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 an animated spinoff was written by Kevin Kiner, and further music has been composed for Star Wars video games and works in other media. The 2016 spinoff film Rogue One was scored by Michael Giacchino, the first live-action Star Wars film not to use Williams.

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, Sergueï Prokofiev and Igor Stravinsky exist in the score to Star Wars, Williams relied less and less on classical references in the latter five 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, and 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 lead 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]

Themes in the original trilogy[edit]

First appearance in A New Hope[edit]

  • "Main Title" (all films) – Easily the most recognizable melody of the saga, the main theme is variously associated with Luke Skywalker, heroism, and adventure. It is heard over the opening crawl at the beginning of all the films and forms the basis of the end-title as well. The theme is most prominent in the first film, Star Wars, in which strong brass treat it as a fanfare for Luke; throughout subsequent films, it is relied upon less frequently, though this restraint lends it a greater impact. The opening bars of this theme bear a striking resemblance to Erich Wolfgang Korngold's opening theme for the 1941 film Kings Row.[9] Also, the much recognized seven note sequence of the theme is seemingly taken directly from Giacomo Puccini's opera Manon Lescaut where it is featured prominently in the fourth act.[10]
  • "Rebel Fanfare" (all films) – This short motif is used extensively throughout the saga to represent the Rebel Alliance, most frequently in Star Wars. The theme is also used in The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and Revenge of the Sith, and is part of the ending credits of all the films in the saga. The theme itself is constructed out of brassy major block chords that progress in parallel motion through intervals of a third, resulting in an appropriate though non-diatonic heraldic flavor. Written in minor key, the melody is often misinterpreted as a theme for the Empire.[citation needed] In fact, the radio dramatization of Star Wars mistakenly introduced or outro'd Imperial scenes while "Rebel Fanfare" played in the background.[citation needed]
  • "Force Theme" (all films) – The theme is a strong leitmotif of the series, being consistently developed and, consequently, difficult to attach to a specific meaning. It variously represents Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Jedi, and the Force from which they draw their power, as well as more abstract ideas such as fate or destiny. In general, the theme's appearances mark moments of significance in the films, due in part to its portentous and upward-striving melody.[11] The theme is first heard when Leia is first seen giving R2D2 the plans to the Death Star, then blending into the first appearance of Leia's theme.
  • "Princess Leia's Theme" (Episodes III-VII) – A lush theme for Princess Leia, the melody is mostly heard in Star Wars to represent the romanticized and naive idea of the princess. It is used in subsequent films where the princess is particularly vulnerable or mentioned; in addition, it is heard prominently in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith after she is born. An extended concert version of this theme was incorporated into the end credits for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. In The Force Awakens, the theme accompanies appearances of Leia.
  • "Imperial Motif" (A New Hope, Rogue One) – The motif represents Grand Moff Tarkin and the Imperial forces under his control, including Darth Vader, before "The Imperial March" theme was written. It is generally played by bassoons or muted trombones and, for its brevity and limited melodic scope, is not nearly as successful at conjuring dread as "The Imperial March";[according to whom?] however, certain rhythmic and harmonic aspects do anticipate the march.
  • "Death Star Motif" (A New Hope, Return of the Jedi, Rogue One) – An imposing four chord motif, played six times during Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, that heralds a shot or mention of the dreaded Death Star. It is also heard in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi when Darth Vader's Super Star Destroyer flagship crashes into the Death Star II through music adapted from the first film.
  • "Jawa Theme" (A New Hope) – Early Tatooine scenes in Star Wars feature this jaunty, playful theme during the presence of Jawas. The theme is mostly associated with double-reed instruments, primarily the English horn.
  • "Dies Irae" (A New Hope, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, The Force Awakens, Rogue One) – Following in the tradition of many composers,[12] Williams incorporated the melody of the Gregorian chant "Dies Irae" into the score of Star Wars to evoke a sense of impending doom or tribulation. The four signature notes first appear in the score to Star Wars, notably at the end of the scene in which Luke finds his aunt and uncle dead. It was originally introduced in the "Binary Sunset" scene, but Williams was asked to rewrite the cue, and in doing so removed the references to "Dies Irae". This tragic function is expanded upon in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones during the scene in which Anakin confesses to killing the Sand People and in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith during the scene in which Jedi are slaughtered across the galaxy. The original cue from Episode IV recurs in The Force Awakens when Rey first uses Luke's lightsaber. Michael Giacchino used it as the base of Jyn's Theme in Rogue One.

First appearance in The Empire Strikes Back[edit]

  • "The Imperial March" or "Darth Vader's Theme" (Episodes I-III, V-VII, Rogue One) – The theme that represents the totalitarian Galactic Empire as a whole, and Darth Vader specifically. More than other Star Wars themes, the March has attained an iconic status in the Western consciousness as a general "evil theme", and as such is used to portray power at public events, sometimes seriously, sometimes with tongue in cheek (as in sporting events). It has been used on multiple occasions to introduce a scene featuring the "evil" Montgomery Burns on the animated comedy The Simpsons. Musical features include relentless martial rhythm and dark, non-diatonic harmonic support. In the original trilogy, "The Imperial March" also represents all that is the Empire; therefore, it is nearly equivalent to a galactic anthem. Williams retrograded the theme for the prequel trilogy, subtly embedding it in "Anakin's Theme" and the evolution of the Republic (represented by the clone troopers) into the Empire. It is heard with progressive prominence through Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, signaling critical points in Anakin's downward spiral to the Dark side. In the March's final rendition, accompanying Vader's death in Return of the Jedi, Williams reverses the effect of the theme, by means of reduced orchestration and volume. It ends with a cadence of solos (strings, flute, clarinet, horn and, ultimately, harp) as Vader expires. A statement of the theme appears in "The Force Awakens" when it is revealed that Kylo Ren is speaking to the charred remains of Vader's helmet.
  • About this sound "Han Solo and the Princess" /"Love Theme"/"Han Solo's Theme" (Episodes V-VII) – A sweeping theme for the love between Han Solo and Princess Leia. Heard in The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens, and often used in not only scenes of romance but also scenes of sacrifice from the two characters, including the closing moments of The Empire Strikes Back. During its original appearance, this melody first is played by a solo French horn.
  • About this sound "Yoda's Theme"  (Episodes I-III, V-VI) – A gentle theme for the Jedi Master Yoda, who appears in five of the seven films along with his music. Closely associated with his teachings and abilities, though can be related to Luke's retention of those lessons as well. Used more sparingly in the Prequel Trilogy, though certain moments, especially Yoda's departure from Kashyyyk, highlight the theme quite prominently. It is briefly heard in the film E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial as E.T. encounters a trick-or-treater in a Yoda costume and tries to communicate with him. This was most likely included as a humorous nod to the Star Wars movies, as John Williams is the composer of both soundtracks.
  • "Droids Motif" (Episode V) – A short playful motif associated with C-3PO and R2-D2. Prominent in several scenes on Hoth, Dagobah, and during the climactic "Hyperspace" cue at the end of the film. A version is played in a minor tune during the scene that C-3PO gets shot.
  • "Boba Fett Motif" (Episode V) – A simple bassoon melody based on a descending semitone phrase representing Boba Fett. It is played sparingly in "The Empire Strikes Back" in scenes strongly involving the bounty hunter. Some speculation exists of a secondary motif for Fett, occurring as he escorts frozen Han through the halls of Bespin. This theme heard in the horns appears in scenes unrelated to Fett, which throws association into debate. It may represent a 'struggle' by the rebels to escape the Bespin city, which would qualify it as a secondary Bespin theme. Some have asserted material associated with Fett also turns up in Episode II as well, though whether the material in question bears anything more than coincidental similarity to his original motif is debatable.
  • "Lando's Palace" or the "Cloud City Theme" (Episode V). A major-mode march, heard a few times in Lando Calrissian's palace during the Bespin sequences of The Empire Strikes Back.

First appearance in Return of the Jedi[edit]

  • "Jabba's Theme" (Episodes I, IV, VI) – A rolling, bulbous tuba theme for the slug-like Jabba the Hutt, it is played during the opening act of Return of the Jedi, which takes place at Jabba's Palace. It is also played during the added Jabba scene in the 1997 Special Edition of Star Wars, and in a slightly disguised form before the pod-race in The Phantom Menace.
  • "Emperor's Theme" (Episodes I-III, VI) – The theme for Palpatine / Darth Sidious. More generally, it portrays the dark side itself. Consists of an ominous melody built over alternating, chromatically related chords and often sung by a male choir. In The Phantom Menace, and Attack of the Clones, it is used to represent the growing power of the mysterious Darth Sidious, most notably in the scene in the Naboo capital at the end of the first film, where it is performed in a major key by a child chorus as celebratory music (symbolically representing the hidden victory of Palpatine's overall plan). In Revenge of the Sith, it is played as Sidious' true identity is unmasked and as he lays the foundation for the Empire. In Return of the Jedi, it is used to represent the Emperor, and plays whenever he is on screen.
  • "Luke and Leia" (Episode VI). The theme for the link between Leia and her brother Luke in Return of the Jedi. Heard only twice in the actual film; the extended concert suite that Williams composed for it is clearly greater than the sum of its uses. In some ways a more mature theme than the outwardly romantic "Princess Leia" and "Han Solo and the Princess" themes.
  • "Victory Celebration" (Episode VI). The theme signifying the victory of the Alliance and the culmination of the entire saga. Its music has various animal calls, flutes and is played mostly at the Ewok village where everybody celebrates. The original music was replaced by this theme in the 1997 Special Edition, in order to accommodate new scenes on Tatooine, Naboo, Bespin, and Coruscant.

Themes in the prequel trilogy[edit]

First appearance in The Phantom Menace[edit]

  • "Anakin's Theme" (Episodes I-III): An ostensibly innocent theme that contains seeds of "The Imperial March". Its outwardly warm melody belies the harmonic instability of a number of passages and deeply rooted motivic similarities with Vader's mature theme. The concert arrangement makes the fate of this leitmotif more explicit, ending with a number of subtle renditions of phrases from the theme it foreshadows. Development is limited almost exclusively to Episode I, with a small handful of renditions in Episode II and a single, tortured rendition in Episode III.
  • "Shmi's Theme" (Episodes I-III): Introduced on Tatooine, Shmi's theme starts as a loving if pained motif. The theme is most prominent when Shmi tells Anakin "Don't Look Back" just before he walks away to begin his life as a Jedi. The theme continues into Episode II as a tortured motif as Anakin worries about her then goes to her aid. It then turns tender as she dies in his arms; and finally tragic as he carries her body back to the Homestead. Her theme makes one final tortured rendition in Episode III as the weight of everything Anakin has done comes crashing down on him on Mustafar; tears in his eyes.
  • "Droid Invasion Theme" (Episodes I-III): Alternatively known as the "Trade Federation March", it is played various times in Episode I as the droid armies of the Trade Federation attack Naboo. In Episode II, it is used to represent the Clones, who will become the Empire's soldiers of choice. It is also played in Episode III during the Battle of Kashyyyk. The music is also used during the Battle of Geonosis in Episode II.
  • "Duel of the Fates" (Episodes I-III): Featuring choral interjections derived from the archaic Celtic poem "Cad Goddeu" ("Battle of the Trees") translated into Sanskrit,[14] the theme is used to represent the clash between the Light Side and the Dark Side. In English, the text reads: "Under the tongue root a fight most dread, and another raging behind, in the head."[15] Played during the climactic lightsaber battle between Jedi Master Qui Gon Jinn and his Padawan Obi Wan Kenobi and the menacing Sith Lord Darth Maul in Episode I — incidentally, the theme was developed substantially in music that did not make the final cut of the film. In Episode II, it is played when Anakin goes off to search for his mother, implying an internal struggle between good and evil. In Episode III, it is fragmented within Obi-Wan and Anakin's duel to accompany Yoda's simultaneous duel with Emperor Palpatine.[16]
  • "Funeral Theme" (Episodes I, III): Another setting of poetry in Sanskrit. Heard briefly during Qui Gon's funeral in Episode I, and developed in Episode III. In that film, accompanies the death of Padmé and the "rebirth" of Darth Vader in his suit, as well as without a choir in Padmé's funeral procession and during the shot of the skeletal Death Star, where it is subsumed by "The Imperial March". A small portion of the Force theme is also incorporated into the funeral theme, perhaps meaning that a person has become one with the Force, such as Qui-Gon or Amidala.
  • "Qui-Gon's Theme" (Episodes I): This theme represents Obi-Wan Kenobi's master, Qui-Gon Jinn. It appears in three significant scenes. First, when Qui-Gon and Anakin inform Shmi that Anakin is no longer a slave and is free. Second, when Jinn first fights Maul before he and the heroes escape Tatooine. Third, when Obi-Wan holds Qui-Gon in his arms before he dies and tells Kenobi about he needs to train Anakin and he'll bring balance to the Force. The theme has 25 notes.
  • "Darth Maul's motif" (Episodes I): A minor theme with whispered Sith Chant used to represent the character Darth Maul.
  • "Jar Jar's Theme" (Episodes I): A minor comical theme used to represent the character Jar Jar Binks in the first movie.

First appearance in Attack of the Clones[edit]

  • "Across the Stars" (Episodes II-III): This broadly romantic theme is associated with the forbidden and ill-fated love between Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala. The title is probably a reference to Romeo and Juliet, a story of similarly "star-crossed" love. It is gentle but with an undercurrent of sadness and uncertainty. It is written in the key of D minor, but changes keys several times throughout its duration. Arguments have been put forward that in its melodic and rhythmic structure, the theme bears resemblance to Han and Leia's theme from the original trilogy, though such features as prominent triplets speak more to common ideas throughout Williams' scores (note resemblance to themes from Hook and Nixon, for example).
  • "Kamino Theme" (Episode II): A slow ostinato of sorts that ascends and descends along with the waves of the planet Kamino.
  • "Dooku's Motif" or "Separatist Theme" (Episode II): Dark and menacing theme for the movie. This idea has progressions and a tone very similar to Williams' theme for Lord Voldemort in his first two Harry Potter scores.
  • "Meadow/Innocence Theme" (Padmé's Theme?) (Episode II): A more frivolous theme that Williams uses in the flirtation scenes between the two characters that may be aimed more specifically at Padmé.

First appearance in Revenge of the Sith[edit]

  • "Battle of the Heroes" (Episode III): The theme for the climactic duel between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan, playing during the second half of the fight. A counterpart to "Duel of the Fates", but where that piece emphasizes action and danger, "Battle of the Heroes" is more broadly epic and contains significantly more tragic feeling.[17]
  • "General Grievous Theme" (Episode III): Plodding, triple-time theme that occurs with the introduction of General Grievous, is given a more extended treatment during his arrival on Utapau, and is heard during his lightsaber fight with Obi-Wan. Usually played on trombones or horns.
  • "Anakin's Betrayal" (Episode III): Alternatively known as "Lament". This theme represents Anakin's tragic turn to the Dark Side and the execution of the order 66 and the beginning of the Great Jedi Purge.

Themes in the sequel trilogy[edit]

First appearance in The Force Awakens[edit]

  • "Rey's Theme" (Episode VII). A mysterious theme led by strings and woodwinds with a core leitmotif of quickly alternating notes played by various instruments such as solo flute. It first appears during Rey's dialogue-free introduction to the film's audience. The theme can be split into multiple parts, especially in the concert suite. The first part represents her mystery and loneliness, it is played in 10 notes that are repeated. The second part is 7 notes and represents her job as a scavenger. The third part is also 12 notes and is her main theme. Part three usually plays with scene with her and Finn. The fourth part foreshadows her role as a hero, it also plays in the scene when Chewbacca saves her and Finn. Finally, the fifth represents her destiny which is played in 7 notes. In the film’s credits, "Rey’s Theme" is interwoven with "The Force Theme". Williams has stated that "Rey’s Theme" is inspired by that theme. This theme appears more frequently than any other theme, old or new, in the film.
  • "Kylo Ren's Theme" (Episode VII). A sinister five-note brass theme. It first appears as Kylo Ren's shuttle descends onto Jakku at the beginning of the film.
  • "Kylo Ren's Second Theme." This eight-note motif first appears when Kylo Ren confronts General Hux regarding Finn's betrayal. It later appears when Kylo Ren encounters Rey on Takodana and during lightsaber duel with her on the Starkiller Base.
  • "March of the Resistance" (Episode VII). A loud sweeping theme that represents the heroic organization. It first appears when the X-Wing pilots rescue the heroes on Takodana and later appears throughout the latter half of the film. On the soundtrack, it appears in the tracks "Han and Leia", "March of the Resistance", "Farewell and the Trip", and "The Jedi Steps and Finale."
  • "Finn's Theme": A fast-paced motif that appears during some of the film's action scenes. It first appears when Finn, Rey, and BB-8 are running from the TIE Fighters and find the Millennium Falcon. It appears throughout the Falcon chase, the Rathars sequence, and the End Credits medley. On the soundtrack, it appears in the tracks "Follow Me", "The Falcon", "The Rathtars!", and "The Jedi Steps and Finale".
  • "Poe Dameron's Theme": A heroic motif that represents the greatest pilot in the Resistance. It first appears in the film when Finn and Poe are escaping the Star Destroyer, when Poe returns on Takodana, when the Resistance pilots blow up the Starkiller, and the End Credits medley. On the soundtrack, it appears in the tracks "I Can Fly Anything", "Farewell and the Trip", and "The Jedi Steps and Finale".
  • "The Jedi Steps": A motif to represent Rey's connection with the Force and her upcoming journey as a Jedi. It plays at the end of the film when Rey, R2-D2, and Chewbacca go to search for Luke. The motif then grows louder when Rey finally encounters Luke Skywalker and presents him with his and his father's lightsaber, seguing into the climax of "The Force Theme."
  • "BB-8's Theme": A whimsical motif that represents Poe Dameron's trusty sidekick. It plays when the droid meets Rey and near the end of the film when R2-D2 wakes up after learning Luke has been found.
  • "Scherzo for X-Wings": A fast-paced action motif. It plays in the film's climax when the Resistance is about to achieve victory. It contains references to the "Main Theme" and "The Force Theme".
  • The Starkiller Theme: This theme appears in two tracks "The Starkiller" and "Torn Apart." In the film, it plays after General Hux's speech and the base blows up the Republic capital. The second time it plays is when Han Solo falls down the chasm after Kylo Ren kills him. The theme also contains subtle references to themes from other Star Wars films such as "Anakin's Theme", "Across the Stars," and "Anakin's Dark Deeds."
  • "Snoke's Theme" (Episode VII). A low plainchant performed by a 24-voice male chorus. The text is derived from a Sanskrit translation of a poem by Rudyard Kipling.[18] It first appears during the first meeting between General Hux, Kylo Ren, and Supreme Leader Snoke.

Themes in the spin-offs[edit]

First appearance in The Clone Wars[edit]

  • Ahsoka's Theme
  • Padmé's Theme
  • Victory Theme
  • Rescue Motif
  • Clone Troopers Theme
  • Pre Vizla and the Mandalorians' Theme
  • Ventress the Nightsister
  • Darth Maul's Theme
  • Savage Oppress' Theme
  • Malevolence Theme
  • Plo Koon's Theme
  • Anakin and Padmé Love Theme
  • Obi-Wan and Satine Love Theme
  • Luminara's Theme
  • Aayla Secura's Theme

First appearance in Rogue One[edit]

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

First appearance in Star Wars Rebels[edit]

  • Ezra's Theme
  • Ghost Crew Theme
  • Hera's Theme
  • Zeb's Theme
  • The Inquisitor's Theme
  • Thrawn's Theme
  • The Seventh Sister's Theme
  • Agent Kallus' Theme

First appearance in Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures[edit]

  • Freemaker Adventures Theme
  • Rowan's Theme
  • Naare's Theme
  • Kyber Saber Theme

Minor motifs[edit]

In addition to the series' major leitmotifs, a host of subsidiary motifs occur throughout the film series, some whose existence is tied to a single scene while others recur infrequently or are given little development. Instances of minor motifs occur more often throughout the prequel trilogy, which can be attributed to the fact that Williams was composing music for characters and events that preceded his original work. As theorist Laurence E. MacDonald states, "[Williams] had the challenge of scoring each new film [of the prequel series] to reflect aspects of the story that are part of the first trilogy, while maintaining the integrity of scenarios and characters that are not in the earlier films."[19] These minor motifs include:

First appearance A New Hope[edit]

  • "Here They Come!" (Space battle motif)
  • "Stormtrooper Motif"
  • "The Throne Room"
  • "Tusken Raider Theme"

First appearance in The Empire Strikes Back[edit]

  • "Imperial Walkers"
  • "Boba Fett Motif"
  • "The Asteroid Field"

First appearance in Return of the Jedi[edit]

  • "Yoda's Revelation"
  • "Secondary Ewok Theme"

First appearance in The Phantom Menace[edit]

  • "Auggie's Great Band"
  • "Qui-Gon's Noble End"
  • "Jar Jar's Theme"
  • "Darth Maul Motif"
  • "Secondary Droid March"
  • "Arrival on Tatooine"
  • "Naboo Motif"

First appearance in Attack of the Clones[edit]

  • "Zam Wesell's Theme"
  • "Separatists' Theme"
  • "Kamino Motif"
  • "Mourning Theme"
  • "Count Dooku Motif"
  • "Bounty Hunter's Pursuit"
  • "Jango's Escape"

First appearance in Revenge of the Sith[edit]

  • "Republic Motif"
  • "Grievous and the Droids"
  • "Mystery of the Sith Motif"
  • "Anakin's Dark Deeds"
  • "Padme's Revelations"
  • "Palpatine's Teachings"
  • "Enter Lord Vader"
  • "Immolation Theme"

First appearance in The Force Awakens[edit]

  • "Finn's Confession Motif"
  • "Maz Kanata's Theme"
  • "Torn Apart Motif"
  • "Map Motif"
  • "Death Motif"

First appearance in Rogue One[edit]

  • "Saw's Theme"
  • "Jedha City Ambush"
  • "Cargo Shuttle Motif"
  • "Approach to Eadu motif"

Concert suites[edit]

From A New Hope

  • "Star Wars Main Title". This concert suite combines "Main Title" with most of "End Title." It is the most often performed concert suite from Star Wars.
  • "Here They Come!". This concert suite is an expanded version of the latter part of the cue "Ben Kenobi's Death and TIE Fighter Attack".
  • "Princess Leia's Theme". This concert suite was recorded for the original soundtrack album. A portion of it is utilized in the end credits suite from Revenge of the Sith.
  • "The Final Battle". This concert suite is a combination of cues heard when the Millennium Falcon arrives at the Death Star, when Obi-Wan is killed by Darth Vader and the subsequent escape from the Death Star and the Rebel assault on the Death Star. Parts of the Superstructure Chase cue from Return of the Jedi also appear in this concert suite.
  • "The Throne Room". For concert performances, Williams created an extended version of the ceremonial music heard at the end of the original film. Though recorded numerous times, including by Williams himself, this piece was not featured on a Star Wars film soundtrack until Revenge of the Sith, in which Williams incorporated the entire piece into the end credits suite. Due to time constraints, it was cut from the film.

From The Empire Strikes Back

  • "The Imperial March". Premiered in a Williams concert five weeks before the movie was released.
  • "Yoda's Theme". Premiered in a Williams concert five weeks before the movie was released.
  • "Han Solo and the Princess". This concert suite is based on the love theme from "The Empire Strikes Back". It contains a reference to Leia's theme. Notably, this piece has never been recorded by Williams, and in interviews he seems to have no memory of the theme. It was first recorded by Charles Gerhardt on his Empire Strikes Back album containing a reworked suite of the most memorable music from the movie.

From Return of the Jedi

  • "Jabba the Hutt". Concert suite based on Jabba the Hutt's theme which features an extended solo for tuba. The original soundtrack recording of this piece has been lost; however, an excerpt of it was utilized in the film, replacing "At the Court of Jabba the Hutt." This recording can be heard on the Star Wars Trilogy Anthology.
  • "Parade of the Ewoks". A concert suite based on the Ewok theme, most of which was used in the end credits. A revised version of this concert suite adds orchestral flourishes to the beginning of the piece.
  • "Luke and Leia". Much of this concert suite was incorporated into the end credits. It contains references, possibly unintentional, to both Yoda's theme and Leia's theme.
  • "The Forest Battle". A concert suite based on "The Ewok Battle." The section from 2:33 to 2:49 is based on material from the alternative version of "Sail Barge Assault."

From The Phantom Menace

  • "Duel of the Fates". This concert arrangement of the theme was written for the end credits.
  • "Anakin's Theme". This concert arrangement of Anakin's theme was written to follow Duel of the Fates in the end credits.
  • "The Flag Parade". An expanded version of the cue The Flag Parade (as seen in the OST release), Williams created an expanded concert suite that was not recorded for the original soundtrack.
  • "The Adventures of Jar Jar". This concert suite utilizes Jar Jar's theme and the cue "Moving Forward" (written for the scene in which the heroes return to Naboo). It was not recorded for the original soundtrack.

From Attack of the Clones

  • "Across the Stars". It features a slow and tranquil opening, utilizing the oboe and strings heavily. Nearly the entire theme is underscored with triplet arpeggios. Finally, the end of this musical composition features a haunting solo by the harp, repeating the initial theme with colorful ornaments. Most of this concert suite was incorporated into the end credits.

From Revenge of the Sith

  • "Battle of the Heroes". To create this concert suite, Williams wrote a new introduction and conclusion to the cue "Revenge of the Sith," heard in the film during the final stage of the duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan.

From The Force Awakens

  • "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".[20] 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.[21]

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.
  • "Unknown Source Music". Not used or heard in the films, Joseph Williams is credited for a second source cue that has been lost.
  • "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.[27]

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).[30]

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.[31] 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[32] and Revenge of the Sith was nominated at the 2006 Grammy Awards for Best Soundtrack Album.[33]

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.[34]

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).[35] The British Phonographic Industry certified Star Wars and Episode I as Gold for shipments of over 100,000 units in the UK.[36]

Expanded Universe scores[edit]

Incidental music has been composed in the style of John Williams for a number of films, television programmes, and video games that depict characters and situations within the Star Wars expanded universe, the extended franchise licensed by Lucasfilm. These scores often borrow thematic material from the original film scores while also introducing new compositions.

Year Title Composer(s) Notes
1978 Star Wars Holiday Special Ken Welch, Mitzie Welch John Williams' Star Wars theme was adapted for the special by Ian Fraser.[37]
1984 Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure Peter Bernstein A soundtrack album containing Bernstein's music from both films was officially released as a 12-inch LP record by Varése Sarabande in 1986.[38]
1985 Ewoks: The Battle for Endor
1994 Star Wars: TIE Fighter Clint Bajakian
1995 Star Wars: Dark Forces
1996 Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire Joel McNeely Inspired by plot elements from the novel of the same name and utilized as the musical score for the video game of the same name, a soundtrack album was released by Varése Sarabande.[39]
2002 Star Wars: Bounty Hunter Jeremy Soule
2003 Star Wars: Clone Wars James L. Venable, Paul Dinletir
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Jeremy Soule
2004 Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords Mark Griskey
2005 Star Wars: Republic Commando Jesse Harlin
2008 Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Mark Griskey Upon the game's release, a promotional soundtrack album was made available online through Tracksounds.[40]
2010 Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II Like the score to the first game, it was only released as promotional content online.[41]
2011 Star Wars: The Old Republic Mark Griskey, Jesse Harlin, Lennie Moore


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  20. ^ The dictionary definition of Diegetic at Wiktionary.
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  26. ^ "1977 20th Annual Grammy Awards". Past Winners database. Grammy Awards. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Past Saturn Awards". Saturn Awards. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  28. ^ "Soundtrack 1980". BAFTA Awards Database. British Acacdemy of Film & Television Awards. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  29. ^ "1908- 23rd Annual Grammy Awards". Grammy Awards. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  30. ^ "The 53rd Academy Awards (1981) Nominees and Winners". The Academy Awards of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
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  33. ^ "Grammy Award Nominees". Billboard: 60. December 17, 2005. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
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  36. ^ Certified Awards Search - BPI
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  41. ^ Coleman, Christopher. "The Force Unleashed 2 by Mark Griskey". Tracksounds. Archived from the original on January 7, 2016. Retrieved January 7, 2016. 

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