Sound editing is a fundamental building block that adds another layer of intrigue and awe in any film especially your favorite ones. From foley artists recording in a studio, to gathering sounds in the woods (more on this soon), sound editing requires a level of exactness and imagination unrivaled by most artists. Sound is just as much of a world builder as anything else, and luckily, these creative craftsmen (and women) are celebrated. This post ranks the Academy Award winners for Best Sound Editing from the last 10 years.

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Best Sound Editing

10. Hugo (2012 Oscars)

The sound team talks Hugo

Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton were co-supervisors and sound editors on Scorsese’s Hugo. The team, including sound mixer, Tom Fleischman, talk about what it’s like to work with Martin, most of them being long-time collaborators. Learn how they scoured New York to record the epic clock sounds that dominate the film.


Hugo (2011)

  • Up Against: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Drive, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, War Horse
  • Tomatometer: 93%
  • Watch Now →

Best Sound Editing

9. TIE: Zero Dark Thirty AND Skyfall (2013 Oscars)

No seriously, it’s a tie. Watch BOTH speeches

While rarely seen, this does occasionally happen, and the 2013 Oscars saw a tie for the category of Best Sound Editing. Paul N. J. Ottosson took home the sound editing oscar for Zero Dark Thirty. From his previous win for The Hurt Locker in the same category, it’s no surprise. For Zero Dark, Ottosson gave us an impressively intricate and disturbing soundscape. And he experienced a ton of his own struggles along the way. In an IndieWire interview, he discusses the difficult sequence during the pursuit of bin Laden’s courier, claiming it was the hardest action movie he’s ever worked on. He records a ton of Pakistanti voices without music. He tells IndieWire, “I was very aggressive in all the cuts and did a little bit of a pre-lap into the next cut just to drive, drive, drive forward, and then hard cuts on all the outs, so it becomes jarring.”

But of course a James Bond movie would make an entrance, in some explosive way. Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers also take home the gold for Skyfall, only the sixth tie in Academy Award history.


Zero Dark Thirty AND Skyfall (2012)

Editing Sound

8. American Sniper (2015 Oscars)

Notable sound effects from American Sniper

Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman bring us the horrifying soundscape of war in 2014 for American Sniper. War films demand creativity as much as craft, so as not to sound so similar to the countless other war films in Hollywood. Listen above, to some of the effects that made this 2015 win possible. Although, I do think Birdman gave everyone a run for their money that this category and sound mixing (for the complicated long take). But war wins, I guess!


American Sniper (2014)

  • Up Against: Interstellar, Birdman, Unbroken, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  • Tomatometer: 72%
  • Watch Now →

Best Sound Editing

7. Gravity (2014 Oscars)

Director and sound team come together in space

Director, Alfonso Cuarón, had a pretty clear idea of what he wanted to hear and what he needed from the sound team. Sound editor, Glenn Freemantle captured foley and recording not only airborn audio, but the vibrations from that sound, for the true experience of space sounds. Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead, and Chris Munro also took home the gold for sound mixing. Their techniques were unique and can be best heard in Dolby Cinema.


Gravity (2013)

  • Up Against: Captain Phillips, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, All is Lost, Lone Survivor
  • Tomatometer: 96%
  • Watch Now →

Best Sound Editing Oscar

6. The Hurt Locker (2010 Oscars)

The Hurt Locker sound clip

Paul N. J. Ottosson and his sound team captured a ton of the disturbing and dismaying sounds on location, making the soundscape of The Hurt Locker very real and raw. The movie uses sound cues to help the audience orient themselves to this version of Baghdad. These cues help separate the many locations in the film through which the characters move. The explosions, so surprising and deliberate are a type of hell you can only hear.


The Hurt Locker (2009)

  • Up Against: Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, Star Trek, Up
  • Tomatometer: 97%
  • Watch Now →

Sound Editing

5. Bohemian Rhapsody (2019 Oscars)

Listen to Nina Hartstone talk about the editing process

Aside from the plot of the movie falling short of reality, the sounds of the film were pretty close to the real thing. John Warhurts and Nina Hartstone pulled Freddie’s voice from isolated master tracks as much as possible. Though when not taking them from actual recordings, the films sound rely on Canadian, Christian Rock singer, Marc Martel. His ability to recreate Mercury’s voice is incomparable to well, only Freddie himself. The two voices mixed with Rami Malek’s occasional vocals, made for this Oscar winner, (as well as an even more deserved sound mixing win).


Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

  • Up Against: A Quiet Place, Black Panther, Roma, and First Man
  • Tomatometer: 61%
  • Watch Now →

Complicated Sound Editing

4. Inception (2011 Oscars)

Oscar winner for Best Sound Editing

Listen to how Richard King and his sound team Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo, and Ed Novick, work with Christopher Nolan to create a layered, dynamic soundscape, nearly as intricate as the story world itself.


Inception (2010)

  • Up Against: Tron: Legacy, Salt, Unstoppable, True Grit, Toy Story 3
  • Tomatometer: 87%
  • Watch Now →

Sound Editing War Films

3. Dunkirk (2018 Oscars)

Oscar winning sound

Richard King is no amateur to sound design or being an Academy Award winner. Inception, The Dark Knight, and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, all won him an Oscar for Best Sound Editing. Director, Christopher Nolan and King are long time collaborators and now with Alex Gibson by his side, Dunkirk’s win was inevitable. 

In an IndieWire interview, King describes working with Nolan on a particular plane crash sequence. 

“Chris had the genius idea of having the plane’s engine winding up instead of sputtering as it goes down. I put a billiard ball in my dryer at home to get random banging to simulate like a crank shaft is broken loose. He’s going 100 knots so at that speed hitting water is like hitting concrete. The penultimate moment had to be huge. That’s a sound we worked on for a long time to try to give it the biggest metal crack we could make.”

The constant experimentation, and excitement King brings to his craft makes him an Oscar shoe-in.


Dunkirk (2017)

  • Up Against: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Shape of Water, Baby Driver, Blade Runner 2049
  • Tomatometer: 93%
  • Watch Now →

Best Sound Editing

2. Arrival (2017 Oscars)

The making of Heptapod communication

Sylvain Bellemare wins the Sound Editing Oscar for much more than alien noises. The sound team hiked up a mountain in New Zealand for three days just to record native New Zealand birds. These sounds, tweaked at different pitches, gave us some of the best alien voices we’ve ever heard. Make sure to watch the full video.


Arrival (2016)

  • Up Against: Deep Water Horizon, La La Land, Hacksaw Ridge, Sully
  • Tomatometer: 94%
  • Watch Now →

Best Sound Editing

1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2016 Oscars)

“Mad Max is a film we see with our ears”

Above you can hear how sound editors, Mark Mangini and David White added so much richness and texture to the post apocalyptic world of Mad Max: Fury Road, for a well-deserved win. If the characters weren’t terrifying enough, their choices to add sound to nearly every action, added more layers of chaos and fear. Marked as one of the greatest “car chases” of all time, it’s hard to imagine that being true without the soundscape of Mangini and White.


Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

  • Up Against:  The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Martian, Sicario
  • Tomatometer: 97%
  • Watch Now →

Up Next

Winners of Best Sound Mixing

What’s even more unnoticed by the everyday movie-goer, are the sound mixers. Those men and women who relentlessly perfect every layer of sound so it comes out just right. 

Up Next: Best Sound Mixing →
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