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Checking the Score: Voting Under Way for Best in Film Music

With voting underway to determine the final five contenders for this year's Best Original Score Academy Award, Tom Kenny considers the highly competitive shortlist.

Of all the Oscar categories this year, Best Original Score may just prove the most competitive, and this weekend, voters from the Music branch of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences will be making some tough decisions as they vote on the 15 Shortlist nominees and narrow it down to a final five contenders.

Hans Zimmer has two nominations, as does Jonny Greenwood. Carter Burwell is back, as are Alexandre Desplat and Harry Gregson Williams. People can’t stop talking about Kris Bowers’ work on King Richard, and Daniel Pemberton has broken into the worldwide A-list with his work these past two years, culminating in a delightful take on 1950s America as seen through the eyes of the Ricardos.

Jeymes Samuel wrote and directed The Harder They Fall this year, while also writing the music. That’s amazing, and he’s on the shortlist for Original Score—as is Germaine Franco for Disney’s magical, surreal and wonderful Encanto. I wouldn’t bet against Alberto Iglesias; he’s getting a lot of buzz.

Catch Mix Sound For Film: Awards Season On Demand for FREE

The fact is, composers for film and television are at the top of their game right now and are the hottest thing going in audio recording, with more innovative work exploding across the big and small screen than ever before.

Some of this has to do with the emergence of more outlets (i.e., the streaming services), and some of it has to do with advanced technologies and tools for blending sound and music. In this writer’s opinion, a very large part has to do with the fact that most composers today work across multiple media, from film and television to games and animated shorts, from limited series to episodic television. That cross-fertilization of the sound-for-picture worlds has been brewing for years. It is reaching its height right now, and composers are responding.

One note: There was a significant rule change this year in the Best Original Score category, following a few years of controversy surrounding what constitutes an “original” score. Previously, Academy rules stated that to qualify, a score must make up a minimum of 60 percent of the total music used in a film. This year that threshold was lowered to 35 percent.

Voting for the Shortlist nominees takes place from January 27 – February 1, with the five Final Nominees announced on February 8. Final Voting begins on March 17, with the 94th Annual Academy Awards to take place on March 27.

Here are the 15 Shortlist nominees for Best Original Score.


  • Being the Ricardos (Amazon Studios) — Daniel Pemberton
  • Candyman (Universal Pictures) — Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe
  • Don’t Look Up (Netflix) — Nicholas Britell
  • Dune (Warner Bros) — Hans Zimmer
  • Encanto (Walt Disney Pictures) — Germaine Franco
  • The French Dispatch (Searchlight Pictures) — Alexandre Desplat
  • The Green Knight (A24) — Daniel Hart
  • The Harder They Fall (Netflix) — Jeymes Samuel
  • King Richard (Warner Bros) — Kris Bowers
  • The Last Duel (20th Century Studios) — Harry Gregson-Williams
  • No Time to Die (MGM/United Artists Releasing) — Hans Zimmer
  • Parallel Mothers (Sony Pictures Classics) — Alberto Iglesias
  • The Power of the Dog (Netflix) — Jonny Greenwood
  • Spencer (Neon/Topic Studios) — Jonny Greenwood
  • The Tragedy of Macbeth (Apple Original Films/A24) — Carter Burwell