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Countdown to The Last Jedi: 10 times John Williams defined Star Wars


With just one week to go until The Last Jedi is unleashed, we're celebrating composer John Williams' timeless contribution to the Star Wars universe with a look back at 10 seminal tracks from his groundbreaking scores.

1. The Main Title theme

Not just the overarching series theme, the brassy strains of the Main Title remain a statement of intent, Williams urging us to sit back and watch in complete awe. Interestingly, Mark Hamill recently recounted how, upon the release of A New Hope back in 1977, he was disappointed to discover there was no musical identity for Luke Skywalker. To the actor's delight, Williams then replied that the opening piece was intended to double as Luke's theme – how honoured would you feel to hear that?

2. The Force theme

One of the many triumphs of Williams' Star Wars soundtracks is how they highlight and elaborate on the multifaceted emotions lurking beneath the story. From the rip-roaring heroism of the titles to the mysterious, ennobling and hopeful Force theme (most famously in the Binary Sunset sequence), it's further proof that Williams' music is the beating heart and soul of the series.

3. The Imperial March

Let's not forget, Darth Vader didn't get his signature piece until the 1980 release of The Empire Strikes Back. (There was an Imperial motif in A New Hope, reprised by Michael Giacchino in his score for prequel movie, Rogue One.) Upon the first thunderous strains of The Imperial March, it's clear that Williams is nailing his colours to the mast: a majestic and oddly catchy representation of all-consuming evil and power that's gone down in history as one of the most famous villain's themes ever composed.

4. The Han & Leia Love Theme

The Star Wars scores aren't all about bluster and volume. Being the feted composer he is, Williams is able to invest the many characters with intimate and breathtaking levels of feeling, nowhere more apparent than in the woodwind-led theme for star-crossed lovers Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). It's a lovely, graceful piece that grounds the series in tender compassion, and made a much-welcome comeback during the reunion scene in 2015's The Force Awakens.

5. Yoda's Theme

The wizened Jedi master presents all manner of contradictions when it comes to his musical depiction – he is by turns comic and wise, whimsical yet pivotal to the ongoing saga mythology. Typically, Williams nails this in his understated yet wondrous piece for the Frank Oz character, one that somehow manages to resound with the weight of Yoda's many years.

6. The Emperor's Theme

Williams is quite often underrated for his ability to conjure truly dark and threatening music. As a flip side to the more joyous, optimistic material so far on this list, the churning, brooding piece for the sinister Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), which first emerged in 1983's Return of the Jedi, utilises a host of throat singers and low-register strings to convey his malevolent intent.

7. Duel of the Fates

The year 1999 was no ordinary one: this was the year Star Wars made its big screen comeback for the first time in nearly two decades. We all know how George Lucas' prequel movie went down, but in truth Williams' music rises far above the quality of the film itself. The score for The Phantom Menace finds its centrepiece in the explosive, driving 'Duel of the Fates', Sanskrit chanting and massive orchestra reinforcing the movie's central battle between Darth Maul (Ray Park), Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) and Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), whilst also announcing the return of Star Wars to the wider world.

8. Across the Stars

2002's Attack of the Clones drowned in its syrupy love story between grown-up Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Padme (Natalie Portman), and don't get us started on that infamous "sand" line. Typically, Williams never puts a foot wrong, somehow extracting all manner of sincerity and beauty from the wooden central romance and gloriously rendering it in his sweeping love theme.

9. Battle of the Heroes

Released in 2005 and capping off Lucas' prequel trilogy, Revenge of the Sith is widely considered the best of those movies. It's definitely the darkest, completing Anakin's transition to becoming Darth Vader, and Williams follows suit with what is certainly the gloomiest, most tortured Star Wars score of them all. Given the film dramatises possibly the most important moment in Star Wars lore, Williams pulls out all the stops in his choral-led 'Heroes' piece, underlining the catastrophic significance of Anakin's betrayal of former mentor, Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor).

10. Rey's theme

There was never any doubt that Williams was going to return for JJ Abrams' The Force Awakens (short of illness or age playing their part). Nevertheless he has spoken openly about the heart of the score resting entirely on one character: Daisy Ridley's scavenger-turned-Jedi, whose innate goodness and burgeoning powers inspired Williams to conjure one of his most attractive series themes. Building from a gentle flute solo into full orchestra as it mirrors Rey's emotional journey, we can't wait to hear what Williams will do with this theme in The Last Jedi, as Rey is tutored by the estranged Luke Skywalker whilst beset by the forces of the dark side.

Click here to book your tickets for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, opening on 14th December, and tweet us your favourite John Williams moments @Cineworld.

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