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Top 10 John Williams Scores of All Time

05.12.2017by: Alex Maidy
There are few film composers as recognizable as John Williams. His sweeping and epic musical accompaniments are legendary in Hollywood. Williams' music is so iconic that you likely could recognize his work from mere seconds of audio. The 85-year-old has composed scores for almost 150 films and television shows with several more slated over the next few years. Looking back over his career, we have compiled the top ten scores John Williams has composed. Let us know what you think in the talk backs below and let us know if you think we missed any great soundtracks.

#10 - SAVING PRIVATE RYAN

Steven Spielberg has helmed two very different World War II films but it is the powerful SAVING PRIVATE RYAN that has the soaring and hopeful score from Williams that relies heavily on trumpets and other brass instruments. This score feels very American and very militaristic at once without removing an air of humanity from the soundtrack. One of the most moving productions Williams has ever accomplished.

#9 - SCHINDLER'S LIST

Spielberg's other WWII-era film is a stark contrast to SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Filmed in stark black and white, SCHINDLER'S LIST features a score more heavily reliant on string instruments. The sole violins heard throughout the score sound as isolated and melancholy as those featured on screen. This is a very sad score that is also instantly emotionally moving.

#8 - JURASSIC PARK

The same year as SCHINDLER'S LIST, Williams composed the amazing score for JURASSIC PARK which is to this day the epitome of sweeping summer blockbuster. The theme to JURASSIC PARK is, like most of Williams' work, instantly recognizable. While it may not have quite the longevity as some of his other scores, JURASSIC PARK is one that always brings a big grin to my face.

#7 - E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL

One of the definitive films of the 1980s, E.T. has a score that is much like JURASSIC PARK in that when you hear it, you are instantly transported to another place. This music sounds the way that Elliot and E.T. fly through the sky. It is light, airy, and absolutely joyous. Visiting Universal Studios and enjoying the ride based on the film will put you right into the mindset of the characters thanks to Williams' music.

#6 - HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE

Although he is most commonly associated with the films of Steven Spielberg, Williams did work with other filmmakers and other franchises. In fact, his work on the first HARRY POTTER film set the stage for the franchise and became an immediate fan favorite. As sweeping as STAR WARS and as epic as INDIANA JONES, the theme and score for HARRY POTTER is a masterpiece.

#5 - CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND

Music is intrinsic to the plot of this science fiction film. While the sparse notes featured in the alien communication to Earth may have been simple, Williams imbued his score with just the right balance of menace and ethereal ambience to make it feel both relate-able and not of this world. Some may not remember the music from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS but once you hear it you will find that it straddles the line between the dark and the light that is imperative for this movie to work.

#4 - JAWS

If I say JAWS, you immediately hear the "dun dun....dun dun..." hum of the score to this movie. While the shark itself is barely seen in the film, you know the beast is coming thanks to Williams. How many films can you name where the music is the sole indicator of a villain or monster and it does not even incorporate the actual sounds of the creature? That is a massive achievement.

#3 - The INDIANA JONES Saga

A franchise where the film is as tied to the music as any other, you cannot have an INDIANA JONES film without John Williams' music. This is a perfect example where music carries a story to another level entirely. Like most of Williams' music, if you are played the music from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, any of it, you would immediately be able to name the movie. This score is the embodiment of adventure. Every kid who grew up seeing these films at some point played in their backyard and hummed this theme song.

#2 - SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE

Like INDIANA JONES, the character of Superman is forever connected to Williams' theme. While recent Superman films have provided a very different score for the character, I will never be able to separate this score from the superhero. Even reading the pages of DC Comics, I defy you not to begin humming this song.

#1 - The STAR WARS Saga

Whether it be in commercials, ballparks, Fourth of July celebrations, or the films themselves, Williams' score for STAR WARS is as iconic as the movies themselves. From the Imperial March to the 20th Century Fox fanfare, few soundtracks have been as memorable as the various STAR WARS films. Even the prequels resulted in the amazing "Duel of the Fates" which is one of the few Williams' pieces with vocal music.

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