Oscars 2016 Category Breakdown: Best Sound Editing

Every year before the Oscars I break down each of the 24 categories. I do this to familiarize everyone with the category, how it typically goes, voting-wise, historically and also as a precursor to my picks article, allowing me to get most of the heavy lifting out of the way beforehand.

What I do is go over each category’s history, give you all the previous winners and nominees, then list the current year’s nominees. And then I’ll go over how each of the guilds (if there is a corresponding guild) have voted, how that corresponds to the Oscars (some guilds mean a lot to how a category will play out. Others mean nothing). It’s basically everything you need to know in order to make an informed decision when you make your picks on Oscar night. And then I also rank the nominees at the end in terms of where I see them in terms of their likelihood to win. So you know what the general favorites are.

Today is Best Sound Editing. The category everyone pretends to understand but doesn’t.

Year Best Sound Editing Winners Other Nominees
1963 It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World A Gathering of Eagles
1964 Goldfinger The Lively Set
1965 The Great Race Von Ryan’s Express
1966 Grand Prix Fantastic Voyage
1967 The Dirty Dozen In the Heat of the Night
1968 No Award Given. No Category.
1969 No Award Given. No Category.
1970 No Award Given. No Category.
1971 No Award Given. No Category.
1972 No Award Given. No Category.
1973 No Award Given. No Category.
1974 No Award Given. No Category.
1975 The Hindenburg (Special Achievement Award) No Category.
1976 No Award Given. No Category.
1977 Close Encounters of the Third Kind(Special Achievement Award)

Star Wars (Special Achievement Award)

No Category.
1978 No Award Given No Category.
1979 The Black Stallion (Special Achievement Award) No Category.
1980 No Award Given. No Category.
1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark (Special Achievement Award) No Category.
1982 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Das Boot


1983 The Right Stuff Return of the Jedi
1984 The River (Special Achievement Award) No Category.
1985 Back to the Future Ladyhawke

Rambo: First Blood Part II

1986 Aliens Star Trek IB: The Voyage Home

Top Gun

1987 RoboCop (Special Achievement Award) No Category.
1988 Who Framed Roger Rabbit Die Hard


1989 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Black Rain

Lethal Weapon 2

1990 The Hunt for Red October Flatliners

Total Recall

1991 Terminator 2: Judgment Day Backdraft

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

1992 Bram Stoker’s Dracula Aladdin

Under Siege

1993 Jurassic Park Cliffhanger

The Fugitive

1994 Speed Clear and Present Danger

Forrest Gump

1995 Braveheart Batman Forever

Crimson Tide

1996 The Ghost and the Darkness Daylight


1997 Titanic Face/Off

The Fifth Element

1998 Saving Private Ryan Armageddon

The Mask of Zorro

1999 The Matrix Fight Club

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

2000 U-571 Space Cowboys
2001 Pearl Harbor Monsters, Inc.
2002 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Minority Report

Road to Perdition

2003 Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World Finding Nemo

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

2004 The Incredibles The Polar Express

Spider-Man 2

2005 King Kong War of the Worlds

Memoirs of a Geisha

2006 Letters from Iwo Jima Apocalypto

Blood Diamond

Flags of Our Fathers

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

2007 The Bourne Ultimatum No Country for Old Men


There Will Be Blood


2008 The Dark Knight Iron Man

Slumdog Millionaire



2009 The Hurt Locker Avatar

Inglourious Basterds

Star Trek


2010 Inception Toy Story 3

Tron: Legacy

True Grit


2011 Hugo Drive

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

War Horse

2012 TIE:


Zero Dark Thirty


Django Unchained

Life of Pi

2013 Gravity All Is Lost

Captain Phillips

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Lone Survivor

2014 American Sniper Birdman

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies



2015 Mad Max: Fury Road The Martian

The Revenant


Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Here are the previous winners of the MPSE Golden Reel Awards. The caveats still apply (the MPSE Awards were murky until the past decade or so and that the Oscar category only had three nominees before 2006. So we can really only look at the last couple of years for any kind of help at all):

  • 1991: MPSE: SFX + Foley goes to Barton Fink. Their Dialogue + ADR goes to Robin Hood: Prince of ThievesTerminator 2: Judgment Day wins the Oscar for Sound Editing, beating Backdraft and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. So, MPSE has nothing to do with the Oscars, and the obvious choice wins.
  • 1992 – Under Siege wins MPSE SFX + Foley and Alien 3 wins Dialgoue + ADR. Bram Stoker’s Dracula wins the Oscar over Under Siege and Aladdin. No comment on any of that.
  • 1993 – MPSE: Jurassic Park wins SFX + Foley and Schindler’s List wins Dialogue + ADR. Jurassic Park wins the Oscar over Cliffhanger and the Fugitive. Pretty obvious choice.
  • 1994 – MPSE: Speed wins SFX + Foley, Forrest Gump wins Dialogue and ADR. Oscar: Speed beats Gump andClear and Present Danger. This is somewhat telling. The action film beats the Oscar film with war scenes.
  • 1995 – MPSE: Braveheart and Crimson Tide tie for SFX + Foley, and Crimson Tide wins for Dialogue + ADR.Braveheart takes the Oscar over Crimson Tide and Batman Forever. Oscar movie with many battle scenes wins over action/sub movie. Understandable.
  • 1996 – We ignore this one since it’s totally random. You can go look it up, but trust me, it’s irrelevant.
  • 1997 – Titanic wins the Oscar and both MPSE categories.
  • 1998 – Saving Private Ryan wins the Oscar and both MPSE categories.
  • 1999 – The Matrix wins the Oscar and wins MPSE SFX + Foley while American Beauty wins MPSE Dialogue + ADR. Pretty obvious The Matrix would win the Oscar.
  • 2000 – MPSE gives SFX + Foley to Gladiator and Dialogue + ADR to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The Oscar category consists only of two nominees: U-571 and Space CowboysU-571 obviously wins.
  • 2001 – MPSE gives their SFX + Foley award to Black Hawk Down and A Beautiful Mind wins Dialogue + ADR. The Oscar category consists only of Pearl Harbor and Monsters, Inc. Clearly Pearl Harbor wins.
  • 2002 – MPSE gives SFX + Foley to Road to Perdition (a spirited choice) and their Dialogue + ADR to Gangs of New YorkTwo Towers wins the Oscar, beating Road to Perdition and Minority Report. This is the onlyRings film to win this category. You know why? Big ass fucking battle scene.
  • 2003 – MPSE gives SFX + Foley to Master and Commander and Dialogue + ADR to Pirates of the Caribbean. In the Oscar category, Master and Commander beats Pirates and Finding Nemo (which won MPSE for Animation).
  • 2004 – MPSE SFX + Foley goes to The Aviator, and Dialogue + ADR goes to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindThe Incredibles wins the Oscar, beating The Polar Express and Spider-Man 2. Weird category.
  • 2005 – MPSE SFX + Foley goes to War of the Worlds and Dialogue and ADR goes to Memoirs of a Geisha.King Kong wins the Oscar, beating War of the Worlds and Geisha. I guess they must have really liked the film. (Or that Andy Serkis thing was a big clincher.)

Okay, now we’ve reached 2006. Now there are five nominees at the Oscars.

  • 2006 – Letters from Iwo Jima wins both MPSE awards and the Oscar.
  • 2007 – The Bourne Ultimatum wins both MPSE awards and the Oscar.
  • In 2008, MPSE introduces many of the awards we see now. They get much more specific.
  • 2008: MPSE: Music in a Feature Film goes to The Dark Knight. SFX + Foley goes to Dark Knight. Dialogue + ADR goes to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. And Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue and ADR (essentially, Sound Mixing) goes to Slumdog MillionaireThe Dark Knight wins the Sound Editing Oscar (Slumdog wins Sound Mixing).
  • 2009: MPSE: Avatar wins for Music in a Feature Film and SFX + Foley. Dialogue + ADR goes to Inglourious Basterds. (If you’ve noticed, the Dialogue + ADR award tends to go to well-written films.) Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue and ADR (Sound Mixing, basically, again) goes to District 9 (un-nominated for Sound at the Oscars). The Oscar goes to The Hurt Locker (which clearly points to people not wanting to vote for Avatar).
  • 2010: MPSE: Music in a Feature Film and SFX + Foley go to Inception. Dialogue + ADR goes to The Social Network. (See what I mean about Dialogue + ADR?) Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue and ADR goes toToy Story 3 (which loses Sound Mixing to Inception). Inception wins the Oscar (both of them).
  • 2011: SFX + Foley goes to War HorseHugo wins for Music, Super 8 took Dialogue + ADR, and Tintin took Animation. Hugo won the Oscar (both of them).
  • 2012: SFX + Foley went to Skyfall, Life of Pi won Dialogue + ADR and Music (though Les Mis won for Music in a Musical), and Wreck-It Ralph won for Animation. The Oscar was a TIE between Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty.
  • 2013: SFX + Foley went to GravityCaptain Phillips won Dialogue + ADR, The Great Gatsby won Music (Frozen won Music in a Musical), and Epic won for Animation. Gravity won the Oscar.
  • 2014: SFX + Foley went to American SniperUnbroken won Dialogue + ADR, Birdman won Music, and Big Hero 6 won for Animation. American Sniper won the Oscar.
  • 2015: SFX + Foley was a tie between Mad Max: Fury Road and The RevenantBridge of Spies won Dialogue + ADR, Force Awakens won Music.

The major trends I see with MPSE is, when a film wins more than once with them, it’s mostly gonna win the Oscar (happened all but one time, which was Avatar, and I feel like that was a situation where they deliberately didn’t want to vote for it, and loved The Hurt Locker. Plus action films do better in Sound). So that’s one thing to keep in mind when they announce (which is literally the night before the Oscars. Way to make it easy on us, guys).

The other thing I always look at, which is how many times a film won both Editing and Mixing:

  • 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark (Not really, since the Editing award was a special achievement, but that just means they didn’t have a category that year. It would have won if there were other nominees.)
  • 1982, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
  • 1983, The Right Stuff
  • 1991, Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • 1993, Jurassic Park
  • 1994, Speed
  • 1997, Titanic
  • 1998, Saving Private Ryan
  • 1999, The Matrix
  • 2005, King Kong
  • 2007, The Bourne Ultimatum
  • 2009, The Hurt Locker
  • 2010, Inception
  • 2011, Hugo
  • 2013, Gravity
  • 215, Mad Max: Fury Road

Not that often. And typically, I’m seeing a guaranteed winner most of the time, or a big Best Picture contender. (Or both.)

Here are this year’s MPSE nominees, before we go:

The SFX + Foley nominees are: Arrival, Captain America: Civil War, Deadpool, Deepwater Horizon, Doctor Strange, Hacksaw Ridge, The Jungle Book, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

The Dialogue + ADR nominees are: Arrival, Deadpool, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, Lion, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Sully

The Music nominees are:  13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Arrival, Doctor Strange, Don’t Breathe, Hacksaw Ridge, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Star Trek Beyond, Warcraft

Music in a Musica: Florence Foster Jenkins, La La Land, Moana, Sing Street, Trolls

Animated nominees are Finding Dory, Kubo and the Two Strings, The Little Prince, Moana, The Red Turtle, Sing, Zootopia

Winners are announced on Sunday, but I don’t need them to do this one.

Best Sound Editing


Deepwater Horizon

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land


This was fairly expected. The La La Land nomination surprised the shit out of me. That shouldn’t have happened and only shows you just how much they love that movie. For better or worse.


5. Deepwater Horizon — The Peter Berg token sound nomination. This has become a regular thing. Makes sense. Doubt this gets anywhere in the end. Look at the last ten winners of this category: Letters from Iwo Jima, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Dark Knight, The Hurt Locker, Inception, Hugo, Skyfall/Zero Dark Thirty, Gravity, American Sniper, Mad Max: Fury Road. Nine out of eleven Best Picture nominees. The other two: Bond and Bourne. The point is — major nominees or really highly regarded action films. And if we take out Skyfall, since it was a tie, it’s really just Bourne. Deepwater doesn’t come close to fitting that model, and with a lack of other nominations, it falls to the back of the pack really easily.

4. Sully — Sully would have stood a better chance if it were better received by the Academy at large. American Sniper winning helps this film’s chances, but that was a war film. This is not. This will get a few votes, but I don’t think it’ll take down the heavy hitters in this category. Fourth choice. Let it win. It’s not worth voting for.

3. Arrival — The film nominated in both categories that’s also a Best Picture nominee is always a contender. That said, there’s always a film that gets both of those nominations that wins neither of them every year. Last year — The Martian, The Revenant. Birdman got both. Captain Phillips got both. These things happen. Arrival is gonna be that film this year. I guess it could win either sound award, but do we really think that’s gonna happen. I think we rank it third in both categories, and in the end we don’t take it and let it win if it’s going to. I don’t see it.

2. La La Land — You always have to take into account the sweep vote. However, Oscar voters have been able to tell the difference between this category when they need to. 2014, Whiplash wins Mixing, American Sniper wins Editing. 2012, Les Mis wins Mixing, there’s the Zero Dark/Skyfall tie in Editing. Slumdog wins Mixing, Dark Knight wins Editing. They seem to know — the musical in Mixing, the action/war movie in Editing. Which leads me to believe that La La Land isn’t the favorite here but must be considered a contender simply because of the sweep vote factor. If it wins this, then they’re on autopilot and it’s just getting checked off in every category. They haven’t done that in a long time, so I feel like it won’t, but you have to take it into account, because you never know.

1. Hacksaw Ridge — War movies do well here. This movie has everything it needs to take down this category. Best Picture nomination, lots of overall nominations. It’s a big, classy, respected war film. American Sniper, Letters from Iwo Jima, Zero Dark Thirty — these films win this category. How can this not be considered the favorite from every perspective except the “well they don’t know the difference between Mixing and Editing and are just gonna vote for La La Land in every category” perspective? I’m feeling pretty good about this film’s chances at a win in this category.

– – – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow, we go over Best Adapted Screenplay.


One response

  1. The occasional splits between Mixing and Editing have less to do with voters understanding what they’re voting for and more to do with the sound branch knowing what to nominate where. Slumdog is the only movie to ever be nominated for both Mixing and Editing, and win only Mixing. La La would be just the second film to do so.

    February 19, 2017 at 7:51 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.