The distinction between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing has always been a headache for some awards pundits. (Editing collects and creates the sounds needed; Mixing combines them together) But there’s no denying the importance sound design has in a film. If the sound effects aren’t convincing enough, it can break the immersion of the film itself and spoil the enjoyment.
Today we celebrate films elevated by their incredible sound editing. Here is a list of the 10 best Sound Editing nominees of the 2010s, with the films ranked by the importance of their sound design to the film’s quality.
10. La La Land (2016)
dir. Damien Chazelle
The only musical to make this list (although the decade wasn’t particularly strong in this area), Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” is one of the oscars 2021oscarscovid-19best films of the decade, with dazzling star-making performances from Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, as well as instantly recognizable tunes (“City of Stars” is already a modern classic). The strongest aspects of the film are the musical performances, and scenes such as Emma Stone’s “Audition” only exemplify the strength of the sound editing and how well it flows.
Any best of the decade list in any category is sure to feature a Christopher Nolan film, and this one is no different. With two decades of incredible work and “Tenet” on its way this year, Nolan kicked off the 2010s with “Inception” and set a very high bar early on. The story is unique, the ensemble is terrific and the visual effects are stunning, as Leonardo DiCaprio & co pass through various dream states.
The Academy made an inspired choice nominating “Drive,” which deserves a spot purely for not being as awards-friendly as some others on this list. This crime thriller starring Ryan Gosling is an incredible, action-packed ride and as can be expected from a film titled “Drive” features some intense chase sequences in which the sound design intensifies and elevates the entire story.
The first War film to make this list, Sam Mendes’ “1917” is a technical marvel, and many expected it to fare better below-the-line at this year’s Oscars ceremony than it eventually did. However, that doesn’t take away from the incredible achievement it is. Mendes’ decision to make the film feel like one continuous take means other aspects have to run as smoothly — including sound — otherwise, the illusion would be shattered.
The second of two War films to make this list (and another from Christopher Nolan) “Dunkirk” is a spectacular achievement in filmmaking, telling the famous WW2 tale from three different perspectives — land, sea, and air. The work is brilliant, creating three different soundscapes in order to make them feel unique to each, from the roaring sea to the gunfire on land to the excruciating noise of fighter planes chasing through the air. It’s a wonderful film to listen to and it’s a testament to the work from those involved.
5. Ford v Ferrari (2019)
dir. James Mangold
The category’s most recent winner, James Mangold’s “Ford v Ferrari” is regarded as one of the best sports movies ever made, thanks to its thrilling race sequences and endlessly watchable lead performance from the chameleon Christian Bale. As to be expected from a film centered around the 1966 24 hours of Le Mans, there are many racing scenes throughout the film, all of them riveting and edge-of-your-seat stuff. Mangold and his crew do a spectacular job of making the audience feel like they are right there on the track, with the incredible sound design elevating the experience.
4. The Revenant (2015)
dir. Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s wilderness epic might be best known for finally winning Leonardo DiCaprio his first Oscar, however, there’s more than just a masterful lead performance that makes “The Revenant” as special as it is. The 88th Academy Awards presented the sound categories in a unique way which helped to distinguish the difference between editing and mixing. What was clear in the presentation was the finely tuned work done on Iñárritu’s film. From the sound of the running stream to galloping horses, everything is crystal clear and nothing distorted, creating an immersive experience and a world that audiences can get lost in, even if perhaps it’s not one you’d want to.
Denis Villeneuve‘s powerful and thought-provoking “Arrival,” stars Amy Adams and tells the story of aliens arriving at various areas of the planet to make human communication. The sound work from Sylvain Bellemare and the whole crew is extraordinary, creating unique sounds for the strange alien creatures, as well as the eerie sounds of their spaceships. The film often doesn’t get the credit it deserves when it comes to technical achievement, but there’s no denying that Bellemare’s work is worthy of the Oscar that it won.
Starring Sandra Bullock as an astronaut stranded in space, “Gravity” is an incredibly eerie and suspenseful experience thanks to the incredible work of the sound department. In one of the film’s first scenes, Bullock’s Ryan and George Clooney’s Matt are drifting aimlessly, with the only sounds being their voices, their breathing, and the sounds of an old radio. It’s incredible work from Glenn Freemantle and everybody that worked on the audio, especially creating a realistic sound environment.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
dir. George Miller
Nobody could have imagined the success of the fourth installment in George Miller’s “Mad Max” franchise, but “Fury Road” became an instant classic from the day of its release, cited by many as one of the greatest action films ever made. From its costume design to its breathtaking cinematography, the attention to detail in Miller’s exhilarating roller coaster of a movie is inspiring, and the sound is no exception. Picking up the Oscar for Sound Editing among other things, the work from Mark Mangini and David White is impeccable, with roaring engines and the deranged creature ferociously playing a flame-throwing guitar at 200mph. “Mad Max: Fury Road” is an experience like no other, and the recognition from the Academy across the board is a testament to its excellence, in particular, its best-of-the-decade sound editing.