Soundtracks, Soundtracks, Soundtracks: Oscar Winning Scores Part Two

There are many things that make a movie what it is. It all starts with a story (according to what every How-To book on screenwriting tells us), there is the director and his crew, there are the actors, who bust their asses to bring a vision to life. Then comes the wonderful world of post-production. What is one result of that? The music. Soundtracks enhance the movie going experience. They can make us cry, they can pump us up, they can make us remember the 80's. Whether it be a musical band or a composer, soundtracks help our favorite movies stay etched in our mind forever.

From 1934 on, the Academy Awards ceremony has paid tribute to just about every aspect of filmmaking...one of which being the memorable musical scores that the best of the best have come up with throughout the years. Scores with different styles for a plethora of a different variety of films have received the honor, and some composers get more love than others as you will soon see throughout this article. What is great is that not only do the winners deserve their prize, but you can be turned on through so much more through all the nominees. Every single one of these scores mentioned, runner ups included deserve the praise they receive. This concludes the two part series and I hope you all enjoy Oscar night. So read and enjoy some of the legendary work that have won the big one.


Great songs in this film, as was the norm in this golden age of Disney animated films…but I’m showing love to the films composer Alan Menken here. This films climax has some of the best music in a Disney film I’m ever heard. I am prepared to admit something to you shamelessly, more often than not when the beast meets his untimely “demise” and Belle tries to comfort him with Menken’s score playing, I shed man tears. Big whoop, wanna fight about it? Beauty and the Beast had some great stiff competition in its year going up against scores for Bugsy by Ennio Morricone, The Fisher King by George Fenton, JFK by John Williams, and Prince of Tides by James Newton Howard. WON: 1991


I challenge you to find a more powerful scene then that of one at the end of Schindler’s List when Oskar Schindler breaks down at realizing he could have done more to help these people then he ultimately did, with Williams’ score complimenting the emotion. Schindler’s List was a film that close to Spielberg’s heart, and in this case more than ever Williams had a hell of a job to capture the emotion of what was going on, and as always he passed with flying colors. Other works nominated with Schindler’s List included The Age of Innocence by Elmer Bernstein, The Firm by David Grusin, The Fugitive by James Newton Howard, and The Remains of the Day by Richard Robbins. WON: 1993


Hans Zimmer is one of my favorite composers, and the track “The King of Pride Rock”…well I honestly struggle to find the words to describe how amazing it is. I went to see Lion King when it was re-released in theaters and honestly a big part of the reason I did was to hear Zimmer’s score in that environment again. The triumphant track playing with the look of amazement as Simba’s new subjects see him take the throne, well it sends chills up the spine. That’s just scratching the surface; don’t even need to mention the tear inducing emotional track that hits as Simba tries to revive his father post-stampede. Other amazing scores nominated this year included Forrest Gump by Alan Silvestri, Interview with the Vampire by Ellliot Goldenthal, Little Women by Thomas Newman, and Shawshank Redemption by Thomas Newman. WON: 1994


All these years, opinions on James Cameron’s Titanic have been mixed…but with a lot of movies that have split reactions, one aspect of a lot of those films seem to be universally approved and often that is the musical score. I believe James Horner’s score for this film qualifies. Horner is another one of my favorite composers and he has a lot of work that I feel is underappreciated, for example his work on The Perfect Storm (emotional as all hell). The love theme to Titanic is one thing, but he captured the devastation to the sinking of the ship perfectly, even some suspenseful tracks. There is something here for all to love. Other nominations include Amistad by John Williams, Good Will Hunting by Danny Elfman, Kundun by Philip Glass, and L.A Confidential by Jerry Goldsmith. WON: 1997


What can be said about Howard Shore’s work on Lord of the Rings? This series of films can be attributed to reviving the fantasy genre and giving a new generation their fix, and a fantasy film is only as good as the composer behind it. This can be said about any film really, there are many tracks that make the soundtrack to the film great. In this case, "The Bridge of Khazad-dûm" would have to be my hands down favorite track of Fellowship of the Ring. Shore won another award for his work on Return of the King in 2003. The year of Fellowship his competition was as follows: A.I Artificial Intelligence by John Williams, A Beautiful Mind by James Horner, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by John Williams, and Monsters Inc. by Randy Newman. WON: 2001 & 2003


Trent Reznor composed himself an interesting piece of work for The Social Network and I am glad it got an award. As soon as I heard his score pick up during the film’s opening credits I knew that we were going to be in for something interesting, and I thought the montage scene of Zuckerberg putting the hot or not joint together was pretty badass! The sensationalized story of the creation of Facebook ended up being a worthy story to tell that I didn’t take seriously at first. But I am grateful to have been proved wrong by all involved, including Reznor. A hell of a job, and an award well earned. Reznor’s competition consisted of scores for 127 Hours by A.R. Rahman, How to Train Your Dragon by John Powell, Inception by Hans Zimmer, and The Kings Speech by Alexandre Desplat. WON: 2010 HONORABLE MENTION: FINDING NEVERLAND - JAN A.P. KACZMAREK (2004)

Extra Tidbit: A lot of these winners seem like they had it in the big. But for this respective list, is it just me or is it filled with other great nominees that I wouldn't have minded taking the win themselves? Would you agree? If so, give some examples.



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