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Movies with the Best Sound Design in Hollywood

It´s hard to find a good movie that stands by itself only by the quality of the acting, or power of its script. There are some other very important elements that transform a good movie into an unforgettable one. Those factors are embedded in a film's soundtrack, music on the one hand, but mostly sound, since there´s no suspense without sound. Imagine watching a movie without the evocative sounds of a creaking door, footsteps on floorboards or a ticking time bomb.

That´s why many studios invest so much in sound technicians as well as engineers, since they need to ensure that the sound in their movies is the best. In fact, many of the action blockbusters out there would fall to pieces if their sound wasn't up to scratch. This can be easily applied to sci-fi and horror movies, which are heavily reliant on the execution of immersive SFX to engage the audience beyond the visuals.

Sound Engineers Have a Key Role in Movies, Photo: Jonas Zürcher

In fact this is of such importance in the film industry that there's an Oscar category of awards called "Best Sound Mixing", in which the movies nominated have outstanding sound design. A great deal of importance is placed on the way these industry professionals design and mix sound in film, since there´s no real interest if it's out of tempo, or the levels are out. A good note of sound is as good as a great guitar chord, since it provokes a variety of emotions in a single second. From fear of the unknown, to the familiarity of those sounds that remind us of earth, like hearing rain and thunder through earphones in deep space, sound has the power to transport us in a split second, even while travelling millions of miles away from our planet.

Some of the Predictions for 2023 Oscars

Some movies nominated for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing categories at for 2023´s Oscars are the tip of the spear for this year's awards. Since 2022 was a great year for movies, presenting some epic blockbusters and much anticipated titles, fans of sound editing and mixing are patiently waiting to hear what the judges decide.

One of the favorites this year is Top Gun: Maverick, the continuation of the 1986 success Top Gun, presenting the story of Maverick a great fighter pilot of the F-14 Tomcat, and the latter part of his career aboard an F-18. Both planes have very distinct sounds, and the sound effects department in both films did a superb job. The great success of the 1986 movie is deeply connected to the music score with the Kenny Loggins hit 'Danger Zone', but also the impressive sound design. While delayed, the Top Gun sequel released to much fanfare, racking up record-breaking box office figures and delivering amazing sound, reinforcing the film's epic visuals presented on screen.

Another hot favourite is the German movie All Quiet on the Western Front, a transportative and gritty film about World War I, from the perspective of a German soldier. Passing from great battles to quiet moments, this movie features great sound design and many critics anticipate that it might be amongst the big winners at this year's ceremony, including Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.

The Movies with the Best Sound Design

Apart from the Oscars, there are some great examples that had us glued to the cinema chair thanks to their immersive sound design. For starters, a good example is the Oscar-winning movie Interstellar, directed by none other than Christopher Nolan, with Gregg Landaker and Gary Rizzo as the audio engineers. Together they created one of the most memorable films in recent history, with sound design that goes in the direction of what the movie has to offer, creating some truly memorable moments like the ticking of the clock as the crew of the Endurance visits a distant planet with every second representing the passing of a full day on Earth.

The list of powerful cinematic moments created by sound in film goes on. The great Hans Zimmer, is one composer who knows how to set colour notes that interlace quite beautifully with the soundtrack. The composer of some of Nolan's masterpieces, such as the Dark Knight trilogy and Inception, Zimmer's worked with Nolan to present some of the finest examples when it comes to the best use of sound design in film.

Ridley Scott is also known as a director that not only recognises, but celebrates the great pairing of sound with action. This is best exemplified in one of his masterpieces, 2001´s Black Hawk Down, a pseudo-realistic film that shows the events of the Somali revolution in 1992, in which a few Sikorsky UH-60 helicopters where downed in Mogadishu. In such an action movie, the sound design and mixing is key to recreating the ambience not only of the fight scenes, but also the tense moments leading up to them. This is another feather in the cap for Hans Zimmer, who also composed the soundtrack, which pairs quite masterfully with the sound effects.

There are also two more movies in which sound played a key role in their success. One is the South African sci-fi adventure thriller District 9, depictnig a unique alien invasion, mixing sounds to create a completely new language for creatures from outer space. Finally, the sci-fi post-apocalyptic movie Children of Men, is another excellent example of great sound design in a movie, with some brilliant key notes of sound in very delicate scenes, particularly in deep action scenes, keeping audience on the edges of their seats.