Denis Villeneuve’s Controversial Choice of Music in ‘Arrival’ Led to Its Disqualification From 2017 Oscars

The controversial nature of Max Richter’s beautiful composition in Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival denied it a nomination at the Oscars.

denis villeneuve’s controversial choice of music in ‘arrival’ led to its disqualification from 2017 oscars


  • Denis Villeneuve is one of the visionary directors who manage to create magic on the screen with every project they make
  • The director's movie Arrival was highly acclaimed but it was dismissed from the race for an Oscar for Original Soundtrack due to a controversial composition
  • Max Ritcher's composition that was played at the opening and closing scenes was a symbol of the composer’s stand against the 2003 US invasion of Iraq
Show More

Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve is widely considered one of the most innovative and visually creative directors of his generation. Having directed several critically acclaimed films like Prisoners, Sicario, and Blade Runner 2049, Villeneuve continued his superior writing and directing skills with his sci-fi blockbuster Dune in 2021.

Featured Video
Denis Villeneuve
Denis Villeneuve on the sets of Dune

Villeneuve is also known to address many political and social issues in his films, either through writing or through other aspects of filmmaking. In 2016, he directed Arrival which earned him his first Oscar nomination for Best Director at the 2017 Academy Awards. The film also featured a composition from prolific music director Max Richter’s album apart from composer Johann Johannson’s stunning score. Unfortunately, the sentiment behind Richter’s composition disqualified the film from being nominated for its music.


Also Read: The 1 Thing Jason Momoa Was Ready to Do for Denis Villeneuve Every Morning to Thank Him for Dune

The Soundtrack Of Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival Was Banned From The Oscars

Arrival directed by Denis Villeneuve is a sci-fi film starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, that follows a linguistics expert and her team who must interpret the language of aliens who have come to Earth in a mysterious spaceship. Apart from Villeneuve’s trademark visuals and nuanced writing, the film also benefitted from the beautiful use of composer Max Richter’s powerful and soul-stirring piece On the Nature of Daylight, along with Johann Johannson’s sweeping background score.

The soundtrack of Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival was banned at the Oscars

This composition seamlessly complemented the poignancy of the film and was woven into Arrival’s opening and closing scenes by the Sicario director. This piece by Richter is considered one of the more important modern works of music, as it served as a symbol of the composer’s stand against the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.

These anti-war sentiments though, were seen as controversial by the Academy Awards committee. While Johann Johansson had composed more than 80% of the music, Villeneuve’s film was unfortunately disqualified from the Original Soundtrack Race that year at the Oscars owing to Richter’s composition.


Also Read: Denis Villeneuve Brought Out a “Ferociousness” in Hugh Jackman That Even Years of Playing Wolverine Couldn’t

Making Dune Was A Teenage Dream For Denis Villeneuve

It isn’t always that life grants people the opportunity to make their childhood dreams come true, but Denis Villeneuve is one of the lucky ones. The Canadian director created waves by adapting Dune, Frank Herbert’s complex novel of politics, ecology, and philosophy in a sci-fi world.

Denis Villeneuve was a huge fan of the Dune novels as a teenager

Villeneuve, who was a teenager when he first read the books, was so enamored by the world that Herbert had created, that he manifested a time when he could visually capture its glory on screen. Speaking to Wired, the Sicario director said,

“I read it when I was 13 or 14 years old. The first Dune book is a tremendous, powerful adventure of a young boy discovering a new world. It stayed with me through the years, haunted me. So, when people were saying, ‘Well, what would be your biggest dream?’ I would say, Dune.”

Villeneuve expressed his gratitude for being allowed to visualize his favorite story of all time in a manner that fulfilled all of his childhood desires.


Also Read: “I felt like my skin was on fire”: Daredevil Actor Jon Bernthal Made Emily Blunt Consider Her Own Mortality After Getting Beaten Up By Him on Denis Villeneuve Film


Written by Sharanya Sankar

Sharanya Sankar, Writer for Fandomwire
Having completed her Masters degree in Journalism and Mass Communication, Sharanya has a solid foundation in writing which is also one of her passions. She has worked previously with Book My show for a couple of years where she gained experience reviewing films and writing feature articles. Sharanya’s articles on film and pop culture have also been published on Film Companion, a popular film-based website. Apart from movies and pop culture, her interests include music and sports. She has contributed over 650 articles to Fandomwire so far.