1. Not With My Wife, You Don’t! (1966)
Williams’s early film career saw him score a handful of adult-themed comedies. Writing under the name ‘Johnny’, his music for this film starring Tony Curtis is typical of the period: light, jazzy and with songs featuring lyrics by Johnny Mercer.
2. Images (1972)
By the 1970s Williams was going by the more mature ‘John’. His work, too, took on a more grown-up tone, the composer scoring arthouse and independent films. This Robert Altman thriller inspired Williams to write his most unusual score to date, with percussion effects by the Japanese artist Stomu Yamash’ta.
3. Heartbeeps (1981)
This sci-fi comedy about a pair of escapee robots saw a rare film turn by the comedian Andy Kaufman. Though featuring the musicians of the Hollywood Studio Symphony, it has the most electronics yet heard in a Williams score.
4. Monsignor (1982)
Williams retrofitted his faintly comic Esplanade Overture from the same year into this score, for a film about a seductive Vatican priest and starring Christopher Reeve. An excerpt of the Latin mass features in the striking Gloria for choir and organ.
5. Rosewood (1997)
For this unflinching take on the 1920s massacre of a small African-American community, Williams drew on his experience of arranging gospel music in the 1960s. It features three original choral spirituals: ‘Look Down, Lord’, ‘Light My Way’ and ‘The Freedom Train’.
Top image by Getty Images