John Williams to Receive AFI Lifetime Achievement Award

     October 8, 2015


The music of a movie becomes another character in the story. It adds to the atmosphere, tone, and emotional resonance the audience experiences. It takes skill to make sure this addition emboldens the impact of the film while not serving to distract or muddle it. There has been few people more accomplished or recognized in this realm than John Williams, and now he can add another achievement to his already impressive career.

Via a press release, the American Film Institute (AFI) has announced that they will be awarding Williams the Life Achievement Award, which is considered the highest honor for a career in film in America. Beyond Williams receiving such a prestigious award, he will become the first composer to ever receive it. And that is a very fitting honor—an ‘of course’ moment—for the living legend.

In the words of AFI Board of Trustees Chairman Sir Howard Stringer,

“John Williams has written the soundtrack to our lives. Note by note, through chord and chorus, his genius for marrying music with movies has elevated the art form to symphonic levels and inspired generations of audiences to be enriched by the magic of the movies.”


©ÊTodd Rosenberg Photography 2009

You can’t fault him for hyperbole. From Indiana Jones to Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List to Saving Private Ryan, and E.T to Harry Potter, Williams has been behind some of the most iconic scores in film history. Few can say they don’t know the music to Star Wars or Jaws. Beyond his most well known work, Williams has over 150 credits that span 70 years.

His music is its own character. It makes its presence known and isn’t shy, adding heft to the scene, like the end of E.T. But he has also been known for simple, less bombastic music, like the simple theme to Harry Potter on the piano.

AFI has recognized his work previously when they released a list of the best American film scores, with Star Wars landing in the number one slot. Williams has also won five Academy Awards (for Fiddler On The Roof, Jaws, Star Wars, E.T., and Schindler’s List), as well as being nominated a total of 49 times. If you’re keeping score, that makes him the most Oscar-nominated person alive today.

You can next hear Willams’ work this December, when Star Wars: The Force Awakens arrives in theaters. After that, he is set to once again collaborate with Steven Spielberg on The BFG, which is scheduled for 2016.

The tribute will air on TNT and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) in June 2016.

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