Study Guide

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Music (Score)

Music (Score)

Lush, bombastic, orchestral scores are kind of John Williams' jam. Don't believe us? Just check out the composer's resume: Jaws. E.T. Jurassic Park. Indiana Jones. Superman. Harry Potter.

That's just the tip of the musical iceberg. Over the course of his career—which spans a whopping seven decades—Williams' name has become synonymous with blockbuster soundtracks, and he has the awards on his mantel to back it up, including twenty-two Grammys, four Golden Globes, and five Oscars. (Don't worry; John Williams probably has a really big mantel.)

This is the Remix

With Return of the Jedi, Williams had his work cut out for him: namely, he had to incorporate themes and motifs from his scores for the previous Star Wars movies without simply repeating them. Take "The Imperial March," for example. Originally created by Williams for The Empire Strikes Back, the theme appears three times in Return of the Jedi.

The first two times are when Darth Vader, and later the Emperor, drop by the Death Star. In these two instances, we hear "The Imperial March" in its standard, instantly recognizable form. It's big, it's bold, it's menacing. It would definitely be Darth Vader's walk-up music if he played major league baseball.

The third time "The Imperial March" is used, however—when Darth Vader kicks the bucket—Williams tweaks the theme to fit the scene. The formerly confident march is tiny, sad, and more than a little bit spooky. It doesn't just echo what's happening, narrative-wise, as Darth Vader asks Luke to help him remove his mask; it intensifies it. In his score for Return of the Jedi, Williams makes old new again.

Toot Your Own Horn

Of course, he also just makes new stuff, period. Return of the Jedi sees Williams adding a handful of brand-new themes to his well-established Star Wars jukebox, including themes for Jabba the Hutt, the Ewoks, Luke and Leia. All of these tunes heighten the intensity of the scenes they accompany.

Jabba's theme, for example, is heavy on the thick, almost gassy sounds of the tuba. Makes sense, right? A delicate flute accompaniment for Jabba and all of his slimy, hedonistic machinations simply wouldn't do. A bouncy, honking tuba tune, on the other hand? Farty perfection.

Whether he's conjuring up new music, or simply revamping his greatest Star Wars hits, Williams' Oscar-nominated score adds gravity (pun only slightly intended) to Return of the Jedi's interstellar action and grounded human drama.

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