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Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
Album Cover Art
1986 Polydor
1989 RCA
Album 2 Cover Art
1993 Fox
Album 3 Cover Art
1997 RCA
Special Edition
Album 4 Cover Art
1997 RCA
Album 5 Cover Art
2004 Sony
Classical Set
Album 6 Cover Art
2004 Sony
Classical Individual
Album 7 Cover Art
2007 Sony
Corellian Edition
Album 8 Cover Art
2007 Sony
30th Ann. Set
Album 9 Cover Art
Composed, Conducted, and Co-Produced by:

Co-Produced by:
George Lucas

Orchestrated by:
Herbert W. Spencer

Performed by:

1993, 1997, and 2004 Albums Produced by:
Nick Redman

1997 and 2004 Albums Produced by:
Michael Matessino

RCA Re-Recording Produced and Conducted by:
Charles Gerhardt

RCA Re-Recording Performed by:
The National Philharmonic Orchestra
Labels Icon

RCA Victor

20th Century Fox
(November 9th, 1993)

RCA Victor
(Special Edition)
(January 14th, 1997)

RCA Victor
(S.E. Re-Pressing)
(August 26th, 1997)

Sony Classical
(Individual and Set)
(September 21st, 2004)

Sony Classical
(Corellian Edition)
(October 2nd, 2007)

Sony Classical
(30th Ann. Edition)
(November 6th, 2007)
Availability Icon
All of the CD albums were regular commercial releases at their outset. Both the original 1986 album and 1989 RCA Gerhardt album historically have been available used for about $5 to $7.

The 1993 Fox Anthology was believed at the time to be the most collectible soundtrack CD set in existence, and has retained its original street value because of its relative scarcity and packaging.

The 1997 RCA Special Edition albums came in two forms, the black booklet format available early that year and the slimline format in August, 1997 to coincide with the VHS release of the revised films. The latter albums (with poster art on the covers) have fallen completely out of print, and while new copies of the 'black book' formatted RCA albums of early 1997 are also difficult to find, they have remained readily available for sub-retail price on the used market.

The 2004 Sony Classical products are bargain priced, though you receive no additional packaging benefits from buying the trilogy as a set outside of the silver and black holding box.

The 2007 Sony Classical albums contain no additional new contents or remastering. The "Corellian Edition" compilation, which was leaked as a promotional teaser in some 2005 pressings of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, is sold alone as a regular commercial release (with two different cover art variants) and is included as CD7 in the concurrently offered "30th Anniverary Collector's Edition." That set, featuring original LP packaging, was electronically numbered up to 10,000 copies and initially retailed for $80. Its value soon plunged, in part due to production problems that caused the wrong combination of CDs to be included in the set. temporarily pulled the product due to complaints.
Nominated for an Academy Award and a Grammy Award.
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Decorative Nonsense
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Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... on the 1997 "Special Edition" albums over all others because they feature the best combination of outstanding packaging and a nearly complete presentation of John Williams' slightly diminished but still very powerful sequel score.

Avoid it... on the 1985 to 1993 albums because of poorer, archival sound quality and incomplete presentations, as well as the 2004 and 2007 re-pressings that are identical to the 1997 albums in contents but without the superior packaging.
Review Icon
WRITTEN 3/12/97, REVISED 9/2/11
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi: (John Williams) The tagline "The Saga Continues" meant only one thing in the early 1980's: hysteria over George Lucas' franchise of Star Wars films. By 1983's Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, the phenomenon had saturated the mainstream with a seemingly unlimited quantity of toys and other related promotional collectibles. The movie's advance teaser poster, featuring the production title of "Revenge of the Jedi" and intriguingly swapping the colors of lightsabers in its depiction of the famous duel from The Empire Strikes Back, became a wildly hot one sheet for poster collectors. While some of the problems that Lucas faced with the production of The Empire Strikes Back had been alleviated by his departure from industry unions as a method of maintaining more control over his movies, Return of the Jedi suffered as a result, its costs driven up because of that independence. More than half of its $32 million budget was consumed by the special effects work of Industrial Light & Magic, the screen wizards' time booked to capacity to meet the ever-increasing demands of the saga's plotline. Although relatively few new worlds were developed for Return of the Jedi, the immense scope of the battle sequences in its latter half (aided by the invention of THX sound technology) drove the spectacle to new heights. Much disagreement during the script's finalization about the fate of several major characters eventually succumbed to Lucas' wish for a purely happy ending to the trilogy. A final confrontation between the Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire in Return of the Jedi follows the resolution of the events of The Empire Strikes Back, a second Death Star again requiring the rebels to attack. This time, with the evil Emperor on the battle station, Luke Skywalker risks his own destruction by willingly engaging with Darth Vader and Emperor to bring the former back from the "dark side" of the Force. Through the subsequent re-releases of the film, Lucas stirred controversy by tinkering repeatedly with Return of the Jedi, eventually adding scenes and characters from the prequel trilogy to neatly wrap up the narrative of the six-picture saga. During its initial run, the third film marginally passed The Empire Strikes Back in gross profits but failed to garner the same astonishing, record-setting success in audiences' and critics' books as its predecessors. It is almost universally considered the weakest of the three original Star Wars films, despite being very entertaining and necessarily conclusive.

For most enthusiasts of the Star Wars universe, the series never got better than The Empire Strikes Back, and the same argument could be made about John Williams' music for the franchise. By the time Return of the Jedi opened in theatres in 1983, seven out of the top ten grossing films of all time featured a Williams score, and his conducting work with the Boston Pops had increased his mainstream visibility even further. Since impressing the world once again with The Empire Strikes Back, Williams had written the classics Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial in successive years, the latter earning the composer his fourth Academy Award. He had presented himself a significant challenge by producing a score for the first Star Wars sequel that eclipsed the original classic; if the standard of excellence for Return of the Jedi were to have been raised any higher, then Williams would have had no choice but to conjure the greatest score ever written for Hollywood. Few scholars would contend that Williams accomplished this feat, but at the very least, the maestro maintained a level of outstanding quality for Return of the Jedi that many listeners still consider superior to any of the prequel scores that followed in the 1990's and 2000's. Recording once again with the London Symphony Orchestra and the same crew, Williams pumped out a score even longer than The Empire Strikes Back, with more material eventually released on album than the total length of the film. A lingering note of dissatisfaction about Return of the Jedi has always involved its restricted sound quality, which, despite improvements industry wide by the 1980's, has always suffered from a dull soundscape that defied those technological advances (this flaw is especially noticeable in the cue "Into the Trap"). Nevertheless, if you allow yourself to become enveloped in the score's four new themes, the interpolation of the previous themes, and the usual excellent standard of Williams' writing, then the merits of the score's ideas will easily counter such quibbles for most listeners. When you look at the logistical nightmare of attempting to weave more than ten major themes together into one score, the immense length of the recording is not much of a surprise. Some might argue, though, that Return of the Jedi is a more cluttered and less focused overall product than the others in the classic trilogy. The score has the disadvantage of lacking a singular thematic identity that was able to become the kind of powerhouse to rival the title theme and "Imperial March," a reality made necessary by the film's plot.

Among the new thematic ideas are Jabba the Hutt's surprisingly jovial tuba piece (playing along the politically incorrect lines of belching tubas representing fatness), an equally cute and percussively creative theme for the Ewoks, an identity for Luke and Leia's changing familial understanding, and finally a demonic male-choral idea for the Emperor. At the time of the film's release, the Ewok and Luke & Leia themes were the ones that you'd hear most often in concerts. Also arranged for easy public consumption were the "Sail Barge Assault" and "Forest Battle" cues (as well the occasional Jabba the Hutt arrangement), but Williams' emphasis on the two aforementioned themes is clearly defined more specifically by their appearance in the end credits suite for Return of the Jedi. While structurally equal to Williams' earlier quality, neither addition was as attractive to the mainstream as previous Star Wars themes. The one for Luke and Leia is similar in pleasant atmosphere and instrumentation to the Princess and Han Solo themes from the previous films, weaving in pieces of those ideas in auxiliary performances but understandably never stoking the passion of either. The prancing Ewok theme is not surprisingly the least palatable idea in the score, becoming downright irritating for some listeners with its frenetic energy and perkiness. Attached to it are the native-like source drum cues associated with the little Wookie stand-ins, and these appropriately primitive contributions resemble little of Williams' other motifs for the trilogy. The interesting aspect of all these themes is that the other two lesser ideas eventually proved to have the far better shelf life, both the themes for the Emperor and Jabba the Hutt jumping immediately to the prequel trilogy (and the former theme quite extensively). Perhaps the best choice Williams made in regards to Return of the Jedi was the extensive development afforded to the major identities from the prior films. The "Imperial March" still commands a significant presence, expressed in massive statements involving the two Death Star arrival scenes and reinventing itself in a whimper during Darth Vader's demise. The infamous march for the Empire once again steals the show, most obviously in the ambitious full statement during the Emperor's special effects-driven landing upon the Death Star. But the varying levels of conflict within Vader's character allowed Williams the opportunity to experiment with softer, less bombastic representations of the theme that would remain confined to Return of the Jedi and in hints during the prequels. Its final powerful statement in this trilogy is a remarkable fragment during the height of "Into the Trap."

Also resurrected in Return of the Jedi from the previous scores are the ideas for "Han Solo and the Princess" (in their long-awaited reunion at Jabba's palace and the revelation at the conclusion of the battle of Endor), Princess Leia's theme from the original film (dramatically as she is wounded), and Yoda's tender and thoughtful melody (for his revelatory death scene). Most importantly, the theme for the Force makes two extremely prominent appearances (among others) in the film, first at the moment of contemplation about the "dark side" when Luke defeats Vader in the final duel and secondly with grand and somber beauty during the funeral pyre for Vader at the end (nicely bringing the theme back full circle to the burning of Luke's homestead in A New Hope). A few general observations about the overarching demeanor of the music in Return of the Jedi and individual moments of interest merit some attention as well. First, an intangible detraction from Williams' work here is the lack of the weighty drama that was heard in The Empire Strikes Back. The previous score's desperation, built into its constant rhythmic movement, does not transfer to the third score, probably because the situation in Return of the Jedi is less dire in a romantic sense. Another general characteristic of the score is its capacity for chaos above and beyond the others. Williams was forced to jump around significantly within cues during the film's last 30 minutes because of the juxtaposed battle sequences happening simultaneously in the story. This technique was used extensively again by Lucas in The Phantom Menace, and in both cases the constant shifts caused the music to sound artificially cut in places (which it really was in some places), harming the narrative flow so vital in the first two scores of the franchise. The final observation about Return of the Jedi is both a positive and negative, and it involves the fact that the score has significantly more "singular" cues, whether it involves background source music, outright songs, or score tracks. Unlike the contained "Cantina Band" scene in the first film, Return of the Jedi applies source-like songs or primordial music in Jabba's palace and in the forest with the Ewoks. In both cases, this material conflicts with the orchestral music surrounding it. "Lapti Nek" and its subsequent replacement song for the Special Edition are both curious but insufferable, and the Ewok feast source music serves only to slow the pace of the score in and apart from the film. In fact, the film's badly dragging Ewok feast and storytelling sections owe some of their dull appeal to the basic thumping of Williams' source music for them.

Ratings Icon
Average: 4.18 Stars
***** 5,490 5 Stars
**** 2,999 4 Stars
*** 1,190 3 Stars
** 688 2 Stars
* 328 1 Stars
  (View results for all titles)

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Read All Start New Thread Search Comments
Older Editions of the score have BETTER sound quality, not WORSE.   Expand >>
Faleel - September 11, 2012, at 4:37 p.m.
3 comments  (3404 views)
Newest: July 7, 2015, at 9:14 p.m. by
Mr. Big
Using tubas to represent fatness   Expand >>
Lawrence Yang - October 6, 2011, at 7:50 a.m.
2 comments  (3521 views)
Newest: April 8, 2012, at 2:50 p.m. by
Unknown track   Expand >>
sam - May 6, 2007, at 3:26 p.m.
3 comments  (6343 views)
Newest: October 12, 2008, at 6:53 p.m. by
Although not as good as other SW scores,still worthy to listen   Expand >>
Sheridan - August 20, 2006, at 4:56 a.m.
1 comment  (4134 views)
RCA Victor re-packaging?   Expand >>
Don - May 17, 2006, at 7:37 a.m.
3 comments  (5539 views)
Newest: July 18, 2006, at 7:48 a.m. by
The Emperor's Theme   Expand >>
Abel - March 25, 2006, at 1:30 p.m.
2 comments  (5912 views)
Newest: October 12, 2008, at 7:05 p.m. by

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
1986 Polydor Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 45:37
• 1. Main Title (The Main Story Continues) (5:09)
• 2. Into the Trap (2:36)
• 3. Luke and Leia (4:43)
• 4. Parade of the Ewoks (3:24)
• 5. Han Salo Returns (at the Court of Jabba the Hutt) (4:07)
• 6. Lapti Nek (by Jabba's Palace Band) (2:48)
• 7. The Forest Battle (4:01)
• 8. Rebel Briefing (2:19)
• 9. The Emperor (2:40)
• 10. The Return of the Jedi (5:00)
• 11. Ewok Celebration and Finale (7:57)
1989 RCA Gerhardt Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 46:25
1993 Fox Anthology Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 103:11
1997 RCA Special Edition Tracks   ▼Total Time: 148:01
2004 Sony Classical Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 148:01
2007 Sony Corellian Edition Tracks   ▼Total Time: 54:57
2007 Sony 30th Ann. Edition Tracks   ▼Total Time: 148:00

Notes Icon
The 1986 Polydor and 1989 RCA Gerhardt albums contain no information about the film, score, or recording. The 1993 Fox Anthology has extensive notes and pictorials in an oversized booklet with information written by John Williams, Nicholas Meyer, and Lukas Kendall. The 1997 RCA Special Edition albums with the black book format include extensive notation from album arranger Michael Matessino regarding the film, score as a whole, and each cue. A recording log for Star Wars in this 1997 album also includes information about each take. The 1997 RCA Special Edition slimline format lacks the same level of detail. The 2004 Sony Classical products (available both as a set and individually) include a fold-out poster, but sadly no extra information about the film or score. The packaging of Sony Classical's 2007 "Corellian Edition" is minimal, though the label's "30th Anniversary Collector's Edition" includes the original LP packaging for each score and a bonus CD-ROM with additional material. The detailed Matessino notes about the scores are once again missing from the 2007 products.

Music from Return of the Jedi not contained on 1997, 2004, or 2007 albums:

• Lapti Nek (Film Version) (2:48)
• Lapti Nek (English Version, "Fancy Man") (2:46)
• Lapti Nek (Album Version)* (2:48)
• Leia's News (Alternate)* (1:19)
• Ewok Celebration (Film Version)* (1:56)
• Ewok Celebration (Album Version)* (1:56)
• Jabba the Hutt (Concert Arrangement)** (3:43)
• Max Rebo Band Instrumental Music*** (3:00)
• Unused Source Music (Not in Film)*** (1:30)

* Cue is included on the 1993 Anthology set
** About (1:20) of this recording was tracked into "Han Solo Returns" on the 1986 album and 1993 Anthology.
*** These selections were not included because they could not be found.

CAUTION: Due to a packaging error, some copies of the 1997 RCA release may have two "Disc 1"s and no "Disc 2." If you are purchasing one of the remaining new copies of them now, be sure to check your set immediately to make sure you received a complete product. The same problem reportedly existed with some copies of the 2007 "30th Anniversary Collector's Edition."
Copyright © 1997-2021, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi are Copyright © 1986, 1989, 1993, 1997, 2004, Polydor/Polygram, RCA Victor (Gerhardt), 20th Century Fox (Anthology), RCA Victor (Special Edition), RCA Victor (S.E. Re-Pressing), Sony Classical (Individual and Set), Sony Classical (Corellian Edition), Sony Classical (30th Ann. Edition) and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 3/12/97 and last updated 9/2/11.
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