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John Williams, composer of all seven Star Wars saga films.

The music of the Star Wars franchise is composed and produced in conjunction with the development of the feature films, television series, and other merchandise within the epic space opera franchise created by George Lucas. The music for the primary feature films was written by John Williams and performed by a full symphony orchestra (principally, the London Symphony Orchestra) and, in select passages, by a choir. Throughout 16 hours of music, Williams composed and weaved a large collection of over fifty themes. Music for spin-off films, television programs, video games as well as the trailers of the various installments were created by various composers, while revisiting some of Williams' principal themes.

Released between 1977 and 2017, the music for the primary feature films was, in the case of the first two trilogies, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and, in select passages, by the London Voices chorus. Williams scored the seventh episode, Star Wars: The Force Awakens,[1] and has completed the music for Episode VIII, Star Wars: The Last Jedi (the soundtrack and the film due to be released in December 2017) and is currently slated to score Episode IX as well. Those latter scores were performed by a freelance Hollywood orchestra and (in a few passages) by the Hollywood Sound Effects Choir, and mostly orchestrated and conducted by William Ross.[2]

While the reception of his scores to the different episodes varies,[3] Williams' scores for the eight saga films count among the most widely known and popular contributions to modern film music.

Additionally, music for animated television series spinoffs has been written by Kevin Kiner and Ryan Shore,[4] and further music has been composed for Star Wars video games and works in other media. Michael Giacchino was the composer on the spin-off film, Rogue One. John Powell will score the Star Wars film Solo.

The scores are played by a symphony orchestra of varying size joined, in several sections, by a choir.[5] They make use of a series of musical themes that represents the various characters, objects and events in the films. Throughout the films, a total of over 16 hours of music, Williams has written some 52 themes which is one of the largest, most rich collection of themes in the history of film music.




Year Title Composer Conductor Orchestrator Orchestra Choir
Saga Films
1977 Star Wars (A New Hope) John Williams John Williams Herbert W. Spencer London Symphony Orchestra
1980 The Empire Strikes Back London Voices (women)
1983 Return of the Jedi London Voices (men[6])
1999 The Phantom Menace Conrad Pope
John Neufeld
London Voices (SATB)

New London Children's Choir

2002 Attack of the Clones Conrad Pope
Eddie Karam
London Voices (SATB)

New London Children's Choir

2005 Revenge of the Sith London Voices (SATB)

New London Children's Choir

2015 The Force Awakens John Williams
William Ross
Gustavo Dudamel[7]
John Williams
William Ross
Hollywood Freelance Studio Symphony[8] Hollywood Sound Effects Choir (bass)
2017 The Last Jedi
Spin-off Films
2008 The Clone Wars Kevin Kiner
John Williams (themes)
Kevin Kiner
Nic Raine
Kevin Kiner
Nic Raine
Takeshi Furukawa
City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
2016 Rogue One Michael Giacchino
John Williams (themes)
Tim Simonec William Ross
Tim Simonec
Brad Dechter
Jeff Kryka
Chris Tilton
Herbert W. Spencer[9]
Hollywood Freelance Studio Symphony
2018 Solo John Powell


Kevin Kiner composed the score to the film Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) which led into the animated TV series of the same name while loosely using some of the original themes and score by John Williams. His own material for the film includes a theme for Anakin Skywalker's Padawan learner, Ahsoka Tano, as well as a theme for Jabba the Hutt's uncle Ziro. Kiner went on to score the TV series' entire six seasons, which concluded in 2014. A soundtrack album was released that same year by Walt Disney Records.[10]

Kiner continued his work with the franchise for the animated series Star Wars Rebels (2014), which also incorporates Williams' themes.[11]

Ryan Shore composes the score for Star Wars: Forces of Destiny (2017–present).

Year Title Composer Additional composers
2008–2014 Star Wars: The Clone Wars Kevin Kiner Takeshi Furukawa
David G. Russell
Matthew St. Laurent
Reuven Herman
Russ Howard III
2014–present Star Wars Rebels David G. Russell
Matthew St. Laurent
Sean Kiner
2017–present Star Wars: Forces of Destiny Ryan Shore

Video gamesEdit

Year Title Composer
1998 Star Wars: Rogue Squadron Chris Huelsbeck
2001 Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader Chris Huelsbeck
2003 Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike Chris Huelsbeck
2008 Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Mark Griskey
2010 Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II Mark Griskey
2015 Star Wars: Battlefront Gordy Haab
2017 Star Wars: Battlefront II Gordy Haab


The scores utilize an eclectic variety of musical styles, many culled from the Late Romantic idiom of Richard Strauss and his contemporaries that itself was incorporated into the Golden Age Hollywood scores of Erich Korngold and Max Steiner. While several obvious nods to Gustav Holst, William Walton, Sergei Prokofiev and Igor Stravinsky exist in the score to Star Wars,[12] Williams relied less and less on references to existing music[13] in the latter six scores, incorporating more strains of modernist orchestral writing with each progressive score and making careful use of synthesized sounds, electronic and electronically-attenuated music. Williams often composed the music with a heroic but tongue-in-cheek approach.[14] The reasons for Williams' tapping of a familiar Romantic idiom are known to involve Lucas' desire to allude to the underlying fantasy element of the narrative rather than the science-fiction setting, as well as to ground the otherwise strange and fantastic setting in well-known, audience-accessible music. Indeed, Lucas maintains that much of the original trilogy's success relies not on advanced visual effects, but on the simple, direct emotional appeal of its plot, characters and, importantly, music.[15]

Star Wars was part of a movement that heralded a revival of grand symphonic scores in the late 1970s. One technique in particular is an influence: Williams' use of a technique called leitmotif, which was most famously associated with the operas of Richard Wagner and, in early film scores, with Steiner. A leitmotif is a phrase or melodic cell that signifies a character, place, plot element, mood, idea, relationship or other specific part of the film. It is commonly used in modern film scoring as a device for mentally anchoring certain parts of a film to the soundtrack.[16]

Of chief importance for a leitmotif is that it must be strong enough for a listener to latch onto while being flexible enough to undergo variation and development along the progression of the story. The more varied and nuanced the use of leitmotif is - the better the score. Williams uses his themes to great effect, such as subtly concealing the intervals of the Imperial March theme in Anakin's theme, implying his future.

Also important is the density in which leitmotifs are used: the more leitmotifs are used in a piece of a given length, the more thematically rich it will be considered. Film music, however, has to strike a balance, so as to not become too dense for the audience to follow. John Williams' music of Star Wars is unique in that it is relatively dense for a film score, with about 11 themes used in each two-hour film, with Williams' providing the score to about 90% of the film length.[17]

Williams re-recorded some of his suites from the original trilogy with the Skwalker Symphony Orchestra as an album, and later released a collection of suites from the six films as a compilation that played to a series of clips from the films, with sparse dialogue and sound effects.[18] These became the basis for a series of hour-long concerts which featured Star Wars music to images from the films, Star Wars: In Concert, which took place in 2009 and 2010. First performed in London, it went on to tour across the United States and Canada, last playing in London, Ontario, Canada on July 25, 2010.

The scores of the original trilogy (in the form of the Blu-Ray special Edition release) and The Force Awakens are performed as Live to Projection concerts, but with greatly reduced forces. The performances follow the music of the finished film, with some of the music looped, tracked or omitted entirely, and do not feature the diegetic pieces.[19][20]


John Williams sketched the score for his various orchestrators and wrote the music for a full symphony orchestra (ranging from 79 to 113 players overall[21]) and, in several passages, for chorus (ranging from 12 to 120 singers overall) and a few non-orchestral instruments. The orchestration is not consistent throughout the different films,[22] but generally the score makes use of a considerable brass section over a comparatively smaller string section, giving the series its heraldic, brassy sound.

Several of the scores require larger forces, including a large (over 100-piece) orchestra, a mixed choir and even a boy choir. However, none of the scores call for particularly immense forces compared to larger film or theater works.[23] Nevertheless, sections of Empire Strikes Back required as many as 106 players, due to an added harp and added woodwinds and percussion parts. The prequel films and one re-recording of suites from the original films, required a fuller string section. Adding to the added woodwind and percussion parts, which are also deployed in parts of the scores to Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, as well as an added set of timpani for the latter, saw the orchestra reach as many as 112 players, as well as including a mixed choir and brief passages for a boy choir. The original Star Wars and the sequel trilogy films, especially, call for much smaller forces of as little as 82 pieces. The first spin off film, Rogue One, followed the prequels and used a 110-piece orchestra and 90-piece mixed choir.

In live performances, the forces are usually reduced further: the strings and voices may be augmented depending on the orchestra and choirmaster, and several vocal and wind parts can be omitted, doubled by other players or even synthesized: Official Star Wars Concerts were held with as little as 70-piece orchestras and 50-piece mixed choir, which not all episodes, when performed individually, feature.[24] However, to recreate the eight scores as they were recorded, the following instrumentation is required:

Musical themes in the scoresEdit

John Williams wrote a series of themes and motifs for the characters and occurrences in each of the Star Wars films. The multiple installments allowed Williams to compose some 51 themes (and counting) and reprise some of them extensively, developing them over a long period of screen time.

Williams introduces a few themes in each episode (eight or seven themes, on average), and focuses on making each of his principal themes long-lined and melodically distinct from the others, so as to increase their memorability, although he does forge small connections between some of his themes, sometimes for a narrative purpose and sometimes in the more general favor of cohesion. This technique allows him (especially in his scores to the original trilogy) to have each theme play out for a large number of occasions (the Force theme plays over one hundred times in the series) and over long periods of time.

Each score can be said to have a "main theme", which is developed and repeated very frequently in the score, often to a very unusual extent (such as the frequency in which the Imperial March is revisited during Empire Strikes Back[33]). Besides the main theme and a handful of other principal themes, Williams forges several smaller motifs for each episode, which are generally less memorable and at times interchangeable. Williams' forged a main theme for the franchise as well (the music of the main titles) but interestingly does not create one for each trilogy. Instead, each trilogy (and to a lesser extent, each film) has its own style or soundscape.[34]

Williams' Star Wars catalog remains one of the biggest collections of leitmotifs in the history of cinema.[35] although his work still falls short of Wagner's use of leitmotifs in the Ring cycle, or Howard Shore's work on the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films.[36] Both works feature many more themes for a similar or shorter running time, establish thematic identities more clearly, apply them in a more cohesive structure (where all themes and leitmotifs are harmonically and melodically related[37]) and use them in a more nuanced manner. Williams, on the other hand, writes fewer themes, and uses his themes in a more straightforward manner and, at times, strictly for their romantic effect.

Romantic application of Leitmotifs in the scoreEdit

Williams' use of his themes is in times romantic rather than strictly thematic,[38] the themes sometimes being used randomly because their mood fits a certain scene: For Instance, the theme for Luke is also used as a generic "heroic theme", in conjunction with various characters, without any connection to its namesake. Leia's theme is used for Ben's death, which has little to do with the princess (although she is present in the scene[39]), Yoda's theme is used in Cloud City,[40] Duel of the Fates used over the entire finale of Episode I (rather than just the light-saber duel) and in a riding scene in Episode II[41] and than again in an unrelated duel in the third episode; Williams original composition for the Arena from Episode II was used for the Clone Army. Leia's theme is featured in Empire Strikes Back during Luke's arrival to Dagobah. Multiple uses of the Force/Ben-Kenobi theme are also non-thematic.[42] The Rebel Fanfare is applied to the Millennium Falcon throughout the original Star Wars and the Force Awakens, and is also used for R2-D2 during the opening action scene in Revenge of the Sith. Kylo Ren's secondary theme, which was intended to represent his ruminative, conflicted side, is in times used in a menacing setting, much like his main theme.[43] Even the melodic connections between some of the themes doesn't represent a straightforward dramatic purpose, such as the connection of the love theme in Attack of the Clones to the motif for Dooku and the Galactic conflict. In fact, Some of Williams themes are written from the outset purly to convey a certain mood rather than evoke a character or setting, e.g. the Throne Room theme or the action motif from the Force Awakens.

The issue continues with music that got re-tracked into other parts of the films by the filmmakers: Some of the tracking was planned from the outset. Attack of the Clones, the first film to be shot digitally, had major edits made after the scoring process, leading to the inclusion of tracked music over many of the digitally-created sequences like the Droid factory or the Clone Army arrival, using such themes as those of Yoda or incidental music from the Phantom Menace without any dramatic connection to what is happening on screen. Some of the music for the Death Star's Trash Compactor was used over an extended shot of cruising into Mos Eisley inserted into the Special Edition. Some of the racing music from Phantom Menace was tracked into Finn's confession in The Force Awakens.

Other composers used Williams' principal themes in their compositions, including the trailers to the films, as well as the spin-off films, television series and video games, and more often than not, they also use the themes more for their emotional effect. Giachinno, for instance, uses the Force theme in some of the shots where the Rogue One ship takes off.

Thematic inconsistency between installmentsEdit

Since Williams writes the themes to one episode at a time,[44] and attempts to base each score on new material as much as possible, the scores don't have a particularly cohesive structure. Each trilogy and, to a certain degree, each individual score has its own leitmotifs (while revisiting some earlier themes), often in overlapping roles: Return of the Jedi has both the triumph fanfare motif and the rebel fanfare, for much the same function. Alternatively, some motifs appear in just one score although being perfectly applicable to others, such as the Droids motif (limited to Empire Strikes Back[45]) and the Imperial motif (limited to the original). Other motifs are dropped at a certain point, such as Anakin's theme being all but abandoned in Episode III.

This problem is confounded by the order in which the episodes were made: Having composed the prequels later, Williams' went on to introduce new themes like Duel of the Fates which would have been perfectly applicable to the original films, had it been composed during their production. These motifs also don't carry over to the sequel trilogies' scores. He also revisited several established themes like the Imperial March, only exacerbating its absence from the original film, which is now the fourth episode.

Also to the detriment of this composition technique is that Williams is incapable of foreshadowing motifs for later installments, even in embryonic form. For instance, the love theme for Anakin and Padme, having been only conceived during the composition of Episode II, naturally does not appear during the score for Episode I. The same can be said for the absence of the Imperial march in the original Star Wars.[46]

Even when leitmotifs do carry over between the scores, it is very hard to chart a clear direction as to their development, since no such overarching direction was laid out from the outset, even at a basic form. The Force theme, for instance, completes its development in the original film, having turned from a reverent motif into a triumphant march. It even makes grand appearances in the prequels (particularly Episode III) only to appear later in a more subdued form even at the heroes' most triumphant moments. In fact, some of the themes that cross over change their meaning between Episodes. For instance, Ben Kenobi's theme from the original was repurposed throughout Empire Strikes Back as a theme for the Force and lost any specific connection to Kenobi by the time Phantom Menace was scored. The opening crawl and closing credits music was originally designed as an "overture" for the main themes (of Luke, the Rebels and a hint of Leia) but became so iconic that was reused in all episodes, even ones that have little to do with Luke and nothing to do with Leia and the Rebels, thereby eliminating their function as an overture and re-purposing that particular variant of Luke's theme as the main "Star Wars theme".

Since the prequels were composed later, they ironically feature greater forces (and hence different orchestrations of thematic music[47]) and a more dense and nuanced thematic structure compared to the original, if only by virtue of the fact that they have both their own stock of leitmotifs as well as those of the originals to work with. On the other hand, many of the thematic ideas of Episodes I, III and especially II are more rhythmic (due to Williams' evolving musical style), and many of them are applied to locations and situations in the narrative, whereas the scores for the original trilogy and the sequel trilogy (which is modeled after the original) focus more on themes for characters.

Listed below are 51 leitmotifs identified in Williams' scores thus far, although a few of those could be contested. The main theme of the series is stressed in bold and underline, and the main theme of each episode is in bold, as well. Other pieces of music, described either erranously or tenuously as leitmotifs, are discussed in "unconfirmed leitmotifs" below.

Musical themes in the original trilogyEdit

First appearance in Star Wars (A New Hope)Edit

First appearance in The Empire Strikes BackEdit

Returning: Star Wars/Luke; Rebel fanfare; The Force/Ben Kenobi; Princess Leia.

First appearance in Return of the JediEdit

Returning: Star Wars/Luke; Rebel fanfare; The Force; Princess Leia; The Imperial March; Han Solo and the Princess; Yoda, Space Battle, Throne Room.

Themes in the prequel trilogyEdit

First appearance in The Phantom MenaceEdit

Returning: Star Wars/Luke; rebel fanfare; The Force; Princess Leia; The Imperial March; Yoda; The Emperor; Jabba.

First appearance in Attack of the ClonesEdit

Returning: Star Wars/Luke; Rebel Fanfare; The Force; The Imperial March; Yoda; The Emperor; Anakin; Droid Invasion; Duel of the Fates, Shmi.

First appearance in Revenge of the SithEdit

Returning: Star Wars/Luke; Rebel fanfare; The Force; Princess Leia; "Mystery" chords; The Imperial March; Yoda; The Emperor; Throne Room; Anakin; Droid Invasion; Duel of the Fates; Across the Stars.

Themes in the sequel trilogyEdit

First appearance in The Force AwakensEdit

Returning: Star Wars/Luke;Rebel Fanfare;The Force;Princess Leia;Imperial March;Han Solo and the Princess.

Unconfirmed themesEdit

Since neither Williams nor his office ever provided a full menu of the leitmotifs used in the films, there is some controversy around the exact number of themes,[102] with some taking an inclusive approach that identifies various leitmotifs which the composer probably never intended for. However, Williams did provide information through the original LP liner notes and various interviews, which allowed for Mike Matessino, Doug Adams, John Takis, et al. to compose lists of his themes on good authority, and those lists are the base of the menu of themes that appears above.

One cause of confusion is Williams' propensity to write either melodic or rhythmic ideas to represent individual action set-pieces such as the Battle of Hoth[103] or the Chase through Curoscant. Since these figures aren't reprised, they are not themes in the leitmotivic sense. Sometimes, such ideas are not even rhythmic but revolve purely around utilizing a specific orchestral color for a series of scenes in a specific location, e.g. the use of a "bouncing" horn for the Landspeeder scenes in the original Star Wars[104], the use of synthesizers to represent the menace of Darth Vader in Empire Strikes Back, or a women choir for the underwater scenes from The Phantom Menace. Sometimes there is melodic material that is revisited, but does not seem attachted to any narrative function, such as the music of the imprisonment of Han and Leia in Cloud City returning when Han's effigy is loaded unto Boba Fett's ship, or the music for Starkiller Base destroying the New Republic being reused during Han Solo's death later in the film. The programs to the Live to Projection premieres denote various none-canonical or none-recurring "leitmotifs",[20] although the content of the program seems not to be based on any new insight from Williams' office.[105] Even John Takis mentions a "Taun We" motif which only appears in two adjecent cues in Kamino. When new music was composed for the finale in the Special Edition of Return of the Jedi, Adams had anticipated that Williams' did so in order to allude to it in the prequel scores hence erroneously listing it as a theme, where in fact the music remains limited to that setpiece, and did not go on to appear in any of the prequels.[43]

Furthermore, some of these instances were tracked after-the-fact with music that was not intended to recur. An ostinato accompaniment of the Rebel Fanfare, used once in the Battle of Yavin, was tracked into "Sail Barge Assault" and has been mistaken for an "action" motif by Adams.[106] Similarly, music from the Flag Parade is tracked into the climactic battle scenes in The Phantom Menace, where Adams identified it by mistake as a "podrace motif."[107]

Another cause of confusion is the reccurence of figures that do not stem from the thematic architecture of the score, but from Williams' style. Adams identified a pair of "'unknown' Chords"[108] in the score to the original Star Wars. Ultimately, however, these chords turned out to be more of a gesture for mystery, derived from Stravinski's Rites of Spring, and typical of many of Williams' scores, including Raiders of the Lost Ark (as noted by Adams himself) where it represents the mystery of the Ark, and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull where it represents the Skull. The same chords would go on to be used by Williams to denote the mystery of Luke's whereabouts in The Force Awakens, usually in association with the map carried by BB-8, leading to the gesture becoming falsely associated with the droid or the map itself. Much the same is true of Williams occasional use of Dies Irae chant as a general mark of impending doom - a common device used by many composers. A similar gesture is built into the aforementioned C-phrase of "Across the Stars." [90]

Even within the analyses above, some of the motifs are not entirely beyond questioning. Adams himself referred to the "Throne Room" saying its "certainly not a theme in the leitmotivic sense" and similar doubts can be cast at some of the infrequent motives such as the quote of the "curoscant" fanfare during Revenge of the Sith, Shmi's music, or others.

Themes in the spin-offsEdit

Michael Giacchino, the composer of Rogue One

The first Spin-Off score, written by Michael Giacchino, utilizes several themes from John Williams, mostly for their romantic sweep (like the Force theme and hints of the main theme). It has its own catalog of themes, independent from Williams', including a new, third theme for Darth Vader and the Empire, although Giacchino also quotes both the original Imperial motif and the Imperial March.

First appearance in Rogue OneEdit

  • Jyn's Theme.
  • Hope Theme
  • Guardians of the Whills Theme
  • Imperial Theme
  • Krennic's Theme
  • Cassian's Theme


Concert suitesEdit

Instead of offering a full recording release, Williams releases a condensed score on album, where the music is arranged out of the film order and more in the vein of a concert program. This involves several concert suites, written purely for the end-credits or the album itself, where a specific theme is developed continuously throughout the piece. Williams also re-edited some of his existing cues after the fact in order to "concertize" theme on the behest of conductors like Charles Gerhardt.

From the main EpisodesEdit

From Star Wars (A New Hope)


From The Empire Strikes Back


From Return of the Jedi


From The Phantom Menace


From Attack of the Clones


From Revenge of the Sith

  • The album does not feature a dedicated suite, but rather an edited-down form of "Battle of the Heroes."


From The Force Awakens [96]

  • "Rey's Theme"
  • "March of the Resistance"
  • "Scherzo for X-Wings"[119]


From the Spin-offsEdit

From Rogue One

  • "Jyn Erso and Hope Suite"
  • "The Imperial Suite"
  • "The Guardians of the Whills Suite"


Diegetic musicEdit

Diegetic music is music "that occurs as part of the action (rather than as background), and can be heard by the film's characters".[123] In addition to the orchestral scope that was brought on by John Williams' musical score, the Star Wars franchise also features many distinguishing diegetic songs that enrich the detail of the audio mise-en-scène, some written by John Williams, some by his son, Joseph and some by various other people.[124]

From A New Hope

  • "Cantina Band" and "Cantina Band #2". Written by John Williams, it is played in the Cantina on Tatooine. It is written for solo trumpet, three saxophones, clarinet, Fender Rhodes piano, steel drum, synthesizer and various percussion, including boobams and toms. According to the Star Wars Customizable Card Game, the diegetic title for the first Cantina band piece is "Mad About Me". The liner notes for the 1997 Special Edition release of the Star Wars soundtrack describe the concept behind these works as "several creatures in a future century finding some 1930's Benny Goodman swing band music ... and how they might attempt to interpret it". This piece also appears on an all the outtakes easter eggs on the DVDs from episode I and II and on the bonus disc of the 2004 original trilogy DVD set.

From Return of the Jedi

  • "Jabba's Baroque Recital". Mozart-esque John Williams composition (featuring a synthesized harpsichord) played while 3PO and R2 first arrive and play Jabba the message from Luke Skywalker.
  • "Lapti Nek". Written by Joseph Williams and translated into Huttese, this is played by the Max Rebo Band in Jabba the Hutt's palace (in the original cut of the movie).
  • "Jedi Rocks" (composed by Jerry Hey). This was composed to replace Lapti Nek for the 1997 Special Edition of the film.
  • "Max Rebo Band Jams". Heard twice in the film, once after Jabba sends the Wookiee Chewbacca to jail, and again on Jabba's Sail Barge (hence its title). A recording of the first can be found on the official Star Wars Soundboards.
  • "Ewok Feast" and "Part of the Tribe". By John Williams. Heard when Luke and company were captured by the Ewoks and brought to their treehouses.
  • "Ewok Celebration". The Victory Song, whose lyrics were written by Joseph Williams, can be heard at the end of the original release of Return of the Jedi.
  • "Victory Celebration". By John Williams. The Victory Song at the end of the Return of the Jedi 1997 re-edition.

From The Phantom Menace

  • "Tatooine Street Music". Joseph Williams wrote four separate pieces of unusual, vaguely Eastern sounding source music for the streets of Mos Espa.
  • "Augie's Municipal Band". By John Williams. Music played during the peace parade at the end of the film. It is closely related to the emperor's theme, but isn't an outright quote of it.

From Attack of the Clones

  • "Dex's Diner"
  • "Unknown Episode II Source Cue". A second source cue is credited to Joseph Williams' name for Episode II, but is not heard in the film.
  • "Arena Percussion". Originally meant to accompany the Droid Factory sequence, Ben Burtt's attempt at composition is instead shifted to the arena, replacing the predominantly unused John Williams cue "Entrance of the Monsters."

From The Force Awakens



The score of the original Star Wars film of 1977 won John Williams the most awards of his career:

He also received the 1977 Saturn Award for Best Music for both the Star Wars score and his score for Close Encounters of the Third Kind.[130]

Williams's score for the 1980 sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, also earned him a number of awards:

The Empire Strikes Back was also nominated in 1981 for Best Original Score the 53rd Academy Awards (the award was won by Michael Gore for Fame).[133]

Williams's subsequent Star Wars film music was nominated for a number of awards; in 1984 his score for Return of the Jedi was nominated for Best Original Score at the 56th Academy Awards.[134] His compositions for the prequel trilogy also received nominations: the score for The Phantom Menace was nominated for Best Instrumental Composition at the 2000 Grammy Awards[135] and Revenge of the Sith was nominated at the 2006 Grammy Awards for Best Soundtrack Album.[136]

In 2005 the 1977 soundtrack for Star Wars was voted as the "most memorable film score of all time" by the American Film Institute in the list AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores, based on the assessment of a jury of over 500 artists, composers, musicians, critics and historians from the film industry.[137]

In 2016, John Williams was nominated for Best Original Score, his 50th overall nomination, for his score to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.


The soundtracks to both Star Wars and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace have been certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, for shipments of at least 1 million units, with the albums for The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones being certified Gold (500,000 units).[138] The British Phonographic Industry certified Star Wars and Episode I as Gold for shipments of over 100,000 units in the UK.[139]


  1. ^ "John Williams to Record Star Wars: The Force Awakens Score",, Retrieved November 30, 2015
  2. ^ For this later trilogy, Williams' schedule was spread over a longer period of time, which required him to start composing and producing some of the music during the film's editing, which is unusual for Williams who usually only composes once he sees the finished film. Nevertheless, director Rian Johnson has settled dubious rumors about the film being edited to the music.
  3. ^ The scores for Episodes II and VII were particularly criticised for being too subdued.
  4. ^ "5 Highlights from Star Wars Forces of Destiny: "The Padawan Path" |". 2017-07-06. Retrieved 2017-08-23. 
  5. ^ Williams generally uses the choir for texture, as humming or wordless voices. Several sections rely on repeated sylables in Sanskrit, as is the case of Duel of the Fates or Snoke's theme. While the sylables are drawn from (loosely) translated texts such as Cad Goddeu or the writing of Kipling, Williams typically arranges them by ear and without heed to their meaning, so the choral text remains repetitive and meaningless. In other instances, the choir repeats a short albeit coherent sentence, such as with the Funeral theme or Anakin's Dark Deeds.
  6. ^ Women were used for the special edition rescoring.
  7. ^ "Dudamel Conducts Some Music for New 'Star Wars' Film". The New York Times. December 15, 2015. 
  8. ^ This orchestra consists of a group of individually contracted freelanced musicians, rather than being an organised orchestra that plays regularly as a group.
  9. ^ according to the closing credit roll
  10. ^ "'Star Wars: The Clone Wars' TV Series Soundtrack Announced". Film Music Reporter. November 4, 2014. Archived from the original on December 23, 2015. Retrieved December 23, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Kevin Kiner to Score 'Star Wars Rebels'". Film Music Reporter. April 21, 2014. Archived from the original on December 23, 2015. Retrieved December 23, 2015. 
  12. ^ That particular score was first intended to be tracked with existing music from the classical repertoire or from older film scores, as was the case of 2001: A Space Odysey, which inspired George Lucas to write the film. After Williams convinced Lucas to have an original score (which would excel a tracked score in that it will have set themes for characters, Williams argued), those musical pieces were used as a temp track and Williams followed them closely, turning portions of the score into an homage to earlier film score and to romantic music in general.
  13. ^ Nevertheless, Williams has in times stuck close to Lucas' tracked music. Episode III, in particular, was probably tracked heavily with music from the successful film scores of its time: Gladiator, The Lord of the Rings and even crouching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The orchestration which includes more strings and another set of Timpani (to match the London Philharmonic's palette for Lord of the Rings), anvils and Taiko drums was clearly inspired by those films, as was the greater use of choir and even solo voices, including a moaning woman in "Padme's Ruminations". In particular, Anakin's Dark Deeds with the humming boy choir opening leading into a Gothic piece for an adult choir, is evocative of "The Treason of Isengard". Several tracks, including the music to the opening of the film, evoke the rhythmic music of the Orcs. Alternatively, Williams often draws from the style and musical grammar of his scores to Star Wars in other projects, such as the similar opening of the love theme from Empire Strikes Back and that in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Alternativelly, some of his later Star Wars music borrows from his other projects, e.g. the similarity of the droid march and the music of the slave children from Temple of Doom, or Rey's theme and the Harry Potter theme.
  14. ^ Star Wars, liner notes.
  15. ^ Burlingame, Jon (February 8, 2012). "Spielberg and Lucas on Williams: Directors reminisce about collaborating with Hollywood's greatest composer". The Film Music Society. Archived from the original on December 23, 2015. Retrieved December 23, 2015. 
  16. ^ It should be noted that using a leitmotifs merely as a "stand-in" for a character would be a devolved form of using leitmotifs, compared to the operatic practice. A theme can be used symbolically, such as hinting at Darth Vader's theme when the decision to train Anakin is made in Episode I.
  17. ^ Williams full score often slightly overtakes the length of the film due to the recording of concert suites and several alternate takes. However, the amount of music written for the film proper varies from 80 percent, to scoring effectively the entire film. The finished film is always subjected to tracking, looping and muting (especially Attack of the Clones), so about 85% of each finished film is scored.
  18. ^ This DVD, released with the Revenge of the Sith soundtrack, was based on Williams' practice of releasing a suite of an Episode's main theme as a single-CD release ahead of the film's release, and having it be played live or played along to a music video for the film at hand.
  19. ^
  20. ^ a b
  21. ^ Episode III required 109 players (not including the conductor) due to expanded string and percussion sections. The Empire Strikes Back required 104 players, not including the conductor or synthesizer (r due to the inclusion of a fourth flute, and sections that required a third harp, five oboes overall, an added piccolo and eight percussionists overall. If the Empire Strikes Back is to augmented with the string section size of Revenge of the Sith or the Skwalker Symphony Recording, it would require about 112 players and a small women choir. A Star Wars in Concert production that would follow the orchestration of the recording, would have to feature some of the expansions of the various episodes, requiring about 110 players, as well as the mixed choir and possibly the bass choir.
  22. ^ Star Wars and the sequel trilogy film use an 84-piece arrangement, with the latter also incorprating a 24-piece men choir. Empire Strikes Back uses 106 pieces and about ten women vocalists, Return of the Jedi uses a 100-piece orchestra, about ten men, and a few women for the Special Edition; The Phantom Menace uses a 100-piece orchestra, 88-piece SATB choir and 30 boys; Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith use a 112-piece orchestra, 89-piece SATB choir and a synthesized boy choir.
  23. ^ Star Wars Concerts were held with as few as 130 performers, and some Live to Projection Concerts can therefore by played by as few as seventy players. By comparison, each of Howard Shore's Middle Earth scores require a minimum of 230 musicians to stage (ranging to as many as 500), and several stage works such as Gurre Lieder or Mahler's Eighth Symphony can range from 300 to over a thousand musicians.
  24. ^ Keyes, Allison (July 24, 2010). "'Star Wars In Concert' Puts The Force In The Music". NPR. Archived from the original on December 30, 2015. Retrieved December 30, 2015. The upcoming Live to Projection presentations will feature various reductions, namely in the brass section, in line with Williams' reduced orchestration for his "Star Wars Suite", and will probably omit the unusual orchestrations of Empire Strikes Back and even synthsize some choral sections. The roster for the premiere is between 82 and 93 pieces.
  25. ^ Star Wars used a arrangement and 3 saxophones, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi used a arrangement. The prequels use a arrangements, and the sequel trilogy uses Sections of Empire Strikes Back, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith which have to do with depictions of machines such as Imperial Walkers or Droids feature an added piccolo and two oboes. Empire Strikes Back also features a fourth bassoon for Boba Fett, and Return of the Jedi features two recorders for the Ewoks. The Phantom Menace features one.
  26. ^ Star Wars used an arrangement; Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi added a bass trombone and the former had horns 1-6 doubling on Wagner Tubas. The Skywalker Symphony recording added a fifth trumpet. Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones removed the second Tuba. The Sequel scores are recorded in a arrangement.
  27. ^ two sets for Revenge of the Sith only.
  28. ^ Most of the episodes feature six percussionists, although sections of the prequels and Empire Strikes Back require as many as eight, including two Xylophone parts, etc. Star Wars, however, only requires only three and the sequel trilogy requires four.
  29. ^ Star Wars featured one player on a piano and one a celesta, doubling on Electric Piano. For select sections of Empire Strikes Back, both played on pianos. The scores also used synthesizers for electronic sounds and to mimic the Celesta (a real Celesta was not used since Return of the Jedi) and the Harpsichord (for Return of the Jedi and Attack of the Clones). In the Skwalker Symphony recording, one player doubles on all keyboards. From Attack of the Clones going forward, the synth is performed by the electric keyboard player.
  30. ^ Malone, p. 34. Williams uses the choir infrequently. Empire Strikes Back used a choir of ten women for a brief passage, and Return of the Jedi featured about ten men for a small selection of cues. The sequel trilogy uses 24 men only for Snoke's theme, which is slightly more than the number of bass singers present in a typical 80-piece choir. Only the prequel trilogy uses a mixed choir and, for brief cues, a boy choir (often synthesized) and even short solo roles for a soprano and a male overtone singer, which was probably synthesized.
  31. ^ Star Wars used a string roster of, and the two sequels feature two added contrabass parts. The prequels featured a fuller section of, as does the Skywalker Symphony recording. The sequel films, however, return to the roster of the original Star Wars. Most of the installments use two harps, although sections of Empire Strikes Back featured a third harp, while the Skwalker Symphony recording only used one.
  32. ^ Williams is not usually keen to stray far from the orchestral instrumentation. The Cretan Lyra and Cumbus are used briefly for diegetic Tatooine music for Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, composed by his son, Joseph, and were originally played by one instrumentalist. They may be omitted entirely in a live performance. The Electric Guitar is used in small inserts during the chase through Curoscant in Attack of the Clones (albeit muted in the film on the request of George Lucas). Williams also used three saxophones for the Cantina Band, although those could be doubled by the clarinet players. He also once claimed to have used Kazoos in that sequence, although the liner notes make no mention of it.
  33. ^ the theme recurs thirty times or more in a two-hour film.
  34. ^ The scores to the original three films are melodic and romantic, as is - largely - the score to The Phantom Menace. However, Episodes II and even III feature much more rhythmic music, and Revenge of the Sith in particular is more operatic in its use of choir and even solo vocals. The sequel scores feature another evolution of Williams' musical style, which is less obstrusive, with more lilting musical themes like Rey's theme, reminiscent of some of Williams' work on Harry Potter.
  35. ^ Williams' themes for Star Wars have been identified using Williams' own original liner notes, and Michael Matessino's notes of the Special Edition Soundtracks. Two years later, Doug Adams would go on to analyse "all of Williams' themes" from the first four films, published in FilmScoreMonthly, and Wiliams' and Mike Mattisimo's Liner notes. The themes of Episode II were also covered, by John Takis, in another issue of FilmScoreMonthly, as well as by Karol Krok in FilmsonWax, who also reviewed the themes of the "original" trilogy. Faleel from JohnWilliamsFans composed a list of timestamps for themes of all episodes, although that includes many labels for otherwise incidental music.
  36. ^ Williams wrote some 53 themes for over 16 hours of cinema, with an average of eight new themes per film and an 11 themes used in each film overall. By comparison, Howard Shore wrote over 160 leitmotifs for 21 hours of cinema in the Middle Earth films, of which he uses 40 or more in each film. Richard Wagner wrote 176 leitmotifs for the 15-hour Ring cycle.
  37. ^ In thematic works such as those of Wagner or Shore, all the leitmotifs which are thematically connected (e.g. all of Alberich's themes or all of the Hobbits' themes) are connected in melody, harmony, key and orchestration, so as to create a sets and subsets of inter-connected thematic "families." This allows the composer to introduce new themes later in the work while having the new theme evoke associations which the audience already felt towards existing related themes. Williams' various themes do share certain connections, but they are basic enough as to nullify any attempts to categorize them except in the broadest of strokes, such as themes for the protagonists and themes for the antagonists.
  38. ^ Using leitmotifs as a suggestion of mood or emotion rather than as themes, is a common practice for all composers in symphonies, operas and especially in film. Nevertheless, classical and romantic composers (and even some film composers like Howard Shore in his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit cycle) are generally much more strict with the application of leitmotif than Williams.
  39. ^ Since the princess is present at Ben's death, her theme is said to "represents Luke's and the Princess' reaction to leaving Ben behind" (Star Wars, Liner Notes) although the romantic explanation has been favored by Adams and Michael Matessimo, the author of the special edition liner notes.
  40. ^ Yoda's theme in Cloud City is said to denote Luke gaining courage as he "remembers Yoda's teachings and tries to apply them in this", but the theme is later used in relation to Leia's attempt at retrieving Han and even Lando's order to evacuate Cloud City, giving more weight to the outright dramatic explanation.
  41. ^ Duel of the Fates as used in Tatooine, was often interpreted as signifying the internal struggle of Anakin, although no other occurrence of the theme is consistent with that line of thought. In fact, the internal struggle only presents itself in the next scene, where the theme is not used.
  42. ^ In Star Wars, the theme was conceived and used more as a theme for the character of Ben Kenobi rather than as a theme for The Force itself. Therefore, Williams originally did not have it play during the Binary Sunset sequence (which has nothing to do with Ben), and only did so on the request of George Lucas. He did use it, however, for the Throne Room sequence, although it has little to do with Ben. Since the theme became more associated with The Force in following installments, it was used more often, but sometimes against images that do not evoke the idea of The Force such as numerous wide shots in Attack of the Clones, e.g. Anakin and Padme departing for Naboo, Dooku arriving at Curoscant. Its also used during wide shots of the Battle of Hoth for no discernable reason.
  43. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y Doug Adams, Sounds of the Empire: Analysing the themes of the Star Wars Trilogy, in: Film Score Monthly (Volume 4, number 5), pp. 22-47.
  44. ^ Hence, claims that Williams conceives his themes with foresight and subsequent attempts to draw tenouos connections between such pieces of music as Snoke's theme and the drone in Palpatine's Teachings, are dubious. In fact, Williams himself always notes that he only scores the film by watching the finished film, rather than reading a story outline or script. He, for instance, claimed to have had no idea that his score to the original Star Wars would result in sequels and further scores, and even shared the fact that he had, at the time, written a love theme for Luke and Leia, only to discover by Return of the Jedi that the two have been now written to be Brother and Sister.
  45. ^ Although the tune seems to be briefly suggested once in Return of the Jedi.
  46. ^ a b c d
  47. ^ A lot of the themes in the originals were played by solo instruments or sections and passed over to other instruments as the statement continued to unfold. In the prequels, they are often players by various sections and layers of the orchestra simultaneously.
  48. ^ a b Larsen, Peter, and Irons, John (2007). Film Music, p.168. ISBN 9781861893413.
  49. ^ a b
  50. ^ a b
  51. ^ Adams unusually identifies the B-phrase of the theme as a separate leitmotif, but admits that it "serves little leitmotivic purpose" and that its application in the score proper is similar to that of the A-phrase, ranging between "reflection and brash heroism - again, usually associated with Luke, but not always." While Williams' original liner notes and the majority of his interviews do not share this distinction, one interview prior to the release of Doug's analysis (about 15 years removed from Return of the Jedi) had Williams briefly mention a "second theme" which he describes as "romantic" and "several themes within" Luke's music (although in the latter case, Williams may be referencing the Force theme and the Rebel Fanfare which become closely associated with Luke over the trilogy). Its also possible Williams misspoke, seeing as how is quoted as saying "it's one thing really in my mind, a lot of it[...]You'd be testing my memory to ask me how I used them all and where [laughs]."
  52. ^ In The Force Awakens, Williams would use this theme in two variations, which are sometimes mistaken for separate leitmotives: a playful, fast variation for the concert piece "Schrezo for X-Wings" and an inverted variation for "Jedi Steps."
  53. ^ This theme was composed for the character of Ben Kenobi but also used in a broader association with the concept of "The Force." With subsequent installments, the character connection was reduced and the theme became more of a theme for "The Force."
  54. ^ a b
  55. ^ a b Larsen & Irons (2007), p.170.
  56. ^ a b c
  57. ^ This theme is also sometimes called "Han Solo's theme" although musically it belongs more to the princess.
  58. ^ This theme was also used briefly in Williams' score of E.T. when the figure of Yoda (here a boy in a costume) appeared on screen.
  59. ^ a b c d e f g Whether or not this constitutes a leitmotif is debatable.
  60. ^
  61. ^ a b
  62. ^ Definite statements of the motif appear only in this film, but a "playful wind motif" that appears in Return of the Jedi "suggest the tune" of the theme, and has been erranously described as a new motif for the Droids.
  63. ^ a b
  64. ^ Besides his bassoon motif, several gestures that occur in the Cloud City finale have been associated with Boba, although the connections are tenouos and have not been described by neither Adams or Matessino as leitmotifs of any kind, nor mentioned by Williams himself. These include a "rising horn motif" (not to be confused with the none-recurring "ascending horn and wind motif") that is used throughout "deal with the Dark Lord", but also recurs later when Boba takes off. "Rhythmic phrases" are used when Vader takes Leia and Chewbacca prisoners and later when Lando frees them.
  65. ^ Larsen & Irons (2007), p.171.
  66. ^ a b c
  67. ^ a b c d e Doug Adams, A Return or a New Hope? In: Film Score Monthly, Volume 4, number 7, p. 32-34.
  68. ^
  69. ^ a b
  70. ^ Michael Matessino, Star Wars: Special Edition Liner Notes.
  71. ^ Adams stressed, however, that this is "certainly not a theme in the leitmotivic sense" and later said that it is, "essentially exclusive to A New Hope."
  72. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Karol Krok, The themes of the Prequel Trilogy, Films-on-wax.
  73. ^ Adams mentions that the theme's ostinato accompaniment is used "thematically" in the score, although he doesn't list it as a separate leitmotif, per se, seeing as how it always appears as part of the unabridged theme, except for one instance.
  74. ^
  75. ^
  76. ^ This theme is the first "none-pitched theme", based on whispering voices and percussion figures. The latter have been confused for a separate, secondary motif specifically for Darth Maul or even for his probe droids, but Adams refers to them as mere "drum patterns" that are simply part of the theme.
  77. ^ a b c d
  78. ^
  79. ^
  80. ^ a b c d e John Takis, Star Wars Episode Tunes: Attack on the Score, Film Score Monthly, pp. 18-23.
  81. ^ The endcap of the theme's B-phrase has been described as a separate motif for Anakin's torments and his subseqent descent into darkness. While it doesn't appear as frequently as the main phrase and is often used in isolation, this seems to be more a result of the long-winded nature of the full theme, which renders the B-phrase (in its entirety or just as the endcap) very infrequent. Both Takis, Jeff Bonds and Jon and Al Kaplan refer to it as an integral part of Across the Stars rather than a separate motif. In a podcast discussion, Adams' refers to it as a single theme, albeit one comprised of a verse, chorus and bridge.
  82. ^
  83. ^ This motif is also applied to Jango Fett in the score and is probably the motif that Williams reportedly was intending to write for Jango when he was composing the piece. When Jango fights Obi Wan, Williams' derives an ostinato from it which underscores the fight scene. This motif, like the ostinato for "Chase through Curoscant" has been described as a leitmotif, but Takis describes those figures just as ostinati and "rhythmic patterns" and not as outright themes. Doug Adams later commented that the various action ostinati of the scores are "shorter, clunckier motives seldom longer than a measure or two, and often more rhythmic than melodic" and calls those passages "episodic." Jeff Bonds adds that this writing is "ultimately fleeting."
  84. ^ a b c the themes and motifs of Episode III, JohnWilliamsFans.
  85. ^ This is a recurring oboe gesture for Shmi, although Takis originally claimed that it is merely "tender music" that "recalls" and is "reminiscent of her music.
  86. ^
  87. ^ a b
  88. ^ a b
  89. ^
  90. ^ a b c d e Faleel, The Thematic Material of the Star Wars films.
  91. ^ a b
  92. ^
  93. ^ a b
  94. ^ a b c d e f g h
  95. ^
  96. ^ a b c As with other long-lined themes on this list, components of Rey's theme have been described as independent leitmotives, namely the introduction figure of the unabridged theme. In his commentary on the score, Doug refers to the piece as a single theme. He also refers to the variation heard in "Jedi Steps" as "Rey's theme in counterpoint[...]with The Force theme."
  97. ^ John Williams refers to a "more ruminative part" besides Kylo Ren's main theme, which he though of as a "relative of Darth Vader."
  98. ^ This theme is often used in conjunction with the character of Finn, and was therefore often mistaken to be his theme.
  99. ^
  100. ^
  101. ^ This theme is written for voices in the Basso Profundo range, and has drawn tenuous comparisons to Palpatine's Teachings, although the latter is based rather on overtone singing.
  102. ^ An upcoming book on Williams' body of work, which includes a "rigorous framework for identifying recurrent musical materials in this series" is said to include little over 30 leitmotives and a couple of recurring "Incidental motifs."
  103. ^ While Williams did once refer to his material as "thematic", Matessino's notes ultimately conclude that "thematic material is deffered" in the piece. Adams did ultimately mention that "the walker attack on Hoth[...]was assigned a memorable and fully realized standalone melody" but, unlike the melody of "The TIE fighters chasing the Millennium Falcon away from the Death Star", which went on to recur in a later installment, this motif (like the Asteroid Field music) is used "with less thought toward a score-length arc of material than toward a series of self-contained vignettes" and is not classified by Adams (in his earlier analysis) as a theme. This is consistent with many of Williams' scores where each action setpiece receives a unique but none-thematic melody or ostinato.
  104. ^ Nevertheless, Williams did refer to this as a "motif".
  105. ^ Whatever quotes of the Composer appear in the program seem to be drawn from existing interviews, such as his interview with the LA Times. for the Force Awakens program.
  106. ^ Adams mentions that the action ostinato "is not a theme, per se" but claims it does recur in the third film, where in fact the cue in question (sail barge assault) features music lifted from the Battle of Yavin. Otherwise, the ostinato always appear as an accompaniment to the rebel fanfare, and cannot be argued to be a theme on its own right.
  107. ^ Adams claims the music for the Flag Parade "weaves in and out of[...]a collection of cues" but in fact most of those instances are tracked. The Parade only appears once in the score proper, but does merit its own concert suite on the original album.
  108. '^ Adams claims that Williams "may or may not have consider [the chords] as part of his A New Hope' arsenal" of themes, and that "they probably didn't mean anything."
  109. ^
  110. ^
  111. ^ a b
  112. ^
  113. ^
  114. ^
  115. ^ There's an alternate presentation over the end-credits, featuring a hint of Anakin's theme as an ending coda.
  116. ^
  117. ^
  118. ^
  119. ^ Features a variation of Luke's theme.
  120. ^
  121. ^
  122. ^
  123. ^   The dictionary definition of Diegetic at Wiktionary.
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