What is Star Wars without its soundtrack? Music has always been essential to a galaxy far, far away, ever since those first John Williams notes blared over the opening crawl in 1977. No other musical score has permeated pop culture quite the way that Star Wars has, and the entire franchise is packed with memorable melodies, stretching across film and television. (Seriously. Try to find a person on this planet who can't hum along to "The Imperial March.")
Williams, of course, is synonymous with Star Wars, and the legendary composer has scored nine Skywalker movies across four decades. (He also returned in 2022 to compose the theme for Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+). But as the galaxy has continued to expand, so too has its music: In recent years, top-notch composers like Michael Giacchino, Nicholas Britell, and Ludwig Göransson have all put their own stamp on Star Wars. The result is a diverse musical soundtrack that bounces from genre to genre. Where else can you hear a gorgeous romantic melody, followed by a toe-tapping cantina jam?
Lucasfilm Ltd. Darth Vader in 'The Empire Strikes Back'
We at EW love a good Star Wars ranking, so we took it upon ourselves to categorize and rank the best of the galaxy's soundtrack. Read on for EW's ranking of the best Star Wars music of all time. (And for an in-depth breakdown including debate and discussion of our list, listen to the latest episode of our Star Wars podcast, Dagobah Dispatch.)
15. Victory Celebration, Return of the Jedi
As a general rule, the Star Wars special editions are filled with unnecessary changes, awkward retcons, and mediocre graphics. (The less said about CGI Jabba the Hutt, the better.) Still, there's one change that the special editions did get right: replacing the inane "Ewok Celebration," a.k.a. "Yub Nub," with the much more appropriate "Victory Celebration." The original song has its defenders — my Dagobah Dispatch cohost Dalton Ross is one of them — but "Yub Nub" fans are blinded by nostalgia. The original track is downright unlistenable, an awkwardly cheery misfire that undercuts the film's emotional weight. "Victory Celebration" is a far better fit, capturing the joy and melancholy of the Rebellion's triumph over the Empire. It's the perfect coda for the original trilogy. I'll take that over chanting Ewoks any day.
14. Obi-Wan Kenobi Theme
After scoring all nine Skywalker movies, John Williams announced his unofficial Star Wars retirement, closing out his legendary run with 2019's Rise of Skywalker. But in 2022, he made a surprise return to the galaxy, coming back to compose the theme for Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+. As the 90-year-old Williams explained at Star Wars Celebration that year, he realized that he'd written a theme for every major character except one, and he couldn't officially say goodbye without writing one last piece for the exiled Jedi master. The Obi-Wan theme isn't as instantly iconic as some of Williams' other pieces, but it nods to some of his best melodies, particularly the more mystical Force-y ones. The result is a fitting tribute to one of Star Wars' most beloved heroes.
13. The Book of Boba Fett Theme
The Book of Boba Fett may have underwhelmed as a show, but most Star Wars fans can agree: That theme song slaps. Mandalorian maestro Ludwig Göransson returns with a banger of a melody, propelled by deep, booming drums and chanting. It's the kind of song that makes you want to start a crime syndicate and maybe take over a small desert town.
12. Andor Theme
For the Disney+ spy series Andor, creator Tony Gilroy recruited composer Nicholas Britell, a.k.a. the man responsible for that now-iconic Succession theme. Britell crafted a synthy score that feels part Star Wars, part sketchy spy thriller. The theme song is a particular standout: Every episode has the same melody, but each version is slightly different. Episode 4, for example, has a pulsing drum beat and swelling strings, while Episode 9 goes full '80s synth.
11. Niamos! (Morlana Club Mix), Andor
With this first-season Andor highlight, Britell gives the Star Wars galaxy its first danceable club track. (Of course, that's if you don't count the disco remix of the original theme song, which never plays on screen but did once top the Billboard chart.) This grimy bop is named for the luxe tropical planet where Cassian Andor hides out, and it can be heard throughout the series. The best version is this one, which plays in the very first episode as Cassian searches for his sister.
10. Across the Stars, Attack of the Clones
The awkward love affair between Padmé and Anakin probably won't make you swoon — but Williams' score might. With "Across the Stars," the composer crafted a love song for the ages, a lavish orchestral theme that gives gravitas to an otherwise forgettable romance. (It might be the best thing in all of Attack of the Clones.) Even a clumsy monologue about sand sounds romantic when Williams scores it.
9. The Mandalorian Theme
Composer Ludwig Göransson won an Emmy for his contributions to The Mandalorian — and for good reason. Even if you're bingeing back-to-back episodes, this theme song is unskippable, a Western-inspired earworm that perfectly captures the show's gunslinger vibes. With its rhythmic drums and blaring horns, it's Ennio Morricone by way of Tatooine. And it's easily the best piece of non-Williams Star Wars music.
8. Yoda's Theme, The Empire Strikes Back
Look, Yoda shouldn't work. He's a slimy green puppet living in a swamp, who speaks in riddles and has questionable grammar. But from the moment this tiny Jedi master appears on screen, he feels fully real, bolstered by Williams' emotional theme. How can you not believe in the Force, when Yoda is lifting an X-wing with a swelling orchestra behind him?
7. Rey's Theme, The Force Awakens
Most of the sequel trilogy relies on familiar motifs, lifting musical cues from A New Hope or Empire Strikes Back. But Williams crafted an entirely new melody for Rey, and Daisy Ridley's desert scavenger gets one of the best musical pieces in any of the three sequels. It's a lonely composition, perfect for a lonely Jakku orphan, and there are hints of Force mysticism sprinkled throughout.
6. Princess Leia's Theme, A New Hope
The princess of Alderaan deserves an appropriately regal number — and this theme feels like Leia personified, fully capturing her warmth and courage. It's one of the slower pieces in A New Hope, but it's filled with heart, anchored by a solo horn and soaring strings. It's also surprisingly complex — perfect for a princess/diplomat/Rebel leader.
5. Cantina Band, A New Hope
Mos Eisley may be a wretched hive of scum and villainy, but those Tatooinians sure know how to boogie. From the moment Luke and Obi-Wan step into the spaceport cantina, they're greeted by the jazzy sounds of Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes. Alien jazz has never sounded so inviting, and it's a perfect contrast to the rest of the film's orchestral score. And man, those Modal Nodes are seasoned professionals: Even when Obi-Wan slices off a dude's arm, they go right back to their performance.
4. Binary Sunset/Force Theme, A New Hope
Every hero needs a theme — and Luke Skywalker gets one of the all-time best. This wistful melody is pure magic, and it pops up throughout the franchise (usually whenever someone uses the Force). But it's never more moving than when it first shows up in A New Hope, as Luke stares out at the horizon, watching the twin suns of Tatooine set. It almost feels more fantasy than sci-fi, and it's the perfect accompaniment for a hero's journey.
3. Duel of the Fates, The Phantom Menace
When Williams returned for the prequel trilogy, he could've coasted on old themes and throwbacks to familiar melodies. Instead, he delivered this Phantom Menace banger, one of the most epic pieces in film score history. "Duel of the Fates" gives a balletic, almost religious quality to Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon's climactic lightsaber battle against Darth Maul, using a full orchestra and choir for maximum drama. It proved so popular that in 1999, the song spent 11 days on MTV's TRL countdown. And rightfully so.
2. The Imperial March, The Empire Strikes Back
"The Imperial March" isn't just an iconic piece of movie music; it might be one of the most well-known melodies in all of pop culture. With its staccato rhythm and menacing horns, this fascist marching song feels like the Dark Side personified, the aural equivalent of Darth Vader strutting around the Death Star. It's the ultimate bad guy anthem, and 40 years later, there's a reason "The Imperial March" still strikes fear — and awe — into fans' hearts.
1. Main Title, A New Hope
What else could be No. 1? Williams' main theme is Star Wars personified, opening and closing each of the nine Skywalker films. Those blaring horns set the tone for the story to come, and the entire track is a masterpiece, part military fanfare and part swelling adventure theme. It's been discofied, parodied, and even covered by Bill Murray. It's the perfect movie song: warm, hopeful, and instantly memorable.