Joker Composer Is First Female Oscar Score Winner In Over 20 Years

by : Cameron Frew on :
Joker Composer Is First Female Oscar Score Winner In Over 20 YearsPA Images/Warner Bros.

Hildur Guðnadóttir has made history with her work on Joker, becoming the fourth woman ever to win Best Original Score at the Oscars. 

The Icelandic composer has been crafting music for film and television for nearly 20 years. However, with her Emmy-winning work on HBO’s mini-series Chernobyl and now an Academy award for Joker, 2019 was certainly the year of Guðnadóttir.


‘Growing up and seeing all these incredible women around me, I had no reason to think there’s anything women can’t do. But the film-music industry hadn’t seen a lot of women, so maybe the industry didn’t think of hiring women – not because of malice, but because they hadn’t seen any women,’ she told The Wrap.

Hildur Guðnadóttir Joker ComposerPA Images

As a classically trained cellist, the 37-year-old’s haunting, aching string melodies soar off the screen in Todd Phillips’ grimy, bleak origin story. She got to work on Joker’s music even before the director started shooting, much to the score’s benefit: ‘When you read a script, you connect to the same channels as when you’re making music by yourself,’ she said.

Particularly in one chilling scene, Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck dances in a bathroom to the throbbing rhythm of Guðnadóttir’s composition – creating an unforgettable link between the villain and his theme.


The composer told The Hollywood Reporter

For me, the bathroom dance scene was the voice of the Joker, and that was a theme that was written very early in my process. There were variations of that, which you hear when the kids are attacking him and at the end when he’s rising up with the mob.

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Only three woman prior to Guðnadóttir have won an Oscar in the same category: Marilyn Bergman for Yentl, Rachel Portman for Emma and most recently Anne Dudley for The Full Monty in 1998.


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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: Film and TV, Academy Awards, Film, Joker, Oscars


The Wrap and 1 other
  1. The Wrap

    How ‘Joker’ Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir Used ‘Macho Chords’ to Get Inside the Character’s Head

  2. The Hollywood Reporter

    Oscar-Nominated 'Joker' Composer Represents a Female "Milestone" in Music