Top Five: John Williams

Amanda Kirkham

John Williams recently earned his 49th Oscar nomination for The Book Thief. In honor of this great achievement, I’ve decided to focus my Top Five this week on his works. Here are my Top Five John Williams Scores.

5. Superman (1978), Nominated

Christopher Reeve was the perfect embodiment of Superman and Clark Kent. He was charming and handsome as the dashing superhero, and endearingly awkward as the alter ego. He required the perfect soundtrack to accompany a flawless portrayal of the famed comic book icon, and John Williams delivered just that. His score is larger than life and sounds distinctly American, with its fanfare inclinations. Superman is, after all, about “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” John Williams understood the good-boy character of Superman, as well as the light-hearted nature of the story. The music he provided underscores the fun tone of the film perfectly.

superman-christopher-reeve-new-york

4. Jurassic Park (1993), Not Nominated

I, as much as everyone else that experienced the 90s, am highly anticipating Jurassic World (set for release June 2015). This is of course because Jurassic Park was a huge part of my childhood. I had plenty of nightmares involving dinosaurs chasing me, and there was always that distinctive music playing in my dreams. John Williams’ score for the film both inspires and terrifies. When Dr. Grant (Sam Neill) first encounters the dinosaurs, the music swells, giving it a wonderful sense of hope and awestruck amazement. Then there is an incredible boom, warning that something big is coming, paired with a flute to give the listener the feeling of being in a jungle, surrounded by the unknown and probably dangerous. Williams truly knows how to evoke not only the emotion of the film but the environment as well.

3. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), Won

An epic story from a “long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” demands a soundtrack just as grand. Thankfully, John Williams was there to answer the call. His composition for the film has high levels of heroic themes, matched with romantic melodies to invoke a sensation of excitement and adventure. I think it’s incredible how Williams combines musical sounds to create a space-like atmosphere. Some of the lines of music sound just like what one might imagine a twinkling star would. Then he throws a loop in it all by utilizing the instruments to sound mechanical, or even animal-like to represent the action of a scene. And let’s not forget that incredible march that signals the entrance of the films’ most infamous character, Darth Vader. Its strong, deep notes convey a heavy military presence perfectly suited for the character.

2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Nominated

Another adventure film that John Williams provided just as awesome a score for (he’s pretty good at those). Indiana Jones is an everyman’s hero. He’s not superhuman but he can still kick butt and take names. He is what normal people pretend they could be (smart, confident, and handsome as hell). The Raiders theme that Williams created is like an exhilarating thrill ride. It fits the character impeccably because he isn’t a straight-shooter when it comes to his escapades. He’s all over the map, up and down, never going about things in a typical fashion. Williams’ music reflects this carefree, impetuous attitude with it’s energetic score, and upbeat notes that evoke that sense of adventure the film expresses.

1. Jaws (1975), Won

Let’s all be honest, never have two notes been so terrifying to audiences as those depicting the monster from the deep in Jaws. John Williams’ music in the film has the extra responsibility of representing the villain, for an hour, before the audience even gets a glimpse of it. He achieves this with a dark, predatorial sound that consists of such a simple note arrangement. It’s quite brilliant. The rest of the score contains exciting, thrill-seeking moments, like when the trio set out to hunt the shark down. Then there are the horrifying sounds, like the one that recreates an inhuman scream when Hooper is inspecting Ben Gardner’s boat, and gets an unpleasant surprise. In my opinion, this is a perfect film, with a perfect score, and is both Steven Spielberg’s and John Williams’ best work.

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