Old School Americana & Nostalgia

Movies

John Williams’ Best Track Makes You Believe a Man Can Fly

John Williams’ Best Track Makes You Believe a Man Can Fly

With unforgettable scores in films like Jaws and Star Wars, few composers match John Williams. Yet, 1978’s Superman is his best track. The epic score elevates and lends gravitas to a premise that many would find hokey.

A faraway planet on the brink of destruction compels a brilliant scientist to rocket his baby son to Earth. Crash landing in Kansas, the little one is taken in by a childless couple, embracing all-American values. Gifted with astonishing powers from our mighty Sun, he grows up to be a guardian of his adopted world. Richard Donner directed the 1978 film adaptation with wide-eyed wonder and heaps of sentimentality. However, composer John Williams provides a score that makes even a cross-armed cynic believe a man can fly.

However, the iconic score nearly never came to be. Director Donner had a highly productive collaboration with Jerry Goldsmith on his earlier work, The Omen. As a result, Goldsmith was the obvious choice to compose the score for this film. Unfortunately, due to a scheduling conflict arising from prior commitments, Donner had to step back, leading to the late involvement of John Williams who eagerly accepted the assignment. Williams went on to craft an unforgettable anthem, one that resonates instantly and eternally within the fabric of America’s pop culture.

Why the ‘Superman Theme’ is John Williams’ Best, Most Iconic Track

John Williams’ best track seems to be forever attached to Superman. The score has been used consistently in Superman materials for decades. Williams’s “Superman Theme” is first heard in the opening credits of the film Superman. It has been used, with minor changes, as the opening music for every Superman film except Superman III. In that film, Ken Thorne employed a lighthearted, somewhat comical cue to represent “the streets of Metropolis”. The theme is also alluded to in Jerry Goldsmith’s score for the 1984 film Supergirl, specifically during a scene in which the titular character catches sight of a Superman poster.

In the 21st century, the iconic theme made a comeback in the Donnerverse retcon sequel, Superman Returns. Likewise, as the final moments of Smallville unfolded, Tom Welling’s portrayal of Clark Kent was accompanied by this unmistakable theme, as he finally put on red and blue tights.

Even more recently, the “Superman Theme” has popped up in DC comics films. It was heard to herald the resurrection of the man of steel in 2017’s Justice League. it was also used with Henry Cavill’s Superman made a cameo in last year’s Black Adam. Aside from perhaps a handful of Star Wars themes, perhaps no other singular score written for a movie has appeared more often in films.