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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: John Williams

12.13.2015
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Last week, we took a look at the career of the late Robert Loggia – character actor extraordinaire. This week's subject is a legend, a man who – while never onscreen – is just as much of a star in any film he's involved in as any of the actors...
John Williams
 john williams

Has there ever been a composer as beloved as John Williams? As a kid who grew up as a film score aficionado, I always wavered between Williams, Jerry Goldsmith and John Barry as my favorites. While Barry will always be known for his 007 work and Goldsmith also leaves a tremendous legacy, Williams is probably the best, maybe even better than the Golden Age of Hollywood composers he idolized like Max Steiner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

force awakens

If you go back and look at Williams' filmography, what's striking is how it really took him hooking up with Steven Spielberg to bring the best out of him. While he was already an Oscar-winner for FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and a multiple nominee before he met Spielberg, the rush of amazing scores really kicked-off with JAWS, and from there he was on a creative streak that's been going for forty years now. There's all the classic Spielberg/George Lucas collaborations, but there's also amazing efforts for movies like John Frankenheimer's BLACK SUNDAY (his scoring of the blimp scene is marvellous), SUPERMAN – THE MOVIE, BORN OF THE FOURTH OF JULY, JFKTHE WITCHES OF EASTWICK, and so many more. Williams' music is so indelibly tied to so many people's sense of cinema that it's not overstating things to say he's one of the most important people to ever work in the industry – and a titan whose legend will likely not ever be overshadowed. This week, Williams returns to “A Galaxy Far, Far Away” to contribute a score to STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, and I bet fans are just as excited to hear his new themes are they are to see Harrison Ford wield a blaster as Han Solo.

His Best Work
john williams c 3po

While Williams has done innumerable amazing scores, I don't think it's a stretch to say he'll always be  best known for his work on the original STAR WARS trilogy. His scores for the prequels are also first-rate, but nothing can hold a candle to the highly thematic work he contributed to those first three films, the scores of which have gone down as some of the most immediately recognizable of all-time. The STAR WARS theme, The Imperial March, Princess Leia's theme, etc – all are incredibly memorable. I'd wager that without Williams' themes the movies might never have become what they wound up being, with his contributions being just as important as George Lucas' own. For evidence, look no further than the original STAR WARS teaser trailer – minus Williams' score. 

His Most Overrated Score
harry potter

While his scores for the HARRY POTTER films are beloved among a certain age of cinema-goers, to me the scores – while fine – don't hold a candle to Williams' best work. Granted, they all have that distinct Williams sound, but they're not among his most memorable compositions – not to me anyways. In fact, I'd wager one of Williams' better, recent scores is his little noted work for the Roland Emmerich movie THE PATRIOT, although that's one nobody really celebrates anymore with the film generally being poorly regarded in hindsight (although I have a soft spot for it).

His Most Underrated Score
empire of the sun

There's a reason Steven Spielberg has always sworn by John Williams, as the composer has never, ever, let him down even when working on tough material. Such is the case of Spielberg's often neglected EMPIRE OF THE SUN, with Williams contributing some incredible themes to what's an epic child's eye view of war, with the music suggesting both wonder of a child's perspective and the ultimate horror of war.

His Best Scene

E.T – THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL is the first movie I can recall seeing theatrically (I believe it was during the 1987 re-release). One of the most memorable moments of my childhood came as I watched Elliot and his gang of kids take to the skies on their bikes thanks to E.T, with Williams' soaring score being so powerful that it to this day it still gives me goosebumps.

His Five Best Scores

5. SUPERMAN – THE MOVIE
4. JAWS
3. E.T: THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL
2. The INDIANA JONES trilogy (excluding CRYSTAL SKULL)
1. The STAR WARS trilogy

Up Next

While his duties on STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS meant he had to sit out Spielberg's BRIDGE OF SPIES, Williams is back on the docket for “The Bearded One's” THE BFG and presumably will also score the next non spin-off STAR WARS.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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9:12PM on 12/14/2015
I'd contest that the score to the Harry Potter films is the best thing them!! Haha. The movies are ok to me ( I never read the books). Jurrasic Park, Home Alone, Star Wars ar my favorite. Indy is great too. Need to rewatch The Patriot because I can't even think of how the score goes and I love that damn movie.
I'd contest that the score to the Harry Potter films is the best thing them!! Haha. The movies are ok to me ( I never read the books). Jurrasic Park, Home Alone, Star Wars ar my favorite. Indy is great too. Need to rewatch The Patriot because I can't even think of how the score goes and I love that damn movie.
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9:12PM on 12/14/2015
I'd contest that the score to the Harry Potter films is the best thing them!! Haha. The movies are ok to me ( I never read the books). Jurrasic Park, Home Alone, Star Wars ar my favorite. Indy is great too. Need to rewatch The Patriot because I can't even think of how the score goes and I love that damn movie.
I'd contest that the score to the Harry Potter films is the best thing them!! Haha. The movies are ok to me ( I never read the books). Jurrasic Park, Home Alone, Star Wars ar my favorite. Indy is great too. Need to rewatch The Patriot because I can't even think of how the score goes and I love that damn movie.
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4:03PM on 12/14/2015
Uhhhh..HOME ALONE anyone, Jurrasic Park, jeez, I mean all the movies you listed are great and all, but for pure epicness and memory recall, these are by far better- JAWS, STAR WARS, INDIANA JONES, JURASSIC PARK, HOME ALONE, and yes, even HARRY POTTER.
Uhhhh..HOME ALONE anyone, Jurrasic Park, jeez, I mean all the movies you listed are great and all, but for pure epicness and memory recall, these are by far better- JAWS, STAR WARS, INDIANA JONES, JURASSIC PARK, HOME ALONE, and yes, even HARRY POTTER.
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10:57AM on 12/14/2015

Memorable ≠ Best

In my opinion, "memorable" only means that simple leitmotivs (4 to 8 notes maybe) are coming back as much as possible throughout the score (in different tempo and arrangements so not to become redundant). That's why they're easy to remember. Williams' most memorable themes like SW, Indy and Superman are his least complex compositions. Yes they require large orchestras, but the tempo is very military in style and the parts are quite simple. They ARE undeniably his most memorable compositions,
In my opinion, "memorable" only means that simple leitmotivs (4 to 8 notes maybe) are coming back as much as possible throughout the score (in different tempo and arrangements so not to become redundant). That's why they're easy to remember. Williams' most memorable themes like SW, Indy and Superman are his least complex compositions. Yes they require large orchestras, but the tempo is very military in style and the parts are quite simple. They ARE undeniably his most memorable compositions, but they are not his most innovative and interesting ones.

"Best" can be defined a thousand different ways, but to many it can mean more complex, richer and deeper, sometimes experimental, scores. In Williams' case, this would mean lesser known work like The Reivers, Images, Rosewood, Memoirs of a Geisha, Jane Eyre, Schindler's List, etc... Or even some lesser known parts of his big scores like Fluffy's theme from HP or the Dagobah scenes from Empire.

That being said, I LOVE every single one of his epic blockbuster scores and Star Wars definitely is the Godfather of memorable movie themes!
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8:30AM on 12/14/2015
Isn't "2. The INDIANA JONES trilogy (excluding CRYSTAL SKULL)" a little redundant? I mean if Crystal skull is the 4th film it couldn't be included in the trilogy anyway. Just sayin', just sayin'. Great pick for this segment though. I hosted a poll a couple months ago in a Google+ community asking what was John Williams' best score and Star Wars won there too.
Isn't "2. The INDIANA JONES trilogy (excluding CRYSTAL SKULL)" a little redundant? I mean if Crystal skull is the 4th film it couldn't be included in the trilogy anyway. Just sayin', just sayin'. Great pick for this segment though. I hosted a poll a couple months ago in a Google+ community asking what was John Williams' best score and Star Wars won there too.
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5:48AM on 12/14/2015

He is my absolute favourite!

I really don't think Harry Potter's score is overrated, quite the opposite: what you wrote about Star Wars is what I feel about HP - the music made the movies more significant. I love the HP books, I love the movies, but there is nothing in the Harry Potter franchise that I like more than John Williams' music to it.
I really don't think Harry Potter's score is overrated, quite the opposite: what you wrote about Star Wars is what I feel about HP - the music made the movies more significant. I love the HP books, I love the movies, but there is nothing in the Harry Potter franchise that I like more than John Williams' music to it.
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4:07AM on 12/14/2015
Never heard of him.
Never heard of him.
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11:27PM on 12/13/2015

Williams is the Man!

Williams is my all time favorite film composer. I won't argue that his best is the Star Wars trilogy, but Jurassic Park remains my personal favorite and the one score that made me notice music in film when I was a kid. I disagree about Harry Potter, especially the score for Prisoner of Azkaban which is the best in the series. I'd actually say the Close Encounters is his most overrated. The last 15 minutes are fantastic, but the rest is just ok. Underrated would be Hook, another personal
Williams is my all time favorite film composer. I won't argue that his best is the Star Wars trilogy, but Jurassic Park remains my personal favorite and the one score that made me notice music in film when I was a kid. I disagree about Harry Potter, especially the score for Prisoner of Azkaban which is the best in the series. I'd actually say the Close Encounters is his most overrated. The last 15 minutes are fantastic, but the rest is just ok. Underrated would be Hook, another personal favorite.
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