John Williams' Iconic Film Scores

In honour of the 79th birthday of compositional genius John Williams, here’s a few of his (many!) iconic film scores:

The main theme of Star Wars is easily one of the most recognizable melodies, heard over the iconic opening crawl of the films. It was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra

“Once again, John Williams has exceeded my expectations and produced a lavish, rich, moving and thrilling score. Every fan of Star Wars—and of great music—is in his debt.” – George Lucas


Steven Spielberg and John William’s second collaboration (the first was on 1974’s The Sugarland Express – Spielberg’s first feature film) came with the film that’s recognized for it’s ominous two-note motif, now forever associated with sharks and danger approaching. 

“When he finally played the music for me on the piano, he previewed the main Jaws theme. I expected to hear something kind of weird and melodic, kind of tonal but eerie and of another world, almost a bit like outer space inside inner space, you know, under the water. And what he played for me instead with two fingers on the lower keys was ‘Duh dun, duh dun, duh dun,’ and at first I began to laugh. I thought he was putting me on. And he said, ‘No, that’s the theme to Jaws!’ And I said, ‘Play it again.’ And he played it again, and it suddenly seemed right. And John found the signature for the entire movie.” – George Lucas

Williams worked with director Richard Donner for 1978’s Superman score, notably the “Superman March”.

“John Williams, the greatest living composer — full stop. And that happens to be one of his greatest themes.” – Hans Zimmer, rumoured composer for the new Superman movie, being directed by Zack Snyder.


The score for the Raiders of the Lost Ark in ’81, featuring the spirited “The Raiders March”, the only score in the series performed by the London Symphony Orchestra.

“Not too long ago, in a country not so far away, adventurer archeologist, Indiana Jones, embarked on an historically significant search for the Lost Ark of the Covenant. Joining him on this supernatural treasure hunt was the London Symphony Orchestra under the baton of composer John Williams. Were it not for many crucial bursts of dramatic symphonic accompaniment, Indiana Jones would surely have perished in a forbidding temple in South America or in the oppresive silence of the great Sahara desert.” – Steven Spielberg

The Grammy and Academy Award-winning score for Schindler’s List in 1993 featured violinist Itzhak Perlman.

“The choice John Williams made was gentle simplicity. Most of our films together have required an almost operatic accompaniment, which is fitting for Indiana Jones, Close Encounters, or Jaws. Each of us had to depart from our characteristic styles and begin again. This is certainly an album to be attended with closed eyes and unsequestered hearts.” – Steven Spielberg

John Williams’ score for E.T. (which earned him yet another Academy Award and Grammy) took a modernist approach – and we’re sure it was partly thanks to the score that brought Princess Diana to tears while watching the film.

“John’s score to the movie E.T. is unlike any of his others. It is soothing and benign. It is scary and suspenseful and, toward the climax, downright operatic. For me, this is John Williams’ best work for the movies. John Williams is E.T.” – Steven Spielberg

John Williams’ score for Jurassic Park in 1993 didn’t win him any major awards (it was overshadowed by his own score for Schindler’s List!) but the piece is no doubt one of his best action scores (and has recently been re-imagined … 1000% slower – you’ll be surprised by how it sounds!)

“Sixty-five million years ago, dinosaurs roamed the earth. Now, through the miracle of DNA, cloning and John Williams’ talent, we’re back in the Jurassic Era, listening to a score which I can only call classic, vintage Williams. When listening to this score, you should pay particular attention to the music of the raptors – as well as the haunting and enobling sounds of the brachiosaurus – in my opinion some of the most original writing John has ever done for the movies.” – Steven Spielberg

After seeing a screener of Home Alone (the third highest grossing film of all time), Williams became very enthusiastic about scoring the film after Bruce Broughton, the original composer, bowed out. The relationship formed with director Chris Columbus would prove very fruitful for a certain wizard series.

John Williams scored the first three films of the immensely popular Harry Potter series – the most important theme, Hedwig’s Theme, has been carried over into the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh films.

“I cannot write like John Williams. Only he can and I wouldn’t even dare to try. He is the Master of film composers…When you are following one of the masters like John Williams and you are taking over a franchise, you have to be humble and yes a bit worried.” – Alexandre Desplat on composing the last two films in the Harry Potter saga.

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