Ranking the Soundtracks

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.

7.  Attack of the Clones

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?

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Star Wars ComLINKS: Most Emotional Scene

Apparently I was supposed to get this done by March 22nd – oops, I completely missed that note the first time I read through the post!  I’ll be better next time.

First, thanks to Graphic Novelty2, I re-discovered the blog Anakin and His Angel.  I remember I had it saved at some point on an old computer and then when I switched to Chrome, I think I lost it.

Anakin and His Angel does a monthly topic and invites other blogs to participate.  I love this…I get to write my own blog post without thinking about a topic!  Lazy me celebrates!  (Except lazy me got in the way of getting it done on time…)

 

Most Emotional Scene in Star Wars

My vote for the most emotional scene has to go to Han getting put into carbonite.

I picked this scene for four reasons:

  1. Han’s vulnerability,
  2. Leia’s realization of love,
  3. Chewie’s anger and sense of helplessness,
  4. Lando’s regret,
  5. The music.

That’s a heck of a lot of emotion to pack into one scene!

Let’s start with Han’s vulnerability – this goes back to my assessment of his clothing choices throughout the trilogy.  When he is stripped down to only that shirt, it’s not the Han we know and love.  He is not cocky or over-confident, but instead vulnerable.  Vulnerable is not a word we often associate with Han.  He’s about to be put into carbonite and he has no idea if he’ll survive.  That look on his face when he looks to Leia and Chewie before the steam rises…what is it?  Sadness?  Unspoken feelings?  Despair?  It’s something we don’t see on Han’s face very often.

Then we have the classic interchange between Han and Leia of, “I love you.” And “I know.”  Who doesn’t enjoy those lines?  We knew Princess Leia was hiding her feelings for Han during most of the movie but in this moment, she knows she has to say it.  If she doesn’t say it, she will kick herself every moment afterwards.  Watching her step forward with anguish on her face to tell Han those deeply personal words…I wouldn’t want to be in her position.  She’s seeing the man she realized she loves being put into a situation where he might not live.  And let’s not forget her moment of abject fear and disgust right before those moments when she looks over at Darth Vader.  *shudders*

This scene is often overshadowed by Leia and Han’s exchange, but I think one of the most emotionally moving parts is Chewie’s scream when the carbonite takes effect.  He starts off the scene by throwing Stormtroopers over the edge of the chamber in a last effort to save Han.  Han calms him down by saying he has to look after “the Princess”.   He acknowledges he might not live through this ordeal but is transferring Chewie’s life debt from Han to Leia.  But this is not something Chewie wants to hear.  Han was his best friend, the smuggler who saved him and to whom he owes a life debt.  I’m sure Chewie thought that if Han ever died, he would go down screaming with him (though we saw how that played out).  Instead he has to stand by helplessly in this whole scene, clinging to Leia until the deed is done and his roars are one of despair, anger, and frustration.

Lando, oh, Lando.  The moments the camera is on him during this scene are few and far between.  And when they do steal a moment to look at him, you have to watch closely.  But you can see it.  It’s there.  The “What have I done?  Was this the right thing?” look.  He looks at Leia and Chewie and his thoughts are clear.  I’m sure he’s feeling that deep uncertainty and regret…that gut feeling when you know you should not have made that deal.  Too late now, buddy.

Finally, the music.  Oh my gosh.  I get goosebumps every time I hear the music by John Williams for this scene.  Even when I’m not watching the scene and I’m only listening to the music, I get transported away to a tense place.  Everything in me stops and I’m filled with emotions of dread and anxiety.  I can’t concentrate on anything I do when hearing that music.  It’s the cherry on top of this whole scene.

 

That, my friends, is why I think the carbonite scene is the most emotional.  Hopefully I’ll get on my game faster next time and participate in ComLINKS before it expires.

 

What do you think is the most emotional scene?  This can include Rebels, TCW, anything in the Star Wars universe!

 

Music Makes the Moment

A fun watch for a Monday morning:

It comes from this documentary that I’m working my way through if you want to join me!  I had not heard of this until recently.  Most likely because it was made before I was born. 😉