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Ranking the Star Wars Soundtracks

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Continuing on with my ranking frenzy, I think it’s time to rank the Star Wars soundtracks. My opinion is very different from usual opinions, so I expect debate. Anyway my rankings:

  1. Revenge of the Sith - A+
  2. A New Hope - A+
  3. The Phantom Menace - A+
  4. The Empire Strikes Back - A
  5. Return of the Jedi - A
  6. Attack of the Clones - A-
  7. The Force Awakens - A-
  8. Rogue One - B

Yes, all the scores are absolutely terrific. Let the debates begin!

This post has been edited.

Not enough people read the EU.

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  1. ESB- 10/10
  2. ROTJ- 9/10
  3. SW- 9/10
  4. TPM- 9/10
  5. ROTS- 8.9/10
  6. AOTC- 8.8/10
  7. TFA- 8.6/10
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  1. A New Hope (10/10)
  2. The Empire Strikes Back (9.5/10)
  3. Revenge of the Sith (9/10)
  4. The Phantom Menace (9/10)
  5. The Force Awakens (8.5/10)
  6. Return of the Jedi (8.5/10)
  7. Attack of the Clones (8/10)

The Phantom Menace’s soundtrack IMO is pretty overrated other than duel of the fates, The Force Awakens’ score is just under that simply because Rey’s theme is so brilliant. Return of the Jedi and Attack of the Clones both have pretty forgettable new songs and mostly reuse older ones. Attack of the Clones IMO is by far the worst because half of it is just slightly different versions of the romance theme and the rest is mostly forgettable other than the Tusken Raiders one.

Prequel Fan-Edit thread: http://originaltrilogy.com/topic/Yet-another-series-of-prequel-edits/id/17329

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SW - A+
ESB - A+
ROTJ - A
TFA - A
TPM - A-
AOTC - B+
ROTS - B

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ESB
ROTJ
ANH
TPM
ROTS
AOTC
TFA

I believe in Rian Johnson

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  1. TESB
  2. SW
  3. ROTJ
  4. PT (you’d need to have all the ultimate editions to compare them fairly)
  5. TFA

And in the time of greatest despair, there shall come a savior, and he shall be known as the Son of the Suns.

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The “Ultimate Editions” are soundtracks featuring the music of the PT films, exactly as it appears in the films, without cuts for length.

Only TPM had one, alas – the others are presumably languishing in GL’s subsection of the Disney Vault.

And given that the final edits of the PT (all three films) required some nasty chopping work to John Williams’ music to make it fit, I’d personally prefer an “ur-Ultimate” edition of JW’s actual soundtracks as they were meant to be heard (ie, scored to fit the rough cuts of the prequels).

“That Darth Vader, man. Sure does love eating Jedi.”

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joefavs said:

  1. SW
  2. ESB
  3. ROTJ/TFA/TPM
  4. AOTC
  5. ROTS

I think that Clones is too dour apart from “Across the Stars”, and Sith is too severe.

What do you mean by “too severe”?

Not enough people read the EU.

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I’m not sure what a better way to describe it would be. It’s just so relentlessly bombastic. The frequent cymbal crashes, the stuttering trumpet accents. It sacrifices the subtlety the other scores have in order to be as big as possible at all times.

Also, it’s by far the worst in terms of recycling previous material. Almost half the movie is a cut and paste job.

Also also, “Battle of the Heroes” is a sludgy, plodding bore, and it’s the only theme from Sith that I can even remember without looking up. Seriously, the way people talk about that being one of the best soundtracks, I sometimes think there must be a version with an alternate score floating around that everyone’s seen but me.

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1 - ROTJ
Decent first half, highlight being the sail barge battle. Love the Ewok/Endor music thoughout the second half. The softer Rebel focused tracks scattered around the Battle of Endor are a nice change of pace. Plus ‘Light of the Force’, chills every time.

2 - ANH
The first half far outshines the second. From the opening till the departure from Tatooine is amazing. After that, it’s just solid thoughtout the Death Star sequences - until the final epic ‘Throne Room’ of course!

3 - ROTS
Wow. So damn epic, the perfect soundtrack to the dark, destructive fall of the Republic. Unashamedly big and brash. Seriously powerful. The choirs and vocal work that was so great in TPM makes an even better appearance here.

4 - TPM or ESB
I like more songs from TPM, Trade Federation theme, ‘Qui-Gon’s Noble End’, ‘Flag Parade’ ect. However it’s very hard to overlook killer tracks like Yoda’s theme, and the astroid music from ESB.

6 - AOTC
‘Across the Stars’ is the only standout from this soundtrack. Really NOTHING but ‘Across the Stars’ and ‘The Chase Through Coursant’ ever sticks in my mind. Sadly forgettable.

It’s really sad we don’t have ‘full length’ editions of the Prequal soundtracks. One of my favorite aspects of the Star Wars soundtracks is that I can listen to them and actually hear how the music progresses throughout the locations and events, it’s magical when while listening you can actually match exact moments from the films to their exact moment in the soundtrack.

Ultimate Movie Posters
Personal Rank: ROTJ > ANH > ROTS > ESB > TFA > TPM > AOTC

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  1. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  2. Star Wars (1977)
  3. Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  4. The Phantom Menace (1999)
  5. Return of the Jedi (1983)
  6. Attack of the Clones (2002)
  7. The Force Awakens (2015)
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Star Wars
Empire/Jedi
Phantom Menace
Revenge of the Sith
The Force Awakens
Attack of the Clones

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Empire was written while Williams was (in my opinion) at the very top of his game. Three years in a row we get Empire, Raiders, and ET (his best, again, in my opinion). The Imperial March, Yoda’s Theme, and the Love Theme are incredibly strong, but it might be because I like the movie so much.

But honestly…I think I’d still have to give it to the original. I think we take it for granted now, and we can never know for sure, but I think the film owes at least 50% of its success to the soundtrack. The main theme itself is worth ranking it first. That soundtrack is INCREDIBLE, especially considering it was made for a science fiction film in the 70’s (lots of great sci-fi scores from the 70’s, but there was nothing like SW). It’s mind-blowing. The dogfight after the escape from the Death Star is some of the most rousing action music you’ll ever hear. I still think Empire is more consistently great, though.

After those two I don’t really care about order. I dislike the prequels too much to objectively separate the music from the film in my head. Revenge of the Sith has the worst editing choices of the prequels, and there’s some really baffling decisions. You have Anakin walking up to the Jedi temple with a legion of stormtroopers prepared to carry out his first violent act as Darth Vader and…there’s no Imperial March. Instead we have the same music that was used for Kashyyyk (had to google that. Why three “y’s”? 😛 ), which is also a leftover track from Attack of the Clones, if I remember correctly. We witness the very birth of the Empire…and no Imperial March. Instead we get a choral piece. I’d love to have heard a choral rendition of the March if they wanted to go that rout. I guess it’s a good thing that movie isn’t any good.

I don’t remember anything from Attack of the Clones except for the melodramatic Across the Stars. Why do I think it’s worse than the Love Theme from Empire? I have no idea, but probably because I associate that music with the worst on-screen romance I’ve had the displeasure of suffering through.

Both Return of the Jedi and Phantom Menace seem pretty inoffensive to me, but as much as it pains me to say it, I might have to give it to Phantom Menace, if only because it features more original music. Jedi uses a badly edited version of the dogfight sequence from the original, and it’s main new theme is the Ewok music, which fits well enough for those little guys, but is hardly anything to get excited about. Like the movie itself, it’s more of a callback to the first two, and much like the movie itself, is pretty solid when doing its own thing (I’m talking the Emperor material).

The Force Awakens is pretty nice to my ears when listening to it outside of the movie, but for whatever reason I thought it didn’t shine through. This might have to do with editing or how it was mixed, but I don’t know considering I saw the movie twice, and the last time was back in the beginning of January. I give it props for not having many callbacks, but I think it could have used more “hummable” themes. No, I’m not a fan of “catchy” music, but I don’t mind it when it’s written by a great film composer for a space adventure film.

So in short, I have no idea how I’d rank them. 😛

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eiyosus said:

Empire, Raiders, and ET (his best, again, in my opinion).

I personally feel that Jurassic Park was his best, but that was from 10 years after these.

Army of Darkness: The Medieval Deadit / The Terminator - Color Regrade
SONIC RACES THROUGH THE GREEN FIELDS.
THE SUN RACES THROUGH A BLUE SKY FILLED WITH WHITE CLOUDS.
THE WAYS OF HIS HEART ARE MUCH LIKE THE SUN. SONIC RUNS AND RESTS; THE SUN RISES AND SETS.
DON’T GIVE UP ON THE SUN. DON’T MAKE THE SUN LAUGH AT YOU.

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Smithers said:

Has anyone listened to this: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Shadows_of_the_Empire_(soundtrack) ? It has some very good themes that line right up with some of John Williams’ songs, I really like “Night Skies” and the ending of “The Destruction of Xizor’s Palace”

I have, it’s fine I guess but I personally didn’t really love it or think it was even close to JW.

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And in the time of greatest despair, there shall come a savior, and he shall be known as the Son of the Suns.

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  1. The Empire Strikes Back (10/10)

The best, most refined soundtrack of the whole Saga. After getting the restored “Imperial Edition” from here, I cannot emphasize how much the improved audio quality has brought out each layer of instruments and the complexity of TESBs tracks. Yoda’s Theme, The Imperial March, Battle in the Snow, The Love Theme are all incredible tracks that add up to a very diverse and emotional soundtrack. I’ve listened to it dozens of times and I love the experience every time.

  1. A New Hope (9.5/10)

I rank this second best if only just because Williams isn’t as refined as in TESB. It just lacks the depth and diversity of ESBs tracks. Yet, it is truly fantastic! The Star Wars theme, the Jawa/Desert theme, TIE Fighter Attack, The Last Battle, The Throne Room, all are deservingly iconic tracks! This is also the catchiest and loudest of all the Saga’s soundtracks.

  1. The Phantom Menace (9/10)

Yes, The Phantom Menace. Say what you wish about the movie but the music brought me to a Galaxy far, far away. Otoh Gunga’s mysterious and ominous theme, Anakin’s Theme, Victory Theme, The Trade Federation March, and the (now) ubiquitous Duel of the Fates. Diverse, complex and emotional soundtrack that adds a lot to the music of the Saga without feeling detached from the style.

  1. Return of the Jedi (9/10)

This is very close for me to TPM, and I enjoy them both very much, but I rank it lower as it reuses some music. Jedi is a great score with nice, even if less varied themes. The Battle of Endor theme, the Ewok theme, the last duel between Vader and Luke, Jabba’s Sail Barge. Yes, they reuse a lot of cues but it’s a beautiful and catchy soundtrack.

  1. The Force Awakens (7.5/10)

Hard to rank from here down. As much as I try to, I cannot force myself to love TFAs soundtrack. I like it but it doesn’t resonate emotionally as those of the Original Trilogy, or TPMs. Ray’s Theme, The Scavenger are the highlights here and some of the best Williams has written for the Saga. Kylo Ren’s theme and March of the Resistance are also interesting pieces that twist older cues, and I’ve become fonder of them, but overall the soundtrack is bland. Not bad, just not captivating.

  1. Revenge of the Sith (7/10)

Loud, bombastic, repetitive. Padme’s Ruminations was a touching piece but I always feel like it doesn’t belong stylistically to anything else in the Saga. The Revenge of the Sith theme is probably the highlight here although it’s a bit too long for its own good. There are two tracks that are essentially variations of the same - Battle of the Heroes and Anakin vs. Obi-Wan. Good tracks that are so long that they become repetitive (especially the former). Overall, I think it’s too edited, too drab and too boring. Serviceable, but not in the style or quality of the soundtracks above.

  1. Attack of the Clones (7/10)

I’d rank it higher than ROTS of only it had more than just two original tracks! Among the Stars is a masterpiece that almost saves the movie when it plays, and Chase through Coruscant was a joyful and suspenseful track that truly reminded me of ANHs cues. Other than that, it’s just a rehash of TPM. A soundtrack I’ve never owned, never listened through more than once and I cannot remember anything else from it other than the two tracks mentioned above.

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ESB
SW
RotJ

Never listen to the others.

“First feel fear, then get angry. Then go with your life into the fight.” - Bill Mollison

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