John Williams’ Most Iconic Movie Soundtracks, Ranked

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We all love a movie soundtrack known to almost everyone we know, when we can start humming it randomly and everyone joins in. John Williams is one of the iconic Oscar-winning composers known for writing many well-known soundtracks around the world.


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Some of Williams’ best-known soundtracks are from the movies Jaws, jurassic park, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stoneand Superman. He creates music that complements the plot and gives the film an extra level of perfection.

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‘Jaws’ (1975)

A man fighting a great white shark

Jaws is an adventure thriller released in 1975. It follows the story of a huge and terrifying great white shark as it attacks anything it can get its fins on. The shark, Jaws, has a composed theme song played whenever he is about to attack.

This film is just under 50 years old and is still known to a large part of the population, undeniably because of the brilliant theme song played when the shark is about to attack, composed by Williams. This soundtrack is simply composed of two bass notes played on the tuba

‘Superman’ (1978)

Superman (Christopher Reeve) flying

Superman is a sci-fi action film released in 1978 following an alien orphan sent to earth as his home planet is dying. Here, he becomes Earth’s first-ever superhero. Superman has a brilliantly strong main theme song at the opening of the film and throughout.

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The main title track is the best known because many know by now which superhero you’re referring to when you start singing it. It was nominated for an Oscar and is still used in the classical setting of orchestras to this day. It expresses the fun, selfless and uplifting characteristics of this superhero.

“Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)

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Picture via Disney

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is the perfect choice among the soundtracks of William de star wars series because it has everything; from the main theme song to “The March of Darth Vader”, and of course the intro melody to Yoda. These three songs are masterpieces.

The main Star Wars theme song still resonates with so many today with its proud trumpets and upbeat sci-fi tune. “The March of Darth Vader” is the perfect portrayal of Vader as he is filled with power, superiority, and darkness. Meanwhile, Yoda’s intro song gives the complete contrast, giving light, hope and curiosity.

“Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc” (1981)

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Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc is the first Indiana Jones film to follow an archeology professor on his madcap adventure to find a biblical artifact. However, he is not the only one searching for this artifact, as a troop of Nazis are on the warpath to get what they want.

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The main theme song became a huge hit featuring Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. It gives a perfect upbeat and adventurous theme song for that curious adventurer. This song was nominated for an Oscar but unfortunately lost to Vangelis‘ “Chariots of fire.”

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ET: The Extra-Terrestrial is a 1982 science fiction adventure film following a child who discovers an alien who becomes his friend. They form a beautiful bond together while facing many obstacles along the way. Williams worked with Steven Spielberg throughout this magical film.

This soundtrack was made at the peak of Williams’ career and is certainly unforgettable. The brilliant director, Spielberg, has so much respect for Williams that he actually altered the film’s ending to fully suit his composition, instead of the other way around, which is normally the case.

“Jurassic Park” (1993)

A T-Rex standing a few feet away from a man holding a flare to distract him

jurassic park is a sci-fi adventure film released in 1993 following a paleontologist visiting an almost full dinosaur park with his friends. However, it takes a turn for the worse when the power goes out and the dinosaurs run amok.

Williams created the brilliant theme song for this film which gives a real sense of what is to come while watching, it gives adventure and awe. The soundtrack is the perfect depiction of the suspense and danger as the park begins to spiral out of control.

“Schindler’s List” (1994)

Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth in

Schindler’s list is a historical and biographical drama film released in 1994 and set during World War II when Poland was occupied by Germany. An industrialist worries about his Jewish workforce as he watches their persecution by the Nazis.

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It was another Spielberg production. It was such an amazing movie that Williams actually told Spielberg he needed a better composer than him. However, Williams certainly pulled it off by giving this soundtrack so much passion, emotion and heartache that it won his 5th Oscar.

“7 years in Tibet” (1997)

a blond man watching a monk open a box

7 years in Tibet is an adventure drama based on a true story during the time of China’s takeover of Tibet. Heinrich Harrer, played by brad pitttraveled through Tibet between 1944 and 1951 and became a mentor and friend with the Dalai Lama.

Williams portrays this film beautifully through its soundtrack by creating a romantic theme while performing authentic oriental elements. It excretes passion thanks to the addition of Yo-Yo Ma‘s performance on the cello.

“Saving Private Ryan” (1998)

Soldiers from Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan is a dramatic war film following a group of American soldiers after the Normandy landings who travel behind enemy lines in an attempt to retrieve one of their paratroopers whose brother has been killed in action.

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Spielberg decided to leave the music out of the battle scenes to make them more realistic. Williams had to create the perfect composition for the end credits to honor fallen soldiers. Although there is very little music, “Hymn to the Fallen” makes up for it as it is a memorable empathetic composition that relates to the emotions experienced.

“Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (2001)

Harry-Potter-Hedwig-1

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a fantasy adventure film released in 2001. It follows a young orphan boy enrolled in a school of witchcraft. Once at school, he begins to discover more about himself, his family, and the evil going on around him.

Williams outdid himself with this magical and captivating theme song; it oozes curiosity, dread and innocence all rolled into one. The first film shone above the others for its magical musical composition with haunting melodic leaps and spiraling strings.

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