It is first heard briefly after Yoda transforms into the Cosmic Force in death in Return of the Jedi, released in 1983. A longer choir is added to the motif during the Funeral of Qui-Gon Jinn in the 1999 film The Phantom Menace, and further developed in Revenge of the Sith during the death of Padmé Amidala, wife to Anakin Skywalker and mother to the twins Luke and Leia, and the "rebirth" of Anakin as Darth Vader in his suit. It is then played throughout the ending sequence of the 2005 film without a choir, as the funeral of Padmé Amidala takes place and when Vader and Darth Sidious observe the beginning of the Death Star's construction. A rendition of the funeral leitmotif is also used in the the track "The Final Saber Duel" for the 2019 film The Rise of Skywalker, signifying the sacrifice of Leia Skywalker Organa Solo. However, the motif was lifted from the final cut of the film.
In Episode I's rendition, there was also an ominous musical cue that chimes twice that occurs around the time that Mace Windu wonders whether Darth Maul was the Sith Master or the apprentice, which was meant to hint that Palpatine was the other Sith Lord.