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16 Best Oscar-Winning Songs, Ranked

From Eminem to Elton John, here are the top 16 songs to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song. If you're sick of award-show monotony, join us Sunday instead for an airing of 'Dear White People' at 8PM

Jordan Houston, Paul Beauregard and Cedric Coleman of Three 6 Mafia, winners Best Song for ?It?s Hard Out Here for a Pimp? fr
SGranitz/WireImage

Some of the most enduring songs in American history come from films, where a number of them picked up Oscars for Best Original Song. This year's Academy Awards are approaching fast; with Sufjan Stevens (Call Me by Your Name); Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (Coco); Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (The Greatest Showman), Diane Warren (Marshall); and Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson (Mudbound) all up for Best Original Song. So before Hollywood's biggest night, we are looking back at the  best songs to take home that award, and also ranked them to spice things up a bit!

16
16 / 16

"When You Wish Upon a Star," 'Pinocchio' (1940)

What can even be said about "When You Wish Upon a Star"? An unassuming, simple melody that climbs deliberately up the scale is brought into immortality by Cliff Edwards, who also voiced Jiminy Cricket. —Justin Sargent

15
15 / 16

"Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' (1969)

Written by Burt Bacharach, "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" is a bouncy and optimistic song that has become an American standard. But the original version, performed by a slightly hoarse B.J. Thomas, is the most sublime.—Justin Sargent

14
14 / 16

"Theme From 'Shaft'," 'Shaft' (1971)

"Theme From Shaft" is one of Isaac Hayes' finest productions. But the instrumentation, and even his own legendary voice, get overshadowed by the instant-classic backing vocals that introduce the film's titular character: Shaft! No movie character has ever been treated to a slicker entrance.—Justin Sargent

13
13 / 16

"Writing's on the Wall," 'Spectre' (2015)

Fellow Brit Sam Smith also tried his hand at a James Bond theme, singing the emotional "Writing's on the Wall" for 2015's Spectre. Sure, it's a nice ballad. But when compared to Adele's monstrous "Skyfall," this one falls flat. Lady Gaga's ode to sexual assault survivors, "Till It Happens," should've definitely won this category.—Bianca Gracie

12
12 / 16

"When You Believe," 'The Prince of Egypt' (1998)

When you have two legends like Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston on the same song, the Oscars committee really didn't have a choice but to give the Best Original Song award to them. The divas came together to make a classic ballad filled with stunning vocals and themes of hope. While it's not the most memorable tune to come from an animated film soundtrack, it was a gracious moment in pop culture.—Bianca Gracie

11
11 / 16

"I Just Called to Say I Love You," 'The Woman in Red' (1984)

"I Just Called to Say I Love You" is one of Stevie Wonder's hokier hits. But it's a sweet song that rides an easy tempo and wins out thanks to the effervescent warmth of Stevie's voice, which makes the love tangible.—Justin Sargent

10
10 / 16

"It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp," 'Hustle & Flow' (2005)

Three 6 Mafia are arguably the most unlikely Oscar winners in the show's history, but "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp" was easily the rightful winner in a Best Original Song category that only had three nominees in 2005. The track doesn't showcase the steely, gothic party rap that Three 6 made their name on, but rather the soulful bedrock that their sound was built on.—Justin Sargent

9
9 / 16

"Glory," 'Selma' (2014)

It's a shame that "Glory" didn't peak further than No. 49 on the Billboard Hot 100, but thankfully it has an Oscar win to its name. Performed by Common and John Legend, "Glory" resonates more like an anthem for Black people than your ordinary soundtrack song. It's a reminder that while we've come so far, we still have a lot of fighting to do for equality.—Bianca Gracie

8
8 / 16

"Let It Go," 'Frozen' (2013)

It was a clear fight between Frozen's "Let It Go" and Despicable Me 2's "Happy" at the 86th annual Academy Awards. The two songs were not only legends-in-the-making in the movie realm, but they also made a grand impact on pop culture. But when kids everywhere couldn't stop belting "The cold never bothered me anyway!" it was evident that "Let It Go" deserved to win.—Bianca Gracie

7
7 / 16

"Can You Feel the Love Tonight," 'Lion King' (1994)

The most famous song from The Lion King soundtrack is easily "Hakuna Matata," which has become so synonymous with the film that it's essentially a quasi-theme song. That one did get nominated for Best Original Song, but it and "Circle of Life" were beat out by "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," a sweeping, uplifting ballad that has all the hallmarks of an Elton John classic. Incidentally, he composed all three tracks.—Justin Sargent

6
6 / 16

"A Whole New World," 'Aladdin' (1992)

Composer Alan Menken is the god of Disney soundtracks, having picked up three Best Original Song trophies in the '90s for his work on Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, and Aladdin. "A Whole New World" is the best of his Oscar-winning songs, with a swooping, instantly memorable melody suspended gracefully over strings and woodwinds that do nothing more than flutter.—Justin Sargent

5
5 / 16

"(I've Had) The Time of My Life," 'Dirty Dancing' (1987)

This track was the epitome of the '80s and has still held on to its momentum over 30 years later. "Time of My Life" is joyous, lively and memorable not only because of its catchy hook, but the epic moment when Baby actually nails the lift!—Bianca Gracie

4
4 / 16

"My Heart Will Go On," 'Titanic' (1997)

No matter how many times this cheesy song was played to death at every wedding, funeral, graduation, karaoke bar, radio station, etc., you can't deny the beauty of "My Heart Will Go On." Celine Dion's voice is impeccable and carry the emotion of the romance-based Titanic. Plus, the song didn't have much competition at the Oscars that year. Anastasia's "Journey to the Past," Con Air's "How Do I Live," Good Will Hunting's "Miss Misery" and Hercules' "Go the Distance" were the other songs in the category that didn't score the win.—Bianca Gracie

3
3 / 16

"Over the Rainbow," 'Wizard of Oz' (1939)

One of the most famous songs in American history, "Over the Rainbow" is quietly wrenching as sung by Judy Garland. The Wizard of Oz favorite is a ballad about dreaming that is unmistakably tinged with sadness.—Justin Sargent

2
2 / 16

"Skyfall," 'Skyfall' (2012)

The theme song for 2012's Skyfall set the tone for the James Bond film, with Adele's smoky and powerful voice sending immediate chills as soon as the initial notes kicked in. Thanks to her striking rendition, "Skyfall" became the first Bond theme to win at the Golden Globes, the Brit Awards and the Academy Awards. It also peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.—Bianca Gracie

1
1 / 16

"Lose Yourself," '8 Mile' (2002)

Eminem's musical legacy is too great for 8 Mile—a very good movie that loosely tells his life story—to be anything more than a footnote in his career. But "Lose Yourself" may well be his most enduring single, a hypnotically detailed pump-up song that has achieved a life of its own as a stadium anthem.—Justin Sargent

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