10 Best Movies Scored By John Williams
There are very few film composers who could be considered household names, but John Williams is undoubtedly one. His work is deeply ingrained in the radioactive background of popular American culture. With good reason, because Star Wars would not be the cultural monolith it is without Williams. Without his work, the first Star Wars film in 1977 would have been emotionally inaccessible. His gripping score gives emotional context to the bizarre world George Lucas envisioned all those years ago. His work in the Star Wars franchise aside, his frequent collaborations with Steven Spielberg are also some of the most recognizable pieces in the industry. His work is often paid homage to as well as lampooned. Williams continues to be one of the best in the business, so to speak. Here are the ten best films he has scored to date.
Jaws was the original summer blockbuster. Audiences clamored to theaters to see Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw take to the sea and hunt down an oversized, man-eating shark. Steven Spielberg was yet to be a household name — but this exciting film with an appropriately tense soundtrack by Williams certainly got him there.
Star Wars (1977)
Star Wars was a culturally redefining film. It helped to lay the groundwork for the mass-market productions and multi-million dollar franchises we are accustomed to today. This exciting story of space-age freedom fighters and mystical sorcerers with groundbreaking special effects still captivates audiences today. Williams’ score is no small part of the film’s continuing resonance.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The much-anticipated sequel to George Lucas’ smash-hit Star Wars was far from a disappointment. The Empire Strikes Back is continually touted as the best of the franchise even now, nearly four decades later. With Irvin Kershner at the helm, the second chapter of this high-tech space opera is as thrilling and funnier than its predecessor. Williams continues to be in top form at the composer’s desk.
Return of the Jedi (1983)
The third act of George Lucas’ initial run of Star Wars never quite reaches the heights of its predecessors. However, it once again pushed the boundaries of what special effects could achieve. The Richard Marquand-directed Return of the Jedi delivers a massively engaging visual experience with another home-run score by Williams.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2017. It was re-released into theaters, followed by an Ultra HD Blu Ray release. It looked as good as ever, Spielberg’s story of a man and a woman driven to their respective wits’ ends by an encounter with a UFO. Williams’ euphoric score is a central, integral piece of the classic film.
Jurassic Park (1993)
Jurassic Park was a full-throated reminder that even after two decades in the film industry, both Steven Spielberg and Williams still had the juice. Williams’ theme for the film is so memorable that even its mere mention is likely to get it stuck in your head. Not that many films from the 1990s look very good today, visually speaking. Computer-generated effects have come a long way since then. Spielberg’s insistence on using a blend of practical and computer-generated effects to portray his dinosaur theme park appears to have been the right call all these years later.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Raiders of the Lost Ark introduced audiences to one of Harrison Ford’s many iconic characters: Indiana Jones. Jones, the archaeologist-slash-soldier of fortune, is the brainchild of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Appropriately, Williams provides the score and Indy’s equally-iconic theme song which would continue throughout the franchise.
Minority Report (2002)
Minority Report often gets buried under the mountain of Steven Spielberg’s accomplishments. That said, it is a science fiction classic only he could make. In a dystopian future where the police know most crimes before they’re committed (known as precrime), precrime detective John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is framed for a crime he didn’t commit — and wasn’t about to commit. The tense, exciting film with sleek production design and an appropriately futurist soundtrack from Williams.
Home Alone (1990)
The Chris Columbus-directed, John Hughes-written, Steven Spielberg-produced Home Alone is a holiday classic. Macaulay Culkin carries much of the film as its very young lead, the child who is eponymously left “home alone.” The film is heartwarming yet slapsticky affair. Williams also shows off his undeniable skill with something more whimsical than his typical score.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
If Close Encounters of the Third Kind weren’t enough, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial solidified Steven Spielberg as a bonafide science fiction master in the minds of many. The heartfelt, bittersweet story of a boy and his friend from beyond the stars is an undeniable classic piece of American cinema. It seems redundant to say once again, but the theme song scored by Williams is one of the film’s greatest attributes and would be instantly recognizable to any fan of the film.
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