This time around on JUKEBOX, we’re going to be looking at tunes nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar. I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Oh man, it’s going to be a bunch of old musical tunes or sappy soft-rock tunes. Blah!” Well, that’s why I made this list — to help show that you’d be surprised as to what songs were nominated (or won) best song of the year. Also, the Spotify playlist below will consist of covers of these songs by other artists along with original songs that didn’t make it into the official article. Take special note of the songs marked with an asterisk (*) as they were the big winners in their respective years. Let’s get started!
1) “Cheek to Cheek” from Top Hat (1935)
Starting off this list is an old classic sung by Fred Astaire. Chances are, you’ve heard this song sung by character in a TV show when a character finds themselves in an ideal situation. The strangest use of the song I’ve seen is from Kenneth Branagh’s musical adaptation of Love’s Labour Lost (2000). But of course nothing will top Astaire’s rendition of this classic Irving Berlin tune.
2) “The Way You Look Tonight” from Swing Time (1936)*
Yes, one of Frank Sinatra’s most famous crooning tunes was the winner of the 1936 Best Original Song at the Oscars. With wonderful lyrics by Dorothy Fields and spectacular music by Jerome Kern, how could anyone not like this song?
3) “When Did You Leave Heaven” from Sing, Baby, Sing (1936)
When I saw this song listed among the nominees I was repeatedly saying to myself, “Please let it be the song I’m thinking!” And it was! I couldn’t find a clip of the original film performance so I did the next best thing and use the clip of Big Bill Broonzy’s version. I positively adore this song and this rendition! Big Bill is someone who deserves more attention, and I’m not the only one who thinks this. Even Eric Clapton is a fan of this tune.
4) “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz (1939)*
Do I even need to say anything about this? No, no I don’t. I’m certain that every single one of you has heard this song in one rendition or another. And it gets you misty-eyed, there’s no point in denying it! What else can I say? It’s a classic.
5) “When You Wish Upon a Star” from Pinocchio (1941)*
Yet another song I don’t need to tell you about. This song is pretty much the theme song of everything Disney. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if Walt Disney himself had the lyrics on a golden plaque in every room at Disney Studios. Again, what else can I say?
6) “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B” from Buck Privates (1941)
Another classic tune made famous by the Andrews Sisters and Bette Midler that was nominated for Best Song and originated in an Abbott-and-Costello movie. Not much to say about this tune except for the fact that it’s really catchy and, in a way, serves as a time capsule.
7) “High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’)” from High Noon (1952)*
This song is significant because this was the first song to win Best Original Song not from a musical. But looking past that little landmark, this is a phenomenal song. Dimtri Tiomkin’s music and Ned Washington’s lyrics really help convey a sense of loneliness and isolation that Marshall Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is going through.
8) “That’s Amore” from The Caddy (1953)
Yet another Rat Pack classic whose origin is from a movie and was nominated for Best Song — and from a Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comedy, no less. Who knew?
9) “Unchained Melody” from Unchained (1955)
Your eyes don’t deceive you; this is, in fact, the same “Unchained Melody” that was a huge hit for the Righteous Brothers. Most people don’t know that it was originally from the 1955 prison film Unchained. Baritone opera singer Todd Duncan does a really good version of this song. And no, from what I gather, there’s no romantic pottery scene between the two leads.
10) “The Green Leaves of Summer” from The Alamo (1960)
The Alamo (1960) is without a doubt one of my favorite movies of all time (the director’s cut at least), and I positively adore this song and the scenes surrounding it. Sadly though, I couldn’t find a great clip that features the entire song, but you still get an idea of what the song is about. The song can be summarized by a line from Davy Crockett (John Wayne) in the scene, “Not thinkin’, just rememberin’.”
11) “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)*
What’s not to love about this song? It’s one of Henry Mancini’s greatest compositions and has some great lyrics by Johnny Mercer. It’s no wonder that everyone from Andy Williams to Louis Armstrong has covered this song. I can’t think of a bad rendition. But of course, none of them will top the lovely Audrey Hepburn.
12) “Georgy Girl” from Georgy Girl (1966)
Yet another song that was the biggest hit for a band/musician; in this case, it was the Australian band the Seekers. The clip above is not from the movie of the same name, but from the Seekers’ farewell concert in 1968. I’m using this clip because it’s the rendition I prefer.
13) “Gonna Fly Now” from Rocky (1976)
Quite possible the most famous training montage song of all time was nominated back in 1976 but unfortunately lost to a Barbra Streisand tune. Although… we all know which song has stood the test of time.
14) “Nobody Does It Better” from The Spy Who Loved Me (1976)
Of course there had to be a James Bond theme song on here! To me, this song wins over the other Oscar-nominated Bond tunes because, well, it’s just amazing to listen to. I love Carly Simon’s voice, the composition by Marvin Hamlisch, the lyrics, and it just gives me an awesome feeling.
15) “Rainbow Connection” from The Muppet Movie (1979)
Let’s finish off this post with another song that gives us a warm, tingly feeling, and who better to sing it than everyone’s favorite frog — Kermit. I can’t imagine anyone feeling bad when listening to this song.
This is, of course, only scratching the surface of what’s been nominated and what’s won, so I recommend looking back and see what won, what was nominated and what holds up and what doesn’t. And check out the playlist below to see some cool covers of these award-worthy tunes.