John Williams

John Williams' scores have changed the way we experience movies. His music reflects a movie's mood better than any other composer. After all, as compelling as a character Darth Vader is, he wouldn't be nearly reviled and hated if it weren't for the Imperial March accompanying him every time he appears on screen.

War of the WorldsWar of the Worlds

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"John Williams continues his longtime collaboration with Steven Spielberg in this adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel of the same name (previously filmed in 1953). Considering that the movie depicts a gigantic Martian invasion, you'd think Williams would have fully gone into his familiar bombastic mode, but he's refrained from doing so. While the composer makes full use of the outsize orchestra at his disposal, he prefers juxtaposing layers and building atmosphere rather than hitting you over the head with dramatic arias."

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Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the SithStar Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

Thankfully, George Lucas produced a fitting end to the prequel trilogy. This somewhat dark finale had some dramatic moments, and Williams captured the moods in those scenes perfectly. He brought back themes from previous installments (A New Hope) and introduced new themes where the bass trombone has prominent role (General Grievous). Battle of the Heroes and Anakin's Betrayal are highlights for me.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of AzkabanHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Unlike the score for Chamber of Secrets, Williams introduces much new material for the third installment of Harry Potter. Memorable tracks include Double Trouble, The Knight Bus, and Buckbeaks Flight.

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The PatriotThe Patriot

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"Largely eschewing typical bombastic epic fodder for a mostly understated score rich in his distinctive writing for brass and strings, Williams's music seeks out the story's emotional underpinnings as much as its battle-scarred action sequences. The haunting main theme here begins as a Celtic-flavored reel for guitar and violin, then wells into strings, martial drumbeats, and full-bodied brass. Much as he did for the Oscar-nominated Saving Private Ryan, Williams paints a mature, alternately abstract and pastoral portrait of armed conflict, often as not reinventing the genre's heroic traditions as he goes."

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Catch Me If You CanCatch Me If You Can

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"Williams's return to the jazz idiom of his youth yields a smart, nervous score that evokes more than mere nostalgia. But with Dan Higgins's moody sax often leading the way, the veteran composer's work here seems more evocative reinvention than revisitation, yet another tribute to his uncanny ability to make any idiom his own."

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Schindler's ListSchindler's List

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"When Steven Spielberg gratifyingly used the clout of his enormous commercial success to produce and direct this brave Holocaust drama, his longtime musical collaborator used the opportunity to display both the depth and maturity of his musical gifts and training, producing a score with sad, evocative melodies frequently carried by the violin of the great Itzhak Perlman. Rich with ethnic nuance and showcasing the composer's masterful orchestral/choral subtlety, Williams's emotionally compelling score for Schindler's List also won the Academy Award for Best Dramatic Score."

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Summon the HeroesSummon the Heroes

I know this isn't a movie score, but it's a great disc. Apart from the title track, this CD features mostly older music, including Arnaud's Bugler's Dream, Orff's Carmina Burana, and Shostakovich's Festive Overture. Summon the Heroes features typical Williams heroic themes, as well as plenty of great bass trombone playing.

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A New HopeStar Wars Episode IV - A New Hope

While Star Wars wasn't Williams' first success, it definitely added to his already growing reputation as one of the best modern film composers. The music on this album is as recognizable as any symphonic music ever written.
1977 Oscar Winner - Best Original Score.

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Empire Strikes BackStar Wars Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

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"Williams's masterful score to the first Star Wars sequel (and the chapter many sci-fi fans cite as the series' most dark, emotionally complex, and satisfying) fleshes out his original character themes with some new ones while painting compelling musical portraits of alien worlds."

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Return of the JediStar Wars Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

Return of the Jedi is usually the forgotten member of the original trilogy, but not because of the music. Williams' score once again lives up to expectations.

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Phantom MenaceStar Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace

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"Phantom Menace returns to the saga's roots. Thus, all Williams had to do was essentially reinvent the world's most popular wheel. The film-scoring legend has admirably risen to that daunting challenge, delivering an inventive score whose dynamics should surprise and delight even the most ardent SW fanatic."

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Attack of the ClonesStar Wars Episode II - Attack of the Clones

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"While Attack of the Clones again achieves the high standards of its predecessors, it also succeeds by both forging some rewarding new musical themes at the same time it begins to bring the galactic fable full circle."

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Raiders of the Lost ArkRaiders of the Lost Ark

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"Raiders wears its retro-symphonic sensibilities like a badge of honor and indeed, DGG's expanded deluxe release plays like a more economic Mahler opus. A true film music classic, even if its sensibilities are 40 years misplaced."

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's StoneHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

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"Williams typically avoids the source material for the films he scores, but he reportedly derived great pleasure and inspiration from Rowling's first Harry Potter adventure, and created a perfect motif (fully expressed in "Hedwig's Theme") to dominate his score."

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

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"The veteran composer's mastery of orchestral color--and no small amount of stylistic reinvention--infuses the proceedings with a sense of wholeness and a surprising maturity that's a key element in conjuring up the film's crucial suspension of disbelief."

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HookHook

Although it's not one of his most famous scores, Hook is certainly one of his best. The originality of Hook once again proves that Williams is one of the most diverse and creative movie score composers ever.

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Saving Private RyanSaving Private Ryan

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"Composed by Spielberg's long-time musical companion, John Williams, Ryan denies the pair's penchant for ebullience in favor of funereal grace. Rather than mirror the visual kinetics, Williams lends the gunfire a tone-poem aura."

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SupermanSuperman

I bought this soundtrack for one reason only - Planet Krypton. What the track lacks in quantity it more than makes up in quality. I would bet that Williams was hearing Strauss when he composed this score.

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Jurassic ParkJurassic Park

Jurassic Park is yet another in the long line of successful Steven Spielberg/John Williams collaborations. This soundtrack has many emotional highs and lows to match the wild ride of the movie.

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ETE.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

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"While Williams has often suffered odd accusations of emotional manipulation--which is, after all, precisely the job of a film composer--his E.T. music is still some of his most compelling."

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Far and AwayFar and Away

Far and Away is sometimes the forgotten Williams score. Blending Americana and Irish music (with help from the Chieftans), this score's triumph is the "Land Race".

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JawsJaws

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"Since so much of Williams's score--at the time, his second for Spielberg, among others--depends on the nearly silent tension buttressed by deep, probing notes, this wide-screen audio mapping only heightens the drama."
1975 Oscar Winner - Best Original Score.

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Close EncountersClose Encounters of the Third Kind

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"Composer John Williams, fresh from the Wagnerian success of Star Wars, was allowed the unusual luxury of composing much of the Close Encounters score before principal photography began. Thus Spielberg was able to stage much of his action to the Williams music playing on the set in a rare way. The entire special-effects finale was in fact edited to match the composer's rhythms."

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Close EncountersBy Request: The Best Of John Williams And The Boston Pops

If you don't want to spend money on all the albums listed above, then this is the CD for you. The Boston Pops' performance is spectacular.

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