Film Directors Who Were Oscar-Nominated for Writing Songs: Full List – Billboard
If “Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever wins the Oscar for best original song on Sunday March 12, Ryan Coogler will become just the second person in Oscar history, and the first in 45 years, to win an Oscar for writing or co-writing a song from a film he directed. The first was Joe Brooks, who wrote “You Light Up My Life,” the 1977 winner.
Just by being nominated in this category, Coogler has joined an exclusive (and rather eclectic) club. Fourteen people have received Oscar nominations for writing or co-writing songs for films that they directed. Coogler is the first person of color to achieve the feat. Other club members include Barbra Streisand, Mel Brooks, Spike Jonze, Seth MacFarlane and Trey Parker.
Most of these people wrote the lyrics, not the melody. This suggests that the directors know what their film is trying to say, and can help put that message across in a song. Only four of the 14 – Coogler, Parker, Streisand and Brooks – contributed both music and lyrics. None solely wrote the music.
“Lift Me Up” is viewed as one of three front-runners in this year’s Oscar race for best original song, along with “Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick (music and lyric by Lady Gaga and BloodPop) and “Naatu Naatu” from RRR (music by M.M. Keeravaani; lyric by Chandrabose). The other nominees are “Applause” from Tell It like a Woman (music and lyric by Diane Warren) and “This Is a Life” from Everything Everywhere All at Once (music by Ryan Lott, David Byrne and Mitski; lyric by Ryan Lott and David Byrne).
Here’s a complete list of everyone who has been nominated for best original song for writing or co-writing a song from a film they directed. The list is in reverse chronological order.
Film: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)
Nominated Song: “Lift Me Up”
Notes: Coogler directed and co-wrote the film, which stars Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o and Oscar nominee Angela Bassett, among others. He co-wrote the melody with Rihanna, Tems and Ludwig Göransson; he co-wrote the lyrics with Tems. Rihanna’s single debuted and peaked at No. 2. The superstar, fresh off her halftime performance at the Super Bowl, is set to perform the song on the Oscar telecast.
Film: Her (2013)
Nominated Song: “The Moon Song”
Notes: Jonze directed, wrote and co-produced the film, which starred Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde and Scarlett Johansson. In addition to best original song, Jonze was nominated for best picture (as a producer of the film) and won for writing. He co-wrote the lyric with Karen O, who also composed the melody. She and Ezra Koenig performed the song on the telecast.
Film: Ted (2012)
Nominated Song: “Everybody Needs a Best Friend”
Notes: MacFarlane directed and co-wrote the comedy, in which he starred alongside Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis. He wrote the “Best Friend” lyric, while Walter Murphy composed the melody. Murphy topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 1976 as an artist with the disco instrumental “A Fifth of Beethoven.” Norah Jones performed “Best Friend” on the telecast, which MacFarlane hosted.
Film: The Chorus (2004)
Nominated song: “Look to Your Path” (“Vois Sur Ton Chemin”)
Notes: The Frenchman directed the musical drama, known as Les Choristes in French. He wrote the lyric. The composer was Bruno Coulais. Beyoncé performed the song on the telecast, in tandem with American Boychoir. Beyoncé performed three of the five nominated songs that year. She also did the honors on “Learn to Be Lonely” from The Phantom of the Opera and “Believe” from The Polar Express – the latter in tandem with Josh Groban.
Film: The Triplets of Belleville (2003)
Nominated Song: “Belleville Rendez-vous”
Notes: The multi-platform French artist wrote and produced the animated comedy film. In addition to best original song, he was nominated for animated feature film. He wrote the lyric. Benoît Charest composed the melody. Charest also performed the song on the telecast, in tandem with Béatrice Bonifassi.
Film: Frida (2002)
Nominated Song: “Burn It Blue”
Notes: Taymor directed the film, which starred Salma Hayak. Taymor wrote the lyric. Elliot Goldenthal composed the melody. Lila Downs and Caetano Veloso performed the song on the telecast.
Lars von Trier
Film: Dancer in the Dark (2000)
Nominated Song: “I’ve Seen It All”
Notes: The Danish multi-hyphenate directed and wrote the film, which starred Björk, Catherine Deneuve and Joel Grey, among others. He co-wrote the lyric with Sjon Sigurdsson. Björk composed the melody and performed the song on the telecast.
Film: South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
Nominated Song: “Blame Canada”
Notes: Parker directed, co-wrote and co-produced this film and was one of the voice actors. He co-wrote the music and lyric with Marc Shaiman. Robin Williams, who had won an Oscar two years previously for his role in Good Will Hunting, performed the song the telecast.
Film: The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996)
Nominated Song: “I Finally Found Someone”
Notes: Streisand directed, co-produced and starred in the film alongside Jeff Bridges and Oscar nominee Lauren Bacall. She co-wrote the music and lyrics to this song with Bryan Adams, Marvin Hamlisch and Robert John “Mutt” Lange. She was the first female director to receive an Oscar nomination for a song she wrote or co-wrote for her film. The single by Streisand and Adams reached No. 8 on the Hot 100, but Streisand declined to perform the song on the telecast. Her future duet partner Celine Dion filled in for her, joined by Arturo Sandoval.
Film: The Mambo Kings (1992)
Nominated Song: “Beautiful Maria of My Soul”
Notes: Glimcher directed and co-produced the film, which starred Armand Assante, Antonio Banderas and Cathy Moriaty. Glimcher wrote the lyrics. Robert Kraft was the composer. Plácido Domingo and Sheila E performed the song on the telecast.
Film: You Light Up My Life (1977)
Nominated Song: “You Light Up My Life”
Notes: Brooks single-handedly wrote, directed and produced You Light Up My Life, which starred Didi Conn. He also wrote both music and lyrics for its title song, which Debby Boone turned into a megahit. Her recording was the first to log 10 weeks at No. 1 in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 (which dates to 1958). Kacey Cisyk, who sang the song on the soundtrack, reached No. 80 with her original version. Boone was chosen to sing the song on the telecast — a rare instance of the Oscars booking an artist who performed a cover version over the artist who performed the film version. The song won a Grammy for song of the year. In 1997, LeAnn Rimes cracked the top 40 with her interpretation. While Brooks’ song has brought hope and inspiration to millions, his own life was troubled. He took his own life in 2011.
Film: Blazing Saddles (1974)
Nominated Song: “Blazing Saddles”
Notes: The EGOT recipient directed, co-wrote and appeared in the film, which also starred Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Slim Pickens, Alex Karras, Harvey Korman and Madeline Kahn. In addition to best original song, Brooks was nominated for best adapted screenplay that year – but for another picture, Young Frankenstein, on which he collaborated with Gene Wilder. Brooks wrote the lyrics to “Blazing Saddles.” John Morris was the composer. To sing the song, Brooks advertised in the trade papers for a “Frankie Laine–type” singer; to his surprise, Laine himself offered his services. Laine, who had a series of hits in the 1940s and ’50s including “High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me” and “I Believe,” got the job — and also sang the song on the Oscar telecast.
Film: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1965)
Nominated Song: “I Will Wait for You”
Notes: The Frenchman directed and wrote the film, which starred Catherine Deneuve. In addition to best original song, Demy was nominated for best original screenplay and best music score – substantially original, for collaborating with Legrand. Demy wrote the original French lyrics. Norman Gimbel wrote the English lyrics. Legrand composed the song, which also received a Grammy nod for song of the year. Steve Lawrence’s version “bubbled under” the Hot 100 in 1965. Legrand and Jane Morgan (the wife of Jerry Weintraub, a top manager and producer) performed the song on the Oscar telecast.
Film: An Affair to Remember (1957)
Nominated song: “An Affair to Remember”
Notes: McCarey directed, co-wrote and co-produced the film, which starred Cary Grant
and Deborah Kerr. (The film is referenced in 1993’s Sleepless in Seattle.) McCarey teamed with Harold Adamson to write the lyrics. Harry Warren composed the melody. Vic Damone had a big hit with the song in 1957, the year before the introduction of the Hot 100. The crooner also sang the song on the Oscar telecast. McCarey won three Oscars over the course of his career – for directing The Awful Truth (1937) and writing and directing Going My Way (1944).