Oscars 2017 Category Breakdown: Best Sound Editing

Every year, as we lead up to the Oscars, I break down each of the 24 categories. I do this to familiarize everyone with the category; what the trends are, how the guilds and stuff help (or don’t), etc. I also do it as a precursor to my giant Oscar ballot. I get most of the heavy lifting out of the way here, so that way when I get to the article, I’m just kind of riffing on how I think it’ll turn out and talking myself into all the bad decisions. It’s like college. And this is the pregame.

How these articles work is — I give you all the previous winners and nominees of each of the categories, then tell you how accurate each of the respective guilds and precursors are in what they vote for versus what wins the Oscar, tell you how each of them voted this year, then give you this year’s category, along with a quick rundown of how we ended up with that category (what was a surprise, etc). After that, I rank each of this year’s nominees in terms of how I see them right now in terms of their likelihood to win. Which is nothing more than my perception (notice that underline, even though you won’t) of how the category seems at the moment based on everything I know and have seen. Which will give you a general sense of the favorites.

Today is Best Sound Editing. AKA the one that’s not Sound Mixing. Because everyone knows the difference, right?

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

2016 Arrival Deepwater Horizon

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land


We have a guild to go by here, MPSE. Granted, the Sound categories are their own beast, and Editing must be taken with Mixing, and that means bringing in CAS and all that — but we have enough information at the moment to go through this category.

Let’s star with MPSE vs. the Oscars:

  • 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.
  • 2016: SFX + Foley and Dialogue + ADR went to Hacksaw RidgeLa La Lanwon Music. Arrival won the Oscar.

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 twice — Avatar and last year with Hacksaw). Not that we have to deal with that this year, but it’s a good rule of thumb to have at your disposal when looking at it.

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
  • 2015, Mad Max: Fury Road

Not that often. Usually you need a big war movie or something… like, say, Dunkirk… for it to happen. Though you’d think that would happen last year, with Hacksaw, but somehow the war movie won Mixing and lost Editing, which is just nuts to me. Plus La La Land, the musical, lost Mixing. And then Arrival won Editing, but not Mixing. Completely bizarre all around. Gonna have to chalk that up to a one-off.

Anyway, this year, at MPSE — Blade Runner 2049 won SFX + Foley, War for the Planet of the Apes (unnominated) won Dialogue + ADR and Dunkirk won for Music.

And then, BAFTA also gives out a Sound award, though it’s one category instead of two. Theirs went to Dunkirk.

You should wait for CAS to announce to get a real bead on this category, but based on what we know, we can get a good sense of how likely each film is to win this one.

Best Sound Editing

Baby Driver

Blade Runner 2049


The Shape of Water

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

One of the rare times both Sound categories matched 5/5. This is the first time it’s happened since both categories started having five nominees each in 2006. And it didn’t happen much before that, either. (Tune in to the big Oscar article for a full breakdown of that.)

That’s the big note to make about how the category turned out. It’s almost unfathomable to expect both categories to turn out exactly the same. But here we are. Dunkirk, Blade Runner and Baby Driver made the most sense all around. Shape of Water was bound to get at least one Sound nomination, and given how much they liked it, both categories makes sense. La La Land got both, and I have no idea what kind of Sound Editing that really had over some of the un-nominated choices. But I digress. And then Star Wars was good for at least one. I assumed it would only get one, but two did make sense. I was playing the “no way both would be the same” card. I was wrong. And here we are.


5. Star Wars: The Last Jedi — If The Force Awakens couldn’t win a Sound category, how does this have a shot? This movie is more divisive than that one, and didn’t have the burst of excitement the other one had going into nominations. Plus, look at the other nominees. No way this gets the kind of votes to contend over the other ones. At best, it’s fourth.

4. The Shape of Water — It’s a Best Picture favorite. Those always feel like contenders in this category. So you have to show it respect, but you also don’t have to assume it’ll win either Sound category. This is not particularly a film you’d consider a haven of mixing or editing. It’s not a war film like Dunkirk, or a spectacle with a lot of effects. It’s also not a musical, despite that one little sequence. Remember, Birdman got nominated in both Sound categories. It happens. Without any precursors to this point, and with the other three films in this category, I don’t see this as a contender here. Even if it wins Best Picture, nothing since The Hurt Locker won more than five. They typically reward a film where it makes sense. It doesn’t make sense here.

3. Baby Driver — The entire movie is about sound. Edgar Wright literally wrote on the cover of the script that it was the kind of movie that was gonna be nominated at both Sound categories at the Oscars. He knew. Don’t be surprised if this wins either category. That said, no precursor wins until now and the other two films have more nominations. So while this is firmly a contender, it’s gotta be considered a third choice at the moment. Pure numbers. The Sound categories typically don’t go three deep, so this is one of those years where you need to just hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

2. Blade Runner 2049 — It won the SFX + Foley award at MPSE, which is the big one for them, which definitely makes it a solid contender. However, unless and until it wins CAS also, I’m not gonna consider it the favorite here. Now, granted — Arrival won this category last year, so Villeneuve is always a player. But, it’s not the favorite even going into Oscar night unless it wins CAS. And that reason is because…

1. Dunkirk — 8 overall nominations, Best Picture nominee, war film. Won the BAFTA for Sound (one category) and won Music at MPSE. The only other thing you could ask for in a contender is it winning SFX + Foley too. Was never gonna win Dialogue + ADR because there aren’t enough lines in the film to warrant that. This is your favorite. Pretty easily. This should win at least one, if not both, of the Sound categories. It’s not a Gary Oldman-level lock, but if I’m giving percentages, this one is about 10% higher than Blade Runner, 30% higher than Baby Driver, and 50% higher than Shape of Water. It’s a vulnerable favorite. That’s probably the best way to put it. Let’s see how CAS goes.

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One response

  1. lacourseauxetoiles

    As long as Blade Runner 2049 or Dunkirk (or even Baby Driver) wins, I’ll be happy. The sound editing in those movies was incredible.

    February 22, 2018 at 5:00 am

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