Incredible Soundtrack #5: E.T. (Williams)

The music attached to a film creates the environment, I believe, moreso than the literal environment depicted through the visuals…

I have two John Williams soundtracks to be revealed over the next week I hope. This is the first one. As you can see on the A-Z, we are fast-approaching the ‘E’ section and this film, of course, will be amongst the choices. We could celebrate John Williams so much – his soundtracks are truly the ‘”stuff of legend”. Star Wars, Superman and Harry Potter are three themes that he created. And none of them are directed by Spielberg – a director who Williams has worked alongside since The Sugarland Express.

E.T. is a soundtrack that, on one hand, it had to be family-friendly and – for want of a better word – ‘fun’. On the other hand, it had to be quite sinister, spooky and scary. Its about a kid making friends with an alien. Its about the government trying to capture and experiment on the alien. Its about an alien changing a family. Its about a friend  of a child dying. And people trying to kidnap the friend. So many themes and factors to include on the soundtrack – which is why it is one of Williams best.

2. Far From Home/E.T. Alone – This is the first choice because it initially presents the flute whistling an innocent and ‘wonder’-like theme before becoming much darker and sinister and scary. But it becomes ten-times better when the real E.T.-on-the-run theme begins following the epic sci-fi strings at 3.33. Beginning with the theme, on its own, lonely and imposing before … the chase begins a 4.33… 

20. Escape/Chase/Saying Goodbye – I think the vast majority of E.T. fans will recall this section. All the music from when Elliot and co set off in the van, through to the bike-chase (you can visualise the jumps as the bikes speed over those dusty hills – at 4.38 if you want to skip to it), through to the flying-on-bikes, through to the final exit as E.T. goes home. Emotion in my face every time.

21. End Credits – Something so simplistic about turning the theme into a piano riff, but as soon as the credits begin and this stunning piano-playing begins it just clarifies in your mind how great a composer John Williams is. I’d say underrated, but he’s not – he is seen as the best composer in Hollywood and for good reason. This songs shows why.

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