Ranking the Best Original Song Oscar Winners of the 2020s

H.E.R., Best Original Song Oscar winner for Judas and the Black Messiah's "Fight For You"

The decade is young but we’re going to start this conversation anyway. As new winners are announced throughout the decade, I’ll add them here. If you are looking for more rounded conversations about winners, feel free to browse around the other decades.

Just a quick note on my process: for me, these are fluid rankings. I reserve the right to revisit the winners and rethink their standing. The Academy is bound to stand by its selections but I am under no such obligation.

1. “Fight For You,” Judas and the Black Messiah (2020)

Best Actor was far and away the biggest surprise of Oscar night for this year, but hovering in second place was H.E.R.’s unexpected win in this category. Advance buzz seemed to believe there were only three real contenders and “Fight For You” wasn’t one of them. “Husavik,” a surprisingly resonant and catchy song from a Will Ferrell comedy, had popular support locked up (many believed it might not even make the ballot at all due to snobbery)–plus it was the only song out of the five nominees that actually factored into the movie (the rest played over the end credits). “Speak Now” was Leslie Odom Jr.’s second nomination in addition to his nod in Best Supporting Actor, and since Daniel Kaluuya had that category locked up, this seemed like a good place to reward Odom Jr. And legendary Diane Warren, nominated many, many times over the years for iconic songs but without a single win, was in the mix yet again for “Io Sí.” Most Oscar pundits believed that one of those songs would win. Indeed, I checked off “Husavik” on my own Oscar prediction ballot.

Perhaps it was vote splitting in the absence of a clear favorite that allowed “Fight For You” to sneak in through the backdoor, but in hindsight it’s easy to see why it ended up winning. Its message of struggle and resilience in the wake of police violence and systemic prejudice was an unfortunate hallmark of 2020. Plus, it’s a super catchy song with a sound that ties into the era of Judas and the Black Messiah without sounding like a throwback.

“Fight For You” was a surprise winner, but you really can’t find fault with it.

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