Music Break: Ten Favorite Oscar-Winning Film Scores


The Oscars is just a week away, folks! Well, a week ago, as I was listening to 99.5 Classical MPR they were playing my favorite score from Titanic and I knew I had to make a post of it. For this post I’m focusing more on the instrumental themes instead of the songs, hence my exclusion of Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, etc. Y’know, I’m still surprised that some of my all time fave scores did NOT win an Oscar, i.e. Gone with the Wind, Superman, Indiana Jones, Gladiator, The Hours, and The Passion of the Christ, just to name a few. Heck, the one I considered one of the greatest scores ever, Somewhere in Time, wasn’t even nominated! But its composer John Barry had been nominated six times. John Williams, the reigning champion of the most-nominated composer ever with 44 (he beat Alfred Newman who had 43 noms) have made some truly iconic scores, but my faves did not win, so I only included the one I love the most.

Thanks to Wikipedia for making it easy for me to see the winners all the way from the 1930s. Now, I’ve seen most of the films the scores appear in, with a couple of exceptions (Out of Africa and Dances with Wolves). So in any case, here are my Top 10 Fave Oscar-Winning Scores, in order of release:

BEN-HUR – Miklós Rózsa

Ever since I saw this as a young girl with my late mother, few films have touched me as much as Ben-Hur did and Rozsa’s score is one of the reasons it’s such an enduring epic.


Lawrence of Arabia – Maurice Jarre

I actually just saw this film two years ago but I’ve heard the soundtrack years before and it’s remained one of my favorites!


Out of Africa – John Barry

Ahhh John Barry… nobody could create a more lush and devastatingly gorgeous music that pierces your soul. I haven’t seen the film yet but I’m actually afraid the music would actually eclipse the film itself.


The Little Mermaid – Alan Menken

I grew up listening to all Disney Princess songs and I somehow identified with Ariel’s loneliness and her yearning to belong in someone else’s world. Mr. Menken is an absolute musical genius in that he somehow could capture the sentiment of her character.

I also have a special fondness for the Caribbean-influenced style of Under the Sea. I LOVE the little crab Sebastian so much I actually bought the tiny stuffed animal, and I’m still using The Little Mermaid‘s beach towel to this day 😀


Schindler’s List – John Williams

Perhaps one of the most hauntingly-beautiful music ever conceived. I never NOT tear up whenever I listen to this. Itzhak Perlman‘s violin solo adds so much to the piece, making it ever so unforgettable.


Beauty & The Beast – Alan Menken

I was just listening to this the other day and out of all the music in the wonderful album, this has to be my favorite. Yes, it even beats the more popular Tale as old as time. The scene itself of the Beast’s transformation is beautifully-done and it always packs such an emotional punch.


Dances with Wolves – John Barry

Another one by John Barry, can’t you tell I absolute LOVE this man’s work? I really should see this film already, as I’ve listened to the soundtrack more often than I can count.


Titanic – James Horner

THIS is the piece that was played in Classical MPR on my way home from work last week. I’m glad they chose to play Take Her to Sea Mr Murdock instead of the massively popular My Heart Will Go On. I always remember the first time I beheld the majestic ocean liner on the big screen and there’s a lump in my throat when that music came on. There’s such an energy to it, a joyful optimism of that day that’s so infectious, which makes the doom fate of Titanic later on in the film even more heart-wrenching.


The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King – Howard Shore

I really think the soundtrack of the entire trilogy is simply exceptional. It’s just as epic as Peter Jackson’s creation and it really transport you into the realm of Middle Earth!


The Artist – Ludovic Bource

The strength of a lot of silent films is the soundtrack and The Artist is no exception. I love most of the tracks but this waltz is my absolute favorite. I LOVE Bérénice Bejo in the role, this music is as pretty and playful as Peppy herself, there’s such a wistful nostalgic vibe that takes you back to those Chaplin classics.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s music break! Which of these Oscar-winning score(s) is your favorite?

40 thoughts on “Music Break: Ten Favorite Oscar-Winning Film Scores

  1. I love Titanic’s score too, just recently I watched it again in 3D. The soundtrack definitely brought back the memories of seeing the film on the big screen years ago and somehow it felt like it’s yesterday that I saw it. As you know I don’t pay attention to the Oscars anymore so I don’t know which soundtrack won the golden statue or not. I still think Elliot Goldenthal’s score of Heat was one of the best ever, I don’t remember if he was even nominated for an Oscar.

    As for Dances with Wolves, it’s a good movie but wayyyy overrated. You should see it and judge it for yourself if it deserves all those Oscars or not. Personally I’m still angry over the fact that Costner, a first time director at the time, won the directing award over Scorsese for Goodfellas.

    1. I actually prefer the instrumental score to the popular song by Celine Dion. Yeah it seems that there are as many songs that weren’t even nominated that are just as good. I was astounded that some of my all time faves didn’t win.

      Well as I haven’t seen ‘Wolves’ nor Goodfellas, I can’t comment on it. But it seems that Oscars generally like those big epic movies.

      1. If I remember correctly, James Horner convinced Cameron to include Dion’s song in the soundtrack. I still remember when that song premiered on MTV, when MTV still plays music, I pretty much loved it. But after the film opened and the song was played 24/7 on TV and radio, I got sick of it.

        Yup they do love those epic kind of movies. Also, around that time Scorsese was sort of being “hated” by many people for making The Temptation of Christ and many thought Goodfellas was way to violent. I thought Dances with Wolves was a well made film but it’s nothing special, of course it has great soundtrack and beautiful sceneries. Costner was kind of wooden as the lead and his direction was kind of shotty at times.

    1. Oh you didn’t like the film? Hmmm, so my suspicion sounds right then, that the score is probably better than the film itself. What do you think of Dances w/ Wolves? That’s another one here I haven’t seen yet.

  2. Love this list Ruth. I am a huge fan of Titanic, one of my all time favorites and good choice of a score. For me, music is very important in any film. I can not fully love a movie without decent score.

    Ben Hur and LOTR is epic, obviously. But I remember Out of Africa from very long ago, when I first watched it at the age of 11 or so. Happy to see it on your list.

    1. Hey Nika! Yeah, Titanic’s score still holds up doesn’t it, when I heard it come on the radio I immediately got goosebumps! I’m with you about film scores, sometimes I could even love the score more than the film!

      Glad we share some faves!

  3. Brittani

    Excellent list! There’s so many scores I love. Atonement, Inception, How To Train Your Dragon, the list could go on. My favorite here is LOTR.

    1. Hi Brittani! Oh I love those you mentioned too, it’s nuts that they didn’t win Oscar. It seems that there are as many scores I love that didn’t win.

  4. Pretty cool! One of my favorite scores ever is Dario Marianelli’s work in Atonement (which won). My favorite this year was Antonio Sánchez’s for Birdman, which I’m still sad about it not being nominated.

    1. Oh I was gonna include Atonement, that would’ve gone to my Honorable Mention. That’s crazy that Sanchez’s work in Birdman wasn’t nominated!! But it seems that a lot of my faves aren’t nominated or didn’t win.

  5. The score by Maurice Jarre in Lawrence of Arabia is among one of my favorites. I’m going to see Ben-Hur probably this weekend. It’s one of those films I haven’t seen.

    1. Ooooh I hope you enjoy Ben-Hur. The story resonated so much w/ me and that’s why it remains one of my favorite. Oh and you can’t beat that chariot scene! Even w/ the tech advances of moviemaking today, it’s still hugely impressive!

    1. Hi Mark, glad you enjoyed the post. Both of those scores are amazing indeed, they’re both nominated but sadly they did not win an Oscar. I did feature The Mission in a previous Music Break post, the music is hauntingly beautiful!

  6. Great stuff Ruth! I still can’t believe you haven’t seen Dances with Wolves yet. That absolutely should be a BlindSpot choice. And you’re right, the score is absolutely brilliant. Also love seeing Ben Hur on the list. Just watched it again yesterday.

    1. Thanks Keith! Yeah I know, I really should see ‘Wolves’ at some point. I’ve been loving the score for ages! Great idea to make that my Blindspot list next year. Oooh you just rewatched Ben-Hur? I have such a deep love & admiration for that film, it’s one of the earliest Hollywood epics I saw as a young girl and the redemptive story still resonates with me to this day.

      Btw, I’m doing another Thursday Movie Picks tomorrow (it’s a weekly blogathon thing) & I have a feeling you’d like at least one of my picks 😉

  7. What a fabulous list, with some amazing scores. John Williams will always be king in my world, but I love Lawrence of Arabia and I think Shore did a brilliant job with LOTR. Ah, some of these entries give me the shivers!

    1. Hello there V! Glad we share some faves. LOVE John Williams, but I’m surprised most of my faves did NOT win 😦 I think my top 3 composers are Williams, John Barry and Hans Zimmer and now Desplat is becoming my new favorite!

      1. Desplat seems to be finally making a name for himself! And deservedly so, he’s kind of been flying under the radar for a while now. Williams and Zimmer in particular have such instantly recognisable sounds and scores that some of the more subtle (for lack of a better word) composers don’t tend to get as much attention or accolade.

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