The 10 Worst Films Scored by John Williams

Rebel scum.

News broke last week that John Williams, the prolific film score composer who's one of maybe three film score composers you've ever heard of, will almost definitely lend his talents to the all-new, all-Disney Star Wars film set to be directed by J.J. Abrams.

It was Abrams himself who threw out some strong hints as to Williams' involvement, but it would have been a pretty safe assumption even if he hadn't. Williams' "Main Title" theme and "Imperial March" from the original trilogy are among the best-loved music in film history, and Star Wars wouldn't be Star Wars without him.

The soundtrack to George Lucas' space opera is only one of many blockbuster feathers in Williams' cap, of course. He's equally well-known for the memorable scores to epics like Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, Superman: The Movie and even the Harry Potter flicks. Chances are, if you can hum the theme music to a billion-dollar film franchise, Williams penned it.

Despite his towering homeruns, however, he ain't exactly batting 1.000. Williams has written the music for dozens and dozens of films in his long career, including more than a few turds you've likely long since flushed from your memory. Just for fun, let's break out the toilet snake and dredge a few back up, shall we?

Some of these films were elevated a bit by Williams' skill. Some weren't. Whatever the case, trust us when we tell you you're better off reading about them than watching 'em.

10. War of the Worlds

John Williams has enjoyed a long and fruitful partnership with director Steven Spielberg, but this less-than-inspired remake feels calculated to invade your wallet, not your imagination. Despite the skilled depiction of some genuinely terrifying alien attacks, War of the Worlds wasn't exactly begging to be re-re-re-adapted as a post-9/11 family-angst actioner starring Tom Cruise.

Indicating exactly where priorities lay with the production, Williams wasn't even given a complete film to work with. He composed the largely forgettable score with only the flick's first 60 minutes as reference in order to ensure that the tentpole could be stapled together in time for its all-important release date.

9. Sabrina

Well, here it is: The Harrison Ford movie scored by John Williams that nobody saw. Where the original Billy Wilder comedy starring three nobodies named Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn and William Holden sparkled, Sydney Pollack's Sabrina sopped. It's a dull, perfunctory affair only marginally improved by Williams' score, which was (naturally!) nominated for an Academy Award.

8. Memoirs of a Geisha

Falling far short of the drama incited by its decision to cast three Chinese actresses in the primary roles of a Japanese period piece, Memoirs of a Geisha turned out to be a strangely sexless yawner that aspired to not much more than being pretty. Like the heroine's life as a geisha, the film's flat, puzzling plot feels exquisite only as an alternative to slavery. The movie's Tomatometer rating sits at a putrid 35 percent, and that's generous. Read the book, instead, if you must.

Williams's work here notched another perfunctory Academy nomination for Best Original Score. Hooray. It's a footnote at best.

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MadMac topcommenter

For decades, I've assumed I was the only one who saw "Heartbeeps." Whenever I hear what a comedic genius Andy Kaufman was, I think of this movie. I never knew John Williams scored it. Now I think less of him.

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