Every year, there are some truly exceptional songs featured in motion pictures.
Disney and Bond films are almost always guaranteed nominations from the Academy in the Best Original Song category, often winning (as “No Time To Die” did last year).
However, there are plenty of songs that have stood the test of time that you may not even know were Oscar-nominated — or even that they were originally from a film!
Plenty of nominated songs have gone on to outlast tthe films they came from.
Here’s a list to remind you how random, enduring, and inclusive the Best Original Song category has been over the decades.
“9 to 5” – 9 to 5 (1980)
Dolly Parton’s first Academy Award nomination was for her upbeat ode to the working woman from the film of the same name.
That year, Best Original Song was a tough category, with “Fame” from Fame taking the prize.
Though Parton lost the Oscar, “9 to 5” won her two Grammys and hit #1 on the Billboard Top 100.
“On The Road Again” – Honeysuckle Rose (1980)
Dolly Parton wasn’t the only country icon to lose to “Fame” at the 53rd Academy Awards.
Willie Nelson’s well-loved classic “On The Road Again” was actually written for the film Honeysuckle Rose (in which he also starred) and nominated for Best Original Song the same year.
Like Parton, Nelson lost the Oscar but won a Grammy for his hit record.
“Theme from Shaft” – Shaft (1971)
Can ya dig it? Not only was Isaac Hayes’s groovy, funky theme nominated for an Oscar, but it won!
Hayes was the first African-American to win an Academy Award n a non-acting category.
His performance of the song during the ceremony is still one of the coolest things to ever happen at the Oscars. Right on!
“Unchained Melody” – Unchained (1955)
One of the most well-known, most-covered songs of all time (popular for the Righteous Brothers version that appeared in the 1990’s Ghost) was actually from the 1955 prison film Unchained — hence the title.
Though it was nominated for the Best Song Oscar, it lost to another big hit of the day, “Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing.”
It was written by Alex North and Hy Zaret, and originally performed by Todd Duncan in the film.
“Accidentally In Love” – Shrek 2 (2004)
This Counting Crows’ hit is forever associated with the opening sequence of Shrek 2 — with good reason, as that’s why they wrote it!
Most people don’t recall that it was Oscar-nominated, too, though the Counting Crows did perform it on the telecast (this was the year Beyoncé sang 3/5 of the Best Song nominees at the ceremony).
In a stacked category (including songwriting titans Andrew Lloyd Webber and Glen Ballard), Jorge Drexler won for “Al otro lado del rio” from The Motorcycle Diaries.
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” – Neptune’s Daughter (1949)
Frank Loesser’s problematic Christmas standard appeared on the silver screen in the musical comedy Neptune’s Daughter.
What started as a duet Loesser wrote for his wife and himself went on to win the Academy Award for Best Song.
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” lives in infamy to this day, the subject of debate surrounding consent and coercion.
“How Do I Live?” – Con Air (1997)
Sung by Trisha Yearwood for the film, this aching ballad was also a hit for singer LeAnn Rimes (it was a whole thing, trust me!).
It has the distinction of also being nominated for a Razzie for Worst Original Song.
Though songwriter Diane Warren has been nominated 14 times in the Best Original Song category, she has never won — though she is up again this year for “Applause” from Tell It Like A Woman. Warren also received an Honorary Oscar in 2022.
“How Do I Live” lost to the immortal “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic.
“Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” from Cinderella (1950)
Yes, songs from Disney animated features have been getting nominated since way back — “When You Wish Upon A Star” from Pinocchio won in 1940. But did you know that the Fairy Godmother’s nonsensical ditty was a contender in 1950?
It’s an enduring classic, having been covered and parodied endlessly over the years.
It lost out to that other classic standard “Mona Lisa” from Captain Carey, U.S.A.
“Can’t Stop The Feeling!” – Trolls (2016)
Yes, Justin Timberlake is an Oscar nominee, along with Max Martin and Shellback, who co-wrote the infectious dance-pop hit from the first Trolls movie.
Competition in the Best Original Song category was steep that year (with Sting and Lin-Manuel Miranda among the nominees).
The prize ultimately went to Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, and Justin Hurwitz for their song “City of Stars” from La La Land.
“That’s Amore” – The Caddy (1954)
Dean Martin’s first big hit may have gotten a second chance in life thanks to 1987’s Moonstruck.
It actually first appeared in the 1954 film The Caddy, also starring — who else? — Jerry Lewis.
Though it’s still widely known to this day, “That’s Amore” lost the Oscar to the gorgeous but unfortunately forgotten “Secret Love” from the Doris Day vehicle Calamity Jane.
“The Look of Love” – Casino Royale (1967)
Burt Bacharach (RIP) and Hal David’s dreamy pop hit actually came from the spoofy Bond film Casino Royale (the 1967 version, which did not take itself nearly as seriously as the Daniel Craig version).
With Dusty Springfield’s sweet, sultry vocals, “The Look of Love” remains a classic.
What’s ridiculous is that it lost to “Talk to the Animals” from Doctor Dolittle!
“Everything Is Awesome” – The Lego Movie (2014)
The Lego Movie’s anthem was a high-energy, bubblegum pop earworm that did exactly what it was supposed to do — be easily singable, mindless, and catchy to the point of annoying.
It also got the Lonely Island performing on the Oscar stage!
Shawn Patterson’s hit lost to Common & John Legend’s “Glory” from Selma.
Warning: If you watch this video, the song WILL be stuck in your head for days.
“Eye Of The Tiger” – Rocky III (1982)
Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan of the band Survivor had a certified hit on their hands and became ever-associated with the Rocky franchise.
Though their classic song of endurance continues to endure (no surprise!), it lost the Best Original Song Oscar.
The winner that year was “Up Where We Belong” from An Officer and a Gentleman — also, admittedly, an 80s classic.
“Rainbow Connection” – The Muppet Movie (1979)
Kermit the Frog’s endearing, uplifting banjo-based tune (written by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher) moved the young and old alike.
In 2020, it was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry after being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress.
Surprisingly, it lost the Best Original Song Oscar to “It Goes Like It Goes” from Norma Rae.
“Endless Love” – Endless Love (1981)
Lionel Richie’s “Endless Love” was declared the greatest duet of all time by Billboard, and it was also the best-selling single of Diana Ross’s career.
Unfortunately, it was also an Academy Award loser, as “Arthur’s Theme” from Arthur took the gold.
Richie would go on to win for “Say You, Say Me” from White Nights in 1985.
“Happy” – Despicable Me 2 (2013)
Pharrell Williams’ crowd-pleaser was so ubiquitous in 2013 and 2014 that some people forget it came from Despicable Me 2.
It was the most successful song of 2014, selling nearly 14 million units globally.
Williams might have even pulled out an Oscar win had he not been up against the Disney phenomenon “Let It Go,” which avalanched everything in its wake (including U2 and Karen O).
“Ghostbusters” – Ghostbusters (1984)
Yes, the Ghostbusters theme song was Oscar-nominated!
Ray Parker Jr.’s catchy hit is still a favorite today, thanks to the original film’s staying power. The song still gets plenty of airplay around Halloween.
It lost in a heavily competitive year to Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called To Say I Love You” from The Woman In Red.
“Footloose” – Footloose (1984)
Another big hit from 1984 was Kenny Loggins and Dean Pitchford’s “Footloose” from the classic Kevin Bacon flick of the same name.
Pitchford was also nominated for “Let’s Hear It for the Boy,” along with Tom Snow.
1984 was clearly a great year for songs from movies!
“Again” – Poetic Justice (1993)
Did you know Janet Jackson is an Oscar nominee?
Her song “Again” comes from John Singleton’s film Poetic Justice, in which Jackson starred alongside Tupac Shakur and Regina King.
Jackson lost out on Best Original Song to Bruce Springsteen for “Streets of Philadelphia.”
“The Power Of Love” – Back To The Future (1985)
Back To The Future was nominated for multiple Oscars back in the day, winning one for Best Sound Effects Editing.
However, its hit song “The Power Of Love” (by Huey Lewis, Johnny Colla, and Chris Hayes) fell short, losing to Lionel Richie for “Say You, Say Me” from White Nights.
“The Power Of Love” is one of those songs that will be forever associated with the film it came from, which isn’t such a bad thing when that film is a beloved classic like Back To The Future.
“Hopelessly Devoted To You” – Grease (1978)
Grease’s sweet, yearning ballad was immortalized by Olivia Newton-John, making it one of her most well-known hits.
Due to Grease’s continued popularity, the song, which was written for the movie, is often now inserted into stage productions of the beloved musical.
However, it lost to Donna Summer’s hit “Last Dance” from Thank God It’s Friday, written by Paul Jabara.
“(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” – Dirty Dancing (1987)
One of the most iconic musical numbers from any film, “The Time Of My Life,” by John DeNicola, Donald Markowitz, and Franke Previte, was not only nominated for Best Original Song at the 60th Academy Awards but won as well!
Sometimes the Academy gets it right.
The way Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley’s vocals line up with the dance and emotions of Baby (Jennifer Grey) and Johnny (Patrick Swayze) is movie magic.
There you have it, some of the best songs you didn’t know were Oscar nominees — or winners!
Which loss do you think is the most egregious? Which songs are your faves?
Did we miss any good ones? There are so many!
Share your opinions in the comments below!
Mary Littlejohn is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.