Home Music Production & Sound Design Composer Inspo: Greatest Musical Scores That Won the Oscars

Composer Inspo: Greatest Musical Scores That Won the Oscars

by Academy Contributor

Some music is timeless, and this may be especially true of musical soundtracks. Here are seven that have become especially beloved over the years.

Ever heard of a track that immediately reminded you of a movie? There’s nothing quite like the iconic haunting three-note tune that brings you right back to the movie, JAWS.

Movie soundtracks not only set the tone and pace of the movie, but they also connect with the audience’s emotions. Over the years, we’ve associated iconic movies with their equally recognizable soundtracks. Here are just a few composers who’ve brought home the Oscars for their outstanding music scores!

Lord of the Rings – Howard Shore

Widely considered as the most successful project of Howard Shore’s illustrious career, “The Lord of the Rings” film score earned three Grammy awards, three Oscars, and two Golden Globes. Shore incorporated different musical styles and recurring themes into the score and combined 19th century structure and style with present day musical techniques. The score of “The Lord of the Rings” is universally understood to be one of the most significant accomplishments in film score history.

High Noon – Dimitri Tiomkin

Regardless of your age and background, you can probably recognize the “Do not forsake me, oh my darlin’” song. Dimitri Tiomkin’s score for “High Noon” helped bring the western genre out of B movies and into the world of A-List films. Hence, the “High Noon” score took the Oscars in 1952 for the Best Original Soundtrack and the Best Song. Noted Hollywood historian Arthur R. Jarvis, Jr., also stated that Tiomkin’s score for “High Noon” saved the movie.

Star Wars – John Williams

You don’t even have to be a “Star Wars” fan to recognize any of the series’ soundtrack. In case you didn’t know, John Williams is the one who composed the scores for the wildly popular saga. The score for the first film, “Star Wars”, was even entered into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress because of its cultural significance. The score was originally performed by the London Symphony Orchestra.

The Little Mermaid – Alan Menken

Remember your favorite childhood Disney song, “Under the Sea”? Well, Alan Menken is the composer of the score and many other tracks in the “Little Mermaid” movie from 1989. The magical and romantic soundtrack not only won Oscars but also Grammy and Golden Globe awards. The score was originally orchestrated virtuoso by Thomas Pasatieri.

The Lion King – Hans Zimmer

Another beloved Disney favorite, Hans Zimmer’s Oscar-winning score for “The Lion King” was widely successful in the commercial realm. Incorporating elements of African music with songwriter and performances from Elton John and Tim Rice, the score won two Oscars, three Golden Globes, and six Grammys. One of the musicians, Lebo M. from South Africa, was actually first noticed by Zimmer while working as a coffee go-fer in the office.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Tan Dun

Chinese composer Tan Dun’s score for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” brought home an Oscar for the Best Original Score and a BAFTA Award for Best Film Music. Dun combined both western and eastern influences to create the iconic soundtrack that captured the suspense and mystery of the film. The original score was performed by Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Percussion Ensemble, and Shanghai National Orchestra. It featured several solos by renowned cello artist Yo-Yo Ma, and the final track was performed by Coco Lee.

Doctor Zhivago – Maurice Jarre

French conductor and composer Maurice Jarre was considered as one of the global giants of the music industry in the 20th century. He earned the second Oscar of his illustrious career for the widely acclaimed instrumental  “Lara’s Theme,” from the film Doctor Zhivago. The track was consequently used as the tune for the song “Somewhere My Love,” which won a Grammy Award in 1967.


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