Legendary composer John Williams brought the world of Star Wars to life through his musical scores for the original and prequel trilogies. With the seventh installment in the franchise, The Force Awakens, he continues that tradition with a soundtrack fans examined closely before it was even released for clues to the new movie.
Listening to the soundtrack now, Williams made good on his promise that there would be some recognizable themes from the past for fans to find here. However, the soundtrack mostly provides music that is brand new and still fits perfectly with the style of Star Wars. It has a few pieces that would certainly make me rethink the order of my top Star Wars musical moments! The soundtrack even earned the 83-year-old Williams an amazing 50th Academy Award nomination.
With that being said, some pieces stand out much more than others on the 23-track album. Each is worth a listen, but in my opinion some are worth your time more than others. Here is my ranking of the music from The Force Awakens soundtrack.
What tracks from the movie would top your list? Tell us your favorite music from The Force Awakens in the below comment section!
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.
The Rathtars! (Track 9)
If there was any scene in the movie that to me felt unnecessary and not very exciting no matter how hard it tried, it was the scene featuring the rathtars on Han Solo and Chewbacca’s freighter. Maybe if it were shorter, it would have been better. Who knows? Unfortunately, the music here feels just as uninteresting. While it works with the scene and the action that takes place in it, it doesn’t do anything more than that and can’t really stand on its own. “The Rathtars!” won’t be a piece you remember for long after listening to it. However, it does include the short motif, which you can hear at 2:47 in the video above, that appears to basically be as close to a theme for Finn as there is in the soundtrack and appears within a few other action pieces as well. An assistant music professor from Tufts University explored the rhythm of this short theme on Mashable in December.
The Falcon (Track 7)
This is a fun track for the action sequence it was created for, but to me, like “The Rathtars!,” just doesn’t stand out much from Williams’ other action scores. It’s fun to hear familiar pieces of music worked into this, which is perfectly fitting since it’s the first time we get to see the Millennium Falcon back in action against TIE fighters. It’s those moments that succeed in making you feel a surge of nostalgia and excitement when listening to this. Other than that, this doesn’t offer too much on the soundtrack.
Rey Meets BB-8 (Track 4)
Here is a beautiful track for the meeting of two essential characters in the film. There’s something very sweet about the tune that captures the innocence of BB-8, who doesn’t want to be left all alone on Jakku. Rey might not want the droid to tag along, but how do you say no to such an adorable BB unit? The track is quite short, however, and doesn’t make much of a lasting impact beyond mainly being just a nice new piece of music.
That Girl With The Staff (Track 8)
To me, this is another track that works best when watching the movie rather than on its own due to the change in the middle, which matches a scene change from our heroes on the Millennium Falcon to the First Order. It’s slow and emotional, using parts of “Rey’s Theme” one minute as Rey and Finn take a breath to talk to each other before dealing with more problems, then becomes dark and dangerous the next thanks to Kylo Ren. It is one of the shortest on the soundtrack, but if there’s one thing I like about this piece it’s how the music impressively keeps that sense of mystery throughout its shift. No one on either side knows much about the girl helping BB-8 at this point, and that comes across even with the switch here.
Follow Me (Track 5)
Here’s another piece of music that accompanies another meeting between integral characters in the movie. For me, this is much more fun in its movements as an action piece than “The Falcon” or “The Rathtars!” It’s also more notable for being the first to blare that familiar motif as we see the Millennium Falcon for the first time, which is an unforgettable moment. The moment is more powerful when watching the film than just listening to the music, but still helped this piece make more of an impact on me than those other two.
Finn’s Confession (Track 10)
Williams is brilliant in how he manages to make his music express so many emotions and this piece is a great example of that. You can feel what Finn and Rey must be feeling at this point in every note here and it incorporates elements of “Rey’s Theme” impeccably. There are other touching pieces of music on this album that are more striking, but this does a stellar job of capturing the moment and really getting across the relationship that has grown between these two characters that is suddenly being cut short.
The Abduction (Track 14)
For good reason, the theme for Kylo Ren is prominent here. It’s among my favorite new musical elements in The Force Awakens and included in more than one track on this album. In an interview with the L.A. Times, Williams had this to say about the Ren theme: “There’s a more ruminative part that is usually done softly. I don’t think it portrays any particular weakness, but possibly hesitancy. But then there’s the motif that’s often strong, that seems to be the embodiment of evil. I thought that it should be a relative of Darth Vader, but also something entirely different in terms of melody.”
You’ll catch that here as the theme acts as a great lead in to this desperate and dire sounding piece that also includes “Rey’s Theme” as one of our heroes falls into the hands of the First Order.
Snoke (Track 17)
If you hear something familiar in this piece, you’re not alone. In fact the similarities between this and “Palpatine’s Teachings” on the Revenge of the Sith soundtrack are being used by fans to support the theory that Supreme Leader Snoke could actually be Darth Plagueis. This is because “Palpatine’s Teachings” is the music heard during the scene in which Palpatine tells Anakin Skywalker the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise. When you listen to them both there are certainly similarities, but whether or not that means anything remains to be seen. As Blastr pointed out earlier this month, the actor behind Snoke, Andy Serkis, said in an interview that the character is new to the Star Wars story. Still the music certainly conveys the same feelings as “Paltpatine’s Teachings” in that Snoke is evil and dangerous, with sinister intentions whether or not he is the Sith Lord.
Kylo Ren Arrives At The Battle (Track 13)
With this piece, you can really feel the battle on Takodana kicking into high gear! The music quickens and builds to Ren’s theme, and continues its fast pace from there. It’s short, but succeeds in giving you a sense of dread with the First Order’s continued assault and the arrival of Ren. It’s also another example of how, in my opinion, one of the best parts of this soundtrack is the smaller character motifs included within many of these larger tracks. I hope eventually these characters will have their themes presented on their own for us to enjoy like Rey does, but until then, they work well within many of the tracks here.
Main Title And The Attack On The Jakku Village (Track 1)
It’s hard to beat the opening notes heard at the start of every Star Wars movie, and hearing the “Main Title” when The Force Awakens begins certainly brings that same feeling of excitement and impending adventure that it did for the previous six films. Moving into “The Attack On The Jakku Village” this first track sets the tone for the film as it introduces us back into the galaxy and to the two groups we’re going to clearly be following throughout the movie. Here’s the first time we hear the theme associated with Kylo Ren as well, giving us a sense of the new villain before we even see him as his ship descends on Jakku. It may not be my favorite Star Wars piece to accompany the “Main Title,” but I think it’s one of the most interesting!
Scherzo For X-Wings (Track 21)
A scherzo can refer to part of a larger symphony or sonata, or just a quick moving piece of music and this is certainly quick! It’s hard not to imagine X-Wings in flight, battling TIEs when listening to this piece. You’ll hear a lot of the main theme here, but I love how Williams incorporates it into the track for a great new piece centered on one of the franchise’s most famous starships.
Maz’s Counsel (Track 11)
We don’t know much about Maz Kanata when we first meet her and we don’t learn much about her by the end of the characters’ first encounter with her either. Yet you know that she has something wise to say worth listening to, and part of what helps get that feeling across in the movie is the music. That mysteriousness is clear here as it slowly works up to the inclusion of the “Force Theme.” Unfortunately, the two songs written by Lin-Manual Miranda for Maz’s castle, “Jabba Flow” and “Dobra Doompa,” are not on the soundtrack, but at least we have this!
On The Inside (Track 18)
This is a suspenseful track that slowly builds as our heroes work to complete their mission before being noticed by the First Order, who begins to search for them on the Starkiller Base. I love how it quickens and moves to the louder Ren theme as the villains approach before dropping back down, making you wait for the moment when you know the two groups will, of course, have to meet! The ultimate crescendo leads to a quiet moment where you’re on the edge of your seat as one of the characters has to make a major decision. The music successfully holds up on its own outside the theater.
The Ways Of The Force (Track 20)
The lightsaber fight at the end of The Force Awakens is not one that will soon be forgotten, and this track fits perfectly with the meeting of these characters at last. We hear not just Ren’s motif once again, but Rey’s, along with classic themes we’ve heard before like the fantastic “Force Theme.” The way these work with each other leaves us with a spectacular piece fitting for this duel and the combination really helps tie this moment to the entire franchise.
The Scavenger (Track 2)
You truly get a sense of Rey’s loneliness, the mystery surrounding her, and her strength in this piece. Her theme appears within this, of course, as we meet the scavenger who is clearly meant to be more than a scavenger. There are some unmistakable hints of Williams’ lighter Harry Potter score here too, but it’s not similar enough to take away from this feeling distinctively for Star Wars and Rey. It ends on a rather sad, soft note, and is one of the most striking pieces on the soundtrack.
I Can Fly Anything (Track 3)
I found the music that accompanies Finn and Poe’s escape from the First Order Star Destroyer one of the most thrilling on the soundtrack. However, this may also rank high on my list because it is one of the few tracks that includes one of my favorite new character motifs. You’ll catch it starting at 1:19 in the video above and it’s essentially a theme for Poe, which explains why we don’t hear it much elsewhere since he’s not in the movie a lot. In fact, according to Mashable, the theme only appears three times! Hopefully, Poe will receive some more screen time in Episode VIII and we’ll be able to hear this motif some more.
Farewell And The Trip (Track 22)
This is one of the best mixtures of old and new Star Wars themes on the soundtrack. “Farewell And The Trip” ties together the journey we just witnessed in the film as it edges towards the conclusion. It honors the old characters we already love and acknowledges that we had to sadly say goodbye to someone precious from the past while making you feel like something new is about to start for Rey and the others. It gives the sense that no matter what that adventure is it may be new in some ways, but it is still Star Wars.
The Starkiller (Track 12)
The music accompanying a deadly weapon being fired and blowing up planets could have been loud, fast, and focused on representing the explosions that followed, yet Williams goes in a much slower and more powerful direction. This piece expresses everything about the situation flawlessly. The sadness of losing countless beings, the shock of such devastation, and the dreadful knowledge that there is once again an organization in the galaxy willing to go this far to achieve its goals. Anything else would not have been as moving as this rather short piece of music.
Torn Apart (Track 19)
While this track is more powerful knowing the scene it accompanies in the movie, it also manages to stand on its own as one you’ll probably find yourself listening to repeatedly. There are really two parts to this that are quite different from each other, but work so well together thanks to the fantastic transition in the middle. The first part perfectly captures the emotions of two characters finally coming face to face and of the inner conflict and struggle in Kylo Ren as he makes a decision. It builds to the ultimate emotional moment of the film about halfway through and what follows is the aftermath of Ren’s choice, a quicker more frantic pace as the world which had been watching unfreezes, feels the repercussions of Ren’s decision, and reacts to it.
Han And Leia (Track 15)
“Han and Leia” is perhaps the most nostalgia-inducing piece of music out of the 23, which is probably why I’ve replayed it so much since getting the soundtrack. It utilizes original trilogy music like “Princess Leia’s Theme,” “Han Solo and the Princess,” and the “Force Theme” while including new pieces like “March of the Resistance” and the theme for Kylo Ren for a combination that is the perfect reminder of where these characters came from and how things have changed since we last saw the two.
March Of The Resistance (Track 16)
This track wins for being the one stuck in my head the most! There’s something infectious about this rousing piece and I find myself constantly humming or whistling it. The heroic march stands out from what we’ve received from Williams’ in past Star Wars films and is really what makes the moment the Resistance’s fighters show up in the distance on Takodana so exciting.
The Jedi Steps And Finale (Track 23)
“The Jedi Steps” is a hauntingly beautiful piece of music. It matches the magical, gorgeous setting of the scene it accompanies perfectly. It’s one of Williams’ most stunning pieces of work and manages to incorporate original trilogy themes in a unique way so that they complement the piece well without taking away from what makes it new. It succeeds in conveying a sense of mystery and expectation as we know this is leading to something that we have been waiting for in the movie and the music starts to get more familiar the closer we get to reaching that moment.
It is a fantastic ending to the soundtrack that culminates in a spectacular finale that as usual combines much of the best music from the movie as the credits roll. I especially enjoy how it seems to move from the theme for Rey to Ren’s theme to Finn’s theme to Poe’s theme, connecting the four new characters together at one point. Plus at the end we get a lovely mix of “Rey’s Theme” with the “Force Theme,” which some fans are taking as a hint as to whom Rey might be related to.
Rey’s Theme (Track 6)
I’ve seen little debate about the fact that this is the track that stands out as the most original from the new film. Even with some parts reminiscent of Harry Potter again, it’s a beautiful new piece by Williams and perfect for Rey. It’s one of the most memorable of the new tracks that I find myself thinking about long after listening to it. In his interview with the L.A. Times, Williams said he immediately fell in love with Daisy Ridley and that it’s on purpose that the Rey theme is related to the “Force Theme.”
“It’s an interesting challenge with her because it doesn’t suggest a love theme in any way. It suggests a female adventurer, but with great strength. She’s a fighter, she’s infused with the Force, and it needed to be something that was strong but thoughtful,” Williams said.
“Rey’s Theme” is Williams’ crowning new addition to Star Wars music. I hope Williams will be able to give us even more pieces like this and return to work on the next two films. If this new soundtrack proved anything it’s how nice it is to have him back scoring the galaxy far, far away for us!