Sometimes it’s very easy to forget how big of an impact music has on the final quality of films. Starting with the Spaghetti Westerns of the '60s, including The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and its unforgettable main theme, to animated films with groovy tunes like #Shrek, soundtracks have an integral effect on the enjoyment and flow of the movies they accompany, and the same goes with the #HarryPotter films. Without the wonderful music throughout, a huge part of their charm would surely perish. Four different composers created the music for the film series and composed no less than 181 pieces of sound. Among them, there are 10 who managed to stand out from the rest and made a profound impression on Potter fans around the world. Here are 10 of the best, shall we begin?
10. Lily’s Theme
Opening our list is Lily's theme, the mother of the boy who lived. The melody appears for the first time at the beginning of last movie, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows — Part 2, and is used as its main theme. It is known for its gentle, caressing sounds. At the beginning, sad soft woman's voice slowly crescendos to a climax and finally fades to the sound of cello, viola and violin. Parts of the tune can even be heard in Snape’s demise scene, as well as at the time of Voldemort's death.
More than anything, this theme symbolizes the end of an era — not only the end of Voldemort, but also (and foremost) the conclusion of Harry’s endless struggle with the death of his parents through his whole life. This struggle would become a lot easier with the death of his nemesis and the triumph of love over hate. Using this theme in scenes that are significant for Harry as well — including the scene he decides to sacrifice himself to defeat Voldemort — and also at the death of the Dark Lord, indicates the ultimate close for the hero.
The ninth place is saved for another melody that opens one of the films. This time, it’s the one that opens the seventh film, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows — Part 1. This tune starts slowly and gradually the rhythm increases more and more. In the beginning, this tune is soft and gradual before it perfectly develops into an exciting, powerful climax. This is this first melody out of the two soundtracks of the last two Harry Potter films, of which Alexander Desplat skillfully composed.
"Obliviate" is the name of a spell that erases one’s memory. Hermione used it on her parents at the beginning of the seventh film. However, the melody isn’t only related to memory loss, but also to the loss of innocence. Remember: Harry, Ron and Hermione didn’t go back to Hogwarts for their seventh school year. So for them, not only symbolically, the beginning of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1 is a goodbye from their youth and from their beloved school, embarking on a new, dark and difficult path for the last fight against Voldemort.
8. Flight Of The Order Of The Phoenix
Lasting only one minute and a half, the eighth place is reserved to this magical, fun melody by Nicholas Hopper. Exactly as its name suggests, "Flight of the Order of the Phoenix" is played for the first time when the order lifts off for the first time. This tune smartly uses its short length in order to build up quickly and reach towards an enchanting climax, which arouses a great desire to get on a magic broomstick and fly for an unforgettable ride in the amazing world of Harry Potter — even if only for one day.
7. Double Trouble
Many believe that HarryPotter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban — directed by Alfonso Cuaron (director of #Gravity) — is the best film in the entire franchise. And indeed, Cuaron's direction in this film took the series to a whole new place. After the first two films — directed by Chris Columbus (The one who hasn’t discovered any land) — Cuaron introduced a surprisingly new, mature perspective of his own to Hogwarts. He set the gloomy tone and paved a new way for the darker, more matured films to come. And what would be a better way to do so other than using frightening words from Shakespeare’s famous play Macbeth?
Cuaron suggested that the legendary John Williams (the composer of #StarWars and #IndianaJones) use the words of a song sung by a group of witches in Macbeth. Williams agreed, and eventually "Double Trouble" became the main theme of the third movie. The melody, including words in the background, is played for the first time in the beginning of Harry and his friends' third year at Hogwarts. It implies an apparently warm welcome, but one that also suggests the evil things to come — Something wicked this way comes! Ah yes, next time just say Voldemort.
6. The Chamber Of Secrets
Getting halfway with an epic, symphonic tune that goes from one climax to another without even noticing. Through its mysterious opening with the sound of soft piano vocals to reaching highs and the sound of powerful trumpets, this melody ceases to surprise. Phenomenally, it creates fear and awe in "The Chamber of Secrets." On the other hand, it builds great mystery and curiosity. This exemplary melody was also composed by John Williams, who composed the music just for the first three films in the series. I wonder how the rest of the Harry Potter films would sound had he stayed as the composer.
5. Harry’s Wondrous World
The top five opens with a melody that can be simply described with one word: Magic. There is no better way to define it. This is another melody composed by John Williams, and like the others, it’s thrilling, compelling and varied in its sounds. Most of all, this tune represents the initial exposure of Harry to the wizarding world and the life-changing event he went through in the first film. The melody is played for the first time when Harry arrives at Diagon Alley with Hagrid. There, he is exposed to a magical world he never knew existed. For those who grew up with the film series, or for those who watched it for the first time as kids: this is probably the most nostalgic tune (along with "Hedwig’s Theme," which we’ll discuss later).
4. Dumbledore’s Farewell
Only a few scenes in the Harry Potter film series are as powerful and moving as Dumbledore’s death scene. A sad, unfortunate, discouraging scene indeed. This tune is played towards the ending of the sixth film and is well connected to the memory of those who passed. Its appearance in the eighth film as well, when Harry watches Professor Snape's memories, proving that this theme reflects not only the memory of Harry’s great mentor who accompanied him from day one, but also the memory of Snape and Lily, Harry’s mother. This is a delicate lament melody, that perfectly keeps an increasing structured tone until reaching a quiet chilling peak — a climax that perhaps symbolizes understanding, acceptance and a look forward to the future (as dark as it might be).
3. Hedwig’s Theme
This is it. We’ve reached the finish line. And if you thought that first place would be reserved for the most iconic tune from Harry Potter, "Hedwig’s Theme," then you are completely mistaken. Of course, when you think of Harry Potter, this melody — that appears on each and every one of the films in the series – immediately comes to mind. Nevertheless, despite being unforgettable (and it most certainly is unforgettable) the first two places are two more special melodies.
John Williams has created a tune that grants life and grace to this huge wizarding world of Harry Potter. "Hedwig’s Theme" is a restless, graceful melody and sometimes it’s even hard not to whistle or hum it even when just walking down the street. It’s a varied, colorful mix of sounds, it arouses memories for those who grew up on the film series — these make it the sole symbol of Harry Potter and perhaps the symbol of the entire wizarding world that #JKRowling created. Don’t be surprised if you hear this theme in #FantasticBeastsandWheretoFindThem as well.
2. A Window To The Past
The battle between this melody to the one in first place couldn’t be any closer. Unlike many other tunes in Harry Potter, "A Window to the Past" is a quiet, soft and gentle melody, mixing an amazingly soft and accurate flute sound that is so pleasant to hear. Still, it’s also compelling and enjoyable from its beginning to the end. The third film, which is the last one that John Williams composed, uses this melody wisely in scenes where Harry talks about his past, about his parents and their friends. The melody creates a longing for the past and is a perfect fit for the events on screen, making it not only one of the finest tunes in the Harry Potter film series, but one of the best melodies in the entire cinematic history.
1. Fawkes The Phoenix
Allow me to conclude on a personal note: When I think of Harry Potter, the immediate image that comes to my mind is of me as a child. A young boy, only in second grade, not even 10 years old. A kid that just watched the first film in the series with his whole family. He was waiting impatiently for the second film with the most childlike enthusiasm you could imagine. And when it was finally released, he went with his father and younger brother (who was afraid of the Basilisk) to an old, now-defunct cinema. It was before the age of huge complexes, containing 20 theaters or more. Times were different, simpler (or maybe it just seemed so from the eyes of a young child).
To me, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets would always remain the ultimate Harry Potter film. It’s not the best one, nor it is the most moving or most compelling of them all. But, it reminds me of my childhood. It reminds me of my past — a rainy November day in 2002, when I longed for my own magic broomstick or enchanted bird. Fawkes the Phoenix, who shares the name with this tune from The Chamber of Secrets, has an unforgettable melody that plays each time he dies and is reborn. One that, like the mythical bird itself, symbolizes circularity — a cycle.
Perhaps this circularity doesn’t represent only the remarkable Phoenix itself, but the entire film world that always reinvents itself, even if sometimes the results are mediocre, recycled or artificial. Like this phenomenal melody, cinema is art — art that has a colorful variety of endless ideas and so many genres. In this sense, this melody doesn’t only represent the magic and might of the Harry Potter films, it represents the pure beauty and charm of cinema itself.
Still feeling the Harry Potter nostalgia? Here are some heartfelt quotes from the movies to lift your spirits: