The Most Iconic Music From Star Wars

Star Wars poster (1977)
Star Wars poster (1977) | © Thomas S. / Flickr

UK Literary Editor

While there may still be some debate over whether the original Star Wars films are the best movies of all time (or simply, you know, some of the best of all time), a consensus has been easier to reach about the franchise’s soundtrack. Indeed, there is now little doubt that John Williams’s score is one of the most influential in cinema, and completely inseparable from the movies’ success – it just holds many of the world’s most recognizable pieces of music.

Main Theme

What else could we possibly start with? This is the music that accompanies the very first movie’s legendary opening (and the opening to all other films in the series, for that matter), providing all the pomp expected of a space opera as epic as Star Wars. This piece’s main melodies appear throughout the original three movies, and particularly during action scenes.

Cantina Band

Mos Eisley is the ‘most wretched hive of scum and villainy,’ and what better music for it than a little gentle jazz? While, granted, this isn’t as iconic a piece of music as some of the others on this list, it is nonetheless a much-loved accompaniment to one of A New Hope’s most famous scenes, perfect for the galactic zoo it supplements.

The Death Star

Another famous scene, another famous song. A variation on a small part of the main theme, played for full dramatic effect right as the Millennium Falcon enters the Death Star and the audience get its awed first glimpse of the space station. This particular theme reoccurs in different variations throughout the series and is generally associated with Han Solo’s ship.

Princess Leia Theme

Played mostly during the original movie, both with the Princess present and without (think of Ben Kenobi’s death, for example), it typifies the highly emotional style Williams used to elevate the movies’ tone from fast-paced sci-fi action into dramatic space opera.

Asteroid Field

Though choosing just one iconic scene from the greatest Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back, is certainly far from easy, picking out its best action sequence proved to be much less trouble. The asteroid field scene and its fantastic accompaniment certainly stand out in film history as among of the most entertaining. Watch out for that orchestral high at 2’18!

Imperial March

All things considered, the Imperial March is probably the most famous piece of music in the entire franchise. And for good reason. Played throughout the original series at every possible ‘evil’ entrance, it accompanies all of the Empire’s power displays and is most commonly associated with Lord Vader. It’s also quite catchy.

Force Theme

More important even than the main theme, no song has had quite as central a presence in the franchise as the Force Theme. Accompaniment to a Jedi’s moment of hope, or face-off with adversity, it perhaps found its finest moments in A New Hope, during an unforgettable sunset scene and the final throne room sequence.

The Empire Strikes Back Theme

Sure, it isn’t the most iconic, but the theme to The Empire Strikes Back – otherwise known as the Han-Leia, or ‘Love,’ theme – is definitely the franchise’s most beautiful. Played throughout the movie (and absent from the rest of the series), it captures all the tragic emotion and the drama that makes its film the best space opera ever made. It is perhaps most remarkable as accompaniment to Han’s carbonite freeze scene, or the film’s magnificent last sequence:

How’s that for iconic?

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