The Most Memorable Tracks from “Potter” Scores 1–4
John Williams and Patrick Doyle are two of the biggest names in film score composition, and we were very lucky to have them scoring the first half of the series. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights from these unforgettable soundtracks. It’s no easy task to pick favorites from such an amazing body of work.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Winner: “Hedwig’s Theme”
I thought I would try to choose something less obvious, but let’s be real; nothing can compete with the classic.
Runner-up: “Harry’s Wondrous World”
“Harry’s Wondrous World” encompasses the overall feeling of our hero’s new magical home so well. The fact that it plays all over the Wizarding World theme parks makes me associate it even more strongly with entering into a whole new world of adventure. It’s like a roller coaster of emotions before you even get to the roller coasters, when you’re still taking in the Hogwarts Express and Hogsmeade in all their glory, just like young Harry seeing it all for the first time.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Winner: “Reunion of Friends”
Hermione is un-Petrified, Hagrid’s name has been cleared, and the gang is back together! This piece contains some of “Leaving Hogwarts” from the end of Sorcerer’s Stone, which crops up again when the trio sees their children off in the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 , hearkening right back to these early, innocent days. This was back when we got relatively uncomplicated happy endings, when Gryffindor winning the House Cup still mattered, before every victory came along with a horrific death. It fits with the Chris Columbus aesthetic that will get traded in for something much darker from Alfonso Cuarón in the next film.
Runner-up: “Fawkes the Phoenix”
This uplifting tune could raise anything from ash. The feeling it gives me is what I imagine one would feel when hearing phoenix song. It is a spark of hope, rebirth, a fresh start. As Emily Dickinson wrote, “Hope is the thing with feathers…”
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Winner: “A Window to the Past”
We all know that John Williams deserved to win an Academy Award for at least one of the Potter scores, but Prisoner of Azkaban is where he was most cheated. This soundtrack has some of the best variety of the series, from the sweeping, inspirational tunes to the more light-hearted, fun, and even jazzy pieces. “A Window to the Past” exemplifies Williams’ work, introducing a new leitmotif that fits perfectly with the music we already know and the tone of the film. Every time I hear those gentle opening notes, I imagine myself looking out from a high tower at Hogwarts and watching the seasons change over Alfonso Caurón’s mysterious yet comforting gray landscape.
Runner-up: “Buckbeak’s Flight”
Doesn’t this one just raise your spirits and make your heart sing? Don’t you just want to throw your arms back and fly? Harry doesn’t much enjoy riding Buckbeak in the book, but the film, partially because of this music, makes it seem like a euphoric experience. Just hearing it makes me feel like I’m soaring over the Black Lake on the back of a magical creature.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Winner: “Harry in Winter”
Patrick Doyle’s work on Goblet of Fire is stunning, so it’s truly difficult to pick the best tracks when we’ve got all the Yule Ball music, tense action pieces, and mournful violins. I’ve always had a soft spot for this one, perhaps because I don’t associate it with a particular moment so much as a mood. It plays in my head whenever I walk through snow and feels like a brief respite from whatever else is happening, be that the Triwizard Tournament or life in general. It’s getting something off your chest and taking a deep breath.
Runner-up: “Hogwarts Hymn”
It’s mournful and pensive, but hopeful and determined. The bittersweetness that characterizes the end of Harry’s fourth year really comes through here. I hear the strength and resilience of Hogwarts, standing tall through the pain caused by Cedric’s death and the hardship ahead. Let’s all lift our wands skyward.
Stay tuned for the best tracks of Films 5–8! What are your favorite tunes from the first four?