The Star Wars saga has brought us many great characters and memorable scenes over the years, and that looks set to continue with The Last Jedi, released this December.
Another lasting entity it has given us is John Williams' iconic music. Starting with Williams' legendary main title theme, each film is rich with beautifully crafted scores that are as much a part of the Star Wars experience as everything else.
Each major scene and plot point has its own setting, as do each of the major characters in the tale. Now, everybody has their own favourite character, their favourite scene and even their favourite line but, what about your favourite music? Here are the best character motifs from the maestro Williams.
4. Duel of the Fates
Character: Darth Maul
Heard in: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones
Hands down the greatest piece of music from the prequel trilogy this theme is now one of the most famous in the entire franchise.
Based on a Welsh poem Cad Goddeu and loosely based on Sanskrit translation it is most memorably used in the climactic battle between Qui-Gon (Liam Neeson), Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) and Darth Maul (Ray Park) in The Phantom Menace. The urgency and tone of the piece lends itself well to this critical battle, the urgency of the piece reflecting the fight to the death occurring in front of our eyes.
Advances in technology and choreography meant that this became the most expressive and entertaining lightsaber duels in Star Wars history, and Williams' explosive music is largely responsible for that.
3. Yoda's Theme
Heard in: The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith
One of the oldest and most powerful Jedi in the Star Wars universe, Yoda remains a mystery in many respects. Nobody knows definitively how old he is, or which planet he comes from. He has trained many of the most powerful Jedi (and Sith) to ever wield a lightsaber and nobody knows just exactly what he is capable of.
So how do you write a piece of music for such a mysterious yet pivotal character in the Star Wars universe? Yoda’s piece seems to reflect what we do know about him: it is light and almost playful at times yet there's also a certain profoundity to the piece, a certain magnificence revealing hidden depths to the arrangement, all of which could be said about Yoda himself.
He’s wise, majestic and has many hidden attributes that have only been hinted at in the Star Wars canon. A fitting piece of music that reflects its character.
2. Rey's Theme
Heard in: The Force Awakens (and in future, The Last Jedi, Episode 9)
A new addition to the Star Wars canon, Rey was introduced to us in 2015’s The Force Awakens and is set to be the catalyst for everything that goes on in The Last Jedi.
Of course, a character such as this is going to get their own theme. Unlike your standard hero themes, Rey’s is not a majestic crash of horns and strings breaking into mighty crescendos to signify the power and might of a protagonist. The theme builds itself into more of an adventurous piece, reflecting the fact that Rey, at no point during the movie, is setting out to be deliberately heroic or feels a sense of duty to save the day.
She is merely following her intuition and is unwittingly dragged into a journey (a journey that will continue into the final two films of this arc) that, we hope, will see her emerge a hero. This sense of adventure is present throughout the whole piece and, although it becomes more purposeful as it goes on (as does Rey in the film), it is never lost.
1. The Imperial March
Character: Darth Vader
Heard in: The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, The Force Awakens
There was only ever one winner. Next to the Main Title Theme this is easily the most iconic Star Wars piece: as deep and foreboding as the character it represents and is arguably the greatest piece of character music ever created in cinema.
Although it has been used to represent the Empire as a whole, it is primarily Vader’s theme music. It has a military feel to it, fitting for the militaristic system that is the Galactic Empire. There’s also a certain pomp and grandeur to reflect not only his place within that Empire but also Vader's unyielding strength.
One of the pieces the march is based on is Gustav Holst’s 'Mars, Bringer of War', and mirrors how Vader attempts to bring order to the galaxy through violence and tyranny. Iconic, apt and brilliantly crafted, it’s the clearly the best of the best.
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Marvyn Wilson is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.