I’ve been sitting on writing this post for a while. I thought it would be fun, in follow up to the post I wrote years ago on the best compositions in Star Wars (here and here), to instead write my rankings of the soundtracks. Instead of individual pieces, I wanted to look at the soundtracks as a whole. Which do I think are the top and which do I think make it to the bottom?
The only reason I’ve been sitting on it for so long is because IT’S SO HARD. It changes often but I wanted to imagine someone asking me to give my final answer, as if I were playing Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and something was on the line.
After much thinking (like two months, seriously), here is my own personal Best of Star Wars Soundtracks list:
8. Rogue One.
I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I didn’t really like Rogue One as a movie or it’s the fact that John Williams did not write the soundtrack that caused this movie to be on the bottom, but there you go. The second time I watched it, I did come away feeling slightly more kind towards the music, but I think both having a different composer and not enjoying the movie was a double whammy that landed this at the bottom of the list. Plus, it never had the wonderful themes that we love so much played enough throughout it. I am planning on listening to it more, but for now, it ends up on the bottom.
One of my favorite pieces is Across the Stars. It wows me and moves me every time I listen to it. But as a whole, AOTC is slightly underwhelming. There are probably about 2-3 tracks that I would want to listen to that on the soundtrack and if I were being perfectly honest, none of them stand out like Across the Stars.
6. A New Hope
Agh, I hate even ranking this soundtrack so low because A New Hope introduced the world to Star Wars music. Some of my favorite tracks of all time are in ANH. But if I was looking at it as a whole, ANH involves too much brass in it’s soundtracks to make me rank it any higher. The staccato, brass music is not my style and I don’t like listening to it too much and often skip most of the tracks.
5. The Force Awakens
Number 5 and 4 are in close competition. I love Rey’s theme and it was my top listened to track of 2016 (according to Spotify). Currently, my most listened to track is The Jedi Steps. Clearly, I love some of the pieces. March of the Resistance and Kylo Ren’s theme (okay not really called that but it’s played whenever he comes on screen) are also really well done. I originally did not like the soundtrack that much but as time has gone on, I have listened to certain tracks at least once a week. I love it, but the reason it’s still ranked lower than most is that I believe I love it because I’m a Star Wars fan. When leaving the theater, there were not many pieces that made me want to run home and figure out which music was playing when. My love affair with the TFA soundtrack grew over time as a fan, but I don’t think there is anything in the soundtrack that stood out to the casual viewer.
4. The Phantom Menace
I love TPM’s soundtrack. It was a fresh new sound to the Star Wars music and set the Prequels off on the right foot. The Naboo Palace was one of my favorites, and I loved the battle droid music. Anakin’s theme was softer than expected but had hints of darkness at the end. Duel of the Fates is unbeatable and is still one of my favorite tracks of all time. I probably also rank it higher because it was the first Star Wars soundtrack I ever owned (on cassette!) so nostalgia plays a big part in this decision.
3. The Empire Strikes Back
There are some great pieces in ESB, namely of course, The Imperial March. That track is SO GOOD. I love the Imperial March and could listen to it over and over again. I also love Yoda’s theme and the music played throughout Cloud City at the end of the soundtrack. The Asteroid Field and Han and Leia are excellent tracks that round out this soundtrack and brings it to the next level. I feel like this soundtrack is balanced well, but again, not something I could probably listen to over and over again. The key pieces are amazing but there are some others in there that bore me.
2. Revenge of the Sith
I think ROTS is one of the most underrated soundtracks out of all the Star Wars movies. The expanse of what the soundtrack covers is breathtaking. Some of the most moving pieces in the Saga come from ROTS. Battle of the Heroes is the most prominent track, but Padmé’s Ruminations still stands up there as one of my favorite compositions of John Williams. Every time I listen to it, I actually DON’T want to listen to it because of the breadth of emotions it pulls from me. I think General Grievous’ theme is brass done well. The soundtrack flows in a way that even without seeing the movie, you can follow along with the music and feel your soul move. It starts out fast, clipped, and semi-dangerous. By the end, your heart is broken and full of foreboding. If I had never seen the movie, I would still be able to feel the emotions I am supposed to.
1. Return of the Jedi
I place ROTJ first because it’s a soundtrack where I like almost every single one of the compositions created by John Williams. Not only does it flow well, but it mixes some of my favorite music throughout the entire soundtrack. We have the Force theme, the main theme, Luke and Leia, the Emperor’s theme, some of the Imperial March, the second Death Star battle, the Ewok’s forest battle music, and the celebration at the end. It’s bittersweet in some places, we find resolution in other pieces, there is fear, hope and tension woven throughout the soundtrack. If I had to listen to one soundtrack from the Star Wars universe for the rest of my life – it would be this one.
I’m surprised that I picked ROTJ as my favorite of all time (for now). I didn’t expect it when I first started out with this project. Yet out of all the movies, it’s soundtrack has most of the compositions that I enjoy.
If you had to – how would you rank your favorite Star Wars soundtracks?