Oscars 2013 Category Breakdown: Best Original Score

Every year, leading up to the Oscars, I break down every single category. It’s essentially a precursor to my picks. I explain all the stuff that needs to be explained in detail, so when the time comes to make my picks, I can refer to it as a shorthand.

In the articles, I’ll go over each category’s history, show previous winners and nominees, then list the current year’s nominees, talk about the guild history, if it’s important, what the guilds went with this year, whether that means anything for that particular category — all the background you need to know to make an informed decision. And then, once that’s all done, I’ll rank the nominees in that category in order of their likelihood to win, based on how I see it at the present.

The only difference between this year and previous years is that this year, I’ll be doing only one category a day instead of multiple categories. This is so I can take more time with each category and not stuff a bunch into a single article for information overload, and, simply, so I don’t have to do as much work. Though it is also easier this way. One category, one day.

Today is Best Original Score. Which doesn’t really require much of an introduction.


Best Original Score Winners

Other Nominees


One Night of Love

The Gay Divorcee

The Lost Patrol


The Informer

Captain Blood

Mutiny on the Bounty

Peter Ibbetson


Anthony Adverse

The Charge of the Light Brigade

The Garden of Allah

The General Died at Dawn



One Hundred Men and a Girl

The Hurricane

In Old Chicago

The Life of Emile Zola

Lost Horizon

Make a Wish


Portia on Trial

The Prisoner of Zenda

Quality Street

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Something to Sing About

Souls at Sea

Way Out West


The Adventures of Robin Hood

Army Girl



Breaking the Ice

The Cowboy and the Lady

If I Were King

Marie Antoinette

Pacific Liner


The Young in Heart


Original: The Wizard of Oz

Scoring: Stagecoach

Original: Dark Victory

Eternally Yours

Golden Boy

Gone With the Wins

Gulliver’s Travels

The Man in the Iron Mask

Man of Conquest

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Nurse Edith Cavell

Of Mice and Men

The Rains Came

Wuthering Heights

Scoring: Babes in Arms


Original Score: Pinocchio

Scoring: Tin Pan Alley

Original Score: Arizona

The Dark Command

The Fight for Life

The Great Dictator

The Howards of Virginia

The Letter

The Long Voyage Home

The Mark of Zorro

My Favorite Wife

North West Mounted Police

One Million B.C.

Our Town


The Thief of Bagdad

Waterloo Bridge

Scoring: Arise, My Love

Hit Parade of 1941


Our Town

The Sea Hawk

Second Chorus

Spring Parade

Strike Up the Band


Dramatic: The Devil and Daniel Webster

Musical: Dumbo

Dramatic: Back Street

Ball of Fire

Cheers for Miss Bishop

Citizen Kane

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Hold Back the Dawn

How Green Was My Valley

King of the Zombies

Ladies in Retirement

The Little Foxes


Mercy Island

Sergeant York

So Ends Our Night



Tanks a Million

That Uncertain Feeling

This Woman is Mine

Musical: All-American Co-Ed

Birth of the Blues

Buck Privates

The Chocolate Soldier


The Strawberry Blonde

Sun Valley Serenade


You’ll Never Get Rich


Dramatic or Comedy: Now, Voyager

Musical: Yankee Doodle Dandy

Dramatic or Comedy: Arabian Knights


The Black Swan

The Corsican Brothers

Flying Tigers

The Gold Rush

I Married a Witch

Joan of Paris

Jungle Book

Klondike Fury

The Pride of the Yankees

Random Harvest

The Shanghai Gesture

Silver Queen

Take a Letter, Darling

The Talk of the town

To Be or Not to Be

Musical: Flying with Music

For Me and My Gal

Holiday Inn

It Started with Eve

Johnny Doughboy

My Gal Sal

You Were Never Lovelier


Dramatic or Comedy: The Song of Bernadette

Musical: This Is the Army

Dramatic or Comedy: The Amazing Mrs. Holliday


Commandos Strike at Dawn

The Fallen Sparrow

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Hangmen Also Die

Hi Diddle Diddle

In Old Oklahoma

Johnny Come Lately

The Kansan

Lady of Burlseque

Madame Curie

The Moon and Sixpence

The North Star

Victory Through Air Power

 Musical: Coney Island

Hit Parade of 1943

Phantom o the Opera

Saludos Amigos

The Sky’s the Limit

Something to Shout About

Stage Door Canteen

Star Spangled Rhythm

Thousands Cheer


Dramatic or Comedy: Since You Went Away

Musical: Cover Girl

Dramatic or Comedy: Address Unknown

The Adventures of Mark Twain

The Bridge of San Luis Rey

Casanova Brown

Christmas Holiday

Double Indemnity

The Fighting Seabees

The Hairy Ape

It Happened Tomorrow

Jack London


None but the Lonely Heart

The Princess and the Pirate

Summer Storm

Three Russian Girls

Up in Mabel’s Room

Voice in the Wind


Woman of the Town

 Musical: Brazil

Higher and Higher

Hollywood Canteen

Irish Eyes Are Smiling

Knickerbocker Holiday

Lady in the Dark

Lady, Let’s Dance

Meet Me in St. Louis

The Merry Monahans

Minstrel Man

Sensations of 1945

Song o the Open Road

Up in Arms


Dramatic or Comedy: Spellbound

Musical: Anchors Aweigh

Dramatic or Comedy: The Bells of St. Mary’s

Brewster’s Millions

Captain Kidd

The Enchanted Cottage

Flame of Barbary Coast

G.I. Honeymoon

The Story of G.I. Joe

Guest in the House

Guest Wife

The Keys of the Kingdom

The Lost Weekend

Love Letters

The Man Who Walked Alone

Objective, Burma!


A Song to Remember

The Southerner

This Love of Ours

The Valley of Decision

The Woman in the Window

 Musical: Belle of the Yukon

Can’t Help Singing

Hitchhike to Happiness

Incendiary Blonde

Rhapsody in Blue

State Fair

Sunbonnet Sue

The Three Caballeros

Tonight and Every night

Why Girls Leave Home

Wonder Man


Dramatic or Comedy: The Best Years of Our Lives

Musical: The Jolson Story

Dramatic or Comedy: Anna and the King of Siam

Henry V


The Killers

 Musical: Blue Skies

Centennial Summer

The Harvey Girls

Night and Day


Dramatic or Comedy: A Double Life

Musical: Mother Wore Tights

Dramatic or Comedy: The Bishop’s Wife

Captain from Castile

Forever Amber

Life with Father

 Musical: Fiesta

My Wild Irish Rose

Road to Rio

Song of the South


Dramatic or Comedy: The Red Shoes

Musical: Easter Parade

Dramatic or Comedy: Hamlet

Joan of Arc

Johnny Belinda

The Snake Pit

 Musical: The Emperor Waltz

The Pirate

Romance on the High Seas

When My Baby Smiles at Me


Dramatic or Comedy: The Heiress

Musical: On the Town

Dramatic or Comedy: Beyond the Forest


 Musical: Jolson Sings Again

Look for the Silver Lining


Dramatic or Comedy: Sunset Boulevard

Musical: Annie Get Your Gun

Dramatic or Comedy: All About Eve

The Flame and the Arros

No Sad Songs for Me

Samson and Delilah

 Musical: Cinderella

I’ll Get By

Three Little Words

The West Point Story


Dramatic or Comedy: A Place in the Sun

Musical: An American in Paris

Dramatic or Comedy: David and Bathsheba

Death of a Salesman

Quo Vadis

A Streetcar Named Desire

 Musical: Alice in Wonderland

The Great Caruso

On the Riviera

Show Boat


Dramatic or Comedy: High Noon

Musical: With a Song in My Heart

Dramatic or Comedy: Ivanhoe

The Miracle of Oour Lady of Fantima

The Thief

Viva Zapata!

 Musical: Hans Christian Anderson

The Jazz Singer

The Medium

Singin’ in the Rain


Dramatic or Comedy: Lili

Musical: Call Me Madam

Dramatic or Comedy: Above and Beyond

From Here to Eternity

Julius Caesar

This is Cinerama

 Musical: The Band Wagon

Calamity Jane

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T

Kiss Me Kate


Dramatic or Comedy: The High and the Mighty

Musical: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Dramatic or Comedy: The Caine Mutiny


On the Waterfront

The Silver Chalice

 Musical: Carmen Jones

The Glenn Miller Story

A Star is Born

There’s No Business Like Show Business


Dramatic or Comedy: Love is a Many-Splendored Thing

Musical: Oklahoma!

Dramatic or Comedy: Battle Cry

The Man with the Golden Arm


The Rose Tattoo

 Musical: Daddy Long Legs

Guys and Dolls

It’s Always Fair Weather

Love Me or Leave Me


Dramatic or Comedy: Around the World in 80 Days

Musical: The King and I

Dramatic or Comedy: Anastasia

Between Heaven and Hell


The Rainmaer

 Musical: The Best Things in Life Are Free

The Eddy Duchin Story

High Society

Meet Me in Las Vegas


The Bridge on the River Kwai

An Affair to Remember

Boy on a Dolphin


Raintree County


Dramatic or Comedy: The Old Man and the Sea

Musical: Gigi

Dramatic or Comedy: The Big Country

Separate Tables

White Wilderness

The Young Lions

 Musical: The Bolshoi Ballet

Damn Tankees

Mardi Gras

South Pacific


Dramatic or Comedy: Ben-Hur

Musical: Porgy and Bess

Dramatic or Comedy: The Diary of Anne Frank

The Nun’s Story

On the Beach

Pillow Talk

 Musical: The Five Pennies

Li’l Abner

Say One for Me

Sleeping Beauty


Dramatic or Comedy: Exodus

Musical: Song without End (The Story of Franz Liszt)

Dramatic or Comedy: The Alamo

Elmer Gantry

The Magnificent Seven


 Musical: Bells Are Ringing


Let’s Make Love



Dramatic or Comedy: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Musical: West Side Story

Dramatic or Comedy: El Cid


The Guns of Navarone

Summer and Smoke

 Musical: Babes in Toyland

Flower Drum Song


Paris Blues


Original: Lawrence of Arabia

Music-adaptation or treatment: The Music Man

Original: Freud

Mutiny on the Bounty

Taras Bulba

To Kill a Mockingbird

Music-adaptation or treatment: Billy Rose’s Jumbo



The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm


Original: Tom Jones

Music-adaptation or treatment: Irma la Douce

Original: Cleopatra

55 Days at Peking

How the West Was Won

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Music-adaptation or treatment: Bye Bye Birdie

A New Kind of Love

Sundays and Cybele

The Sword in the Stone


Original: Mary Poppins

Music-adaptation or treatment: My Fair Lady

Original: Becket

The Fall of the Roman Empire

Hugh… Hush, Sweet Charlotte

The Pink Panther

Music-adaptation or treatment: A Hard Day’s Night

Mary Poppins

Robin and the 7 Hoods

The Unsinkable Molly Brown


Original: Doctor Zhivago

Music-adaptation or treatment: The Sound of Music

Original: The Agony and the Ecstasy

The Greatest Story Ever Told

A Patch of Blue

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

Music-adaptation or treatment: Cat Ballou

The Pleasure Seekers

A Thousand Clowns

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg


Original: Born Free

Music-adaptation or treatment: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Original: The Bible: In the Beginning


The Sand Pebbles

Who’s Afraid of the Virginia Woolf?

Music-adaptation or treatment: The Gospel According to St. Matthew

Return of the Seven

The Singing Nun

Stop the World – I Want to Get Off


Original: Thoroughly Modern Millie

Music-adaptation or treatment: Camelot

Original: Cool Hand Luke

Doctor Dolittle

Far from the Madding Crowd

In Cold Blood

Music-adaptation or treatment: Doctor Dolittle

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Thoroughly Modern Millie

Valley of the Dolls


Original: The Lion in Winter

Musical: Oliver!

Original: The Fox

Planet of the Apes

The Shoes of the Fisherman

The Thomas Crown Affair

Musical: Finian’s Rainbow

Funny Girl


The Young Girls of Rochefort


Original: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Musical: Hello, Dolly!

Original: Anne of the Thousand Days

The Reivers

The Secret of Santa Vittoria

The Wild Bunch

Musical: Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Paint Your Wagon

Sweet Charity

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?


Original: Love Story

Original Song Score: Let It Be

Original: Airport



I Girasoli

Original Song Score: The Baby Maker

A Boy Named Charlie Brown

Darling Lili



Dramatic: Summer of ‘42

Song Score and Adaptation: Fiddler on the Roof

Dramatic: Mary, Queen of Scots

Nicholas and Alexandra


Straw Dogs

Song Score and Adaptation: Bedknobs and Broomsticks

The Boy Friend


Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory


Dramatic: Limelight

Song Score and Adaptation: Cabaret

Dramatic: The Godfather (nomination withdrawn)


Napoleon and Samantha

The Poseidon Adventure


Song Score and Adaptation: Lady Sings the Blues

Man of La Mancha


Dramatic: The Way We Were

Song Score and Adaptation: The Sting

Dramatic: Cinderella Liberty

The Day of the Dolphin


A Touch of Class

Song Score and Adaptation: Jesus Christ Superstar

Tom Sawyer


Dramatic: The Godfather Part II

Song Score and Adaptation: The Great Gatsby

Dramatic: Chinatown

Murder on the Orient Express


The Towering Inferno

Song Score and Adaptation: The Little Prince

Phantom of the Paradise


Dramatic: Jaws

Song Score and Adaptation: Barry Lyndon

Dramatic: Birds Do It, Bees Do It

Bite the Bullet

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

The Wind and the Lion

Song Score and Adaptation: Funny Lady



Dramatic: The Omen

Song Score and Adaptation: Bound for Glory

Dramatic: Obsession

The Outlaw Josey Wales

Taxi Driver

Voyage of the Damned

Song Score and Adaptation: Bugsy Malone

A Star is Born


Dramatic: Star Wars

Song Score and Adaptation: A Little Night Music

Dramatic: Close Encounters of the Third Kind


Mohammad, Messenger of God

The Spy Who Loved Me

Song Score and Adaptation: Pete’s Dragon

The Slipper and the Rose


Original: Midnight Express

Adaptation: The Buddy Holly Story

Original: The Boys from Brazil

Days of Heaven

Heaven Can Wait


Adaptation: Pretty Baby

The Wiz


Dramatic: A Little Romance

Song Score and Adaptation: All That Jazz

Dramatic: The Amityville Horror

The Champ

Star Trek: The Motion Picture


Song Score and Adaptation: Breaking Away

The Muppet Movie



Altered States

The Elephant Man

The Empire Strikes Back



Chariots of Fire


On Golden Pond


Raiders of the Lost Ark


Original: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Song Score and Adaptation: Victor Victoria

Dramatic: Gandhi

An Officer and a Gentleman


Sophie’s Choice

Song Score and Adaptation: Annie

One from the Heart


Original: The Right Stuff

Song Score and Adaptation: Yentl

Dramatic: Cross Creek

Return of the Jedi

Terms of Endearment

Under Fire

Song Score and Adaptation: The Sting II

Trading Places


Dramatic: A Passage to India

Song Score: Purple Rain

Dramatic: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

The Natural

The River

Under the Volcano

Song Score: The Muppets Take Manhattan



Out of Africa

Agnes of God

The Color Purple




Round Midnight



The Mission

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home


The Last Emperor

Cry Freedom

Empire of the Sun

The Untouchables

The Witches of Eastwick


The Milagro Beanfield War

The Accidental Tourist

Dangerous Liaisons

Gorillas in the Mist

Rain Man


The Little Mermaid

Born on the Fourth of July

The Fabulous Baker Boys

Field of Dreams

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade


Dances with Wolves




Home Alone


Beauty and the Beast


The Fisher King


The Prince of Tides



Basic Instinct


Howards End

A River Runs Through It


Schindler’s List

The Age of Innocence

The Firm

The Fugitive

The Remains of the Day


The Lion King

Forrest Gump

Interview with the Vampire

Little Women

The Shawshank Redemption


Dramatic: Il Postino

Musical or Comedy: Pocahontas

Dramatic: Apollo 13



Sense and Sensibility

Musical or Comedy: The American President


Toy Story

Unstrung Heroes


Dramatic: The English Patient

Musical or Comedy: Emma

Dramatic: Hamlet

Michael Collins



Musical or Comedy: The First Wives Club

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

James and the Giant Peach

The Preacher’s Wife


Dramatic: Titanic

Musical or Comedy: The Fully Monty

Dramatic: Amistad

Good Will Hunting


L.A. Confidential

Musical or Comedy: Anastasia

As Good As It Gets

Men in Black

My Best Friend’s Wedding


Dramatic: Life is Beautiful

Musical or Comedy: Shakespeare in Love

Dramatic: Elizabeth


Saving Private Ryan

The Thin Red Line

Musical or Comedy: A Bug’s Life


Patch Adams

The Prince of Egypt


The Red Violin

American Beauty

Angela’s Ashes

The Cider House Rules

The Talented Mr. Ripley


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon




The Patriot


The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

A Beautiful Mind

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Monsters, Inc.



Catch Me If You Can

Far from Heaven

The Hours

Road to Perdition


The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Big Fish

Cold Mountain

Finding Nemo

House of Sand and Fog


Finding Neverland

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events

The Passion of the Christ

The Village


Brokeback Mountain

The Constant Gardener

Memoirs of a Geisha


Pride and Prejudice



The Good German

Notes on a Scandal

Pan’s Labyrinth

The Queen



3:10 to Yuma

The Kite Runner

Michael Clayton



Slumdog Millionaire

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button







Fantastic Mr. Fox

The Hurt Locker

Sherlock Holmes


The Social Network

127 Hours

How to Train Your Dragon


The King’s Speech


The Artist

The Adventures of Tintin


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

War Horse


Life of Pi

Anna Karenina




Best Original Score

The Book Thief, John Williams

Gravity, Steven Price

Her, Arcade Fire

Philomena, Alexandre Desplat

Saving Mr. Banks, Thomas Newman

Another one of my favorite categories. I love a good film score. I try to listen to a bunch every year, as many as I can.

This year, I think they did a good job, mostly. I wish All Is Lost made it on there, but otherwise, no squabbles from me. Four of these five made it on my list of favorite scores of the year. And I like Thomas Newman, so I’m cool with him making it on (I thought he should have won for Skyfall last year). But again, still would have preferred All Is Lost.

Otherwise, this should be a pretty cut and dry category, but you never know.


5. Saving Mr. Banks — This is the film’s only nomination, and they haven’t given Thomas Newman an Oscar before. I find it hard to believe they’d randomly start now. Why would they ignore the film everywhere else and then suddenly go, “Oh yeah, here”? It’s gotta be considered the #5. This is the only nominee I can guarantee nobody will guess as the winner. No one sees this happening. It’s not even really considered a top score. Hell, I thought he outdid himself this year with Side Effects. But whatever. It’s never gonna win, and that’s what matters.

4. The Book Thief — Because let’s face it… no one saw this movie. If this wins then it means that people deliberately voted for John Williams just to get him an Oscar. And I can’t see them going that way. Not with this. They had other opportunities and higher profile films of his to give him another one. I know he hasn’t won in 20 years, and they’ll probably (maybe) think about getting him one more, but I just can’t see this being it. It could be, and I could be wrong, but I just don’t think they’re gonna vote for this movie. Think of it this way — he had three scores nominated for Spielberg films the past two years. Won none of them. So why would they vote for this? I just can’t see this being considered a favorite. This seems like the usual thing where we go, “Well we can’t throw it out because maybe they’ll give Williams another one.” I’m getting past that this year. I don’t think it’s happening.

3. Philomena — Desplat is immensely respected and has never won an Oscar. This film has more support than we thought (or maybe Harvey Weinstein is just more powerful than we give him credit for), and maybe Desplat earns enough votes to take this one. But the reason I can’t consider him too much of a favorite — well… reasons. First, he didn’t win Oscars for The King’s Speech, Argo or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button which could have been easy wins. Two of those won Best Picture. (Though if you go back to the years, no one really thought they were winning Score, but I’m saying that usually your chances are better when you have something high profile like a Best Picture winner.) So if he didn’t win for those, how can you like his chances for something like this? Especially with the next two films here. I can’t see people stopping to vote for this when the next two options are there. I have to consider him a dark horse.

2. Her — This is a major player here. I don’t think it wins, but I think this is your upset contender. This film has support. This film will get votes, especially here. Because Screenplay is not completely in the bag yet (as much as we’d like it to be). And Song is an uphill battle. They might go Score and Screenplay for this, and be totally justified in doing it. If anything is beating Gravity here, this is the one. They’ve shown a willingness to stretch themselves in this category. Trent Reznor won this category. It’s entirely possible they will vote for Arcade Fire. However I’m not considering this the favorite just because of how much music was a part of Gravity and how much it seems like an obvious choice. At this point, you have to leave the obvious favorites as the favorites, even though right now, I would seriously consider making this my vote for the winner.

1. Gravity — Like I said, music is huge for this film. It’s a standout score, from the opening seconds of the film. It doesn’t let up, and I guarantee you everyone remembers the music from the last five minutes of the film. This is your favorite. This is your probable winner. Maybe it doesn’t win, either through fatigue of it winning so much, or because they want to just go for Her. Or maybe they just sweep vote and it takes this in a landslide. Whose to say this early? But I think we can agree that right now, this is the favorite to win the category.

– – – – – – – – – –

All right. Ten categories left. The big ones. The big six, the screenplay categories, Editing and Cinematography. Tomorrow, we do Best Editing.


2 responses

  1. Pingback: And… Action: Blogs to Visit ahead of the Oscars — Blog — WordPress.com

  2. Pingback: And… Action: Blogs to Visit ahead of the Oscars | WP Creative

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