The award for Best Sound started in 1930, the first category to be added. It can be a hard award to explain to people as often big special effects movies win, when people complain that there is too much noise. Yet, sound can be an important part of the film. Not just the sounds of musical instruments or machines of war (two genres that often win), but things like the sound of typewriters in a crowded newsroom, or the sound a plane makes when it breaks the sound barrier, or even the sound a dinosaur or giant ape would make when walking.

Since 1959, it has been a consistent nomination for the Best Picture winner (19 wins and 14 other nominations in 49 years). Before that, however, it was almost non-existent for the Best Picture (2 wins and 6 other nominations in 31 years). For 45 years no film won Best Sound if that was its only nomination, then it happened twice in 5 years (Bird in 1988 and Last of the Mohicans in 1992) and hasn’t happened since. In fact, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is the first film to get Best Sound as its only nomination since The Mummy in 1999.

Top Sound Mixers:

  1. Kevin O’Connell  –  400 points  (20 nominations)
  2. Douglas Shearer  –  380 points  (14 nominations, 5 Oscars)
  3. John Livadary  –  360 points  (16 nominations, 2 Oscars)
  4. Nathan Levinson – 340 points  (16 nominations, 1 Oscar)

Kevin O’Connell is the saddest case so far in Oscar history, with a record setting 20 nominations without an Oscar.  Three times he has been nominated four consecutive years and from 1995 to 1998 he received 6 nominations without ever winning.    The other three top mixers were all from the Studio Era and all three were nominated every single year from 1935 to 1945.  They all would perhaps have more nominations and Oscars, except in 1931 and 1932, no films were chosen, only Studio Sound Departments, and from 1947 to 1950 and again in 1967 and 1968, the Oscar was given to the entire Department rather than the head of the department.  All three are of some note.  Douglas Shearer, brother of Oscar winning actress Norma, was the first person to win three Oscars, winning his third in 1936.  John Livadry was nominated for 12 consecutive years (1935-1946) and didn’t finally get an Oscar until that 12th consecutive nomination.  Nathan Levinson holds the record with 13 consecutive nominations, from 1933 to 1945, which includes three nominations in 1933.  From 1935 to 1943, Livadry and E.H. Hansen were nominated every year and they both lost every year, and for the first seven of those years, Levinson also was nominated and lost.

As a result of the changes in the late sixties, with first going from the studio head as the nominee, then the studio itself, then finally nominating the actual sound mixers, there is a clear demarcation point in 1969.  No one nominated before then was nominated again afterwards.  This opened things up quite a bit.  Up until 1966, there had 231 Oscar nominated films for Best Sound and only 46 different nominees.  For the 205 nominated films since, there have been 236 different nominees.  Part of that is the crediting of multiple mixers and part is just that there are more people involved than simply the studio heads.  Of those original 46 nominees, only 11 received just 1 nomination and there were numerous years where the same people were nominated over and over again.

Grades: Winners: A- / Nominees: B- (mainly because of the tendency to push Best Picture nominations into double digits with an undeserved nomination – examples of films that reached 10 nominations because of what I feel is an undeserved nomination for Best Sound are The Life of Emile Zola, How Green Was My Valley, The Apartment, Anne of the Thousand Days, On Golden Pond, Tootsie and Braveheart).

Seen: 86.17% 94.84%

(blue won Best Picture, red was nominated for Best Picture and purple got just the one nomination)

Honor Roll: Bride of Frankenstein / Last of the Mohicans

Shame Roll: The Deep / Meteor / Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

1930 AA: The Big House / Love Parade / Case of Sergeant Grischa / Raffles / Song of the Flame

me: Hell’s Angels / Under the Roofs of Paris / All Quiet on the Western Front / King of Jazz

1931 AA: none – this year and again in 1932, the award was given to a studio, rather than a specific film

me: Public Enemy / Dracula / Doorway to Hell / Little Caesar / Waterloo Bridge / The Front Page

1932 AA: none

me: Scarface / Frankenstein / Tarzan the Ape Man / Shanghai Express / Freaks

1933 AA: A Farewell to Arms / 42nd Street / I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang / Golddiggers of 1933

me: King Kong / Invisible Man / A Farewell to Arms / I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang / The Crowd Roars / The Mummy

1934 AA: One Night of Love / Cleopatra / Gay Divorcee / Imitation of Life / Viva Villa / Affairs of Cellini

me: The Lost Patrol (the only film I feel was worthy of a nomination)

1935 AA: Naughty Marietta / Captain Blood / Lives of a Bengal Lancer / Bride of Frankenstein / Dark Angel / I Dream Too Much / Love Me Forever / 1000 Dollars a Minute / Thanks a Million

me: Bride of Frankenstein / Captain Blood / Mutiny on the Bounty / 39 Steps / Lives of a Bengal Lancer

1936 AA: San Francisco / Dodsworth / Mr. Deeds Goes to Town / Three Smart Girls / Banjo on My Knee / Charge of the Light Brigade / General Spanky / Texas Rangers / That Girl from Paris

me: Modern Times / Charge of the Light Brigade / The Secret Agent / San Francisco / The Great Ziegfeld

1937 AA: The Hurricane / The Life of Emile Zola / In Old Chicago / Lost Horizon / 100 Men and a Girl / The Girl Said No / Hitting a New High / Maytime / Topper / Wells Fargo

me: You Only Live Once / Sabotage / La Marseillaise / The Hurricane / Captains Courageous / Dead End

1938 AA: The Cowboy and the Lady / You Can’t Take It With You / Four Daughters / Army Girl / If I Were King / Merrily We Live / Sweethearts / Suez / That Certain Age / Vivacious Lady

me: The Adventures of Robin Hood / Grand Illusion / Test Pilot / Angels with Dirty Faces / The Great Waltz

1939 AA: When Tomorrow Comes / Gone with the Wind / Goodbye Mr. Chips / Mr. Smith Goes to Washington / Of Mice and Men / Balalaika / The Great Victor Herbert / The Hunchback of Notre Dame / Man of Conquest / The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex / The Rains Came

me: The Wizard of Oz / Gone with the Wind / Stagecoach / Gunga Din / Drums Along the Mohawk

1940 AA: Strike Up the Band / The Grapes of Wrath / Kitty Foyle / Our Town / Behind the News / Captain Caution / The Howards of Virginia / North West Mounted Police / The Sea Hawk / Spring Parade / Too Many Husbands

me: The Sea Hawk / His Girl Friday / The Grapes of Wrath / Rebecca / The Great Dictator

1941 AA: That Hamilton Woman / How Green Was My Valley / Citizen Kane / Sergeant York / Appointment for Love / Ball of Fire / Chocolate Soldier / The Devil Pays Off / The Men in Her Life / Skylark / Topper Returns

me: Citizen Kane / Fantasia / The Maltese Falcon / High Sierra / Sergeant York

note:  The 12 nominees in 1941 were the exact same 12 nominees from 1940.

1942 AA: Yankee Doodle Dandy / Mrs. Miniver / The Pride of the Yankees / Arabian Nights / Bambi / Flying Tigers / Friendly Enemies / The Gold Rush / Once Upon a Honeymoon / Road to Morocco / This Above All / You Were Never Lovelier

me: Yankee Doodle Dandy / Saboteur / The Pride of the Yankees / Captains of the Clouds / Reap the Wild Wind

1943 AA: This Land is Mine / Madame Curie / The Song of Bernadette / Hangmen Also Die / In Old Oklahoma / The North Star / Phantom of the Opera / Riding High / Sahara / Saludos Amigos / So This is Washington / This is the Army

me: For Whom the Bell Tolls / In Which We Serve / Casablanca / Air Force / Five Graves to Cairo

note:  The 12 nominees in 1943 were the same 12 nominees from 1942.

1944 AA: Wilson / Double Indemnity / Brazil / Casanova Brown / Cover Girl / His Butler’s Sister / Hollywood Canteen / It Happened Tomorrow / Kismet / Music in Manhattan / Voice in the Wind

me: Lifeboat / Passage to Marseille / Double Indemnity / Thirty Seconds over Tokyo / Gaslight / Ministry of Fear

1945 AA: The Bells of St. Mary’s / Flame of the Barbary Coast / Lady on a Train / Leave Her to Heaven / Rhapsody in Blue / A Song to Remember / The Southerner / They Were Expendable / Three Caballeros / Three is a Family / The Unseen / Wonder Man

me: They Were Expendable / The Story of G.I. Joe / Spellbound / Pride of the Marines / Lost Weekend

1946 AA: The Jolson Story / The Best Years of our Lives / It’s a Wonderful Life

me: Children of Paradise / The Big Sleep / My Darling Clementine / The Killers / Duel in the Sun

1947 AA: The Bishop’s Wife / Green Dolphin Street / T-Men

me: Great Expectations / Brighton Rock / Brute Force / Crossfire / This Happy Breed / Kiss of Death

1948 AA: The Snake Pit / Johnny Belinda / Moonrise

me: Treasure of the Sierra Madre / Red River / Naked City / The Search / 3 Godfathers

1949 AA: 12 O’Clock High / Once More My Darling / Sands of Iwo Jima

me: Champion / Thieves Highway / Sands of Iwo Jima / Battleground / White Heat / A Canterbury Tale

1950 AA: All About Eve / Cinderella / Louisa / Our Very Own / Trio

me: Third Man / Night and the City / Sunset Boulevard / Winchester 73 / The Gunfighter

1951 AA: The Great Caruso / A Streetcar Named Desire / Bright Victory / I Want You / Two Tickets to Broadway

me: Detective Story / The African Queen / Oliver Twist / The Frogmen / Thing from Another World / Strangers on a Train

1952 AA: The Sound Barrier / The Quiet Man / The Card / Hans Christian Anderson / With a Song in My Heart

me: The Sound Barrier / Testament of Dr. Mabuse / Singin in the Rain / High Noon / Moulin Rouge

1953 AA: From Here to Eternity / Calamity Jane / Knights of the Round Table / Mississippi Gambler / War of the Worlds

me: The Big Heat / From Here to Eternity / Pickup on South Street / Desert Rats / War of the Worlds

1954 AA: The Glenn Miller Story / The Caine Mutiny / Brigadoon / Rear Window / Susan Slept Here

me: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea / Rear Window / The Caine Mutiny / On the Waterfront / Angels One Five / Gate of Hell

1955 AA: Oklahoma / Love is a Many-Splendored Thing / Mr. Roberts / Love Me or Leave Me / Not as a Stranger

me: Wages of Fear / Dam Busters / Bad Day at Black Rock / Mr. Roberts / Samurai I

1956 AA: The King and I / 10 Commandments / Friendly Persuasion / The Brave One / Eddy Duchin Story

me: The Seven Samurai / The Killing / Forbidden Planet / Moby Dick / The Searchers

1957 AA: Sayonara / Witness for the Prosecution / Gunfight at the O.K. Corral / Les Girls / Pal Joey

me: The Bridge on the River Kwai / Paths of Glory / Tin Star / The Enemy Below / Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

1958 AA: South Pacific / I Want to Live / Vertigo / A Time to Love and a Time to Die / The Young Lions

me: Touch of Evil / Torpedo Run / Tarnished Angels / Bravados / Death of a Cyclist / Vertigo

1959 AA: Ben-Hur / The Nun’s Story / Journey to the Center of the Earth / Libel / Porgy and Bess

me: Ben-Hur / North by Northwest / Drunken Angel / Rio Bravo / On the Beach

1960 AA: The Alamo / The Apartment / Cimarron / Pepe / Sunrise at Campobello

me: Spartacus / The Hidden Fortress / Psycho / The Magnificent Seven / Northwest Frontier / The Unforgiven

1961 AA: West Side Story / The Guns of Navarone / The Children’s Hour / Flower Drum Song / The Parent Trap

me: The Guns of Navarone / Yojimbo / The Bridge / West Side Story / Throne of Blood

1962 AA: Lawrence of Arabia / The Music Man / Bon Voyage / That Touch of Mink / What Ever Happened to Baby Jane

me: Lawrence of Arabia / Ride the High Country / The Music Man / Billy Budd / The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

1963 AA: How the West Was Won / Cleopatra / Bye Bye Birdie / Captain Newman M.D. / It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

me: The Great Escape / Stray Dog / High and Low / Ivan’s Childhood / The Birds

1964 AA: My Fair Lady / Becket / Mary Poppins / Father Goose / The Unsinkable Molly Brown

me: Harakiri / A Hard Day’s Night / Mary Poppins / Goldfinger / My Fair Lady

1965 AA: The Sound of Music / Doctor Zhivago / The Agony and the Ecstasy / The Great Race / Shenandoah

me: Doctor Zhivago / Thunderball / Repulsion / The Train / The Sound of Music

1966 AA: Grand Prix / The Sand Pebbles / Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf / Gambit / Hawaii

me: Grand Prix / The Professionals / The Sand Pebbles / 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse / Fantastic Voyage

1967 AA: In the Heat of the Night / Doctor Dolittle / Camelot / The Dirty Dozen / Thoroughly Modern Millie

me: Bonnie and Clyde / Point Blank / The Dirty Dozen / In the Heat of the Night / In Cold Blood

1968 AA: Oliver! / Funny Girl / Bullitt / Finian’s Rainbow / Star!

me: 2001: A Space Odyssey / Bullitt / The Good, the Bad and the Ugly / The Battle of Algiers / Rosemary’s Baby

1969 AA: Hello Dolly! / Anne of the Thousand Days / Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid / Gaily Gaily / Marooned

me: The Wild Bunch / Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid / Once Upon a Time in the West / Oh What a Lovely War / Z

1970 AA: Patton / Airport / Ryan’s Daughter / Tora! Tora! Tora! / Woodstock

me: Patton / M*A*S*H / Tora! Tora! Tora! / Catch-22 / The Great White Hope

1971 AA: Fiddler on the Roof / The French Connection / Diamonds are Forever / Kotch / Mary, Queen of Scots

me: The French Connection / A Clockwork Orange / McCabe and Mrs. Miller / Get Carter / The Hospital / Walkabout

1972 AA: Cabaret / The Godfather / Butterflies are Free / The Candidate / The Poseidon Adventure

me: The Godfather / Deliverance / Cabaret / The Posiedon Adventure / Fat City

1973 AA: The Exorcist / The Sting / The Day of the Dolphin / The Paper Chase / Paper Moon

me: The Exorcist / Serpico / Enter the Dragon / Day of the Jackal / The Sting

1974 AA: Earthquake / Chinatown / The Conversation / The Towering Inferno / Young Frankenstein

me: Chinatown / The Conversation / The Godfather Part II / The Towering Inferno / Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

1975 AA: Jaws / Bite the Bullet / Funny Lady / The Hindenburg / The Wind and the Lion

me: Jaws / The Man Who Would Be King / Kirol Lear / The French Connection II / Dog Day Afternoon

note:  There are 20 different nominees for the five films, 15 of whom are first-time nominees.

1976 AA: All the President’s Men / Rocky / King Kong / Silver Streak / A Star is Born

me: All the President’s Men / Solyaris / The Outlaw Josey Wales / Rocky / Taxi Driver

1977 AA: Star Wars / The Turning Point / Close Encounters of the Third Kind / The Deep / Sorceror

me: Star Wars / Close Encounters of the Third Kind / Aguirre – The Wrath of God/ Dersu Uzala / A Bridge Too Far

1978 AA: The Deer Hunter / The Buddy Holly Story / Days of Heaven / Hooper / Superman

me: The Deer Hunter / Superman / The Buddy Holly Story / Midnight Express / Invasion of the Body Snatchers

1979 AA: Apocalypse Now / The Electric Horseman / Meteor / 1941 / The Rose

me: Apocalypse Now / Alien / All That Jazz / The Black Stallion / Breaking Away

1980 AA: The Empire Strikes Back / Raging Bull / Coal Miner’s Daughter / Altered States / Fame

me: Raging Bull / The Empire Strikes Back / Kagemusha / The Shining / The Elephant Man

1981 AA: Raiders of the Lost Ark / On Golden Pond / Reds / Outland / Pennies from Heaven

me: Raiders of the Lost Ark / Excalibur / Gallipoli / Reds / Superman II

1982 AA: E.T. / Gandhi / Tootsie / Das Boot / Tron

me: Das Boot / E.T. / Pink Floyd: The Wall / Fitzcarraldo / Blade Runner

1983 AA: The Right Stuff / Terms of Endearment / Never Cry Wolf / Return of the Jedi

me: The Right Stuff / Return of the Jedi / Wargames / Silkwood / Under Fire

1984 AA: Amadeus / A Passage to India / Dune / The River / 2010

me: Amadeus / A Passage to India / Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom / The Bounty / Starman

1985 AA: Out of Africa / Back to the Future / A Chorus Line / Ladyhawke / Silverado

me: Ran / Back to the Future / Brazil / To Live and Die in L.A. / Silverado / Blood Simple

1986 AA: Platoon / Aliens / Heartbreak Ridge / Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home / Top Gun

me: Platoon / Aliens / Top Gun / Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home / Blue Velvet

1987 AA: The Last Emperor / Empire of the Sun / Lethal Weapon / RoboCop / The Witches of Eastwick

me: Full Metal Jacket / Empire of the Sun / The Untouchables / Hope and Glory / The Last Emperor

1988 AA: Bird / Mississippi Burning / Die Hard / Gorillas in the Mist / Who Framed Roger Rabbit

me: Die Hard / Bird / Who Framed Roger Rabbit / Mississippi Burning / Eight Men Out

1989 AA: Glory / Born on the Fourth of July / The Abyss / Black Rain / Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

me: Glory / Born on the Fourth of July / Henry V / Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade / Batman

1990 AA: Dances with Wolves / Days of Thunder / Dick Tracy / The Hunt for Red October / Total Recall

me: The Hunt for Red October / GoodFellas / The Killer / Miller’s Crossing / Dick Tracy

1991 AA: Terminator 2: Judgment Day / The Silence of the Lambs / Beauty and the Beast / JFK / Backdraft

me: Terminator 2: Judgment Day / The Silence of the Lambs / JFK / The Commitments / Backdraft

1992 AA: The Last of the Mohicans / Unforgiven / Aladdin / A Few Good Men / Under Siege

me: The Last of the Mohicans / Unforgiven / Hard Boiled / Bram Stoker’s Dracula / Reservoir Dogs

1993 AA: Jurassic Park / Schindler’s List / The Fugitive / Cliffhanger / Geronimo

me: Jurassic Park / Schindler’s List / The Nightmare Before Christmas / The Fugitive / In the Line of Fire

1994 AA: Speed / Forrest Gump / The Shawshank Redemption / Clear and Present Danger / Legends of the Fall

me: The Shawshank Redemption / Leon / Quiz Show / The Crow / Interview with the Vampire

1995 AA: Apollo 13 / Braveheart / Batman Forever / Crimson Tide / Waterworld

me: Apollo 13 / Heat / The Usual Suspects / Nixon / Toy Story

1996 AA: The English Patient / Evita / Independence Day / The Rock / Twister

me: The English Patient / Evita / Lone Star / The Rock / Twister

1997 AA: Titanic / L.A. Confidential / Air Force One / Con Air / Contact

me: Titanic / L.A. Confidential / Fifth Element / Amistad / Men in Black

1998 AA: Saving Private Ryan / Shakespeare in Love / The Thin Red Line / Armageddon / The Mask of Zorro

me: Saving Private Ryan / Ronin / The Thin Red Line / Out of Sight / Velvet Goldmine

1999 AA: The Matrix / The Green Mile / The Insider / The Mummy / Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

me: Fight Club / Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace / Three Kings / The Matrix / Sleepy Hollow

2000 AA: Gladiator / Cast Away / The Patriot / The Perfect Storm / U-571

me: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon / Gladiator / The Perfect Storm / Almost Famous / Cast Away

note:  For the first time since 1966, there are no first-time nominees.

2001 AA: Black Hawk Down / The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring / Moulin Rouge / Amelie / Pearl Harbor

me: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring / Black Hawk Down / Moulin Rouge / A.I. / Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone

note:  In a reversal of the year before, 11 of the nominees and first-time nominees.

2002 AA: Chicago / The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers / Gangs of New York / Road to Perdition / Spider-Man

me: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers / Minority Report / Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones / Gangs of New York / Solaris

2003 AA: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King / Master and Commander: Far Side of the World / Seabiscuit / The Last Samurai / The Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

me: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King / Master and Commander / Kill Bill Volume 1 / The Last Samurai / The Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

2004 AA: Ray / The Aviator / The Incredibles / Polar Express / Spider-Man 2

me: The Aviator / Spider-Man 2 / Kill Bill Volume 2 / House of Flying Daggers / Hero

2005 AA: King Kong / The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe / Memoirs of a Geisha / War of the Worlds / Walk the Line

me: King Kong / Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith / War of the Worlds / Munich / Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

2006 AA: Dreamgirls / Apocalypto / Blood Diamond / Flags of our Fathers / Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

me: Casino Royale / United 93 / The Departed / Flags of our Fathers / Superman Returns

2007 AA: The Bourne Ultimatum / No Country for Old Men / 3:10 to Yuma / Ratatouille / Transformers

me: The Bourne Ultimatum / No Country for Old Men / There Will Be Blood / Zodiac / 3:10 to Yuma

2008 AA: Slumdog Millionaire / The Curious Case of Benjamin Button / The Dark Knight / Wall-E / Wanted

me: The Dark Knight / Wall-E / Iron Man / Slumdog Millionaire / Australia

note:  All the Oscar winners are first-time nominees for the first time since 1987.

2009 AA: The Hurt Locker / Avatar / Inglourious Basterds / Star Trek / Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

me:  The Hurt Locker / Inglourious Basterds / Avatar / District 9 / Star Trek

Honorary Mentions: The Pianist (2002) / Batman Begins (2005) / Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)

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