A movie’s soundtrack is one of the most significant elements of a film, and Star Wars is known for having some of the most impactful music in movie history. It sets the mood for the whole story and usually lets you know what will happen in the next few minutes. For example, creepy music in a horror movie will have you wanting to hide behind a pillow as you wait for the next jump scare; the villain’s theme music lets you know they’re about to make an epic entrance, and a slowly building hero’s theme lets you know that the hero of the film is about to throw off any hardships they might have faced during the film and defeat their villain in the most epic way possible.
Star Wars has had several talented composers over the years. As a result, the franchise has a collection of awesome music and theme songs that can hype fans up no matter where they are.
Let’s look at some of the best Star Wars music themes that have ever graced fans’ ears.
1. The Imperial March
By far the most iconic of any Star Wars music themes, it has been aptly deemed Darth Vader’s theme song. The cacophony of trumpets was first heard in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. A fleet of Star Destroyers is seen coming together as the trumpets begin, and we are shown a fraction of the Empire’s power post-destruction of the Death Star. The camera then switches to the back of Darth Vader’s helmet as he looks out onto his fleet.
The theme briefly fades as an admiral and captain discuss a potential siting of a rebel base and begins to pick up slightly as the admiral attempts to correct Darth Vader. Then, it’s back into full swing as Vader walks away, having finished giving instructions.
Star Wars fans have heard the theme used in several places. Elements of it were used in tracks like “The Battle of Hoth”, “The Asteroid Field”, and “The Clash of Lightsabers”. During the prequel trilogy, it was used to foreshadow Anakin’s fall, playing at critical moments such as when he admits to Padmé Amidala that he slaughtered a tribe of Tusken Raiders or when he tells Mace Windu about Darth Sidious’ true identity.
The theme makes a few appearances during The Clone Wars and had a brief stint in Kenobi; however, its most excellent use is in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, during the hallway scene.
As Vader cuts through rebel soldiers, the theme is slowed and joined with a chorus reminiscent of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Finally, the theme is played outright as he watches the Tantive IV fly away.
John Williams did an excellent job composing one of the most brilliant music themes in the Star Wars universe.
2. The Mandalorian Theme
The Mandalorian theme became a fan favourite from the moment the first few notes of Ludwig Göransson’s masterpiece introduced the title page. It is used brilliantly throughout the series, playing quietly in the background in quieter moments, pulling you into the character’s story and playing loud and proudly during fight scenes, keeping fans’ excitement focused as Din takes out enemy after enemy.
While the theme can be loud and overwhelming sometimes, it doesn’t take away from what’s happening on screen and draws your attention closer in some moments. For example, I found myself leaning towards the screen with the music every time Din stealthily made his way around a ship or city. The theme matched its character perfectly and almost became more popular than him.
Some of the best uses of The Mandalorian theme were at the end of Chapter 16: The Rescue, which was a quiet yet sweet send-off for Grogu reminiscent of the main theme, and in The Book of Boba Fett specifically when Fett and Fennec Shand are discussing who they can go to for help and at the beginning of the Din Djarin central episode. The Mandalorian fans went nuts over both moments, the first because they were excited about seeing their favourite character again and the second when they realised just how much of their favourite character they’d get to see.
3. Duel of the Fates
Composed by John Williams for Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, this theme is widely considered one of the greatest by Star Wars fans. It is one of the most essential pieces of music in the prequel trilogy, and elements of it are seen in all three films. It is used in moments that solidify the fate of the Jedi and Anakin Skywalker.
Dave Filoni brilliantly explained its use during the lightsaber duel between Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul. For Qui-Gon, the fight was not just about getting rid of a Sith but a fight for a young boy’s future. He knows that Anakin will have a hard time being away from the only parent he has ever known and that the boy will need a father figure, so he fights to ensure he can take on that role for Anakin. The loss of Qui-Gon symbolised the end of the Jedi and was the first of many cascading dominos that led to Anakin’s fall.
An abridged version of the theme appears in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones when Anakin searches for his mother. Appropriate given that Shmi’s death is the second domino to fall.
You can hear pieces of a tragic version of the theme during Yoda and Darth Sidious’ battle on Coruscant and Vader and Kenobi’s duel on Mustafar.
The song can also be heard in The Phantom Apprentice, an episode in Star Wars: The Clone Wars that sees Ahsoka Tano and Maul duel.
4. Princess Leia’s Theme
This slow melody is the perfect music for everyone’s favourite princess, diplomat and Rebel leader. It’s generally used in quieter moments of the original trilogy and perfectly captures Leia’s personality, showing off her warmer side without getting rid of her courage and bravery. It’s generally used in moments we see Leia at her most vulnerable, such as when she finally confesses her love for Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back, the moment she attempts a daring rescue and frees him from the carbonite he’s frozen in, in Return of the Jedi and when she squeezes Han into her as she asks him to bring their son home like she can’t get enough of him in Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
John Williams did a brilliant job with this surprisingly complex piece filled with heart.
5. The Main Title Theme
Of course, the greatest of the many Star Wars music themes is the one that has opened and closed every film in the Skywalker Saga. There’s no easier way to excite a Star Wars fan than playing the main theme. Its blaring introductory trumpets are enough to make anyone smile like an idiot.
Even though it’s been parodied several times over, anyone who listens to it is sure to admit that it is the best of the Star Wars theme songs.
6. Binary Sunset
Luke’s theme is one of the most uplifting themes in Star Wars. It begins subtle, quiet, and almost shy, then crescendos into the epic piece we know it as. It’s the perfect reflection of Luke Skywalker, who started as an unsure farm boy thrown into the complexities of the galaxy around him and grew into one of the greatest Jedi Star Wars has ever known, defeating Emperor Palpatine and helping Darth Vader recognise the redemptive good inside himself.
The wistful melody frequently pops up throughout the franchise and immediately lets fans know that, despite all the hardships the characters are going through, there is still hope for them and the galaxy at large.
The song is used in four very distinct moments: In Episode IV:ANew Hope, when Luke gazes out at Tatooine’s twin suns after his uncle refuses to let him join the Rebellion; at the end of Episode VI: Revenge of the Sith, as Owen and Beru, look over Tatooine as they are entrusted with their nephew and the little bit of hope that remains for the quickly collapsing galaxy.
We hear it again in Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, as Luke learns to accept his failures and makes one last legendary sacrifice. And finally, we hear it at the end of Episode IX: Rise of Skywalker, when Rey looks up at the twin suns of Tatooine and makes the decision to let Palpatine and his reign of terror end with her as she takes on the Skywalker name.
One thing always present on the horizon when the theme plays is a pair of twin suns, one an almost pale pink, the other a blood-red. The suns symbolise a choice the characters looking at it will have to make for the greater good of the galaxy and the seemingly never-ending war between the light and dark sides of the Force.
The Cantina Band is one of the best parts of A New Hope. More than used to the villainy of many of those living on the desert planet of Tatooine and hoping to add something to the atmosphere of the Cantina Figrin and the Modal Nodes performed gifted the Tatooinians ears with their lively jazz music.
They briefly stop when Obi-Wan de-arms one of the Cantina’s patrons and quickly go back to playing. The Modal Nodes are mostly unperturbed by the scene, clearly used to similar events happening regularly when performing. It’s unlike the rest of the soundtrack, but brilliant nonetheless.
8. The Throne Room
This song ended A New Hope ended and was John Williams’ crowning achievement of the first movie. After destroying the Death Star and doing their part to weaken the Empire, the Rebels celebrate their success by awarding Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Chewbacca with medals to honour their roles in the battle.
The melody is brought to life through trumpets and drums and contains hints of the build-up portions of “Binary Sunset” and the main portion of the main theme. The song perfectly leads into the end credits and leaves you feeling as happy as the characters on screen with its cheery, joyful tunes.
9. The Imperial Suite
Composed by Michael Giacchino, The Imperial Suite is one of the greatest Star Wars tracks. Hailing from Rogue One, the one is much darker than some of its predecessors and is reminiscent of the Imperial March, though with a more sinister undertone.
No matter many times you watch the film, the theme leaves audiences feeling tense and stressed as they watch events play out. You know what will happen, yet a part of you still worries for the characters and their unchangeable fates.
10. Rey’s Theme
Rey’s theme is one of the best parts of the sequel trilogy and the perfect song for such a character. It’s lonely and melancholy, with bits of hope and mysticism sprinkled around it. It begins a slow build, throwing in bits and pieces reminiscent of Binary Sunset as it crescendos. Then, it becomes quieter and lonely again, but this time hope remains.
It’s the perfect melody for her and tells a very simplified yet beautiful story of Rey, the orphan on Jakku. She’s lonely in the beginning, waiting for the parents she refuses to admit will never return, then she meets Finn and Han Solo, and her world starts to change as she develops friendships and mentorships. Though she’s still desperate to return to Jakku, she can see herself staying with these people that she’s started to care for.
Then she loses Finn and Han, and she feels lonely again, though there’s hope that she might be able to find a mentor in the Jedi master whose lightsaber she briefly wielded.
11. Across the Stars
This love theme was the perfect creation for the unfortunately fated romance between Padmé and Anakin. It starts as a quiet, curious, hopeful, and almost sweet melody that turns mournful but still holds onto that hopeful tune. However, after its crescendo, it begins to fall and sounds borderline sinister as quiet trumpets hint at Anakin’s turn and the unfortunate end of the husband and wife.
However, hopefulness remains in the background of the fall and as the music builds, that hope builds with it, but it is now fighting for its spot amongst the mournfulness. As the trumpets of the coming fall return, the track finishes with a sad piece that mourns the love story that could have been.
As I said before, it’s the perfect accompaniment to Padmé and Anakin’s love story, which has its sweet and tragic moments as the couple try to hide their marriage from the whole galaxy and Anakin is plagued with images of the love of his life dying.
12. Yoda’s Theme
Yoda is arguably one of the best characters in the Star Wars franchise, and his theme is just as great. It is a quiet yet powerful composition sprinkled with hints of cheerfulness and a sense of deep sadness. All of these are a perfect reflection of the ancient Jedi master.
He has a quiet wisdom that many of his past students and much of the long-gone Jedi Council respect and power that is beyond anything Luke can initially understand. The hints of cheerfulness reflect his more mischievous nature, which is even more fun to watch play out after the prequels. All of this is brought together by the deep sadness that has undoubtedly haunted Yoda for a good 20+ years.
Yoda must feel overwhelming guilt for how events played out in Revenge of the Sith, especially since there are things he might have been able to do to stop it. The guilt is evident in his refusal to train Luke until much prompting from Obi-Wan.
13. Andor Theme
Not only is Andor one of the better stories told in the Star Wars universe, with flawed characters and a version of the Empire that is deeply terrifying, but it also has some of the best music. Nicholas Britell was responsible for the synthy scores that fit the sketchy Star Wars spy thriller perfectly with the rest of the universe.
Britell created a different theme song for every episode, and through each has the same melody, they are all different, with one accompanied by a pulsing drum beat and another sounding reminiscent of the 80s synth. The themes match the tone of the tense episodes that will leave you feeling worried for Cassian Andor, despite knowing when his ultimate end will be.
Fans particularly enjoyed the Morlana Club Mix (Niamos!) that plays while Cassian is searching for his sister. It can be heard throughout the series, but the first version you hear is definitely the best.