2023 Oscars: Best Original Score Predictions

Of all the below-the-line categories at the Oscars, Best Original Score is the most difficult to predict early on due to the finicky nature of the music branch of the academy. Scores that sound like frontrunners are disqualified for a variety of reasons, from the number of credited composers to the amount of previously recorded music used. (Scroll down for the most up-to-date 2023 Oscars Best Original Score predictions.)

Starting with the 2019 Oscars, the academy released a shortlist of 15 contenders. We got this year’s roster of semi-finalists on December 21, 2022. A second round of voting by the members of the music branch, again using preferential voting, will cut these 15 down to the final five nominees. These will be announced, along with the final contenders in all of the other competitive categories on January 24. The entire voting membership of the academy will then vote for the winners, which will be revealed during the 95th Academy Awards ceremony on March 12.

Even when we know the players, it is still difficult to predict the eventual winner given the diversity of the recent champs. The epic orchestrations of Howard Shore‘s “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (2002) and “LOTR: The Return of the King” (2004) sound nothing like A.H. Rahman‘s pulsating, Bombay-infused work on “Slumdog Millionaire” (2009), Alexander Desplat‘s whimsical tunes for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2015) or Hildur Guonadottir‘s pulsating rhythms in “Joker” (2020).

As with many of the creative arts categories at the Oscars, most usually equals best when it comes to Best Original Score. So, the more music in your movie, the better your chances. Is it any wonder Justin Hurwitz (“La La Land”) took home a trophy for composing an original movie musical in 2018, or that Ludovic Bource (“The Artist”) triumphed for penning wall-to-wall score for a silent film in 2013?

In the first part of the last decade, there was a push-and-pull within the music branch over recognizing rock musicians. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails won for scoring David Fincher‘s “The Social Network” (2011), but then were snubbed for their equally haunting work on the director’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2012) and “Gone Girl” (2015). They were winners again last year for their collaboration with Jon Batiste on “Soul.” And for every Arcade Fire that get nominated for “Her” (2014), there’s a Junkie XL or Jonny Greenwood who get left out for “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2016) and “The Master” (2013), respectively.

UPDATED: December 21, 2022

Leading Contenders (alphabetical by title)
“Avatar: The Way of Water”: Simon Franglen
“Babylon”: Justin Hurwitz
“Everything Everywhere All at Once”: Son Lux
“The Fabelmans”: John Williams
“Pinocchio”: Alexandre Desplat
“The Woman King”: Terence Blanchard

Strong Contenders (alphabetical by title)
“All Quiet on the Western Front”: Volker Bertelmann
“The Banshees of Inisherin”: Carter Burwell
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”: Ludwig Goransson
“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”: Nathan Johnson
“Women Talking”: Hildur Guonadottir

Possible Contenders (alphabetical by title)
“Devotion”: Chanda Dancy
“Don’t Worry Darling”: John Powell
“Nope”: Michael Abels
“She Said”: Nicholas Britell

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