Return of the Jedi (Williams, 1983)

Star Wars Ep. IV:
A New Hope
Star Wars Ep. V:
The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars Ep. VI:
Return of the Jedi

(Early poster before "Revenge" was changed to "Return")

     After scoring "Star Wars" (1977) and "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980), it was natural for John Williams to return and finish out the trilogy, summarizing his thematic material from these first 2 films and adding new themes for the climax.  Like the recording for "Star Wars", and "Empire", this score was also orchestrated by Herbert Spencer, conducted by Williams himself, and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra (10 days over January and February of 1983).

     The music for "Return of the Jedi" has been released in several forms, with the most complete being the Special Edition double CD released in 1997 (also re-packaged in 2004 and just recently in a digital collection, but both without the excellent liner notes).  The initial version of this score was a single LP, in which Williams re-combined and re-sequenced cues to create a "listening experience".  The 1997 Special Edition is basically in film order (with some bonus cues and concert arrangements placed in between and at the end of the 2 discs), and this is what I'll be describing below.  "Return of the Jedi" also features 2 new recordings specific to the 1997 Special Edition release of "Return of the Jedi": "Jedi Rocks" and "Victory Celebration".  Consequently, a few cues ("Lapti Nek" remix from Jabba's palace, Ewok Celebration music...) from the original release were left off (but can be found on the "Star Wars Anthology" from 1993).

     The most important themes introduced in Episode VI are the Luke-Leia "sibling" theme, the Emperor's sinister, male chorus-driven theme, Jabba the Hutt's theme, the propulsive "Trap" theme and the Ewok themes.  The Luke-Leia theme and 2 versions of the Ewok theme (march and fight) each get concert arrangements.

Trk Dur Title Film Action and Themes
1 0:23 20th Century Fox Fanfare 
(Alfred Newman 1933/54)
  • 0:00: Fox logo (from 1980 ESB recording)
2 9:17 Main Title STAR WARS logo followed by scrolling text (Luke theme, brassy and noble)
  • 0:00: Fanfare
  • 0:07: Luke theme
  • 0:26: Luke B theme
  • 0:48: Luke theme
Approaching The Death Star
  • 1:26: Darth Vader's shuttle arrives at the new Death Star station (atmospheric textures, high and low figures dialogue, Trap theme (2:26) interrupted by Vader theme at 2:55, followed by various arrangements of the Vader theme)
"Death Star in Disarray"
  • 5:15: Unused here, possibly re-purposed in Battle of Endor sequence (hint of Trap theme, Vader theme, synths)
Tatooine Rendezvous
  • 5:43: Deleted scene: Darth Vader tries to mentally reach Luke on Tatooine (eerie strings, low brass, flute)
  • 6:36: Deleted scene: Luke assembles a new lightsaber and secretly places it inside Artoo (Luke theme fragment, new light Droids wind theme on trumpet)
  • 7:16: Artoo and Threepio travel to Jabba the Hutt's palace (droid theme slightly more lively)
  • 7:47: The Droids come to a massive door, and are then escorted into Jabba's shadowy palace by Bib Fortuna to an audience with the massive Hutt (dissonant, heavy wind/brass textures, low and high dialogue figures ending in Jabba tuba figure, unused)
3 1:17 The Droids are Captured
  • 0:00: Jabba points out Han Solo's frozen body against the wall, Artoo and Threepio are assigned to Jabba's droid labor pool (distressed strings and brass, leading to some brief exotic scales and rhythms)
4 2:50 Bounty for a Wookiee
  • 0:00: A mysterious bounty hunter (Leia in disguise) arrives with Chewbacca as prisoner (high percussive/wind texture into wind/brass figures, Jabba's "jocular" theme from 0:20 on tuba, then later also on winds
  • 1:52: The bounty hunter forces Jabba to renegotiate Chewie's price with a thermal detonator (tense brass, eventually becoming timpani rolls and low winds)
5 4:01 Han Solo Returns
  • 0:00: Leia secretly frees Han from the carbon freeze unit (atmospheric brass, strings and percussion, brass-reinforced accents when Han is revealed and then "defrosted")
  • 2:24: Leia removes her mask to reveal her true identity to Han, but Jabba reveals that it was a trap and all are taken prisoner (Han-Leia Love theme, Jabba theme)
6 8:49 Luke Confronts Jabba
  • 0:00: Luke arrives at Jabba's palace and attempts to "negotiate", but his Jedi mind powers don't work on Jabba (various transient figures over low textures and synth, muted brass, fragments of Jabba theme)
Den of the Rancor
  • 3:14: Luke falls into the Rancor pit and battles the giant creature (lurching brass and clanking percussion action cue with some wind ornaments)
  • 5:17: Luke manages to wedge a big bone into the Rancor's jaws (Force and Luke theme fragments, pulsing rhythm, etc..., speeding up)
  • 6:40: Luke kills the Rancor by crushing it under a falling gate (timpani rolls, synth)
Sarlacc Sentence
  • 7:01: Jabba sentences the heroes to death at the Sarlacc pit (atmospheric, dissonant string/muted brass textures, tolling bells)
7 6:02 The Pit of Carkoon
  • 0:00: As Luke is forced onto a gangplank over the hungry sand creature, Jabba asks that they die honorably (low textures, Jabba theme) 
Sail Barge Assault
  • 0:58: With Luke at the end of the gangplank, Artoo sends him his lightsaber, and Luke proceeds to fight off Jabba's henchmen (patient horn accents lead to Luke theme, Rebel fanfare, Imperial rhythm theme, Luke theme, etc)
  • 2:48: Leia begins strangling Jabba with her chain (Jabba motif, TIE fighter attack motif, Rebel fanfare material, Luke theme, etc.)
  • 4:51: Han frees Lando from the Sarlacc (rising tension string tremoli, victory fanfare, Rebel fanfare)
  • 5:24: Leia and Luke swing from Jabba's sandbarge to the escape boat, as Jabba's barge explodes.  The heroes split up in space (Luke swashbuckling motif, victory theme)
8 10:57 The Emperor Arrives
  • 0:00: The Emperor's shuttle lands on the new Death Star (2 bold statements of Vader theme bookend echoing trumpet and horn solo figures, leading to eerie atmospheric textures)
  • 1:05: Vader greets the Emperor and they discuss Luke - "Only together can we turn him to the Dark side of the Force" (Emperor theme with low male wordless choir, ending with Vader motif)
The Death of Yoda
  • 2:03: Luke returns to Dagobah and visits the old and dying Yoda - "Soon will I rest…forever sleep.  Earned it I have." (Luke theme (unused), Yoda theme, Force theme, Yoda theme)
  • 3:45: Luke asks Yoda if Vader is really his father (subtle Vader hint with timpani, Luke fragment, sustained high harmonies with harp and bells) - "Your father he is.  Told you did he?" (Force theme, Yoda theme, Force theme, etc)
  • 5:55: Yoda warns Luke about the Emperor, hints of another Skywalker, and then finally becomes "one with the Force".  Soon Obi-Wan's ghost appears... (low strings, the Force theme with high counter-melody pattern, altered Yoda theme with solemn "spirit" cadence (7:13), Force theme)
Obi-Wan's Revelation
  • 8:05: Luke confers with Ben Kenobi about Vader (swooping winds, glockenspiel, ethereal, questioning Force theme variations, unused)
  • 10:13: Luke realizes that Leia is his sister.  Scene cuts back to Rebel forces (Leia theme, wind fanfare)
9 2:11 Alliance Assembly
  • 0:00: The Rebel leadership plan an attack on the Death Star with the Emperor aboard ("Many Bothans died to bring us this information...").  Luke arrives just in time to join Han's ground force to Endor (pensive brass/strings, subtle Rebel fanfare variation... Luke theme on flute, understated snare texture)
10 4:07 Shuttle Tydirium Approaches Endor
  • 0:00: The heroes depart for Endor in a stolen Imperial shuttle - "Here we go again..." (tense textures, descending horns, etc.)
  • 0:36: Vader speaks with the Emperor about setting a trap for the Rebels (low moaning textures from strings, winds and wordless choir)
  • 1:12: The stolen shuttle approaches the Death Star, Vader senses Luke aboard it (descending horns/strings and swelling suspense textures, Force theme, Vader theme, Force theme, hints of Trap theme in strings rhythm, Vader motif)
11 9:38 Speeder Bike Chase
  • 0:00: A surprise attack on some Stormtroopers fails and a speeder bike chase ensues (quiet textures break into trumpeting brass alarms, action strings)
Land of the Ewoks
  • 1:20: Luke returns after the chase but Leia is missing.  The squad goes off in search of her with the Droids (light underscore with descending horns/winds)
  • 2:11: Leia encounters an Ewok (suspenseful strings alternating with "tip-toe" winds, synth figures)
  • 3:26: Leia gives the Ewok some food (whimsical Ewok march on ethnic winds/percussion)
  • 4:15: A Stormtrooper interrupts but the Ewok helps Leia escape (tension and accents, Leia theme, Ewok march)
  • 5:20: Vader meets with the Emperor about Luke - "I wonder if your feelings on this matter are clear, Lord Vader..." (announced by trumpet blasts, then low textures, Vader fragment, Emperor theme)
  • 7:01: Back on Endor, Luke and Han find signs of Leia, but are soon caught in a suspended Ewok animal trap - "Great Chewie, always thinking with your stomach!" (Leia theme, Han-Leia Love theme, suspenseful to playful wind/string textures and accents, ending with falling strings and Han-Leia Love theme as Artoo frees them from the net)
  • 8:53: Surrounded by Ewoks (low textures with trilling winds/string harmonics, hint of Ewok motif)
12 2:45 The Levitation
  • 0:00: In order to impress the Ewoks, Luke uses the Force to levitate Threepio, Leia appears and they all become friends (eerie rising strings/synth, Force theme, light melodic flourishes)
Threepio's Bedtime Story
  • 1:27: Threepio tells the Ewoks about the heroes' previous adventures (Luke theme, Vader theme, Force theme, Luke theme, Han-Leia theme, all in light, "primitive" arrangements)
13 3:04 Jabba's Baroque Recital
  • Source music for Artoo and Threepio's initial audience with Jabba the Hutt, somewhat muzak-ey
14 2:50 Jedi Rocks
(Jerry Hey)
  • Source music in Jabba's palace before Jabba sacrifices one of his slaves to the Rancor (Special Edition rerecording)
15 5:06 Sail Barge Assault
(first version)
  • Original version with less Episode IV thematic material (dark brass/winds, low strings, Rebel fanfare, action accents, Luke theme, various brass/string percussion figures, Jabba theme, etc…light jumpy motif (3:14), victory theme)

Trk Dur Title Film Action and Themes
1 3:28 Parade Of The Ewoks
[Concert Suite]
  • 0:00: Ewok motif
  • 0:27: March
  • 0:44: B theme on brass and strings
  • 1:09: March, development
  • 1:33: Ewok "war calls motif" begin, B theme
  • 2:05: March, bigger strings, then brass
  • 2:37: B theme developed on brass
  • 2:54: March, developed flourishes
  • 3:09: Coda
2 4:46 Luke And Leia
[Concert Suite]
  • 0:00: High winds/trembling strings intro
  • 0:27: Theme on horns and warm strings
  • 0:52: Theme developed with more counter melodies
  • 1:20: Theme developed on winds
  • 2:03: Interlude with lush strings
  • 2:23: Theme developed on warm strings, flute ornaments
  • 3:06: Theme, thicker and developed with more timpani rolls
  • 3:44: Coda 1 on soft horns/winds
  • 4:24: Coda 2 with harp support
3 10:40 Brother And Sister
  • 0:00: Luke and Leia speak about their parents - "The Force is strong in my family." (pensive strings, Force theme on oboe over celeste)
  • 0:56: Luke tells Leia that she is his sister, and then leaves to confront Vader.  Han speaks with Leia after Luke has left (Luke-Leia theme begun on cello (partly developed from Yoda theme), brief Force fragment, then eventually Han-Leia Love theme)
Father And Son
  • 3:07: Luke surrenders to Vader and tries to reach the Sith Lord's good side, but Vader resists (Low textures with percussion, Vader theme variations ("gothic"), Force fragment, brass/wind figures over eerie, determined strings, Vader theme, thoughtful Luke fragment)
The Fleet Enters Hyperspace
  • 6:46: Han and his team spy on the Imperial shield control bunker, aided by Ewoks (staccato winds, percussion, etc..., Ewok march)
  • 7:27: Lando and the Rebellion forces prepare to attack the Death Star (brass fanfares, Rebel preparation theme (derived from Luke B theme))
Heroic Ewok
  • 8:24: Han's team successfully captures the control bunker after an Ewok leads away the guards on a speeder bike chase (suspense textures, with light Droids theme variations on winds, Ewok march melody, Ewok B theme)
4 3:26 Emperor's Throne Room
  • 0:00: On the Death Star, Vader presents Luke to the Emperor, who reveals to Luke that the Rebels are walking into a carefully-laid trap - "Welcome young Skywalker… I have been expecting you." (...Vader theme, Emperor theme)
5 11:51
The Battle Of Endor I:

The Trap
  • 0:00: Han captures the interior of the Imperial bunker, but then is in turn captured in an ambush.  The Rebel fleet arrives and finds out "It's a trap!" (syncopated Trap theme variations with brief instances of Vader and Luke themes)
  • 2:28: The Emperor tries to seduce Luke with hate (low atmospheric, Emperor motif)
  • 3:38: Han and Leia are led outside as prisoners by the Imperial troops (pensive strings, Vader theme)
Scout Walker Scramble
  • 4:31: The Ewoks counterattack on the ground, as Lando and the X-Wings defend the Rebel capital ships  (high metallic percussion with action cues (with hints of Ewok theme))
  • 8:18: The Emperor orders the Death Star to fire on the Rebellion capital ships, as the ground battle continues (Vader theme, action cues)
  • 10:36: The Ewoks take casualties, Lando recommends using the Imperial star destroyers as cover against the Death Star's weapon (keening strings, horns, action brass) 
6 4:31 The
  • 0:00: The Emperor attempts to seduce Luke with his lightsaber - "Take your weapon.  Strike me down with all of your hatred, and your journey to the Dark side will be complete!" (Vader motif, Emperor theme).  Vader's lightsaber clashes with Luke's.
Ewok Battle
  • 1:43: The Ewoks rally and commandeer a Scout Walker (action winds/brass with some synth rhythm, Ewok theme fight variation with "native war calls")
7 10:02
The Battle Of Endor II:

Leia is
  • 0:00: Leia is wounded by stray fire (brass accents surrounding Leia theme, Han-Leia Love theme)
The Duel
  • 1:04: Luke and Vader duel - Luke gains the upper hand - "Obi-Wan has taught you well." (Emperor theme, Force theme)
  • 2:08: Luke again tries to sway Vader away from the Dark side - "Your thoughts betray you, Father, I feel the good in you, the conflict." (tense strings, Force theme), the Emperor cackles (Emperor theme in brass)
Overtaking the Bunker
  • 2:51: The space battle continues.  Han recaptures the Death Star shield control bunker with a little subterfuge (action brass, winds, strings)
Dark Side Beckons
  • 3:49: Back in the Death Star, Vader learns the truth about Luke's sister (low textures, synth)
  • 5:03: Luke attacks (Yoda's choral "one with the Force" motif)
  • 5:35: Luke cuts off Vader's hand, the Emperor laughs (Emperor theme)
  • 6:30: Luke rejects the Dark side and throws away his lightsaber - "You've failed your Highness.  I am a Jedi, like my father before me." (Force theme)
  • 6:49: Han blows up the Death Star shield control bunker and the Rebel ships begin their attack run (dissonant action brass, Rebel fanfare)
The Emperor's Death
  • 7:21: The Emperor decides Luke must die and begins killing him with Force lightning (Emperor theme, voices, then brass, rising evil voices)
  • 9:08: Vader saves Luke by throwing the Emperor down a reactor shaft (Force theme, moaning voices)
8 6:03
The Battle Of Endor III:

Superstructure Chase
  • 0:00: The Falcon and a squadron of X-Wings enter the Death Star superstructure.  The Executor, Vader's Super Star Destroyer, crashes into the Death Star (TIE fighter attack theme, Imperial theme, Force theme canon brass interlude, brass flourish, basically a reprise of Ep. IV battle themes and motifs) 
Darth Vader's
  • 1:53: Luke tries to drag the mortally-injured Vader to an escape shuttle.  The Dark Lord eventually succumbs, but not before he has a final, somewhat redemptive moment with Luke (low textures, Vader theme on various subdued instruments: violins, flute, oboe, horn, harp)
Main Reactor
  • 4:27: The Falcon and the Rebels blow up the Death Star main reactor and make their escape.  Luke escapes in Vader's shuttle.  The Ewoks celebrate on Endor (trumpet fanfares, Vader theme, Luke theme, Victory theme)
9 3:21 Leia's News
  • 0:00: Leia assures Han that Luke is her brother (Luke-Leia theme, Han-Leia Love theme)
Light Of The Force
  • 1:18: Luke lights Vader's remains on fire on a funeral pyre (Force theme, various arrangements, variation)
10 8:34 Victory Celebration
  • 0:00: The heroes celebrate with the Ewoks on Endor, as Luke sees the happy spirit forms of Anakin, Obi-Wan and Yoda (world music fusion pop, newly composed for 1997 Special Edition)
End Title
  • 2:24: Luke theme, Rebel fanfare
  • 3:17: Ewok themes
  • 5:21: Luke-Leia theme
  • 6:46: Luke theme, B theme, Rebel fanfare
  • 7:57: Procession end fanfare
11 4:00 Ewok Feast
  • 0:00: Source music: Luke and Han are carried into the Ewok compound as prisoners to be eaten
Part Of The Tribe
  • 2:25: After Threepio's storytelling scene, the Ewoks make the heroes a part of their tribe (tribal percussion)
12 4:06 The Forest Battle
[Concert Suite]
  • 0:00: Introduction: Rhythmic figures with various brass ornaments
  • 0:59: Brass fanfare into Ewok theme with fight variation
  • 1:45: Ewok "war calls motif" begin
  • 2:10: Ewok march theme and fight variations
  • 2:33: Quirky fight motif variation, plucked strings, brass, etc...
  • 3:07: Brass/percussion-driven variation
  • 3:25: Final tutti and finale, coda

     More information about John Williams' score to Return of the Jedi can be found in the liner notes in the various releases of this soundtrack:
     Another highly useful resource is Doug Adams' article "Sounds of the Empire" on the themes of Star Wars in Film Score Monthly Vol 4, No 5 (June 1999).

YouTube Playlist of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi Special Edition Soundtrack
Wiki entry
Recording the Star Wars Saga (Chris Malone)

John Williams Wiki
John Williams Fan Network forum 
The John Williams Collection (Markus Hable site)

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