Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Teaser Trailer
The Farewell To Middle-earth Issue
The 2014 Christmas Gift Guide
Get 12 Issues For Only £25 Today
The perfect gift this Christmas
Farewell To Middle-earth
Full details of our Peter Jackson-edited issue
Feature
80 Reasons Why John Williams Is The Man
We mark the movie maestro's 80th birthday with a celebration of his classic pieces

submit to reddit

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 ...
Back 6 of 16 Next

The Magic Of Halloween
First heard in: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Over his career, Williams has written much music to convey a sense of flight, be it through a WWII prisoner camp, around the skyscrapers of Metropolis or over the Quidditch pitches of Hogwarts. Yet Williams greatest hymn to soaring through the skies comes in E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. The theme that accompanies cinema's most famous ride across the moon sees Elliott and E.T. almost carried through the night by the string section, the theme getting a triumphant statement as they get silhouetted by la luna. Yet the sense of euphoria we feel is part musical alchemy but also part clever foreshadowing. Williams has been preparing us for the theme throughout the film, suggesting the theme first in part, then in whole in various guises — we hear it as E.T. levitates the balls to display the solar system — so by the time we get to the forest fight, it feels like we've always known it. In this sense, the theme stands not just for flight — at the climax of the film it wafts the boys over the cops with guns/radios (delete where applicable) — but also for the creature's ability to wield magic and by extension the magic of the film itself.

Listen to an excerpt:


Harry's Wondrous World
First heard in: Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone (2001)

Kicking off with a robust version of the second half of Hedwig's theme (although it is perhaps better characterized as a general signifier of Hogwarts, often appearing over long shots of the school) this segues into a warm theme that suggests Harry and the relationships in his life, be they familial or friendship. Light, spirited and infectiously optimistic.

Listen to an excerpt:


Remembering Childhood
First heard in: Hook (1991)

It's a little known fact that Steven Spielberg's Hook started life as a musical. Williams had collaborated with Bond composer Leslie Bricusse (also see The Love Theme From Superman — No. 38) on a Peter Pan stage production, completing ten songs before the project stalled. Three of the songs found their way into Spielberg's finished film — We Don't Wanna Grow Up is performed by kids in a school play at the start of the film, Pick 'Em Up is the song that sees the Lost Boys whip Peter into shape, When You're Alone is the ballad that Maggie sings to comfort herself in Hook's clutches — but, perhaps because Williams was working of the project for such a long time, it means that Hook is one of the composer's richest, varied, most satisfying outings. Few of Williams' (or anybody else's) scores have Hook's multitude of memorable themes, covering comedy tropes (for Hook and Smee), melancholy (Peter recalling Pan's past), delicacy (Granny Wendy), march-like formality (the food fight) and high adventure as Peter Banning (Robin Williams) takes flight as Peter Pan.

Listen to an excerpt:


The Asteroid Field
First heard in: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

While Williams' music is unfairly characterised as simplistic, here is the perfect riposte. With a failed hyperdrive, the Millennium Falcon heads into an asteroid belt to evade the Imperial fleet, dipping in and out of floating boulders, and the orchestra follows Solo every step away, swooping and soaring around the musical register. There are frantic rhythms, and heroic brass fanfares all adding up to a complex workout for the London Symphony Orchestra.

Listen to an excerpt:


  The Mission
First heard in: NBC Nightly News

In 1985, NBC commissioned Williams to write a quartet of pieces for its television news output. The standout is The Mission, a strident piece for the network's Nightly News show. Analysing the difference between American and British news themes, Bill Bailey described this theme as "E.T. on a horse being chased by Darth Vader." As good as that sounds, this is better — and here is Bailey providing his own lyrics.

Listen to an excerpt:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 ...
Back
6 of 16
Next

Have Your Say
Register or login now to let us know what you think.

Your Comments

21 RE: At no point...
Best on line feature you have ever done Empire, please ensure this is always available to listen too, A true master at work. More

Posted by JIm R on Friday February 10, 2012, 21:06

22 At no point...
...in my life have i come so close to orgasm just from an Empire feature. More

Posted by Swedle on Friday February 10, 2012, 18:27

23 Final Duel mistake.......
When Luke comes out of hiding, after accidentally revealing Leia's paternity to Vader, he doesn't say "Nooooooo!", he defiantly yells "NEVER!!!" before ending the climactic duel... Interestingly enough, that bit of music was also used in the final duel in the Lucasarts game Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast. More

Posted by jws1272 on Thursday February 9, 2012, 17:56

24 Missed one!
You should've added 'A Window to the Past' from 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' More

Posted by dimitrifiani on Thursday February 9, 2012, 12:40

25 The Greatest
Undoubtedly the greatest movie composer of all time. My only gripe with this list is the exclusion of The Lost World's main theme. I believe this is actually Spielberg's favourite piece from all the Jurassic Park music. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eb6Xk5p9MpQ& feature=related More

Posted by Ballschin on Thursday February 9, 2012, 12:17

26 FLASHMAN
He simply has no equal; nobody else has ever treated every-single film as though it was a first assignment that needed special attention, (unless you knew, how would you know that the guy who did Heartbeeps also did Jane Eyre and, his masterpiece, Superman?) and when he is inspired by what he sees, (most recently by War Horse) we are elated. More

Posted by Frank Comiskey on Thursday February 9, 2012, 10:52

27 The force is with him...
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term 'genius' as "exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability". Although used far too often these days, John Williams REALLY is a genius and I thank him for the many years of great music he has given me (man and boy). Happy Birthday John ...and many more of them. More

Posted by melverley on Thursday February 9, 2012, 09:15

28 Favorite tunes that dont appear here
Visitor in San Diego (from Jurassic Park The Lost World): Pure adrenaline!!!! Dartmoor 1912 (From War Horse) The Battle of Hoth (do I need to tell you???) Dinner With Amelia (The Terminal) Sabrina's Theme (just BEAUTIFUL) Anakin's Dark Deeds (Episode III) EPIC of epic epicness!!!!!! Where Dreams Are Born (A.I) maybe the most BEAUTIFUL track he's ever written!!! i cant helpto cry EVERYTIME) Confluence (MEmoirs of a Geisha) perfect... just perfect in allthe extent of the word THE ENTIRE MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, for me his best album EVER!!! Exsultate Justi (Empire Of The Sun) aleluyah!!!! Homesickness (The Terminal) Am I Beautiful? (Far& Away) Aunt Marge's Waltz (Azkaban) A Window To The Past (Azkaban) Dennis Steals The Embryo (Jurassic Park) The Trek (JP: The Lost World) Rescuing Sarah (JP: The Lost World) Ludlow's Demise (JP: The Lost World) Jango's Escape (Episode II) Princess Leia's Theme Luke And Leia Battle Of The Heroes (Episode III) The Battle Of Endor SaiMore

Posted by John Mulder Simpson on Thursday February 9, 2012, 08:36

29 RE: The Best Feature of 2012 so far!
It's been a long time since I posted here. but this feature is so good!!! I can't start to describe how much I love and admire John Williams, how grateful I am to live in his era (although he is 50 years older than me!!) For me it all began when i was 11 and watched Jurassic Park, now i have more than 40 albums and he never fails to surprise and move me. I owe him SO much! and this year he gave us War Horse, a magnificent and perfect album that is 100% Williams, god how I love that soundtrack!!!! I just can't pick a favorite of his, everything he's done is so close to perfection. man, to think of everything he's done and everything i haven't heard.... I posted a link to this feature on facebook, and i recommended it to everyone, let's all do the same so the whole world knows how lucky we are to have him!!!!!!! finally: OU VERY MUCH, MAESTRO, FOR YOUR ENDLESS AND RESTLESS TALENT, I LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY HEART!!!!!!!!!!!! More

Posted by John Mulder Simpson on Thursday February 9, 2012, 08:02

30 The Best Feature of 2012 so far!
Kudos Empire - this truly is a fitting feature for one of Cinema's most important figures. A film is nothing without it's music and it's Williams who fills that void so beautifully, so emotionally and so wonderfully. Rarely do pictures move me to tears, but a Williams score can have me sobbing like a 15 year-old girl watching The Notebook. More

Posted by haydonsmovies on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 12:10

31 Floods of Tears
Having sat and listened to all the excerpts and read this whole blog I am a total mess tears of joy and emotion on my face. The word genius is vastly overused about people with little more than mediocre talent at best, but in John William's case I think it doesn't even come close to describing him. He simply is the one of the greatest musicians and composers alive. More

Posted by mcmikeyboy on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 12:00

32 Great selection
The Witches of Eastwick, The Fury, Amazing Stories AND The Mission ? Dear Empire ... I'm impressed ! More

Posted by Dropje on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 11:58

33 Hook
One of my favorites must be "The Face of Pan", from the Hook soundtrack. Not very famous but still, simply beautiful. More

Posted by buffy_1008 on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 11:28

34 Great Feature
This has to be one of the best features you have ever done Empire, congratulations! Although justifiably, it could just be Williams' music that makes it so great! Happy birthday to one of the greatest composers we'll ever know. More

Posted by magikdethmonkey on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 11:24

35 A true poet and a genius
John WIlliams means more to me than any figure in either movies or music. Good feature Empire! More

Posted by mattpbrown on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 10:17

36 Wonderful Piece Empire
Written with real heart and knowledge. Big salute to Sir John! More

Posted by Blyman on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 10:10

37 Brings tear to the eye
What wonderful nostalgia. Skipping through decades of my emotional development through movies and Williams' music! So glad you mentioned the importance of Home Alone (it's our family's staple Xmas album). By the time we got to War Horse, that's it - I'm in pieces! Only snag is the general oversight of AI. Stored Memories/Monica's Theme is the most beautiful piece he wrote IMO (the slow beginning builds up to hauntingly beautiful & understated climax). And Catch Me If You Can, which has many great cues. But thanks Empire fo collating this for us. Made my day :-) More

Posted by oliraceking on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 10:04

38 Soundtrack of us
The importance of Williams as a greatest composer of our times - and I mean OUR - is confirmed simply by the grounds of those tracks. Just close your eyes and listen to them. And you can see the movies right there in your head. It's all you need. More

Posted by Pelle on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 09:24

39
that was amazing. thank you empire More

Posted by artaylor on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 05:43

40 Here's to another 80 years
Two disappointments were omissions of the last twenty minutes worth of empire strikes back. The reason that film is regarded as the best in the star wars franchise is its finale. The other is the prisoner of Azkaban there are at least twelve tracks worth mentioning. If you ever buy a Williams soundtrack buy these two I promise you its the best things he's done as an entire soundtrack since the first star wars a new hope 35 years ago. More

Posted by GrassyNol on Wednesday February 8, 2012, 00:49

Previous PageNext Page

SUBSCRIPTION OFFERS

6 issues for £20 plus free Gourmet Society Membership worth £69.95!
Get 6 months of Empire for just £20 and not only receive the world's greatest movie magazine and exclusive subscriber covers but you'll also receive up to 50% off restaurants nationwide and more with a free Gourmet Society Membership worth £64.99!Click here to find the perfect offer for you


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
12 Must-Pause Moments From The Star Wars Force Awakens Teaser Trailer
What you may have missed, the 17th time around...

Watch Now: The Teaser Trailer For Star Wars: The Force Awakens Arrives
Your first glimpse of JJ Abrams' tour de Force

Director Paul King On Paddington, The BBFC And The Possibilty Of A Sequel
Exclusive: Empire sits down with the man behind the year’s nicest surprise

Empire's Jurassic World Trailer Tour
Updated: Director Colin Trevorrow guides us through the first trailer

Vote Now: The Jameson Empire Awards 2015
Tell us your favourite films and stars of the year

The Gift Guide 2014: 50 Must-Have Items This Christmas
Box sets, hardware, clothing, books and stocking fillers to buy

Empire's Hobbit: Battle Of The Five Armies Covers
Five armies. Five covers. The eagles, dwarves, elves, men and orcs prepare for battle in our Peter Jackon guest-edited issue

Subscribe to Empire magazine
6 issues for £20 plus free Gourmet Society Membership worth £69.95!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save money on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)