Composer Deep Dive: John Williams

Story posted February 28, 2023 in Arts & Entertainment by Rachel Hord.

Everyone has heard a piece by John Williams, even if they don’t realize it. John Williams, a Juilliard graduate, has an extensive career in composing. Some of his most renowned work includes Jaws (1975), E.T (1982), Jurassic Park (1993), the first three Harry Potter movies and perhaps the most iconic, episodes I-IX of the Star Wars movies (Kettler, S.). Here are William’s best character themes, in no particular order, from Star Wars.

“Anakin’s Theme” - Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)

This piece not only introduces Anakin’s character, but “Anakin’s Theme” includes elements that foreshadows the fate of Anakin Skywalker. The overall feeling of this piece is youthful and full of potential. Listeners are not quite sure what direction the piece will go, but it always returns to the hopeful and promising main theme. However, as the piece continues, themes from “The Imperial March,” or Darth Vader’s theme, are clearly heard, reminding the audience of the inevitable fate of poor Anakin. 

“Across the Stars” - Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)

“Across the Stars” is a magnificent and tragic piece of music. Resonant and dynamic, it tells the love story of Padme and Anakin. This theme is full of emotion, conveying feelings of passion and forbidden love, as Anakin and Padme’s relationship violates the Jedi code. It is a magnificent composition and one of the most compelling pieces in the Star Wars prequel trilogy.

“Yoda’s Theme” - Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

“Yoda’s Theme” begins with a feeling of whimsy, but quickly transitions into a quirky section, similar to the wise yet unpredictable Master Yoda. Complete with a plucky string section and accompanying wind instruments, the piece returns to the elegant melody, and ends with beautiful and rich harmonies.

“Luke and Leia” - Star Wars: Episode VI - The Return of the Jedi (1983)

“Luke and Leia” skillfully combines elements of both characters’ musical themes into a medley that represents the Skywalker siblings. The introduction of the theme is reminiscent of “Princess Leia’s Theme”, but the main theme combines the slow, anticipant feeling of Luke’s theme, “Binary Sunset,” and the delicate flute of Leia’s theme. The song culminates in a way that is similar to Leia’s theme, with a swell of music and a soft, quiet ending.

“Princess Leia’s Theme” - Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)

A beautiful, whimsical piece, “Princess Leia’s Theme” perfectly encapsulates the character of Princess Leia. On the surface she is a gentle and fragile girl, but underneath she is a beacon of strength and a powerful leader. This piece begins with a delicate introduction from flute to oboe, adding the main melody with a french horn and an accompaniment of strings. As the composition continues, the music swells, repeating the main melody, but with dynamic power and an audible strength. The piece ends with a soft violin solo, circling back to the delicateness of the start of the piece.

Rachel Hord is a third-year majoring in telecommunications. To contact her, email