Just as movie buffs wait all year to see what film will take home the coveted Oscar for best picture, music gurus also tune in to the iconic award show to check out who will win best original song. The category was first introduced at the seventh annual Academy Awards, which took place in 1934 and saw “The Continental” — from “The Gay Divorcee” — take home the win. The song had music by Con Conrad and lyrics by Herb Magidson, stars of yesteryear. The award has since named many current, high-profile winners, including Lionel Richie, John Legend, Adele, and Billie Eilish.
In order to be nominated for this award, the songwriter’s composition must have been written for a film. “An original song consists of words and music, both of which are original and written specifically for the motion picture,” the official rules for the Academy Awards read. “There must be a clearly audible, intelligible, substantive rendition (not necessarily visually presented) of both lyric and melody, used in the body of the motion picture or as the first music cue in the end credits.”
One of the most exciting aspects of the category is finding out which artists will take the stage to perform their original song, and over the years, there has been no shortage of star power. In 2023, the highly anticipated performance from Rihanna of “Lift Me Up” from the “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” soundtrack made headlines shortly after her Super Bowl halftime show, which marked her comeback to music and also saw her announce her second pregnancy.
While Rihanna may be one of the most recent nominees in this category, over the years, the winners have been both deserving and sometimes surprising. Scroll ahead to check out the most memorable best original song Oscar winners from the history of the award show.