John Williams, The Man Who Made Us Listen to the Movies

John Williams Selected works for kids.

Original photo by Nationalparks [altered]. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The number of awards counted, films mentioned and superlatives used when presenting John Williams is probably not enough. One of the greatest American film composers of the 20th century, he is popular both for his epic and melodic themes in films like the Star Wars series, Superman, the Indiana Jones series, the first two Jurassic Park films, Schindler’s List, and the first 3 Harry Potter films among others.

His long-lasting collaboration with Steven Spielberg is a just a part of his soundtrack-writing career, which spans seven decades. He was nominated for and won various prestigious awards, and his successful and critically acclaimed works have influenced many other composers.

Table of Contents

  1. Composer ID
  2. Biography
  3. Listen and Watch
    1. Main Titles from “Star Wars” (1977)
    2. Main theme from “Superman” (1978)
    3. Imperial March (from “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” – 1980)
    4. The Raiders March (from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” – 1981)
    5. Over the Moon (from “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” – 1982)
    6. Flying (from “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” – 1982)
    7. Theme from “Jurassic Park” (1993)
    8. Theme from “Schindler’s List” (1993)
    9. Hedwig’s Theme (from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” – 2001)
    10. Catch Me If You Can (from “Catch Me If You Can” – 2002)
    11. Prayer for Peace (from “Munich” – 2005)
    12. Finale from “The BFG” (2016)
  4. John Williams – Playlist
  5. Where did this take place?
  6. John Williams’ Life Timeline

Composer ID

Name: John Williams
Nationality: US American
Born: 1932, New York City, U.S.

Biography

American composer John Williams was born February 8th, 1932, in Flushing, Queens, NYC. In 1948 he moved with his family to Los Angeles and graduated from North Hollywood High School in 1950. After graduation, John attended the University of California where he studied composition under Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. In 1951 he enlisted in the US Air Force where he performed and composed music for the military band.

Once John completed his military service, he moved back to New York City where he attended the Julliard School. While there, he studied piano and had aspirations to become a concert pianist but decided later to focus on composition.

John Williams’ early career saw him working as a studio pianist where he composed and recorded music for productions like Peter Gunn, Days of Wine and Roses, Charade, Sweet Smell of Success, West Side Story, The Apartment, Daddy-O, Because They’re Young, Gilligan’s Island, Bachelor Father, Kraft Suspense Theater, Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel, and Land of the Giants, Valley of the Dolls, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Fiddler on the Roof, Images, The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, Earthquake, and The Cowboys.

Young John Williams

Some of his most well-known collaborations were with Steven Spielberg (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Sugarland Express, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws, Empire of the Sun, the Indiana Jones franchise, Jurassic Park, Munich, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List, The Adventures of Tin-Tin, and War Horse), Clint Eastwood (The Eiger Sanction), George Lucas (Star Wars Franchise), Alfred Hitchcock (Family Plot), and Rob Marshall (Memoirs of a Geisha). The composer was also selected to compose the music for the first three films of the Harry Potter franchise, Superman Returns, the X-Men series, and Smallville.

John Williams has received numerous awards over the course of his career; 5 Academy Awards, 3 Emmy Awards, 4 Golden Globes, 25 Grammy’s, and 7 British Academy Awards (BAFTA). He is one of the most nominated artists on record. Up to 2022, he has been the Academy’s most-nominated living person and the second-most nominated person in the history of the Oscars. In addition to the above-mentioned awards, he as been inducted to the American Classical Music Hall of Fame, the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame, The Olympic Order, among others.

Williams has been employed as a conductor and composer for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Fenway Park, National Symphony Orchestra, US Army Herald Trumpets, Joint Armed Forces Chorus, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Berlin Philharmonic.

He is considered one of the world’s most influential film composers and regarded as one of the best composers in history.

Williams-Spielberg
Director Steven Spielberg has been one of the most frequent collaborators of John Williams.

Listen and Watch

Main Titles from “Star Wars” (1977)

Later titled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, this fantasy film by George Lucas made history as one of the most popular movies of its genre. Williams’ music played its part in the film’s popularity and was the composer’s biggest success to date.

Main theme from “Superman” (1978)

The soundtrack from the 1978 Richard Donner film “Superman” with Christopher Reeve, Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Ned Beatty, Margot Kidder, Valerie Perrine & Terrance Stamp was nominated for an Oscar.

Superman • Main Theme • John Williams

Imperial March (from “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” – 1980)

Although the opening theme from Star Wars was truly memorable, John Williams managed to repeat his creative success on the Star Wars sequel. Darth Vader’s theme, called “The Imperial March” stood the test of time and created a cultural milestone.

John Williams & Vienna Philharmonic – Williams: Imperial March (from “Star Wars”)

The Raiders March (from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” – 1981)

Having become a master of epic film soundtracks and having already won 2 Academy Awards, John Williams scored his fifth Steven Spielberg film. Just like Star Wars, the film featured Harrison Ford as its main actor and was a true hit.

The Raiders March (Original Version) - John Williams

Over the Moon (from “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” – 1982)

John Williams won another Academy Award for his work on the music from Spielberg’s “E.T.” and proved he could write magical themes for children-friendly film, something that he would do again in the future.

Over The Moon (From "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" Soundtrack)

Flying (from “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” – 1982)

This piece of music from “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” can be heard in one of the most memorable scenes in the film, where kids start flying while riding their bicycles. It won a Grammy for Best Arrangement on an Instrumental Recording.

John Williams Conducts Flying Theme From E.T (John Williams) [1080 Remastered]

Theme from “Jurassic Park” (1993)

A thriller with dinosaurs would turn out to be a historic film for its use of special effects. This recording with the Vienna Philarmonic is a medley of the Main theme and the End Titles from the movie.

John Williams & Vienna Philharmonic – Williams: Theme from “Jurassic Park”

Theme from “Schindler’s List” (1993)

When John Williams watched the first cut of Steven Spielberg’s film, he told him he would need a better composer. His soundtrack for “Schindler’s List” featured violinist Itzhak Perlman and won another Oscar in 1995.

Theme From Schindler's List

Hedwig’s Theme (from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” – 2001)

John Williams was the first composer for the much-loved “Harry Potter” film series. The theme he wrote for Hedwig became a true fan favourite.

P.S. We have our own Harry Potter glockenspiel tutorial for it!

Catch Me If You Can (from “Catch Me If You Can” – 2002)

In this exciting, brisk, Steven Spielberg film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, John Williams paid a homage to the great Henry Mancini, for whom he was a pianist when he was young.

Catch Me If You Can (Catch Me If You Can / Soundtrack)

Prayer for Peace (from “Munich” – 2005)

The film “Munich” was about the 1972 Olympics and the events that surrounded it. Spielberg couldn’t have asked for a more lavish soundtrack for a carefully directed film, and this 3-minute piece proves it.

Prayer for Peace from "Munich"

Finale from “The BFG” (2016)

Based on Roald Dahl’s story, “The BFG” follows a young girl and the Giant who introduces her to the wonders and risks of Giant County. John Williams’s soundtrack accompanies her adventures.

John Williams – Playlist

Listen to this comprehensive list of film works by John Williams we have created on Spotify.

Follow us there to get access to all our future playlists.


Where did this take place?

The composer was born and grew up in New York. In 1948, his family moved to Los Angeles, where John Williams still lives.

John Williams’ Life Timeline

Composer’s birth Composer’s birth
Initial Studies Initial Studies
Music Studies Music Studies
1st Oscar 1st Oscar
Boston Pops Boston Pops
Liberty Fanfare Liberty Fanfare
2nd Oscar 2nd Oscar
3rd Oscar 3rd Oscar
4th Oscar 4th Oscar
5th Oscar 5th Oscar
Harry Potter Harry Potter

Composer’s birth

1932

Initial Studies

1948

Studies composition with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco




Music Studies

1954

Attends the Juilliard School in New York




1st Oscar

1971

Wins his 1st Academy Award for Fiddler on the Roof




Boston Pops

1980

He is named nineteenth music director of the Boston Pops Orchestra




Liberty Fanfare

1986

Composes Liberty Fanfare for the re-dedication of the Statue of Liberty




2nd Oscar

1975

Steven Spielberg’s Jaws wins Best Original Score




3rd Oscar

1997

Star Wars wins Best Original Score




4th Oscar

1982

Best Original Score for E.T.




5th Oscar

1993

Schindler’s List wins Best Original Score




Harry Potter

2001

Writes the score for the first Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.




Did you like this post?

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 vote(s), average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading...

You may also like:

Ennio Morricone, Soundtracks of a Maestro

Life and Works of a Master | Tchaikovsky Facts for kids

Saint-Saëns: The Carnival of the Animals for kids

Leave a Reply