Oscar Winning Soundtracks – Musical Scores

The AWESOME! page has random music stuff that I think is cool. You never know what you will find here!

I’ve blogged before on soundtracks from both musical theater and movies – see my posts on Tony Award Winners (June 14, 2017), Disney Favorites (May 27, 2018), Musical Theater Cast Recordings (March 18, 2018), the soundtracks to Schindler’s List (June 16, 2017), Rent (June 12, 2019) and Leonard Bernstein’s Mass (January 20, 2019) – it’s easy to see that I am a big fan of musicals. Today, I’m writing about movie soundtracks that have won the award for Best Original Music Score from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – the Oscars.

The Academy give an award for Best Original Score as well as Best Original Song. This post is about the scores, not the songs. I’ll write about the songs at a later blog – maybe. The score is the music that accompanies a film – the best scores have a huge impact on the movie-watching experience. Often a song or songs are part of the movie soundtrack, but the songs themselves are not part of the scores. The composer of the score sometime will use the themes of the score to develop songs that become part of the film. In some years, there have been multiple awards for Scores – Original Score and Adaptation Score, or Original Dramatic Score and Original Musical or Comedy Score. Since 1999, there has been only 1 award for scoring.

The award dates back to 1935 – the first winner was for the film One Night of Love, awarded to Colombia Studio Music Department. The most recent winner was for the film Black Panther, awarded to Ludwig Göransson.

The composer with the most wins is Alfred Newman, with 9 wins out of 43 nominations. Newman worked between 1930 and 1970. His final win was in 1967 for the score to Camelot. The composer with the most nominations is John Williams, with 47 nominations and 5 wins (Williams also has been nominated 5 times for Best Song). William’s most recent win was in 1993, for Schindler’s List (read my blog on this work – it is one of my all time favorites). Williams has scored some of the most successful movies of all time – he won Oscars for the score for Star Wars, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Jaws, as well as Fiddler On the Roof. 

Alex North holds the distinction of having the most nominations without a win, with 14 nominations. He was nominated for films from 1951 to 1984. He did win an honorary Oscar for memorable achievement for his contribution to the film industry in 1986. Thomas Newman has been nominated 13 times – he is still active in composing scores, getting a nomination as recently as 2017 for Passengers – we’ll see if he ties or breaks North’s record.

Disney animated movies have won the Oscar numerous times. Their first win was in 1940, for Pinocchio. Other Disney winners were Dumbo (1941), Mary Poppins (1964 – live action with animation), The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), The Lion King (1994), Pocahontas (1995), and Up (2009 – produced by Pixar Studios and released by Disney).

Only 3 women have won an Oscar for Best Scoring. Composer Rachel Portman won for Emma in 1996, composer Anne Dudley won for The Full Monty in 1997, and lyricist Marilyn Bergman won (with 2 other lyricists) for Yentl in 1983. Only 3 other women have received nominations. WE NEED MORE WOMEN CONTRIBUTING TO FILM SCORES!

My personal favorite Oscar winners are Schindler’s List (John Williams – 1993), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Howard Shore – 2001 and 2003 respectively), Pocahontas (Alan Menken & Stephen Schwartz – 1995) and Mary Poppins (Robert and Richard Sherman – 1964). Here’s a clip from The Fellowship of the Ring – it’s the music from The Council of Elrond. The sound and feel of this is prevalent throughout all of the LOTR music by Howard Shore. Really beautiful music here, and absolutely essential to the experience of watching these epic movies.




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