Star Wars has captivated many people, including myself, for generations.
The Skywalker saga is filled with love, action, adventure, and the battle between good and evil. It has something for just about everyone, which is why it has stood the test of time for almost 45 years.
A big part of that is the music. The legendary John Williams has helped bring the Star Wars universe to life with his original scores. His work has won him countless nominations and awards, as well as ingrained him into the fabric of pop culture.
Anyone who knows me knows I love Star Wars. I have wanted to write about it for a while and this idea popped into my head recently. So, I am going to go through and pick my personal top four tracks from each movie.
We are kicking things off where it all began, the original trilogy. I will be mentioning a bunch of scenes from the films, so if you do not want anything spoiled, I suggest you stop reading now.
So, put those headphones in and let’s journey back to a galaxy far, far away!
Episode IV: A New Hope
Main Title/Rebel Blockade Runner
Kicking things off is the music that started it all. This is the first thing fans heard when A New Hope came out in 1977.
The opening theme is instantly recognizable to just about everyone. Used at the start of every Star Wars film, it helps set the scene for the movie and what is about to happen. The bombastic intro always gets fans excited for the story that lies ahead.
After that, Rebel Blockade Runner kicks in. Its imposing start drives home the power of the Imperial Star Destroyer as it slowly comes into frame. Then, the pace picks up as the ship chases down and disables the Tantive IV.
This opening sequence captivated audiences back then and still does to this day. It is a great start to the movie and the Skywalker saga.
Princess Leia’s Theme
Up next is the theme of everyone’s favourite princess, Leia Organa.
Princess Leia helped change the perception of women in action movies. She is not the stereotypical damsel in distress. While she is still feminine, she is a strong and independent woman who is capable of handling herself.
The first half of her theme portrays her soft and gentle femininity. But as it progresses, it gradually picks up in tempo and volume. Finally, it ends in a crescendo that encapsulates her passion and strength.
Leia’s theme perfectly depicts her strong, yet gentle personality. She is a symbol of female empowerment and continues to inspire women of all ages.
Ben Kenobi’s Death/TIE Fighter Attack
Then, we move on to a piece that takes you on an emotional ride.
At the start, we get elements of Princess Leia’s Theme as Kenobi battles Darth Vader. Kenobi sacrifices himself, which allows Leia, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca to escape. The tone takes a sombre turn as Luke mourns the loss of his mentor.
However, the heroes are not out of the woods yet. Things pick back up when Luke and Han must take out incoming TIE Fighters. The sudden tempo change about halfway through is easily one of my favourite pieces of music in the entire saga.
It is an incredibly underrated track that never gets old. Hearing this play during the TIE Fighter scene still gives me chills to this day.
The Throne Room/End Title
Finally, we come to the final track of the movie.
It plays after the Rebel Alliance destroys the Death Star. Leia awards both Luke and Han medals for their contributions to the battle. Chewbacca, unfortunately, did not get a medal, but that was rectified later in the saga!
The thunderous sound throughout provides extra energy for the already important scene. It rounds out with the Star Wars ending theme. As the credits roll, a medley specific to each movie plays. Princess Leia’s Theme plays a big part in it, as well as the main Star Wars theme.
Thus marked the ending of A New Hope, but the beginning of a worldwide phenomenon. Without a doubt, the music played a big part in the movie gaining so much popularity.
(Honorable mentions: The Hologram/Binary Sunset – Medley, Burning Homestead, Cantina Band, The Battle of Yavin)
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The Asteroid Field
Starting things off for Episode V is a track from one of the best scenes of the entire saga.
Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3PO are trying to escape an Imperial Star Destroyer. The music conveys the tension as the group evades TIE Fighter fire in the Millennium Falcon. Once the ship’s hyperdrive is repaired, it ends up in the middle of an asteroid field.
What follows is a brilliant piece of music that mixes wonder with excitement. As Han continues to evade the enemy ships, you cannot help but get sucked into the scene. That coupled with the song takes you on a wild roller coaster ride from start to finish.
Plenty of fans name The Asteroid Field as one of their favourite Star Wars songs. When you experience it during The Empire Strikes Back, it is easy to see why.
Han Solo and the Princess
Next is the love theme between Han and Leia.
Throughout A New Hope, the two are at odds with each other. Leia thinks Han is selfish and a scoundrel, while he thinks she needs to lighten up.
However, romance finally blossoms between the two in The Empire Strikes Back. It starts with their first kiss, then becomes official when they profess their love before Han is frozen in carbonite. The lines “I love you.” and “I know.” melt the hearts of fans every time.
Han Solo and the Princess starts off soft and romantic, then transitions into Darth Vader’s theme. It is a great contrast of sound and style that fits together nicely into one track.
The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)
Of course, I had to mention one of the most iconic pieces of music in film history.
When fans hear this play, they know trouble is not far behind. The Imperial March’s ominous sound always signals the arrival of Vader. Its militaristic tempo is fitting for not only the dark lord of the Sith but for the Galactic Empire as a whole.
However, it also transcends the Star Wars universe; people who are not fans still recognize it. It is routinely used for all things evil. Just think, how many times do you hear it play when the opposing team is announced at a sporting event?
Not only is it heard throughout The Empire Strikes Back, but also in Return of the Jedi and parts of the prequel trilogy as well. It is an instant classic that has stood the test of time.
The Clash of Lightsabers (The Duel)
Rounding out Episode V is the first duel between Vader and Luke.
As father and son battle, Leia and Chewbacca try to desperately save Han from Boba Fett. Sadly, they cannot get to him in time and Fett makes his getaway. Now, they must fight their way through Cloud City and escape themselves.
This track seamlessly transitions between the mood of the two scenes. During the lightsaber duel, there is tension and drama. During the escape, there is desperation and a frantic pace. It all builds up into another incredible flourish towards the end.
Just like the transition in Ben Kenobi’s Death/TIE Fighter Attack, I love the one in The Clash of Lightsabers. You feel the energy, whether it is between Luke and Vader or during Leia and Chewie’s escape. It is such a powerful piece of music that adds so much to the scene.
(Honorable mentions: The Battle of Hoth, Yoda’s Theme, Yoda and the Force, Lando’s Palace)
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Luke and Leia
Opening for Return of the Jedi is Luke and Leia’s theme.
For the first two movies, they have no clue they are brother and sister. Before the Battle of Endor, Luke tells Leia that Vader is his father. He then reveals that he and Leia are siblings and know the ways of the Force. Instead of being shocked, Leia confesses that she somehow always knew.
Their theme starts off slow and calm, then gradually builds up over time. It wonderfully symbolizes the bond Luke and Leia share, as well as their love for each other. After Return of the Jedi, it was used again in Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.
Luke and Leia is a touching piece for the Skywalker twins. It is an underrated theme in the saga, with the emotion intensifying as the song progresses. Hearing it again in The Last Jedi not only brought out the nostalgia but also some tears as well.
The Battle of Endor I
Good and evil clashed once again, with The Battle of Endor I setting the mood.
Like The Clash of Lightsabers, two stories are being told here. One is the battle between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire on the moon of Endor. The other is the showdown between Luke, Vader, and Emperor Palpatine on the Death Star II.
You get a serious tone during the Endor parts, where you can clearly tell this battle has some high stakes. Then, when it transitions to the Death Star II, things slow down and take an ominous turn. But, in their own way, each section conveys a sense of urgency and impending doom if evil prevails.
To tell two different stories within a song is not an easy feat. However, John Williams does it flawlessly time after time. The Battle of Endor I is no exception, and really shows off the brilliance Williams possesses.
Leia’s News/Light of the Force
Next is one of the more emotional tracks in the franchise.
As the track plays, Leia tells Han that she and Luke are siblings. Their love theme is woven into the song as they share a kiss. It is a nice and happy moment after a tense battle on Endor.
Then, it switches to Light of the Force as Luke burns Vader’s body in a traditional Jedi burial. The Imperial March never plays; Vader is gone, with Anakin Skywalker once again in his place.
When this song plays, the tears easily start to fall. The happiness, in the beginning, makes way for a sombre rendition of the Force theme. Vader’s earlier redemption makes it that much more impactful, with him finally being at peace.
Victory Celebration/End Title
Finally, we come to the final song of the original trilogy.
With the Galactic Empire vanquished, the Rebel Alliance celebrates on Endor. The song creates a lighthearted mood without going overboard. Bells, whistles, chimes, and drums give it a unique sound, one that is fitting for a species like the Ewoks.
Afterwards, it gives way to the Star Wars ending theme. Following that, we hear the credits medley for Return of the Jedi. In it, there is a mix of the Ewok’s theme, Luke and Leia’s theme, and the main Star Wars theme.
Victory Celebration/End Title was a fitting end to the original trilogy. It felt like a true celebration, with a joyful innocence sprinkled throughout. Luckily, this would not be the last time we went to a galaxy far, far away.
(Honorable mentions: Parade of Ewoks, The Forrest Battle, The Emperor)
Check back next week as I dive into some of my favourite tracks from the prequel trilogy!