‘Star Wars’ Fans Are Obsessed with This Subtle Music Callback in ‘The Last Jedi’

Star Wars fans haven’t always had good things to say about The Last Jedi since it came out in 2017, although its reputation has arguably improved in the wake of The Rise of Skywalker, which many fans say has its own problems. 

Whatever one says about the Star Wars saga, though, few people if any have ever faulted the scores by John Williams. And now fans are pointing to a specific moment of The Last Jedi as evidence of that 

What has been the impact of John Williams’ music on ‘Star Wars’?

Mark Hamill
Mark Hamill | Rich Fury/Getty Images

It’s no exaggeration to say that Williams’ score to the original 1977 Star Wars was one of the keys to its success. The word “iconic” gets thrown around like so much confetti these days, often on movies and shows that don’t really deserve it. Few would dispute the word absolutely applies to Williams’ work on the series, 

By the time Star Wars was being made in the mid-70s, sweeping orchestral scores had fallen largely out of favor, with many movies using pop soundtracks or more subtle orchestrations. With the opening musical blast of the Star Wars theme, orchestral scores came roaring back, with Williams being influenced by classic Hollywood film composers like William Erich Korngold and Bernard Herrmann. The soundtrack became a best-seller in its own right. 

So impactful was Williams’ score that director George Lucas, famously fussy about his movies, has said it was the one aspect of the original film that exceeded his expectations. Williams’ reputation was already well-established when Star Wars came out, with the composer having scored Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, but Star Wars confirmed Williams’ place among the greats. To date, he is the only composer to be honored with the AFI Life Achievement award. 

What is the scene fans point to?

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Typically, director Rian Johnson has relied on his cousin Nathan Johnson to compose the music for his films, but when he got the opportunity to direct The Last Jedi, he was only too happy to depart from his norm and work with Williams. When The Last Jedi came out on home video, one of the special features was watching the movie with just the score. 

Fans on Reddit pointed to a particular scene in Episode VIII when Luke Skywalker, who had been reticent to spring into action, goes to confront his old pupil/nemesis Kylo Ren. When he does, “a heroic riff on the Imperial March plays. It’s as if he is carrying his father’s legacy with him into his final duel, and by doing this he ultimately ends up leaving a powerful legacy of his own,” a fan says. 

Another fan chimed in saying, “It’s ‘The Spark’, and it’s a big part of why that moment is my second favourite of the franchise. My most favourite is Luke in (A New Hope) staring at the binary sunset. Thank you, John Williams.”

‘The Rise of Skywalker’ pays tribute to John Williams

Much was made of the fact that The Rise of Skywalker would be the last movie of the Skywalker saga, spanning nine films and 42 years. Williams has scored all the movies in that series, although he stepped aside for the standalone films Rogue One, composed by Michael Giacchino and Solo by John Powell. 

According to Screen Rant, The Rise of Skywalker saw fit to give John Williams a cameo in a scene on the planet Kijimi. Williams is surrounded by 51 props, representing the 51 Oscar nominations Williams had received throughout his storied career. Examples included a whip for  Raiders of the Lost Ark, the barrels from Jaws, and an iron from Home Alone.

During the most recent Oscar season, Williams received his 52nd nomination, a record bested only by Walt Disney, and fittingly, it was for The Rise of Skywalker. All of Williams Star Wars scores have been nominated except for his work on the prequels. His wins are for Fiddler on the Roof, Jaws, Star Wars, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial and Schindler’s List.