8. Raiders of the Lost Ark
score by John Williams
The Raiders march, brimming with brash heroism and can-do gusto, is one of the most memorable of John Williams’ themes in a career slopping over with memorable themes. (Any composer today would kick orphans just to have one of them on his or her resume.) The score is one of the greatest in his ongoing creative collaboration with Steven Spielberg, a partnership that has been spectacularly fruitful for both men and has continued largely uninterrupted for forty years (Williams did not score The Color Purple in 1985, and a health issue prevented his participation in Spielberg’s forthcoming Bridge Of Spies). Along with the wildly romantic love theme, the score boasts a trio of major set pieces in which Williams effortlessly guides the mood and emotion: the bouncy, manic melody that accompanies Indiana Jones’ pursuit of a basketful of Marion through a Cairo bazaar; the pulse-pounding truck chase through the desert that effectively ratchets up the tension with its inexorably quickening tempo; and Indy’s discovery of the location of The Ark Of The Covenant, in which the Ark’s theme – gently hinted at earlier in the picture – firmly takes center stage and blooms into full orchestral majesty.
Look at that scene with the sound muted: without the music, it’s some dude climbing into a room, putting a stick in a hole and standing around waiting for the sun to give him a clue, after which he takes some measurements, writes down some stuff, and scrams. You could find similar activity in any construction site on Earth, but you wouldn’t call it entertainment; that scene needs Williams’ music to convey the required epic grandeur and biblical reverence for what was, up to that point, essentially a gilded box of dust. Which we haven’t even seen yet. The Ark is the Harry Lime of the movie, growing in stature by its absence on the screen, accompanied by all the talk about it and action around it. But some characters in Raiders – Indy among them – have their doubts about the worth of the Ark, or what it contains, or indeed its very existence. Until, there in the map room, the music has its say. And then you believe.
I submitted Temple of Doom in my list. It has the Indy Theme too as well as Slave Children’s Crusade, Short Round’s Theme, The Temple of Doom, Bug Tunnel and Death Trap… Lesser film perhaps, but better score, in my opinion. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNKAb75Cj_k&index=16&list=PL2yW2adfehiUbvYGdePxPazLHwJMR7e5Z
I agree, Steve B. I think that happened with a few of Williams’ scores in that era. Empire improved upon Star Wars, and I rate his Jaws 2 higher than Jaws, though both Star Wars and Jaws are among the best scores ever written.
I’m in agreement as well. The score for Temple is better although a lesser film. Two thoughts though. First, is it fair to say that its better though? I’m not sure any of the nonIndy theme parts can beat the superlative Indy Theme. Second, in Temple there’s a great central theme that Williams weaves in with the Indy theme at various points. I’m trying to think if that’s also true of Empire? Aside from the Imperial March/Vader’s theme and Yoda’s theme there doesn’t seem to be a non character specific theme? Maybe that’s partly the way the film is constructed around Vader/Yoda, but maybe I’m remembering it wrong?
Yes there is another theme- The Han/Leia love theme is interwoven with the main themes.
Han/Leia Theme (the signature theme for the Rebels in Empire):