We have come to the end of John Williams week within #Johnuary and it’s time to do the ranking. I can honestly say that this has been the hardest Top Ten that I’ve ever done, and I’ve done a few so far. It’s not just hard to pick the order but even to narrow it down to ten! He’s done so many amazing scores. I kind of made it harder for myself making it individual tracks, not just full soundtracks, but I had to do that because Star Wars has so many great tracks. Obviously the fact that I have five Star Wars tracks means that several soundtracks missed out on being in the top ten. I can hear people complaining already, so just remember that this is just my personal top ten. It takes into account nostalgia, which films I have watched the most, enjoyment of listening to the track on its own and also respect for the history of the particular track. It’s not just based on musical quality or how effective it was in the movie. It’s partly what I would enjoy listening to. I know many people would have Schindler’s List as their number one, for example, but I have only seen the film once and the music isn’t the kind of music I would listen to as much as the other soundtracks on my list. I’d love to hear other people’s ranking in the comments because I know this is a very personal thing to people and we’re all different. My list would probably change if I did this list again tomorrow!
The bottom line, and the reason for doing #Johnuary in many ways is just to celebrate and discuss the amazing work done by John Williams. Incredible stuff.
There are several amazing scores that didn’t make it into my top ten list but are still incredible and need to be mentioned.
Harry Potter – the Hedwig theme and Hogwarts theme are perfect for the subject matter. Beautiful and unique.
Marion’s theme from Raiders – a very beautiful yet powerful score which is used very cleverly in the film
Leia’s Theme from Star Wars – beautiful, quite sad yet full of hope. Perfect for the character arc of Leia in the first film
Cantina Band – this is the song I played the most, apart from the main title theme, on the Star Wars soundtrack LP as a kid. I’m sure John Williams had a lot of fun writing this one
Schindler’s List – incredibly evocative and beautiful strings piece. Beautiful violin performance. This is extremely highly regarded everywhere. I just don’t happen to have the emotional connection to the film after only seeing it once twenty years ago. I can imagine this one rising up my list if I watched the film again
E.T. – I so nearly put this in the number ten spot on the list. The flying sequence is such a historic movie magic moment and the score is so beautiful and synonymous with Spielberg movies. But this is such a tough list to pick and it just got edged out.
This is cinema history right here and it’s one of several of William’s motifs that have made it into global popular culture. It’s not higher up on my list though because when I was looking at my list, although the Jaws theme is so historic and iconic I wouldn’t sit down to listen to it. So I had to have some sort of criteria for my list and I went with listening. Jaws is amazing though so I had to squeeze it onto the list somehow. 9. Superman
This is another one of William’s iconic themes that little children all round the world since the late 70s have been singing whilst jumping around with a blanket wrapped round their neck. The fanfare and then the main theme are extremely powerful and cool. 8. Home Alone
I’m not sure if this score gets the full respect it deserves. It is so beautiful and is perfect for the movie. It raises the movie into something special, and that’s what every director will want from a soundtrack. The main theme is great but I’m kind of also thinking of the O Holy Night track when I’m listing this here, but I can’t have that as an entry of its own because he just arranged and conducted that of course. 7. Duel of the Fates – The Phantom Menace
Wow. This blows me away every time. not much else to say about it. Perfect for a frenetic fight with a badass like Darth Maul. 6. Binary Sunset – Star Wars
This one often gets lost under the radar to people who aren’t big Star Wars fans. It’s a short track on its own but it was weaved into so much of the Star Wars soundtrack that it is just engrained in everyone who loves that movie. Beautiful, poignant and emotional. I honestly think this is the track that raised Star Wars up into more of a classy movie, not just completely a fun sci-fi film. 5. Jurassic Park
Another one that gets lost under the radar often, but the two main themes which are both heard in the main title are just so beautiful and so well done. I often find myself humming this one. 4. Throne Room Theme – Star Wars
I was always a huge fan of the medal ceremony at the end of Star Wars and this music gets me every time. Fantastic stuff. 3. Raiders of The Lost Ark
The main theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark is just amazing. It’s such fun. I love it. So full of triumphant adventurous spirit. It makes me smile every time I hear it. 2. Imperial March – The Empire Strikes Back
Another one of Williams’ scores that permeates cultures and language and has become part of our lexicon. Such a cool intro and then so powerful and evil when the brass kicks in. Sheer genius. 1. Star Wars Main Theme
It really couldn’t be anything else that tops my list. The whole track just screams Star Wars to me. Even just the first note gives me goosebumps. An iconic moment in cinema when that yellow logo appears and then the Star Destroyer looms overhead. Incredible work by John Williams.