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artguy360

Which SW score has the best action music?

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Sorry if this conversation has already been had. Now if that some time has passed and we have all taken in TFA's score, I want to discuss: which SW has the best action music? Action scenes are an essential ingredient in any SW movie and JW has always written thrilling, fun music to accompany them. I'm not sure I can do a ranking of the best action music by movie but I do think each movie has it's own flavor to it's action music.

 

At the moment the action music in TPM score is really winning me over.  I love the use of percussion, it's got some killer, big drum sections. The action music in TPM is fast, fun, and kind of light on it's feet. It's not full of bass and also not full of drama. The music seens more thrilling than dramatic. In particular I love the Escape from Naboo music, everything from the underwater stuff to fighting stupid battle droids to the Queen's starship. Then there's the final battles music. Even with all the edits, there's still a lot of great music to appreciate. I love how DOTF get's a real workout both with it's chorus version and as an instrumental motif weaved into other action music. It's just a lot of fun. 

Here's an example from TPM, I don't think any other prequel score has percussion as fun as this. And the force theme is integrated so well here. Even the brass has a great lightness to it. 

 

 

 

If people could give their own impressions that'd be great. I really want to dig into each film's action music.

 

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9 minutes ago, Stefancos said:

TESB!

 

Battle of Hoth/The Asteroid Field is unbeatable.

Although those 2 tracks are great, the action highlight from TESB for me is the entire escape from Bespin sequence. JW does a great job there, even throwing in some of Yoda's theme and a sweeping rendition of Han and the Princess as they board the Falcon. And the end music to that track before the film cuts back to Luke and Vader is ridiculously good. 

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Yep. Battle of Hoth, Asteroid Field, and Rescue From Cloud City/Hyperspace make ESB undeniable on this front. 

 

SW's got the killer combo of Tie Fighter Attack and Battle of Yavin (maybe my two favorite action cues) but the rest are no match for ESB's best.

 

There's of course great action cues in each film. Special mention to TPM I guess for (apparently) having a trilogy's worth of action cues.

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6 hours ago, Drax said:

Definitely AOTC. Those rhythms in the Chase Through Coruscant and those urgent brass phrases in the fight against Jango Fett and that monster march in The Arena are incredible!

 

I actually really dig on that stuff! I'm still a proponent of the electric guitar in The Chase Through Coruscant.

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The electric guitar rocks!  

All 7 films have great action music, especially the original six

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My top three favourite action tracks are:

  • The Asteroid Field: This one is probably the most ingenious of the lot. When that cymbal and xylophone comes in at 1:58...and the string trills at 2:07...Williams totally aced it!
  • Chase Through Coruscant: This one has great energy, and it seems to just build up and build up through its over 7 min length. I always get chills when I hear those descending woodwind runs. It's definitely my favourite action track from the prequels.
  • The Ewok Battle: This one is just pure fun. Crazy combination of piano + tuned cowbells + pizzicato strings.

But for overall film, I have to go with ROTJ. The Ewok Battle (and The Forest Battle suite), Scout Walker Scramble etc. are great fun to listen to. But all the Rebel stuff (e.g. Sail Barge Assault) is great as well. I remember when I first saw the film I was blown away by how good it was, more than the other SWs.

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8 hours ago, Stefancos said:

TESB!

 

Battle of Hoth/The Asteroid Field is unbeatable.

 

This!  ESB is the standard to which all Star Wars music is judged.  The Duel is intense, Hyperspace, all.

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ESB for me, with ANH nipping at its heels and TPM not far behind. TPM boasts a great variety of action cues, most of which are associated with their own unique motivic ideas. ANH edges out with that rousing, swashbuckling, Korngoldian sound that makes every listen an utter thrill.

 

But ESB reigns supreme. It features action setpiece after action setpiece, each containing the perfect blend of thematic material, cue-specific motifs, and musical connective tissue. None of it is generic - from the robotic horror of the approaching walkers to the chaotic beauty of the asteroid field to the sorrow-tinged determination of the heroes' escape from Cloud City, everything here is tailored perfectly to the film's impressive emotional physique.

 

And best of all, the action music of ESB is satisfying. Phrases resolve in unexpected but emotionally satisfying ways. The mastery of tension and release is peerless here, on both the micro and macro scales. This score was written in a period when Williams was most possessed of this incredible ability to blend complexity with accessibility. The music here is challenging, but it also delivers a hefty emotional payoff.

 

Honorable mention to ROTJ. :)

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8 hours ago, Drax said:

Definitely AOTC. Those rhythms in the Chase Through Coruscant and those urgent brass phrases in the fight against Jango Fett and that monster march in The Arena are incredible!

 

I may agree with this. 

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9 hours ago, Drax said:

Definitely AOTC. Those rhythms in the Chase Through Coruscant and those urgent brass phrases in the fight against Jango Fett and that monster march in The Arena are incredible!

I think the action music in AOTC is the least interesting in the entire trilogy for me right now. I could never get into the Jango Fett stuff and the Arena march stuff, while great, barely features in the film. There's so much tracked Ep 1 music in the final 3rd of AOTC, it really ruins the musical experience for me. The Chase Through Coruscant is good, though it's the only action highlight of that film for me.

 

I'm still figuring out what to make of TFA's action music. I like the use of Finn's motif to give character to the early action stuff and I Can Fly Anything is really great. But beyond that, I have to keep listening.

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1. The Empire Strikes Back

2. Revenge of the Sith (second half)

3. Return of the Jedi

4. The New Hope

5. The Phantom Menace

6. The Force Awakens

7. Attack of the Clones

8.  Revenge of the Sith (first half)

 

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Funny you split ROTS up like that; The opening action music in ROTS is the only memorable action music in that score for me

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1 hour ago, JasonTHX said:

For me it'll always be that entire last hour of Jedi. And then he did the same with TOD the following year! Mind-blowing. No wonder he took a break in 85.

The last act of Jedi has some great action music, the Battle of Endor Part 1 and the final bit between Luke and Vader, but the rest of the battle of Endor and the Jabba's Barge action music is kind of uneventful for me. Similarly, ROTS doesn't seem to have much great action music aside from some fun, bombastic Grievous stuff. 

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2 hours ago, Jay said:

Funny you split ROTS up like that; The opening action music in ROTS is the only memorable action music in that score for me

Well, yeah, besides the opening cue most of the the action music in the first half is tracked from TPM and AOTC. The second half is a bit better but there's still some tracking. And the Grievous stuff is kind of boring (I must admit I do like Battle of the Heroes though).

 

The seven ranked based on action:

1. ESB

2. SW

3. ROTJ (Sail Barge Assault, last hour, lots of greatness)

4. TFA (Opening's great, I Can Fly Anything is spectacular, love the Finn motif stuff too, The Resistance=amazing, etc.)

5. TPM (lots of good, the best stuff is at the climax though so a little hard to appreciate with all the editing)

6. AOTC (The Chase is top notch, rest is solid, miserable tracking during Battle of Geonosis)

7. ROTS (Opening's great, Battle of the Heroes cool, rest meh)

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Overall, the winner for me is TESB. I would rank the full Battle of Hoth sequence, including the previous cues where Leia is briefing the rebels and the following Asteroid Field cue, even above the Battle on the Ice sequence in Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky, which is a pinnacle of action music.

 

Silver medal for ANH. Not only for the fantastic Here They Come / Battle of Yavin sequence, but also for the initial cues forming the "Imperial Attack" track.   

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2 hours ago, Datameister said:

ESB for me, with ANH nipping at its heels and TPM not far behind. TPM boasts a great variety of action cues, most of which are associated with their own unique motivic ideas. ANH edges out with that rousing, swashbuckling, Korngoldian sound that makes every listen an utter thrill.

 

But ESB reigns supreme. It features action setpiece after action setpiece, each containing the perfect blend of thematic material, cue-specific motifs, and musical connective tissue. None of it is generic - from the robotic horror of the approaching walkers to the chaotic beauty of the asteroid field to the sorrow-tinged determination of the heroes' escape from Cloud City, everything here is tailored perfectly to the film's impressive emotional physique.

 

And best of all, the action music of ESB is satisfying. Phrases resolve in unexpected but emotionally satisfying ways. The mastery of tension and release is peerless here, on both the micro and macro scales. This score was written in a period when Williams was most possessed of this incredible ability to blend complexity with accessibility. The music here is challenging, but it also delivers a hefty emotional payoff.

 

Honorable mention to ROTJ. :)

 

I think the reason Jedi jumped to my mind for best action music was because ROTJ is a very delineated score... It has a bunch of action cues, some scene-setting cues, a few emotional cues, a few suspense cues.  


Empire, on the other hand, I kind of view as like one long operatic score.  It's like one long piece that ebbs and flows as the story does.  So while yea it does have absolutely amazing action music, ROTJ has some great action material in more digestible chunks instead of being essential parts of a larger whole.  

 

Or something like that :P

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Again, Empire if not on Battle in the Snow alone and then A New Hope with Ben Kenobi's Death/TIE Fighter Attack being right at the top of my list.

 

And a mention for Destruction of Xizor's Palace from Shadows.

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Not being remotely familiar with the OT (deal with it), each score since TPM frustratingly has both fantastic cues, and rather aimless material, together.

 

For example, in TFA, I love I Can Fly Anything, but still, after many listens, can't understand what JW is trying to do in The Rathtars! No structure whatsoever to my ears.

 

RotS - the opening battle is so much fun, yet some of the other action bits towards the middle are so stodgy that it feels anyone could've written them.

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Well, "The Rathtars!" (the OST track) is a combination of 4 different cues (from the same area of the film), combined together in one track.  It's not a continuous 4 minute piece of music, there's actually unreleased cues in between all the cues that are here.  I'm not really sure why he thought it made sense to combine the music for Rey and Finn meeting Han and Chewie with the Rathtar scene, really, or why he didn't include the cue for Han going into the cockpit to strains of Luke's Theme in there.

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I mean he micro-edits Desert Chase for lacking 'musical logic', but presents that on TFA?

 

I'm not quite the fan of the former that many are, but the unedited version is galaxies beyond Rathtars. I cannot understand his thinking.

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15 hours ago, artguy360 said:

Although those 2 tracks are great, the action highlight from TESB for me is the entire escape from Bespin sequence.

 

Nah. Attacking a Star Destroyer.

 

Tough question overall. They all have great action music. ANH and ESB have tons of it. TPM has a lot. AOTC has a lot (unlike most, I'm a fan of its action cues). ROTS has the opening battle. TFA has plenty.

 

ROTJ is... interesting. Curious to see so many of you picking it as their favourite, because when I think about it, all it's great moments for me are its non-action bits.

 

TPM's Escape from Naboo gets a bonus medal from me: It's the only Goldsmith style (in sounds/textures/drive) action cue Williams has ever written. And it's jazzy at the same time.

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5 minutes ago, Sharky said:

ANH's action music doesn't appeal to me much these days. I find it tinny and lacking in sex appeal.

 

1. AOTC

2. ESB

3. TPM

4. TFA

5. ROTJ

6. ROTS

7. ANH

This is an interesting ranking. I agree with ESB, TPM, and TFA being grouped in this way but can you talk about why you have ATOC at number 1? I've tried to get into the action music for Ep 2 but it just sounds flat to me (outside of the speeder chase) and most of the 3rd act action music is omitted or terribly presented. 

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I like this one too

Quote

TPM's

Escape from Naboo

gets a bonus medal from me: It's the only Goldsmith style (in sounds/textures/drive) action cue Williams has ever written. And it's jazzy at the same time.

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15 minutes ago, artguy360 said:

This is an interesting ranking. I agree with ESB, TPM, and TFA being grouped in this way but can you talk about why you have ATOC at number 1? I've tried to get into the action music for Ep 2 but it just sounds flat to me (outside of the speeder chase) and most of the 3rd act action music is omitted or terribly presented. 

 

It just has a great visceral quality, and aside from the speeder chase, there's also Anakin's massacre of the sand people (this contains one of my favourite prequel quotes of the Imperial March - in dotted quarter notes over a 3/4 pulse), the droid factory scene, and the two duels with Jango Fett.

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Chase Through the Coruscant is one of Williams finest action setpieces. It's really modern Williams at his finest, perfectly encapsulating so much of the kind of music he was writing at that period.

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2 hours ago, Sharky said:

ANH's action music doesn't appeal to me much these days. I find it tinny and lacking in sex appeal.

 

1. AOTC

2. ESB

3. TPM

4. TFA

5. ROTJ

6. ROTS

7. ANH

 

I reckon this is how I'd rank them as well.  TFA might swap with TPM though. 

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