Music of Star Wars

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John Williams, composer of all seven Star Wars saga films.

The music of the Star Wars franchise is composed and produced in conjunction with the development of the feature films, television series, and other merchandise within the epic space opera franchise created by George Lucas. Released between 1977 and 2015, the music for the primary feature films was written by composer John Williams and, in the case of the first two trilogies, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. In July 2013, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy announced at Star Wars Celebration Europe that Williams would be returning once more to score the seventh episode, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.[1] Williams' scores for the seven saga films count among the most widely known and popular contributions to modern film music. Additionally, music for animated television series spinoffs has been written by Kevin Kiner, and further music has been composed for Star Wars video games and works in other media.

The scores utilize an eclectic variety of musical styles, many culled from the Late Romantic idiom of Richard Strauss and his contemporaries that itself was incorporated into the Golden Age Hollywood scores of Erich Korngold and Max Steiner. While several obvious nods to Gustav Holst, William Walton, Sergei Prokofiev and Igor Stravinsky exist in the score to Star Wars, Williams relied less and less on classical references in the latter six scores, incorporating more strains of modernist orchestral writing with each progressive score. The reasons for Williams' tapping of a familiar Romantic idiom are known to involve Lucas' desire to ground the otherwise strange and fantastic setting in well-known, audience-accessible music. Indeed, Lucas maintains that much of the original trilogy's success relies not on advanced visual effects, but on the simple, direct emotional appeal of its plot, characters and, importantly, music.[2]

Star Wars often is credited as heralding the beginning of a revival of grand symphonic scores in the late 1970s. One technique in particular is an influence: Williams's revival of a technique called leitmotif, which is most famously associated with the operas of Richard Wagner and, in film scores, with Steiner. A leitmotif is a phrase or melodic cell that signifies a character, place, plot element, mood, idea, relationship or other specific part of the film. It is commonly used in modern film scoring as a device for mentally anchoring certain parts of a film to the soundtrack. Of chief importance for a leitmotif is that it must be strong enough for a listener to latch onto while being flexible enough to undergo variation and development.

A series of concerts which featured Star Wars music, Star Wars: In Concert, took place in 2009 and 2010. First performed in London, it went on to tour across the United States and Canada, last playing in London, Ontario, Canada on July 25, 2010.



Year Title Composer Conductor Orchestrator Orchestra
Saga Films
1977 A New Hope John Williams John Williams Herbert W. Spencer London Symphony Orchestra
1980 The Empire Strikes Back
1983 Return of the Jedi
1999 The Phantom Menace Conrad Pope
John Neufeld
2002 Attack of the Clones Conrad Pope
Eddie Karam
2005 Revenge of the Sith
2015 The Force Awakens John Williams
William Ross
Gustavo Dudamel[3]
William Ross Hollywood Studio Symphony
Spin-off Films
2008 The Clone Wars Kevin Kiner
John Williams (themes)
Kevin Kiner
Nic Raine
Kevin Kiner
Nic Raine
Takeshi Furukawa
City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
2016 Rogue One Michael Giacchino
John Williams (themes)
Tim Simonec William Ross
Tim Simonec
Brad Dechter
Jeff Kryka
Chris Tilton
Herbert W. Spencer[4]
Hollywood Studio Symphony


Kevin Kiner composed the score to the film Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) which led into the animated TV series of the same name while using some of the original themes and score by John Williams. His own material for the film includes a theme for Anakin Skywalker's Padawan learner, Ahsoka Tano, as well as a theme for Jabba the Hutt's uncle Ziro. Kiner went on to score the TV series' entire six seasons, which concluded in 2014. A soundtrack album was released that same year by Walt Disney Records.[5]

Kiner continued his work with the franchise for the animated series Star Wars Rebels (2014), which also incorporates Williams' themes.[6]

Year Title Composer Additional composers
2008–2014 Star Wars: The Clone Wars Kevin Kiner Takeshi Furukawa
David G. Russell
Matthew St. Laurent
Reuven Herman
Russ Howard III
2014–present Star Wars Rebels David G. Russell
Matthew St. Laurent

Video games[edit]

Year Title Composer
1998 Star Wars: Rogue Squadron Chris Huelsbeck
2001 Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader Chris Huelsbeck
2003 Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike Chris Huelsbeck
2008 Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Mark Griskey
2010 Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II Mark Griskey
2015 Star Wars: Battlefront Gordy Haab

Themes in the original trilogy[edit]

First appearance in A New Hope[edit]

  • "Main Title"
  • "Rebel Fanfare"
  • "Luke's Theme"
  • "Ben Kenobi's Theme"
  • "Princess Leia's Theme"
  • "Stormtrooper Motif"
  • "Imperial Motif"
  • "Death Star Motif"
  • "Tatooine Motif"
  • "Sandspeeder"
  • "Jawa Theme"
  • "Cantina"
  • "Dies Irae" (Fate Motif)
  • "Space Battle Motif" ("Here They Come!")
  • "The Throne Room"
  • "The Jedi March"
  • "Star Wars End-Cap"

[9][10][11] [12]

First appearance in The Empire Strikes Back[edit]

[14][15][16] [17]

First appearance in Return of the Jedi[edit]

  • "Jabba's Theme"
  • "Jabba's Barge"
  • "Emperor's Theme"
  • "Triumph Fanfare"
  • "Yoda's Revelations"
  • About this sound "Parade of the Ewoks" 
  • "Luke and Leia"
  • "Secondary Ewok Theme"
  • "Victory Celebration"

[18][19] [20]

Themes in the prequel trilogy[edit]

First appearance in The Phantom Menace[edit]

  • "Anakin's Theme"
  • "Shmi's Theme"
  • "Droid Invasion Theme"
  • "Duel of the Fates"
  • "Funeral Theme"
  • "Qui-Gon's Theme"
  • "Tusken Raiders"
  • "Darth Maul's motif"
  • "Jar Jar's Theme"
  • "Taking Off theme"
  • "Flag Parade"


First appearance in Attack of the Clones[edit]

  • "Across the Stars"
  • "Mystery Motif"
    • "Kamino Theme"
  • "Courtship Motif"
  • "Dooku's Motif"
  • "Mourning Theme"
  • "Anakin's Descent"
  • "Dark Side theme"
  • "Zam Wesell"


First appearance in Revenge of the Sith[edit]

  • "Battle of the Heroes"
  • "General Grievous' Theme"
  • "Army of the Republic Motif"
  • "Anakin's Betrayal"
  • "Mustafar Motif"
  • "Mystery of the Sith Motif"
  • "Republic Theme"
  • "Arrival Theme"
  • "Secondary Droid Fanfare"


Themes in the sequel trilogy[edit]

First appearance in The Force Awakens[edit]

  • "Rey's Theme"
  • "Kylo Ren's Theme"
  • "Kylo Ren Secondary Theme"
  • "First Order Motif"
  • "March of the Resistance"
  • "Action motif"
  • "Poe Dameron's Theme"
  • "The Jedi Steps"
  • "BB-8's Theme"
  • "Scherzo for X-Wings"
  • Starkiller Theme
  • "Snoke's Theme"


Themes in the spin-offs[edit]

First appearance in Rogue One[edit]

Michael Giacchino, the composer of Rogue One
Musical notation of Michial Giacchino's Imperial Theme "A"
  • Jyn's Theme
  • Hope Theme
  • Guardians of the Whills Theme
  • Imperial Theme
  • Krennic's Theme
  • Cassian's Theme


Concert suites[edit]

From A New Hope


From The Empire Strikes Back


From Return of the Jedi


From The Phantom Menace


From Attack of the Clones

  • "Across the Stars"


From Revenge of the Sith


From The Force Awakens [58]

  • "Rey's Theme"
  • "March of the Resistance"
  • "Scherzo for X-Wings"
  • "The Jedi Steps"


From Rogue One

  • "Jyn Erso and Hope Suite"
  • "The Imperial Suite"
  • "The Guardians of the Whills Suite"


Diegetic music[edit]

Diegetic music is music "that occurs as part of the action (rather than as background), and can be heard by the film's characters".[65] In addition to the orchestral scope that was brought on by John Williams' musical score, the Star Wars franchise also features many distinguishing diegetic songs that enrich the detail of the audio mise-en-scène.[66]

From A New Hope

  • "Cantina Band" and "Cantina Band #2". Written by John Williams, it is played in the Cantina on Tatooine. It is written for solo trumpet, saxophone, clarinet, Fender Rhodes piano, steel drum, synthesizer and various percussion. According to the Star Wars Customizable Card Game, the diegetic title for the first Cantina band piece is "Mad About Me". The liner notes for the 1997 Special Edition release of the Star Wars soundtrack describe the concept behind these works as "several creatures in a future century finding some 1930's Benny Goodman swing band music ... and how they might attempt to interpret it". This piece also appears on an all the outtakes easter eggs on the DVDs from episode I and II and on the bonus disc of the 2004 original trilogy DVD set.

From Return of the Jedi

  • "Jabba's Baroque Recital". Mozart-esque John Williams composition played while 3PO and R2 first arrive and play Jabba the message from Luke Skywalker.
  • "Lapti Nek". Lyrics written by Joseph Williams and translated into Huttese, this is played by the Max Rebo Band in Jabba the Hutt's palace (in the original cut of the movie).
  • "Jedi Rocks" (composed by Jerry Hey). This was composed to replace Lapti Nek for the 1997 Special Edition of the film.
  • "Max Rebo Band Jams". Heard twice in the film, once after Jabba sends the Wookiee Chewbacca to jail, and again on Jabba's Sail Barge (hence its title). A recording of the first can be found on the official Star Wars Soundboards.
  • "Ewok Feast" and "Part of the Tribe". Heard when Luke and company were captured by the Ewoks and brought to their treehouses.
  • "Ewok Celebration". The Victory Song, whose lyrics were written by Joseph Williams, can be heard at the end of the original release of Return of the Jedi.
  • "Victory Celebration". The Victory Song at the end of the Return of the Jedi 1997 re-edition.

From The Phantom Menace

  • "Tatooine Street Music". Joseph Williams wrote four separate pieces of unusual, vaguely Eastern sounding source music for the streets of Mos Espa.
  • "Augie's Municipal Band". Music played during the peace parade at the end of the film.

From Attack of the Clones

  • "Dex's Diner"
  • "Unknown Episode II Source Cue". A second source cue is credited to Joseph Williams' name for Episode II, but is not heard in the film.
  • "Arena Percussion". Originally meant to accompany the Droid Factory sequence, Ben Burtt's attempt at composition is instead shifted to the arena, replacing the predominantly unused John Williams cue "Entrance of the Monsters."

From The Force Awakens



The score of the original Star Wars film of 1977 won John Williams the most awards of his career:

He also received the 1977 Saturn Award for Best Music for both the Star Wars score and his score for Close Encounters of the Third Kind.[72]

Williams's score for the 1980 sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, also earned him a number of awards:

The Empire Strikes Back was also nominated in 1981 for Best Original Score the 53rd Academy Awards (the award was won by Michael Gore for Fame).[75]

Williams's subsequent Star Wars film music was nominated for a number of awards; in 1984 his score for Return of the Jedi was nominated for Best Original Score at the 56th Academy Awards.[76] His compositions for the prequel trilogy also received nominations: the score for The Phantom Menace was nominated for Best Instrumental Composition at the 2000 Grammy Awards[77] and Revenge of the Sith was nominated at the 2006 Grammy Awards for Best Soundtrack Album.[78]

In 2005 the 1977 soundtrack for Star Wars was voted as the "most memorable film score of all time" by the American Film Institute in the list AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores, based on the assessment of a jury of over 500 artists, composers, musicians, critics and historians from the film industry.[79]

In 2016, John Williams was nominated for Best Original Score, his 50th overall nomination, for his score to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.


The soundtracks to both Star Wars and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace have been certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, for shipments of at least 1 million units, with the albums for The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones being certified Gold (500,000 units).[80] The British Phonographic Industry certified Star Wars and Episode I as Gold for shipments of over 100,000 units in the UK.[81]


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  2. ^ Burlingame, Jon (February 8, 2012). "Spielberg and Lucas on Williams: Directors reminisce about collaborating with Hollywood's greatest composer". The Film Music Society. Archived from the original on December 23, 2015. Retrieved December 23, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Dudamel Conducts Some Music for New 'Star Wars' Film". The New York Times. 15 December 2015. 
  4. ^ according to the closing credit roll
  5. ^ "'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' TV Series Soundtrack Announced". Film Music Reporter. November 4, 2014. Archived from the original on December 23, 2015. Retrieved December 23, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Kevin Kiner to Score 'Star Wars Rebels'". Film Music Reporter. April 21, 2014. Archived from the original on December 23, 2015. Retrieved December 23, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Larsen, Peter, and Irons, John (2007). Film Music, p.168. ISBN 9781861893413.
  8. ^ a b Larsen & Irons (2007), p.170.
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  65. ^ The dictionary definition of Diegetic at Wiktionary.
  66. ^ Hutchinson, Sean (November 11, 2015). "Alien Musicians in 'Star Wars,' Ranked". Inverse. Archived from the original on December 30, 2015. Retrieved December 30, 2015.  (Archived page contains a JavaScript that replaces article with page not found message. To prevent this stop page loading as soon as article text is visible.)
  67. ^ Raftery, Brian (December 21, 2015). "The 9 Best Songs Ever Played in a Star Wars Movie". Wired. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved December 22, 2015. 
  68. ^ "The 50th Academy Awards (1978) Nominees and Winners". The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  69. ^ "The 35th Annual Golden Globe Awards (1978)". Golden Globe Awards. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  70. ^ "Soundtrack 1978". BAFTA Awards Database. British Acacdemy of Film & Television Awards. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  71. ^ "1977 20th Annual Grammy Awards". Past Winners database. Grammy Awards. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  72. ^ "Past Saturn Awards". Saturn Awards. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  73. ^ "Soundtrack 1980". BAFTA Awards Database. British Acacdemy of Film & Television Awards. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  74. ^ "1908- 23rd Annual Grammy Awards". Grammy Awards. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  75. ^ "The 53rd Academy Awards (1981) Nominees and Winners". The Academy Awards of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  76. ^ "The 56th Academy Awards (1984) Nominees and Winners". The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  77. ^ "Final Nominations for the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards". Billboard: 73. January 15, 2000. 
  78. ^ "Grammy Award Nominees". Billboard: 60. December 17, 2005. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  79. ^ "Star Wars Tops AFI's List of 25 Greatest Film Scores of All Time". AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores. American Film Institute. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  80. ^ "Star Wars - Gold & Platinum". Recording Industry Association of America. Archived from the original on January 8, 2016. Retrieved January 8, 2016. 
  81. ^ Certified Awards Search - BPI

External links[edit]