Don’t Forget the Music: Revisiting the Themes of the ‘Star Wars’ Sequel Trilogy

It’s no secret that the sequel trilogy of Star Wars has been divisive ever since The Force Awakens was released in 2015, something that has saddened me to no end as I’ve found the entire trilogy to be very enjoyable. As a lifelong fan of Star Wars, it hurts me to no end to see people shrugging off these films like they don’t belong to the canon, because there are many beautiful things to be found in all three films, especially the music.

I don’t deny that the sequel trilogy of Star Wars has issues (most movies do), but I will go to my grave defending the music of the sequel trilogy. Say what you will about everything else, but it cannot be denied that John Williams still has “it” when it comes to composing music for Star Wars. Let’s look, for example, at some of the major themes he created for the sequel trilogy.

In particular, I want to look at “Rey’s Theme,” one of the most important musical pieces created for the film. As the heroine of the sequel trilogy, Rey needed a sweeping theme of her own, something to set her apart. And did she ever get one! John Williams created a perfectly enchanting theme that encapsulates Rey as we first meet her: a scavenger scraping by on Jakku. Even in that harsh environment, she’s carved out a niche for herself and is doing relatively well, and I think the music reflects that. Even though she clearly longs to leave the desert planet, the music reflects how Rey is content to wait until her family comes back for her.

Then, and this is the brilliant part, “Rey’s Theme” expands and grows as her story continues. While still remaining the same base melody, it grows and blossoms much as Rey herself does. Compare, for example, the original theme as heard in The Force Awakens to its reappearance during Rey’s training scene in The Rise of Skywalker:

Hear the difference? It’s the same basic theme but it’s grown into so much more, just like Rey.

And then there’s one of my favorite motifs in the sequel trilogy, the “March of the Resistance,” the theme Williams created for Leia’s Resistance movement. This is classic Williams through and through and leaves no doubt that you are watching the heroes of the story whenever it appears. Williams has always been a master of musically summarizing a group of people with a theme and “March of the Resistance” is no different.

Check it out for yourself:

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t draw attention, yet again, to Kylo Ren’s theme. I’ve spoken about this before, but I will never get tired of pointing out how brilliantly done this theme is. As a reminder, Kylo Ren’s theme is derived from the second half of Darth Vader’s famous motif, which is fitting since Kylo is Vader’s grandson. In one stroke, this theme identifies Kylo as a villain who is obviously similar to but ultimately very different from Vader. One of my favorite moments is Kylo Ren’s initial introduction in The Force Awakens when he comes stalking down that ramp with this theme blaring in the background, the similarity to Vader is unmistakable.

Listen for yourself:

This is only the tip of the iceberg for the music John Williams created for the sequel trilogy, but it should be more than enough to show that this music is more than on par with the rest of the themes created for Star Wars. As the years pass, I hope people can revisit these themes from the sequel trilogy and remember that the music of Star Wars has been amazing throughout.

Author: Becky O'Brien

I'm a 33 year old musicologist and blogger and I've had a lifelong obsession with film music, cartoon music, just about any kind of music!