Top Ten John Williams Scores

Here are our picks for the best film scores from the 86-year-old composer John Williams on his birthday!

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Top 10 John Williams Film Scores

Top 10 John Williams Film Scores

For over 50 years composer John Williams has been bringing audiences some of the best film scores of all time. He's been hailed as the greatest for a reason as each of his scores is unique and so many of them have become iconic. Williams is a storyteller in his own right as his music helps support the story of every movie he works on. He's a longtime collaborator of Steven Spielberg and the two have developed some of the most entertaining movies of the past 40-plus years. Check out which films we think feature Williams' best scores and tell us your picks in the comments below.

10. Close Encounters of the Third Kind

10. Close Encounters of the Third Kind

The music of Close Encounter is excellent. Not only is every moment elevated by the wonderful sci-fi score, but the music is a part of the story. With five simple notes Williams tells the story of a man and his obsession with an alien presence on Earth. The film is over 40 years old but it's still a masterpiece of film-making. The movie's score is one of the best ever and represents the evolution of Spielberg's greatest collaborator.

9. Schindler's List

9. Schindler's List

The music of Schindler's List does what every good score does which is support the story and give weight to what's happening on screen. Williams restraint here is important as any composer must know when to add music and when not to. The silence of a film's score is just as meaningful as the big, swelling musical cues. Each note is part of the story and brings emotion to each scene, helping bring this gut-wrenching and heart-warming true story to life.

8. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

8. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

With Hedwig's Theme, Williams set the tone for the entire Harry Potter franchise. From the opening of the film to the end credits we get an adventurous fantasy score from a master composer. It's a joy to listen to and it fits the mood and tone of this children's film flawlessly. There are hints of darkness in it and mystery too which is perfectly suited to this story and future composers of the franchise took those hints and expanded on them. Here's an example of Williams branching out as he works with director Chris Columbus on this production.

7. Back to the Future

7. Back to the Future

Another time he didn't work directly with Spielberg, was when Williams joined forces with Robert Zemekis on one of the most unique and fun films of the 1980s. Back to the Future features an incredible score from John Williams. It's a got a perfect blend of fun, romance, and adventure which is what the movie is all about. The score is utilized well for every thrilling action sequence bringing the audience to the edge of their seats. It's also got a great soundtrack which works in tandem with the score. This one's just a blast to hear.

6. Jurassic Park

6. Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park features one of the most iconic and epic scores from the composer. It's got a grandeur and adventurous feel to it that misdirects from the horror film to come. The score does a good job of subverting expectations and puts you in the shoes of the main characters as they too start off full of hope and wonder but later become frightened and must fight for survival. This is an excellent score which fills the audience with joy, suspense, and dread.

5. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

5. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Perhaps the film featuring the most emotional score from the acclaimed composer, E.T. is an awesome movie about growing up and the horrors and wonders it brings. The emotional power of the music cannot be overstated as the script, actors, director, cinematography, and score all come together flawlessly in this film. Spielberg brought us an all-time classic with this movie and Williams' score gives every moment the nuance it needs to effect the audience just the right way. The main theme is a great piece of music by itself, but when you pair it with the images on screen it takes on a new life and deeper meaning.

4. Superman

4. Superman

In the now-more-popular-than-ever superhero genre no one has even come close to creating a more instantly recognizable score than the one John Williams crafted in the Superman movie from 1978. Williams helped make us believe a man could fly with his bombastic musical cues in this movie. It's technically the first superhero movie, so he got to set the standard for all others to come. His music gives depth to everything that happens on screen and helps us connect with Superman as we experience everything he goes through. The main theme is brilliant, but the romantic atmosphere his music creates in all of the scenes between Superman and Lois Lane are also a highlight.

3. Jaws

3. Jaws

Sometimes simplicity is key. That was the case with William's score for Spielberg's 1975 film, Jaws. Two notes made everyone afraid to go into the water. Without the music, this film honestly wouldn't work. It tells the story and creates the feeling of fear in the audience which Spielberg needed since his mechanical shark wasn't working properly. It's a genius move by Williams to keep it simple here as it adds to the intensity and builds to a climax that'll keep you glued to the screen and make you start to sweat. However, many forget about the more intimate character moments which are enhanced by Williams' music and those are just as important.

2. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

2. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

The original Star Wars movie gave us the iconic fan fare, but The Empire Strikes Back gave us the Imperial March, Han Solo and the Princess, Yoda's Theme, and so many other amazing musical moments from the galaxy far, far away. It's still the best Star Wars score, although last year's The Last Jedi gave it a run for it's money.  Each and every iconic moment from this film is supported by Williams' incredible music. As soon as someone says the title of the film that brilliant music beings playing in your head. The movies and the music are inseparable and that's an astonishing achievement. 

1. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

1. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

The best film score by John Williams is his work in Raiders of the Lost Ark. With this film Williams and company were hearkening back to a golden age of film-making bringing back the great adventure serials of the 30s and 40s. It's an action romp with plenty of comedy, romance, thrills, and chills. The reason this one's the best is because it blends all of those genres, moods, and tones into one giant pot of musical goodness. This is an iconic theme which sets up the joyous adventure, but it also has a very romantic element which lends itself to the time period and characters. The action scenes are exhilarating thanks to the fast-paced score, and the more horrifying elements are made even more frightening by the creepy music. It's all done so well showcasing John Williams' unmatched ability as a composer and is the gold standard of all movie music.

John WIlliams Movies Film Score