal of its plot, characters and, importantly, music.
Star Wars often is credited as heralding the beginning of a revival of grand symphonic scores in the late 1970s. One technique in particular is an influence: Williams’s revival of a technique called leitmotif, which is most famously associated with the operas of Richard Wagner and, in film scores, with Steiner. A leitmotif is a phrase or melodic cell that signifies a character, place, plot element, mood, idea, relationship or other specific part of the film. It commonly is used in modern film scoring as a device for mentally anchoring certain parts of a film to the soundtrack. Of chief importance for a leitmotif is that it must be strong enough for a listener to latch onto while being flexible enough to undergo variation and development.
A series of concerts which featured Star Wars music, Star Wars: In Concert, took place in 2009 and 2010. First performed in London, it went on to tour across the United States and Canada, last playing at London, Ontario, Canada on July 25, 2010.
Composed for the original trilogy
First appearance in A New Hope
- Star Wars (Main Theme) (all episodes). The anthem of the saga, easily its most recognizable melody, the main theme is variously associated with Luke Skywalker (“Luke’s Theme”), heroism and adventure. It is heard over the opening crawl at the beginning of all the films, and forms the basis of the end-title as well. The theme is most prominent in the first film (Episode IV) in which strong brass treat it as a fanfare of sorts for Luke. Throughout subsequent films, it is relied upon less and less frequently, though this restraint lends it a greater impact. Except for the final scene of Episode III, Williams’ use of the Main Theme in the prequels is limited mostly to the title crawl and short, sometimes disguised fragments. It was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. “Among the most widely recognized in motion picture history,” it has been compared to Korngold’s theme for Kings Row (1942).
Sales and certifications
- Rebel Fanfare (all episodes). This short motif is used extensively in Episode IV and less frequently in Episode VI to represent the Rebel Alliance. It is used occasionally in Episode III, Episode V and part of the ending credits of all movies in the Saga for this purpose as well. The theme itself is constructed out of brassy major block chords that progress in parallel motion through intervals of a third, resulting in an appropriate though non-diatonic heraldic flavor. (Written in minor key, it was often misinterpreted as a theme for the Empire; the radio dramatization of Star Wars often introduced or outro’d Imperial scenes with what is actually the “Rebel Fanfare.”)
- Force Theme or The Throne Room or Ben Kenobi’s theme or Binary Sunset or Jedi Knights and the Old Republic Theme or “May the Force be with you” (all episodes). Well-known example of leitmotif. Of all the leitmotifs of the series, the theme is most consistently developed and, consequently, most difficult to attach a specific meaning. This theme variously represents Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Jedi and the Force from which they draw their power, as well as more abstract ideas such as fate or destiny. In general, its appearances mark moments of significance in the films, due in part to its portentous minor mode and upward-striving melody.
- Princess Leia’s Theme (Episodes III, IV, V and VI). A lush theme for Princess Leia, one of the central protagonists of the Original Trilogy. The theme represents the romanticized, somewhat naive idea of the princess, and hence is most often heard in Episode IV, but is used in the next two films when she is acting on her own, when she is particularly vulnerable, or when she is mentioned. It is heard prominently in Episode III after she is born. Williams composed an extended concert version of this theme that was incorporated into the end title for Episode III. Well-known example of leitmotif.
- Imperial Motif (Episode IV) Not to be confused with the Imperial March, this motif represents the Empire and Darth Vader strictly in Episode IV, before the much more popular Imperial March was written. It would not be unreasonable if it represents Grand Moff Tarkin, as he appeared only in Episode IV (excluding a cameo in Episode III) and so did the theme. As Vader and the part of the Empire the Rebels faced were under Tarkin’s control at the time, this theory is given some credibility. Vaguely militaristic, it is generally played by bassoons or muted trombones, and for its brevity and limited melodic scope, is not nearly as successful at conjuring dread as the Imperial March. Certain rhythmic and harmonic aspects do anticipate the March, however.
- The Death Star Motif (Episodes IV, VI). An imposing four chord motif, played six times during Episode IV, that heralds either a shot of the Death Star, or is played when that place’s presence is suggested. Also heard in Episode VI when Darth Vader’s flagship the Super Star Destroyer Executor hits the Death Star II, through music that was adapted from the first film.
- Jawa theme or The Little People Work (Episode IV). A jaunty, playful theme used in Episode IV for much of early Tatooine scenes. It is mostly associated with double-reed instruments.
- Dies Irae (Episodes II, III, IV). Williams, following in the tradition of many classical composers, incorporated the melody of this Gregorian chant into the score to Episode IV, though only the first four notes are clearly stated. The motif often arises in connection to Luke Skywalker’s destiny, evoking fear and apprehension. The motif serves a diminished function in Episode IV due to the replacement of its introductory cue, “Binary Sunset” (the film version discards Dies Irae in favor of Luke’s theme and the Force theme). In addition to Luke’s destiny, Dies Irae has a connection to the murders of Owen and Beru Lars. This tragic function is expanded upon in Episodes II and III. In Episode II, it is heard during the scene in which Anakin confesses to slaughtering the Sand People, and in Episode III it is heard during the scene in which Jedi are slaughtered across the galaxy.
First appearance in The Empire Strikes Back
- The Imperial March or “Darth Vader’s Theme” (Episodes I, II, III, V and VI). The theme that represents the totalitarian Galactic Empire as a whole, and Darth Vader specifically. More than other Star Wars themes, the March has attained an iconic status in the Western consciousness as a general “evil theme”, and as such is used to portray power at public events, sometimes seriously, sometimes with tongue in cheek (as in sporting events). It has been used on multiple occasions to introduce a scene featuring the “evil” Montgomery Burns on the animated comedy The Simpsons. Musical features include relentless martial rhythm and dark, non-diatonic harmonic support. In the Original Trilogy, The Imperial March also represents all that is the Empire; therefore, it is nearly equivalent to a galactic anthem. Williams retrograded the theme for the prequel trilogy, subtly embedding it in Anakin’s innocent theme and the evolution of the Republic (represented by the clone troopers) into the Empire. It is heard with progressive prominence through Episodes II and III, signaling critical points in Anakin’s downward spiral to the Dark side. In the March’s final rendition, accompanying Vader’s death in Episode VI, Williams reverses the effect of the theme, by means of reduced orchestration and volume. It ends with a cadence of solos (strings, flute, clarinet, horn and, ultimately, harp) as Vader expires.
- Han Solo and the Princess or the Love theme or Han Solo’s theme. A sweeping theme for the love between Han Solo and Princess Leia. Heard in Episodes V and VI, and often used in not only scenes of romance but also scenes of sacrifice from the two characters, including the closing moments of Episode V. During its original appearance, this melody first is played by a solo French horn.
- Yoda’s Theme (Episode I, II, III, V and VI). A gentle theme for the Jedi Master Yoda, who appears in five of the six films along with his music. Closely associated with his teachings and abilities, though can be related to Luke’s retention of those lessons as well. Used more sparingly in the Prequel Trilogy, though certain moments, especially Yoda’s departure from Kashyyyk, highlight the theme quite prominently. It is briefly heard in the film E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial as E.T. encounters a trick-or-treater in a Yoda costume and tries to communicate with him. This was most likely included as a humorous nod to the Star Wars movies, as John Williams is the composer of both soundtracks.
- Droids motif (Episode V). A short playful motif associated with C-3PO and R2-D2. Prominent in several scenes on Hoth, Dagobah, and during the climactic “Hyperspace” cue at the end of the film. A version is played in a minor tune during the scene that C-3PO gets shot.
- Boba Fett motif (Episode V). A simple bassoon melody based on a descending semitone phrase representing Boba Fett. It is played sparingly in Episode V in scenes strongly involving the bounty hunter. Some speculation exists of a secondary motif for Fett, occurring as he escorts frozen Han through the halls of Bespin. This theme heard in the horns appears in scenes unrelated to Fett, which throws association into debate. It may represent a ‘struggle’ by the rebels to escape the Bespin city, which would qualify it as a secondary Bespin theme. Some have asserted material associated with Fett also turns up in Episode II as well, though whether the material in question bears anything more than coincidental similarity to his original motif is debatable.
- Lando’s Palace or the Cloud City march (Episodes V). A major-mode march, heard a few times in Lando Calrissian’s Palace during the Bespin sequences of Episode V.
First appearance in Return of the Jedi
- Jabba’s Theme (Episodes I, IV, and VI). A rolling, bulbous tuba theme for the slug-like Jabba the Hutt, it is played during the opening act of Episode VI, which takes place at Jabba’s Palace. It is also played during the added Jabba scene in the 1997 Special Edition of Episode IV, and in a slightly disguised form before the pod-race in Episode I.
- The Emperor’s Theme (Episodes I, II, III and VI). The theme for Palpatine, aka Darth Sidious. More generally, it portrays the dark side itself. Consists of an ominous melody built over alternating, chromatically related chords and often sung by a male choir. In Episodes I and II, it is used to represent the growing power of the mysterious Darth Sidious, most notably in the scene in the Naboo capital at the end of the first film, where it is performed in a major key by a child chorus as celebratory music (symbolically representing the hidden victory of Palpatine’s overall plan). In Episode III it is played as Sidious’ true identity is unmasked and as he lays the foundation for the Empire. In Episode VI, it is used to represent the Emperor, and plays whenever he is on screen.
- The Ewok’s Theme (Episode VI). The Prokofiev-styled theme for the Ewoks, who live on the forest moon of Endor. It is played at the Ewok village, during the forest battle and in the End Credits of Episode VI.
- Luke and Leia (Episode VI). The theme for the link between Leia and her brother Luke in Episode VI. Heard only twice in the actual film; the extended concert suite that Williams composed for it is clearly greater than the sum of its uses. In some ways a more mature theme than the outwardly romantic Leia and Han Solo and Princess themes.
- Victory Celebration (Episode VI). The theme signifying the victory of the Alliance and the culmination of the entire saga. Its music has various animal calls, flutes and is played mostly at the Ewok village where everybody celebrates. The original music was replaced by this theme in the 1997 Special Edition, in order to accommodate new scenes on Tatooine, Naboo, Bespin & Coruscant.
Composed for the Prequel Trilogy
First appearance in The Phantom Menace
- Anakin’s Theme (Episodes I, II and III). An ostensibly innocent theme that contains seeds of the Imperial March. Its outwardly warm melody belies the harmonic instability of a number of passages and deeply rooted motivic similarities with Vader’s mature theme. The concert arrangement makes the fate of this leitmotif more explicit, ending with a number of subtle renditions of phrases from the theme it foreshadows. Development is limited almost exclusively to Episode I, with a small handful of renditions in Episode II and a single, tortured rendition in Episode III.
- Droid Invasion Theme (Episodes I, II and III). Alternatively the Trade Federation March, it is played various times in Episode I as the droid armies of the Trade Federation attack Naboo. In Episode II, it is used to represent the Clones, who will become the Empire’s soldiers of choice. It is also played in Episode III during the Battle of Kashyyyk. The music is also used for a while during the Battle of Geonosis in Episode II
- Duel of the Fates (Episodes I, II and III). Composed from two minor mode ostinati and choral interjections originally heard in The Empire Strikes Back, this theme is used to represent the clash between the Light Side and the Dark Side. The symphonic arrangement is a full development of these three ideas. The text is derived from an archaic Celtic poem “Cad Goddeu” (Battle of the Trees) translated into Sanskrit. In English, the text reads: “Under the tongue root a fight most dread, and another raging behind, in the head.” Played during the climactic lightsaber battle in Episode I—incidentally, the theme was developed substantially in music that did not make the final cut of the film. In Episode II, it is played when Anakin goes off to search for his mother, implying an internal struggle between good and evil. In Episode III, it is tracked to accompany Yoda’s duel with Emperor Palpatine, the clash between the most powerful users of the Light and Dark sides of the Force, respectively.
- Funeral Theme (Episode I and III). Another setting of poetry in Sanskrit. Heard briefly during Qui Gon’s funeral in Episode I, and developed in Episode III. In that film, accompanies the death of Padmé and the “rebirth” of Darth Vader in his suit, as well as without a choir in Padmé’s funeral procession and during the shot of the skeletal Death Star, where it is subsumed by the Imperial March. A small portion of the Force theme is also incorporated into the funeral theme, perhaps meaning that a person has become one with the Force, such as Qui-Gon or Amidala.
First appearance in Attack of the Clones
- Across the Stars (Episodes II and III). This broadly romantic theme is associated with the forbidden and ill-fated love between Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala. The title is probably a reference to Romeo and Juliet, a story of similarly “star-crossed” love. It is gentle but with an undercurrent of sadness and uncertainty. It is written in the key of D minor, but changes keys several times throughout its duration. Arguments have been put forward that in its melodic and rhythmic structure, the theme bears resemblance to Luke and Leia’s themes from the original trilogy, though such features as prominent triplets speak more to common ideas throughout Williams scores (note resemblance to themes from Hook and Nixon, for example).
First appearance in Revenge of the Sith
- Battle of the Heroes theme (Episode III). The theme for the climatic duel between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan. A counterpart to Duel of the Fates, but where that piece emphasizes action and danger, Battle of the Heroes is more broadly epic and contains significantly more tragic feeling. (see article)
- General Grievous theme (Episode III). Plodding, triple-time theme that occurs with the introduction of General Grievous, is given a more extended treatment during his arrival on Utapau, and is heard at the beginning of the lightsaber fight with Obi-Wan. Usually played on trombones or horns.
While the plainchant setting of Dies Irae is not the only melody drawn from or inspired by the canon of Western art music, it is the only one that serves a recurring, leitmotivic function. Like many composers before him, Williams uses Dies Irae to evoke a sense of impending doom or tribulation. The four signature notes first appear in the score to Star Wars, notably at the end of the scene in which Luke finds his aunt and uncle dead. It was originally introduced in the “Binary Sunset” scene, but Williams was asked to rewrite the cue, and in doing so removed the references to Dies Irae. Williams reprised the motive for Attack of the Clones in an eight-note (but altered) form to foreshadow the suffering Anakin Skywalker would bring to the galaxy in the scene in which he admits that he murdered the Tusken Raiders. It also appears in Revenge of the Sith during several climactic scenes.
The score of the original Star Wars film of 1977 won John Williams the most awards of his career:
- an Oscar at the 50th Academy Awards for Original Score
- a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score at the 35th Golden Globe Awards
- a BAFTA Award for Best Film Music at the 32nd British Academy Film Awards in 1978
- Three awards at the 1978 Grammy Awards for Best Instrumental Composition, Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special and Best Pop Instrumental Performance
He also received the 1977 Saturn Award for Best Music for both the Star Wars score and his score for Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Williams’s score for the 1980 sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, also earned him a number of awards:
- BAFTA Award for Best Film Music at the 34th British Academy Film Awards in 1980
- two awards at the 1981 Grammy Awards for Best Instrumental Composition and Best Album Of Original Score Written For A Motion Picture Or A Television Special
The Empire Strikes Back was also nominated in 1981 for Best Original Score the 53rd Academy Awards (the award was won by Michael Gore for Fame).
Williams’s subsequent Star Wars film music was nominated for a number of awards; in 1984 his score for Return of the Jedi was nominated for Best Original Score at the 56th Academy Awards. His compositions for the prequel trilogy also received nominations: the score for The Phantom Menace was nominated for Best Instrumental Composition at the 2000 Grammy Awards and Revenge of the Sith was nominated at the 2006 Grammy Awards for Best Soundtrack Album.
In 2005 the 1977 soundtrack for Star Wars was voted as the “most memorable film score of all time” by the American Film Institute in the list AFI’s 100 Years of Film Scores, based on the assessment of a jury of over 500 artists, composers, musicians, critics and historians from the film industry.
The soundtracks to both Star Wars and The Phantom Menace have been certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, for shipments of at least 1 million units, with the albums for The Empire Strikes Back and Attack of the Clones being certified Gold (500,000 units). The British Phonographic Industry certified Star Wars as Silver, for shipments of 60,000 units in the United Kingdom, and The Phantom Menace as Gold, for 100,000 units.
In addition to these major leitmotifs, a host of subsidiary motifs occur throughout the six films, some whose existence is tied to a single scene, others which recur infrequently, or are given to little development. These include:
- Jar Jar’s Theme (Episode I)
- Darth Maul Motif (Episode I)
- Qui-Gon’s Theme (Episode I)
- The Flag Parade (Episode I)
- Shmi’s Theme (Episodes I, II, III)
- Secondary Droid March (Episode I, II, III)
- Arrival on Tatooine (Episodes I, IV)
- Separatists’ Theme (Episode II)
- Kamino Motif (Episode II)
- Mourning Theme (Episode II)
- Arena Theme (Episodes II and III)
- Tusken Raiders (Episode II, IV)
- Republic Motif (Episode III)
- Anakin’s Betrayal (Episode III)
- Immolation Theme (Episode III)
- Grievous and the Droids (Episode III)
- Mystery of the Sith Motif (Episode III)
- Anakin’s Dark Deeds (Episode III)
- Throne Room March (Episodes IV, V, VI; rerecorded for Episode III, but not used in the final cut)
- Here They Come! (Space battle motif) (Episodes IV, VI)
- Imperial Walkers (Episode V)
- The Asteroid Field (Episode V)
- Yoda’s Revelation (Episode VI)
Diegetic music is music “that occurs as part of the action (rather than as background), and can be heard by the film’s characters”.
- Cantina Band and Cantina Band #2 (Episode IV). Played in the Cantina on Tatooine. It is written for solo trumpet, saxophone, clarinet, Fender Rhodes piano, steel drum, synthesizer and various percussion. According to the Star Wars CCG, the diegetic title for the first Cantina band piece is “Mad About Me”. The liner notes for the 1997 Special Edition release of the Episode IV soundtrack describe the concept behind these works as “several creatures in a future century finding some 1930’s Benny Goodman swing band music … and how they might attempt to interpret it”. This piece also appears on an all the outtakes easter eggs on the DVDs from episode I and II and on the bonus disc of the 2004 original trilogy DVD set.
- Jabba’s Baroque Recital (Episode VI). Mozart-esque John Williams composition played while 3PO and R2 first arrive and play Jabba the message from Luke Skywalker.
- Lapti Nek (Episode VI). Lyrics written by Joseph Williams and translated into Huttese, this is played by the Max Rebo Band in Jabba the Hutt’s palace (in the original cut of the movie).
- Jedi Rocks (composed by Jerry Hey) (Episode VI). This was composed to replace Lapti Nek for the 1997 Special Edition of the film.
- Max Rebo Band Jams (Episode VI). Heard twice in the film, once after Jabba sends the Wookie Chewbacca to jail, and again on Jabba’s Sail Barge (hence its title). A recording of the first can be found on the official Star Wars Soundboards.
- Unknown Jabba Source Music (Episode VI). Not used or heard in the films, Joseph Williams is credited for a second source cue that has been lost.
- Ewok Feast and Part of the Tribe (Episode VI). Heard when Luke and company were captured by the Ewoks and brought to their treehouses.
- Ewok Celebration (Episode VI). The Victory Song, whose lyrics were written by Joseph Williams, can be heard at the end of the original release of Return of the Jedi.
- Victory Celebration (Episode VI). The Victory Song at the end of Return of the Jedi 1997 re-edition.
- Tatooine Street Music (Episode I). Joseph Williams wrote four separate pieces of unusual, vaguely Eastern sounding source music for the streets of Mos Eisley.
- Augie’s Municipal Band (Episode I). Music played during the peace parade at the end of the film.
- Dex’s Diner (Episode II)
- Unknown Episode II Source Cue (Episode II). A second source cue is credited to Joseph Williams’ name for Episode II, but is not heard in the film.
- Arena Percussion (Episode II). Originally meant to accompany the Droid Factory sequence, Ben Burtt’s attempt at composition is instead shifted to the arena, replacing the predominately unused John Williams cue “Entrance of the Monsters.”
- Star Wars Main Theme (Episode IV). This concert suite combines “Main Title” with most of “End Title.” It is the most often performed concert suite from Star Wars.
- Here They Come! (Episode IV). This concert suite is an expanded version of the latter part of the cue “Ben Kenobi’s Death and TIE Fighter Attack”.
- Princess Leia’s Theme (Episode IV). This concert suite was recorded for the original soundtrack album. A portion of it is utilized in the end credits suite from Episode III.
- The Final Battle (Episode IV, Episode VI). This concert suite is a combination of cues heard when the Millennium Falcon arrives at the Death Star, when Obi-Wan is killed by Darth Vader and the subsequent escape from the Death Star and the Rebel assault on the Death Star. Parts of the Superstructure Chase cue from Return of the Jedi also appear in this concert suite.
- The Throne Room (Episode IV). For concert performances, Williams created an extended version of the ceremonial music heard at the end of the original film. Though recorded numerous times, including by Williams himself, this piece was not featured on a Star Wars film soundtrack until Revenge of the Sith, in which Williams incorporated the entire piece into the end credits suite. Due to time constraints, it was cut from the film.
- The Imperial March (Episode V). Premiered in a Williams concert five weeks before the movie was released.
- Yoda’s Theme (Episode V). Premiered in a Williams concert five weeks before the movie was released.
- Han Solo and the Princess. This concert suite is based on the love theme from Episode V. It contains a reference to Leia’s theme. Notably, this piece has never been recorded by Williams, and in interviews he seems to have no memory of the theme. It was first recorded by Charles Gerhardt on his Empire Strikes Back album containing a reworked suite of the most memorable music from the movie.
- Jabba the Hutt (Episode VI). Concert suite based on Jabba the Hutt’s theme which features an extended solo for tuba. The original soundtrack recording of this piece has been lost; however, an excerpt of it was utilized in the film, replacing “At the Court of Jabba the Hutt.” This recording can be heard on the Star Wars Trilogy Anthology.
- Parade of the Ewoks (Episode VI). A concert suite based on the Ewok theme, most of which was used in the end credits. A revised version of this concert suite adds orchestral flourishes to the beginning of the piece.
- Luke and Leia (Episode VI). Much of this concert suite was incorporated into the end credits. It contains references, possibly unintentional, to both Yoda’s theme and Leia’s theme.
- The Forest Battle (Episode VI). A concert suite based on “The Ewok Battle.” The section from 2:33 to 2:49 is based on material from the alternative version of “Sail Barge Assault.”
- Duel of the Fates (Episode I). This concert arrangement of the theme was written for the end credits.
- Anakin’s Theme (Episode I). This concert arrangement of Anakin’s theme was written to follow Duel of the Fates in the end credits.
- The Flag Parade (Episode I). An expanded version of the cue The Flag Parade (as seen in the OST release), Williams created an expanded concert suite that was not recorded for the original soundtrack.
- The Adventures of Jar Jar (Episode I). This concert suite utilizes Jar Jar’s theme and the cue “Moving Forward” (written for the scene in which the heroes return to Naboo). It was not recorded for the original soundtrack.
- Across the Stars (Episode II). It features a slow and tranquil opening, utilizing the oboe and strings heavily. Nearly the entire theme is underscored with triplet arpeggios. Finally, the end of this musical composition features a haunting solo by the harp, repeating the initial theme with colorful ornaments. Most of this concert suite was incorporated into the end credits.
- Battle of the Heroes (Episode III). To create this concert suite, Williams wrote a new introduction and conclusion to the cue “Revenge of the Sith,” heard in the film during the final stage of the duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan.
The cues recorded by Williams for the Star Wars movies are not always heard in their original forms. In cases when a scene was re-edited after the recording process, the music was edited to reflect the changes. Such edits sometimes carry over into the soundtrack albums and sometimes do not.
Williams will also record the same cue several times. These different takes will then be assembled to form one “ideal” take of the cue which is then used in the film.
Improper notation or the loss of documentation, however, led to an array of incorrectly edited album releases, using alternate takes not meant to be officially used.
With the advent of modern technology and editing techniques, the prequels took the ability to re-construct the music to an extreme. Williams and Lucas however did decide where some tracked music would be used and would leave the scene open for the music (such as “Escape from Naboo” from Episode I and in Episode III as the Invisible Hand falls from space).
However, further editing usually took place past what Williams had intended.
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
- Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
- Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
- Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
- Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)
Other Star Wars music
Expanded Universe scores
Incidental music has been composed in the style of John Williams for a number of films, television programmes and computer games which have been produced which depict characters and situations within the Star Wars Expanded Universe, the extended franchise licensed by Lucasfilm. These scores often borrow thematic material from the film scores as well as introducing original composition.
Star Wars Holiday Special
Original music was composed for Star Wars Holiday Special television special (1978) by Ken and Mitzie Welch. The film also used the Star Wars main theme and the force theme, which were composed by John Williams.
For the films Caravan of Courage and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, Peter Bernstein composed an original score, also using a brief reprise of John Williams’ Ewok theme (from Return of the Jedi) in both films. The album was officially released as a 12-inch LP record by Varése Sarabande on December 8, 1986.
The LP was later bootlegged onto CD in 1999 and retitled “Star Wars: Ewoks”. The bootleg has a number of discrepancies including an incorrect track arrangement, incorrect track names and incorrect track times. So called “Additional Material” on the bootleg was never officially sanctioned by Lucasfilm Ltd. and is in fact made up of three tracks cobbled together from tracks from the Star Wars Trilogy: The Original Soundtrack Anthology & various releases of the Return of the Jedi soundtrack.
Track Listing (Official 1986 12″ LP Release)
- A1. Trek (Caravan of Courage) 1:53
- A2. Intro/Main Title (Caravan of Courage) 02:47
- A3. Noa & Terak (Battle for Endor) 03:50
- A4. Teek (Battle for Endor) 02:44
- A5. Set Up/Terak’s Theme (Battle for Endor) 03:09
- A6. Noa’s Ark (Battle for Endor) 02:09
- A7. Izrina (Caravan of Courage) 01:31
- B1. Flying (Caravan of Courage) 02:46
- B2. Good Night, Bad Dreams (Battle for Endor) 03:11
- B3. Poker Game (Battle for Endor) 02:15
- B4. Pulga Chase (Caravan of Courage) 02:40
- B5. The House (Battle for Endor) 01:39
- B6. Escape (Battle for Endor) 01:30
- B7. Farewell (Battle for Endor) 03:46
Total Duration: 00:35:50
Shadows of the Empire
For the Shadows of the Empire media project, an unusual soundtrack was scored by composer Joel McNeely after a suggestion by John Williams. It was performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Chorus, and published by Varèse Sarabande. Familiar themes from the movies can only be heard in tracks one (Main Theme from Star Wars and the carbon freeze scene from The Empire Strikes Back), eight (The Imperial March and The Force Theme) and ten (The Imperial March). The disc also includes an interactive track for personal computers, containing concept art and additional information about the project.
- Main Theme from Star Wars and Leia’s Nightmare (3:41)
- The Battle of Gall (7:59)
- Imperial City (8:02)
- Beggar’s Canyon Chase (2:56)
- The Southern Underground (1:48)
- Xizor’s Theme (4:35)
- The Seduction of Princess Leia (3:38)
- Night Skies (4:17)
- Into the Sewers (2:55)
- The Destruction of Xizor’s Palace (10:43)
Total time: 58:31
The liner notes of the booklet give brief plot summaries for each track of the corresponding sections from the novel. McNeely wrote, “Unlike with film music, I have been allowed to let my imagination run free with the images, characters and events from this story. I have also had the luxury to loiter as long as I like with a character or scene. Every passage represents some person, place or event in this story.”
Star Wars: Dark Forces
Music for the 1995 computer game Star Wars: Dark Forces was mostly original works composed by Clint Bajakian, though they are based on cues from the original Star Wars works. The background music for the Anoat City level was loosely based on the Jawa theme from A New Hope. The music for the level that takes place aboard the Super Star Destroyer Executor borrows from both the Death Star Attack and the Imperial March. The last level, the Arc Hammer, utilizes cues from the Death Star Battle as well. Due to the length of the game itself and the Full Throttle demo included on the disk, some of the tracks had to be re-used. Two new cues were composed for this game, which are the Dark Forces Main Title and Kyle Katarn’s Theme. The Main Title is supposedly the theme for General Mohc, as an online MIDI soundtrack is available which has an alternative arrangement of the main theme titled “Mohc: The Final Battle”. Kyle’s theme is used primarily in the cutscenes, and a nearly complete rendition is heard in the cutscene preceding the second level, After the Massacre. Three tracks were composed for the game which weren’t included, and they are a battle theme for the first encounter with a Dark Trooper, a theme for Jabba’s Ship (with apparently no ties to the theme used for Jabba the Hutt in Episode VI), and the final battle with the last boss in the game, General Mohc in a Dark Trooper Phase 3 exoskeleton.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Music for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was composed by Jeremy Soule. For Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, Mark Griskey developed music and themes for characters and places, including the Jedi’s theme, Darth Sion’s theme and Darth Malak’s theme (which both have many similarities with the Emperor’s theme from The Return of the Jedi). He also created a theme for the main character, which is heard occasionally when he or she experiences internal conflict. The 70-minute score was recorded by the Sinfonia Orchestra in Seattle. The opening crawl still uses the version of William’s theme that was re-recorded for the prequel trilogy.
Star Wars: Republic Commando
In the computer game Star Wars: Republic Commando, the Vode An theme plays in the main menu and several key points throughout the game content (such as when the player’s clone commandos defeats a large group of enemies). The Vode An theme, as well as several other key music pieces, has additional choral lyrics in the Mandalorian language.
- Vode An (Brothers All) – 1:58
- Prologue – 3:24
- The Egg Room – 2:34
- Gra’tua Cuun (Our Vengeance) – 2:33
- Improvised Entry – 1:34
- They Must Be Asleep – 1:23
- The Ghost Ship – 2:24
- Ka’rta Tor (One Heart of Justice) – 1:54
- Com Interference – 2:16
- The Jungle Floor – 2:46
- RV Alpha – 1:55
- Through the Canopy – 1:15
- Rage of the Shadow Warriors – 2:02
- Make Their Eyes Water – 1:23
- Kachirho by Night Vision – 1:23
Total time: 28:04
Star Wars: TIE Fighter
Music for the computer game Star Wars: TIE Fighter contains many themes from the original trilogy, however, many motifs (such as the Imperial March motifs) which were originally composed as dark motifs are used as heroic motifs. This is consistent with the theme of the game, where the player plays as an Imperial TIE Fighter pilot.
The in-game music played during flight sequences (missions) uses the iMuse game engine. This uses leitmotifs to vary the music played during missions depending on the actions of the player or other mission events. For example, a special motif is played when player achieves a victory, when the mission is failed, when secondary or bonus goals or completed, when an Imperial or Rebel capital ship exits hyperspace etc. This does mirror the use of leitmotifs in the original film music while at the same time makes the music sequence a little different with each mission.
Star Wars: Bounty Hunter
Composer Jeremy Soule wrote music for the game Star Wars: Bounty Hunter, including both cut scenes and gameplay. The characters Jango Fett and Komari Vosa have their own leitmotifs.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Kevin Kiner composed the score to the film Star Wars: The Clone Wars which started the TV series while using some of the original themes and score by John Williams. His own material includes a theme for Anakin Skywalker’s Padawan learner, Ahsoka Tano, as well as a theme for Jabba the Hutt’s uncle Ziro.
- Star Wars Main Title & A Galaxy Divided (1:13)
- Admiral Yularen (0:57)
- Battle of Christophsis (3:20)
- Meet Ahsoka (2:45)
- Obi-Wan to the Rescue (1:24)
- Sneaking Under the Shield (4:25)
- Jabba’s Palace (0:46)
- Anakin vs. Dooku (2:18)
- Landing on Teth (1:44)
- Destroying the Shield (3:09)
- B’omarr Monastery (3:11)
- General Loathsom/Battle Strategy (3:08)
- The Shield (1:37)
- Battle of Teth (2:45)
- Jedi Don’t Run! (1:22)
- Obi-Wan’s Negotiation (2:08)
- The Jedi Council (2:05)
- General Loathsom/Ahsoka (3:40)
- Jabba’s Chamber Dance (0:42)
- Ziro Surrounded (2:21)
- Scaling the Cliff (0:45)
- Ziro’s Nightclub Band (0:54)
- Seedy City Swing (0:35)
- Escape from the Monastery (3:13)
- Infiltrating Ziro’s Lair (2:22)
- Courtyard Fight (2:42)
- Dunes of Tatooine (2:00)
- Rough Landing (3:04)
- Padmé Imprisoned (0:51)
- Dooku Speaks with Jabba (1:28)
- Fight to the End (3:59)
- End Credits (0:52)
Total time: 67:39
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Mark Griskey composed the score for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, while Jesse Harlin composed the main theme. Griskey uses references to three old themes (The Force Theme, The Imperial March, and The Rebel Fanfare) as well as new themes for Rahm Kota, PROXY, and Juno Eclipse. The music was composed with the intent of utilizing much of John Williams’ original Star Wars scores to bridge the gap between the Prequel and Original trilogies.
- The Force Unleashed (Jesse Harlin) – 1:19
- General Kota and the Control Room – 3:44
- Infiltrating the Junk Temple – 2:54
- Drexl’s Raiders – 2:51
- Approaching Felucia – 3:28
- The Sarlaac Unleashed – 3:20
- Maris and the Bull Rancor – 2:11
- PROXY and the Skyhook – 2:37
- Redemption – 2:19
- Juno Eclipse and Finale – 1:12
- Ton’yy Rho’s Uglehop (Bonus Track, Jesse Harlin) – 1:13
Total Time: 25:08
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II
For the sequel, Mark Griskey returned to compose the score. As the game was intended to be much darker & more somber than its predecessor, the music was written to comply with this change. The Imperial March also features prominently, and new themes were created to emphasize the characters and locales that feature within the game. Like the original score, it was only released as promotional content online, and has yet to gain a CD release.
- Main Title and Test Chamber – 4:48
- Escape from Kamino – 5:38
- Arrival on Cato Neimoidia – 3:20
- The Hanging City – 6:20
- Discovering Dagobah and the Cave – 6:58
- Aboard the Salvation – 6:52
- Assault on Kamino – 5:36
- The Reunion of Juno and Starkiller – 4:21
Total Time: 44:23