Star Wars would not be Star Wars without the music of John Williams. From the sweeping strings, to the swashbuckling fanfare brass, to the marching percussion, the music of Star Wars has a special place in mine and many other Star Wars fans’ hearts.
Additionally, other Star Wars composers, such as Michael Giacchino, John Powell, Kevin Kiner, Stephen Barton, and Ludwig Gorannson, have all done outstanding jobs taking the iconic themes of Williams and injecting their own spark into them, making the Star Wars sound their own.
The galaxy far, far away has brought us many iconic musical moments and in this article, I’d like to recount just a few of them – one from each film/show/game.
Anakin destroys the Trade Federation ship – The Phantom Menace
“Now this is pod-racing!”
That blend of the Force theme and Duel of the Fates being passed around the orchestra is the height of hype.
Love declaration – Attack of the Clones
I mean, this one’s easy. If you don’t say “Detective Obi-Wan” when asked what your favorite part of Attack of the Clones is, chances are you’d say, “Across the Stars, the love theme for Anakin and Padmé.”
Ahsoka leaves – Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Heart-wrenching, yet also so subtle and minimalistic. Those yearning cellos convey so much emotion that the scene itself already brings in spades.
The rise of the Empire – Revenge of the Sith
That operatic, pounding score as we cut between the Senate and Mustafar, Anakin slaughtering the Separatists and Sheev commencing the Empire’s reign is what sells the whole Prequel Trilogy for me.
Duel with the Second Sister – Jedi: Fallen Order
Those screeching violins have major horror movie vibes and I am here. For. It. Honorable mention is the Mongolian throat-singing at the start of the game.
Thrawn meets Hera – Star Wars: Rebels
Thrawn’s organ/chorale theme fits him so perfectly, and this scene where he shows his brilliance in revealing that he knows who Hera is through displaying his knowledge of Twi’lek art is a fantastic moment made all the more so by that haunting theme.
Han makes the Kessel Run – Solo: A Star Wars Story
The Kessel Run sequence of Solo is some of my favorite Star Wars action, period. Iconic Star Wars action leitmotifs are stacked one after the other, but it all comes to a head with a galloping take on Han’s theme for the film that crosses into a blasting rendition of the main saga theme as the Falcon jumps to hyperspace. [chef’s kiss]
Vader ignites his saber – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
I mean, come on. You knew it was coming.
Though, that said, Rogue One is my favorite non-John Williams Star Wars score (so far). Krennic’s theme, the track for the Confrontation on Eadu sequence, the march that plays for Rogue One’s call-sign, and the heartbreaking melody for Rogue One’s sacrifice are all among my favorite musical Star Wars moments.
TIE Fighter Attack – A New Hope
To pick just one moment from A New Hope feels so neglectful. Though, I think to choose one musical moment that represents the adventure of Star Wars to me, it’s that jaunty brass building up to that rebel fanfare. Inject that straight into my veins.
Asteroid Field – The Empire Strikes Back
The way that brass line is only in this one scene in Empire (and now the Kessel Run in Solo) and yet it’s just so memorable says everything about the power of Williams. He took what could have been a throwaway action suite and made it one of the most iconic film-score moments in cinema. Absolute legend.
The Sail-Barge Rescue – Return of the Jedi
Similarly, the swashbuckling bravado of the end credits theme being used as an action-adventure score makes for a scene that says clearer than any other: “this is Star Wars”.
Hey Mando! – The Mandalorian
That recorder is so weird and so cool and from those opening notes I immediately knew I was in for a treat of a score for this show. Ludwig’s score for The Mandalorian, I would say, was the most successful in its uniqueness. It still sounds recognisably like Star Wars, but it also sounds like nothing we’ve heard from Star Wars before.
Rey’s introduction – The Force Awakens
The Force Awakens has a lot of terrific score moments (my favorite character theme of the saga – Kylo’s theme – is an honorable mention here), but in Rey’s introduction – all visual storytelling, minimal sound design – Williams’ new theme for Rey is the shining star.
Kylo threatens Pyre and Tierny – Star Wars: Resistance
That choral flourish underneath Kylo’s conflict theme is just fantastic, so menacing and dark.
Luke and Kylo on Crait – The Last Jedi
The massive operatic chorale underneath the blaring brass of Kylo’s villain theme as he runs towards Luke, transitioning into the epic, pounding drum and swelling minor arpeggios of the Luke reveal may well be my favorite musical moment of the saga.
Ben arrives on Exegol – The Rise of Skywalker
Taking my favorite character theme in the saga – a menacing, bombastic villain theme – and turning it into a romantic hero theme is a musical moment that hypes me up every time I hear it. Ben Solo’s theme was short-lived, but immensely powerful in its limited appearance.