Nominations voting is from January 11–16, 2024, with official Oscar nominations announced on January 23, 2024. Final voting is February 22–27, 2024. And finally, the 96th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 10, and air live on ABC at 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT. We update predictions throughout awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2024 Oscar picks.
The State of the Race
Early frontrunners for 2024 original score Oscar nominations include “Oppenheimer” (Universal) from “Black Panther” Oscar winner Ludwig Göransson, “Barbie” (Warner Bros.) from British and American rock duo Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt, and “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Apple TV+/Paramount), with the last score from the late, great Robbie Robertson. They are joined by “Past Lives” (A24) from Christopher Bear and Daniel Rossen of indie rock band Grizzly Bear and “Spider-Man: Across the Universe” (Sony) from Daniel Pemberton.
Also in contention are Oscar winners Hildur Guðnadóttir (“Joker”), Hans Zimmer (“Dune,” “The Lion King”), and Hollywood legend John Williams (“Schindler’s List,” “E.T.,” “Star Wars,” “Jaws,” “Fiddler on the Roof”) for 20th Century’s “A Haunting in Venice” and “The Creator,” and “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” (Lucasfilm/Disney). In addition, Oscar-nominated Mica Levi (“Jackie”) will contend for “The Zone of Interest” (A24).
Meanwhile, still to come are “The Holdovers” (Focus Features) from Mark Orton, “The Killer” (Netflix) from Oscar winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (“Soul,” “The Social Network”), “Napoleon” (Apple TV+/Sony Pictures) from Martin Phipps, “Saltburn” (Amazon/MGM) from Anthony Willis, “The Color Purple” (Warner Bros.) from Kris Bowers, and “Wish” (Disney) from David Metzger.
There’s also Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat’s (“The Shape of Water,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel”) “Nyad” (Netflix), and two films from Oscar winner Michael Giacchino (“Up”): “Next Goal Wins” (Searchlight) and “Society of the Snow” (Netflix).
For Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” the biopic thriller about physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy), Göransson wrapped his crucial musical theme around the actor’s nuanced performance as the “father of the atomic bomb.” That meant reflecting the mood of every emotion surrounding his obsession with quantum physics, the pressure to build the bomb to end the war, the fear of ending the world, and the aftermath of the war and the ensuing Cold War nuclear arms race. It all began with a solo violin, at the director’s request, which the composer transformed into a series of romantic, manic, neurotic, or horrific musical changes that underscored Oppenheimer’s intense journey. As IndieWire’s Sarah Shachat noted, “Göransson places electronic distortions, pounding percussion, and howling synths onto the soundtrack with perfect scientific accuracy.”
Greta Gerwig’s blockbuster “Barbie” provided emotional and whimsical inspiration to composers Ronson and Wyatt in conveying Barbie’s (Margot Robbie) existential journey in and out of Barbie Land and the real world, and her interactions with Ken (Ryan Gosling) and the other dolls. Not only were there an assortment of harmonies and melodies to layer in but also textures, sonics, and rhythms. At times it was like a disco, and the balance between analogue synths and orchestra was appealing. In addition, the connection between the score and songs became its own creative journey as they fed off one another.
The recent passing of Robertson makes his brilliant final score for “Killers of the Flower Moon” even more poignant. He becomes the sentimental favorite to win the Oscar. It’s a career-defining score that caps his special collaboration with Martin Scorsese. Their association began with “The Last Waltz,” the farewell concert of The Band, filmed by the director in 1976, and continued with Robertson serving as musical consultant, soundtrack supervisor, and composer. For this celebration of the Osage tribe in Oklahoma in the 1920s, when they were systematically murdered for their oil-rich land and accumulated wealth, Robertson tapped deeply into his Native American roots. His score “pounds along with the beat of drums and shakers, chords splashing on acoustic and electric guitars, accented with banjo twangs and the birdlike cries of various flutes.”
Director Celine Song’s bittersweet “Past Lives,” about the reunion between two childhood friends (played by Greta Lee and Teo Yoo) as they contemplate their relationship and destiny, gets an enchanting, multilayered score from Bear and Rossen. “A fresh blend of guitars, winds, loose snares, and bells all create a very tactile musical language,” wrote Shachat.
With “Spider-Man: Across the Universe,” producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller introduced several new dimensions and characters to expand the epic journey of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore). These include Gwen’s (Hailee Steinfeld) watercolor home and the exotic Mumbattan. Pemberton got to expand his score with new themes but also have his existing themes pay off in different ways. There are more experimental sounds, including whistles recorded in a graveyard in Peckham, London, and the return of record-scratching. “Pemberton’s score makes masterful use of repetition, repurposing the main theme throughout its over 30 tracks,” IndieWire’s Proma Khosla noted.
For “A Haunting in Venice,” in which actor and director Kenneth Branagh returns for his third outing as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, who investigates a murder while attending a Halloween seance at a haunted palazzo, Guðnadóttir imagined writing music for a post-World War II world without romantic melodies. She applied her specialty for abstract musicality, experimenting with tonalities that were mathematically rigid yet free of structure through methods of chance composition.
In Gareth Edwards’ sci-fi thriller, “The Creator,” about a future war between humanity and AI, starring John David Washington and described as a cross between “Blade Runner” and “Apocalypse Now,” Zimmer navigates the two worlds musically yet emphasizes a spiritual tone with choir even during action sequences.
Although “Dial of Destiny” was a major box office failure, Williams hit all the right emotional musical moments for Indy’s (Harrison Ford) final adventure. The elderly archaeologist struggles to find his heroic place in a world that has passed him by, haunted by demons from the past, and Williams balances the familiar iconic themes with new ones built around his mood swings and relationships with Marion (Karen Allen) and goddaughter Helena (Phoebe Waller-Bridge).
Levi reunites with director Jonathan Glazer on “The Zone of Interest,” the acclaimed Holocaust drama about the banality of evil. Loosely based on the Martin Amis novel, it explores the Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel ) and his wife (Sandra Hüller), an avid gardener, as they attempt to build a dream life with their family in the surrounding countryside next to the camp. Levi’s angular, arresting, disquieting score suggests a descent into hell in contrast to the placid exterior drama.
Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers,” a wacky 1970 Christmas dramedy about the misadventures of a despicable teacher (Paul Giamatti), who remains at school over the holiday to supervise students unable to journey home, covers a lot of aesthetic ground in Orton’s thematic score. From spare underscore (solo piano, string quartet, and acoustic guitar-based cues), to chamber orchestra cues (with nods to the Christmas setting), to cues based on an early ’70s classic rock sound, it balances between comedy and drama.
David Fincher’s passion project “The Killer” (Netflix), based on the graphic novel by Alex Nolent, finds Michael Fassbender’s assassin questioning his nihilistic worldview after developing a conscience. The score from Reznor and Ross experiments with the sounds of cold precision in Fassbender’s mind, slowly giving way to the sounds of confusion, chaos, and empathy.
As for the rest: Phipps (“Peaky Blinders,” “The Crown”) provides a modern, propulsive sound for Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon,” which explores Napoleon Bonaparte’s (Joaquin Phoenix) ruthless climb to emperor and his obsessive, volatile relationship with the Empress Joséphine (Vanessa Kirby). Willis follows up his BAFTA-nominated “Promising Young Woman” score with a dream-like, electronic reverie for Emerald Fennell’s “Saltburn,” which finds Barry Keoghan’s Oxford misfit spending a summer of debauchery at the aristocratic estate of alluring classmate Jacob Elordi and his eccentric family.
Bowers gets to explore his arsenal of jazz, soul, hip-hop and classical for Blitz Bazawule’s “The Color Purple,” adapted from the Broadway stage musical. It re-imagines Alice Walker’s celebrated story of Black female empowerment during the early 20th century South through young and adult Celie (played by “The Little Mermaid” star Halle Bailey and Fantasia Barrino), who escapes her hardships with music and magical realism. “Wish,” in celebration of Disney’s 100th anniversary, explores the origin of the fairy tale wishing star from the “Frozen” team of Jennifer Lee (writer/executive producer and Animation chief creative officer), director Chris Buck, and animator-turned-director Fawn Veerasunthorn. Composer Metzger underscores the mystery, innocence, and enchantment associated with the wishing star.
Desplat creates the musical mindscape of legendary marathon swimmer Diana Nyad (Annette Bening) in the “Nyad” biopic, directed by “Free Solo” Oscar winners Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin. With the support of partner and trainer Bonnie Stoll (Jodie Foster), she achieves the lifelong dream of completing the 110-mile open ocean swim from Cuba to Florida at 60.
Giacchino gets musically lighthearted and intense with two sports-related biopics: Taika Waititi’s soccer comedy, “Next Goal Wins,” and J. A. Bayona’s “Society of the Snow,” a thriller about a rugby team’s desperate battle for survival. The former is based on the documentary about Dutch-American football coach Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender), who struggles with one of the worst soccer teams in the world: the American Samoa national soccer team. The latter is about the Uruguayan flight in 1972 that crashed into the Andes, which included 19 members of the Old Christians Club rugby team.
Potential nominees are listed in alphabetical order; no film will be deemed a frontrunner until we have seen it.
“Barbie” “Killers of the Flower Moon” “Oppenheimer” “Past Lives” “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”
“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” “Napoleon” “Next Goal Wins” “Nyad” “Saltburn” “Society of the Snow” “The Color Purple” “The Holdovers” “The Killer” “The Zone of “Interest “Wish”