‘Star Wars’: 7 Most Unforgettable Pieces of Music From the Saga

In a world of memorable movie music, perhaps no film scores are as iconic and instantly recognizable as John Williams’s immortal scores for the Star Wars saga. With every live-action entry in the franchise, the legendary composer has returned to craft new themes for the ongoing story of the Skywalker family. Current release Star Wars: The Force Awakens is, of course, no exception, and while the new film hasn’t yet contributed any iconic tunes to the saga’s heritage, it does herald a fresh start for the franchise. Now we look back at the best and most recognizable tunes from John Williams’s unforgettable scores from the first six films. For the record, we’re focusing on distinct themes that are featured throughout the saga, rather than brief musical cues.

7. “Duel of the Fates,” The Phantom Menace

Even Star Wars fans who hate on the prequel trilogy concede that Williams crafted a memorable battle theme for that climactic three-way lightsaber battle in The Phantom Menace. Featuring a relentless chorus and a fast-paced instrumentation that can instantly help moviegoers relive the film’s epic fight choreography, “Duel of the Fates” is by far the most iconic piece of music featured in the prequels. Naturally, the song was reprised during the latter two prequels as well, including a notable inclusion during the Obi-wan/Anakin and Yoda/Sidious lightsaber duels in Revenge of the Sith.

6. “Cantina Band,” A New Hope

The Mos Eisley Cantina was audiences’ first exposure to the wacky world of exotic creatures that inhabit the Star Wars galaxy, and because of the various character designs that appear, the scene became instantly emblematic of the imagination and creativity inherent in the saga itself, opening the doors for a seemingly infinite number of story possibilities. This tune — played during Luke and Obi-Wan’s entrance — signals the former’s entrance into a “larger world” as he draws ever closer to his destiny to face off against the Empire. Who knew scum and villainy had such lively music?

5. “Luke and Leia,” Return of the Jedi

The Empire Strikes Back, of course, changed cinema with its twist reveal that Darth Vader (spoilers?) is in fact Luke’s father. However, in addition to confirming that relationship, Return of the Jedi brought another bit of Skywalker family history to light. Early on, Luke learns that Leia is his sister, and this lovely tune — which most notably plays during Luke’s confession that they are siblings — celebrates the fact that the title characters have found each other. Its mournful tone perfectly fits the tragic past that led them to be separated for decades but also marks the joy in their reunion.

4. “Yoda’s Theme,” The Empire Strikes Back

Following A New Hope, some fans (and even Luke Skywalker himself) may have wondered if we’d ever get a glimpse of anyone as knowledgeable in the ways of the Force as Obi-wan Kenobi. Thankfully, its sequel introduced the 900-year-old Jedi Master known as Yoda, a diminutive creature living in exile on the swamp planet of Dagobah. The Empire Strikes Back has a far more spiritual feel to it, as Yoda informs Luke of the immense power that the Jedi is able to draw from the Force when one’s mind is at peace. “Yoda’s Theme” encapsulates his serene mindset and underscores the mythic quality of the Force itself.

3. “Princess Leia’s Theme,” A New Hope

As fans know, much of A New Hope centers on rescuing Princess Leia from the clutches of the Empire. This elegant melody not only bears the regal sounds befitting royalty such as Leia but it captures her strength and compassion, especially as it is this single character that launches audiences — and indeed unites the film’s heroes — in a grander story ahead. A natural leader, Leia has always been among the most memorable characters of the entire saga, and with theme music as poignant and magical as this (complete with a triumphant crescendo), it’s no wonder that she remains a fan favorite.

2. “The Imperial March,” The Empire Strikes Back

Just as Princess Leia’s theme represents the strength and bravery of Star Wars heroes, this song serves a dual purpose both as the primary musical signature of the evil Empire as well as that of the fearsome Darth Vader. The second film in the original trilogy, as its title suggests, relies on the enemy strengthening its presence and striking a definitive blow against the main heroes. It stands to reason then that the Empire would receive a militaristic tune such as this, one that has been wisely reused in other entries of the saga (such as the introduction of the clone army in Attack of the Clones).

1. “Main Title,” A New Hope

This is it: the most iconic piece of movie music ever created. Star Wars has long been a global pop culture that few other franchises could compete with, and its main title theme — which continues to signal the start of each new episode — emerges as the most recognizable musical counterpart to the feeling of exhilaration and escapist entertainment that the films offer. Williams instantly transports audiences into that “galaxy far, far away” and takes them into a mythical land. Just a few notes of this, and any Star Wars fan is instantly a child again, reliving the adventures for the first time.

Honorable mentions

  • “Anakin’s Theme,” The Phantom Menace
  • “Across the Stars,” Attack of the Clones
  • “Battle of the Heroes,” Revenge of the Sith
  • “The Throne Room,” A New Hope
  • “The Asteroid Field,” The Empire Strikes Back

Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable

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