With 5 Academy Awards, 3 Emmys, 4 Golden Globes, 21 Grammys, and a bajillion other accolades and nominations, John Williams has been scoring some of the greatest films for decades. Although he’s been a composer for more than a hundred different projects, some themes stand out above the rest. Here are my top 11 themes from John Williams’ impressive resume!
2. 11) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Good old ‘arry Potter, the boy who lived managed 8 films over more than a decade. Hedwig’s theme serves as a great tease to the story about to unfold. It just can’t live up to some of the better themes.
3. 10) Home Alone
You didn’t think about this one, did you? Few people probably remember that Williams did the score for Home Alone. You might be wondering, “Aren’t most of his great themes from fantasy movies?” Yes, and so is this one! Because if you think a child can live on his own and fight off damn burglars with paint cans and ice, you’re dreaming! Ya filthy animal.
4. 9) Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Be-boo-bah-booo…I don’t know how to beep via text — you know what I mean! Close Encounters was a thrilling adventure as humans meet aliens for the first time. While it takes a little while for the real heart of this theme to jump out at you (around the 7 minute mark), it still makes your heart race as you wait for the aliens’ response.
If it’s been a while since you’ve watched the movie, the ENTIRE DIRECTOR’S CUT in available HERE.
5. 8) The Phantom Menace - Duel of the Fates
Don’t be fooled by the thumbnail for the video, the actual Star Wars theme wouldn’t be this far down the list! When the Star Wars prequels came out, I was so excited - I waited in line for 26 hours just to get tickets for this movie! Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to our expectations. The saving grace of Phantom was the amazing battle between Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Darth Maul - expertly paired with this fantastic theme!
6. 7) E.T.
Few films fill you with a sense of wonderment like E.T. If you’re gonna watch it, make sure it’s not a version where Spielberg removed all the guns and awkwardly replaced them with walkie-talkies. I suggest the original laserdisc.
As a bonus, you can now live out your own flying-bicycle dreams.
7. 6) JAWS!
Often thought of as the original summer blockbuster, Jaws made people afraid to go to the beach! Of course, if it wasn’t for this theme, no one would fear a little fin poking out of the water.
8. — Beautiful Break
Before we hit the Top 5, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Schindler’s List. The entire score is so beautiful, it’s impossible to compare to other pieces of work. I think this theme deserves its own category. The only reason it doesn’t make the list is because I don’t really want to listen to it, if that makes sense.
9. 5) The Empire Strikes Back - Imperial March
Most movie franchises get one hit theme and milk it for as long as it will last. Star Wars got another memorable theme out of Williams, this time a villainous, foreboding march alerting us of Lord Vader!
10. 4) Indiana Jones
Whether it’s a face-melting ark, a giant rolling boulder, or a bullet-removing grail, the Indiana Jones theme fills us with adventure and excitement! Though, not even John Williams could save Crystal Skull from being a complete disappointment.
11. 3) Star Wars
1977 was a great year for Williams, he had to defeat himself at the Oscars (over Close Encounters) to get the win. Millions of people across the globe filled theaters to see Star Wars, each starting off with the boom of this theme! It’s clear, the force was with him when he scored this film.
12. 2) Jurassic Park
Just over 20 years ago, Williams helped audiences believe that dinosaurs were real. Not like, “evolution doesn’t exist and fossils are fake” real, but that crazy scientists had found a way to bring them back with no negative side effects!
When I was a young lad of 19, I used to run a video store. During closing shifts, I would time watching Jurassic Park so the movie would end right after midnight. After locking the doors, I would turn the store speakers up high and blast this theme as the end credits rolled. It was probably the best part of working there.
13. 1) Superman
Here we are at the top, my number one John Williams theme has to be Superman. All his themes are amazing, so choosing a number one is like picking the best flavor of perfect ice cream. But, it has to be done (right? We need to know!).
Every time I listen to this, I really do believe a man could fly, as the movie tag line suggested. It is completely inspiring. If you can make it through the theme and not feel some bit of hope for this world, then you’re probably helpless and/or one of Zod’s followers.
There it is, folks! 11…well, 12 of John Williams’ greatest movie themes of all time. Did I overlook something? Maybe mis-rank your favorite one? Share your thoughts below!