Academy Award for Best Picture
The Academy Award for Best Picture is one of the Academy Awards (Oscars) presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) since the awards debuted in 1929. This award goes to the producers of the film and is the only category in which every member of the Academy is eligible to submit a nomination and vote on the final ballot. Best Picture is the final award of the night and is considered the most prestigious honor of the ceremony.
|Academy Award for Best Picture|
|Awarded for||Best Picture of the Year|
|Presented by||Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS)|
|First awarded||May 16, 1929 (for films released during the 1927/1928 film season)|
|Currently held by||Green Book (2018)|
The Grand Staircase columns at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, where the Academy Awards ceremonies have been held since 2002, showcase every film that has won the Best Picture title since the award's inception. There have been 554 films nominated for Best Picture and 91 winners.
Category name changes
At the 1st Academy Awards ceremony (for 1927 and 1928), there were two categories of awards that were each considered the top award of the night: Outstanding Picture and Unique and Artistic Picture, the former being won by the war epic Wings, and the latter by the art film Sunrise. Each award was intended to honor different and equally important aspects of superior filmmaking.
The following year, the Academy dropped the Unique and Artistic Picture award, and decided retroactively that the award won by Wings was the highest honor that could be awarded. Although the award kept the title Outstanding Picture for the next ceremony, the name underwent several changes over the years as seen below. Since 1962, the award has been simply called Best Picture.
Until 1950, this award was presented to a representative of the production company. That year the protocol was changed so that the award was presented to all credited producers. This rule was modified in 1999 to apply a limit of three producers receiving the award, after the five producers of Shakespeare in Love had received the award.
- Those with screen credit of "producer" or "produced by"
- those three or fewer producers who have performed the major portion of the producing functions
The rules allow "bona fide team[s] of not more than two people to be considered to be a single 'producer' if the two individuals have had an established producing partnership for at least the previous five years and as a producing team have produced a minimum of five theatrically released feature motion pictures during that time.
The Academy can make exceptions to the limit, as when Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack were posthumously included among the four producers nominated for The Reader. As of 2014 the Producers Branch Executive Committee determines such exceptions, noting they take place only in "rare and extraordinary circumstance[s]."
Steven Spielberg currently holds the record for most nominations at ten, winning one, while Kathleen Kennedy holds the record for most nominations without a win at eight. Sam Spiegel and Saul Zaentz tie for the most wins with three each. As for the time when the Oscar was given to production companies instead, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer holds the record with five wins and 40 nominations.
Best Picture and Best Director
The Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director have been closely linked throughout their history. Of the 91 films that have won Best Picture, 65 have also been awarded Best Director. Only five films have been awarded Best Picture without receiving a Best Director nomination: Wings (1927/28), Grand Hotel (1931/32), Driving Miss Daisy (1989), Argo (2012), and Green Book (2018). The only two Best Director winners to win for films that did not receive a Best Picture nomination were during the early years of the awards: Lewis Milestone for Two Arabian Knights (1927/28), and Frank Lloyd for The Divine Lady (1928/29).
Nomination limit increased
On June 24, 2009, AMPAS announced that the number of films to be nominated in the Best Picture award category would increase from five to ten, starting with the 82nd Academy Awards (2009). The expansion was a throwback to the Academy's early years in the 1930s and 1940s, when eight to 12 films were nominated each year. Beginning with films released in 1944, until 2008, only five films were nominated each year for the award. "Having 10 Best Picture nominees is going to allow Academy voters to recognize and include some of the fantastic movies that often show up in the other Oscar categories but have been squeezed out of the race for the top prize," AMPAS President Sid Ganis said in a press conference. "I can't wait to see what that list of 10 looks like when the nominees are announced in February."
At the same time, the voting system was switched from first-past-the-post to instant runoff voting (also known as preferential voting). Two years after this change, the Academy revised the rule again so that the number of films nominated was between five and ten; nominated films must earn either 5% of first-place rankings or 5% after an abbreviated variation of the single transferable vote nominating process. Bruce Davis, the Academy executive director at the time, said, "A Best Picture nomination should be an indication of extraordinary merit. If there are only eight pictures that truly earn that honor in a given year, we shouldn't feel an obligation to round out the number."
One point of contention with the award is the lack of consideration of non-English language films for Best Picture. Only ten foreign language films have been nominated in the category (none have won): Grand Illusion (French, 1938); Z (French, 1969); The Emigrants (Swedish, 1972); Cries and Whispers (Swedish, 1973); The Postman (Il Postino) (Italian/Spanish, 1995); Life Is Beautiful (Italian, 1998); Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Mandarin Chinese, 2000); Letters from Iwo Jima (Japanese, 2006, but ineligible for Best Foreign Language Film, as it was an American production); Amour (French, 2012); and Roma (Spanish/Mixtec, 2018).
Only nine films wholly financed outside the United States have won Best Picture, eight of which were financed, in part or in whole, by the United Kingdom. Those films being: Hamlet (1948), Tom Jones (1963), A Man for All Seasons (1966), Chariots of Fire (1981), Gandhi (1982), The Last Emperor (1987), Slumdog Millionaire (2008), and The King's Speech (2010). The ninth film, The Artist (2011), was financed by France.
Other points of contention include genres of film (or mediums in the case of an animation) that have received few or no nominations or awards. Only three animated films have been nominated — Beauty and the Beast (1991), Up (2009) and Toy Story 3 (2010). The latter two were nominated after the Academy expanded the number of nominees, but none have won. No comic book/superhero film has won, and only one has been nominated — Black Panther (2018); two fantasy films have won — The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) and The Shape of Water (2017). The Silence of the Lambs (1991) is the only horror film to win Best Picture, and only five others have been nominated for Best Picture: The Exorcist (1973), Jaws (1975), The Sixth Sense (1999), Black Swan (2010), and Get Out (2017). No documentary has yet been nominated for Best Picture, although Chang was nominated in the "Unique and Artistic Production" category at the 1927/28 awards.
In 2017, at the 89th Academy Awards, presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty read La La Land as the winner of the award. However, they had mistakenly been given the duplicate envelope for the "Best Actress in a Leading Role" award, which Emma Stone had won for her role in La La Land moments prior. When the mistake was realized, the show's producers rushed onstage to correct it; in the resulting chaos, it was La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz who finally announced that Moonlight was the real winner.
Sequel nominations and winners
Few sequels have been nominated for Best Picture and just two have won: The Godfather Part II (the film before that The Godfather also won the award; the third film in the installment The Godfather Part III was nominated as well but did not win the award) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (the films before that Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers were both nominated for the award but did not win). Other nominees include The Bells of St. Mary's (the sequel to the 1944 winner, Going My Way), Toy Story 3, and Mad Max: Fury Road.
Another nominee, Broadway Melody of 1936, was a follow-up of sorts to previous winner The Broadway Melody. But, beyond the title and some music, there is no story connection to the earlier film. The Silence of the Lambs was adapted from the sequel novel to Red Dragon. The latter had been adapted for film as Manhunter by a different studio. Best Picture nominee The Lion in Winter features Peter O'Toole as King Henry II, a role he had played previously in the film Becket. But Winter is not a sequel to Becket. Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima was a companion piece to his film Flags of Our Fathers, released earlier the same year. These two films depict the same battle from the different viewpoints of Japanese and United States military forces; the two films were shot back-to-back. In addition, Black Panther is a continuation on the events that occurred in Captain America: Civil War and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Silent film winners
The Artist (with the exception of a single scene of dialogue, and dream sequence with sound effects) was the first silent film since Wings to win Best Picture. It was the first silent nominee since 1928's The Patriot. It was the first Best Picture winner to be shot entirely in black-and-white since 1960's The Apartment. (Schindler's List, the 1993 winner, was predominantly black-and-white but it did contain some color sequences).
No Best Picture winner has been lost, though a few such as All Quiet on the Western Front and Lawrence of Arabia exist only in a form altered from their original, award-winning release form. This has usually been due to editing for reissue (and subsequently partly restored by archivists). Other winners and nominees, such as Tom Jones (prior to its 2018 reissues by The Criterion Collection and the British Film Institute) and Star Wars, are widely available only in subsequently altered versions. The Broadway Melody originally had some sequences photographed in two-color Technicolor. This footage survives only in black and white.
The 1928 film The Patriot is the only Best Picture nominee that is lost (about one-third is extant). The Racket, also from 1928, was believed lost for many years until a print was found in Howard Hughes' archives. It has since been restored and shown on Turner Classic Movies. The only surviving complete prints of 1931's East Lynne and 1934's The White Parade exist within the UCLA film archive.
Winners and nominees
In the list below, winners are listed first in the gold row, followed by the other nominees. Except for the early years (when the Academy used a non-calendar year), the year shown is the one in which the film first premiered in Los Angeles County, California; normally this is also the year of first release, however, it may be the year after first release (as with Casablanca and, if the film-festival premiere is considered, Crash). This is also the year before the ceremony at which the award is given; for example, a film exhibited theatrically during 2005 was eligible for consideration for the 2005 Best Picture Oscar, awarded in 2006. The number of the ceremony (1st, 2nd, etc.) appears in parentheses after the awards year, linked to the article on that ceremony. Each individual entry shows the title followed by nominee.
Until 1950, the Best Picture award was given to the production company; from 1951 on, it has gone to the producer or producers. The Academy used the producer credits of the Producers Guild of America (PGA) until 1998, when all five producers of Shakespeare in Love made speeches after its win. A three-producer limit has been applied some years since. There was controversy over the exclusion of some PGA-credited producers of Crash and Little Miss Sunshine. The Academy can make exceptions to the limit, as when Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack were posthumously among the four nominated for The Reader. However, now any number of producers on a film can be nominated for Best Picture, should they be deemed eligible.
For the first ceremony, three films were nominated for the award. For the following three years, five films were nominated for the award. This was expanded to eight in 1933, to ten in 1934, and to twelve in 1935, before being dropped back to ten in 1937. In 1945, it was further reduced to five. This number remained until 2009, when the limit was raised to ten and later adjusted in 2011, to vary between five and ten.
For the first six ceremonies, the eligibility period spanned two calendar years. For example, the 2nd Academy Awards presented on April 3, 1930, recognized films that were released between August 1, 1928, and July 31, 1929. Starting with the 7th Academy Awards, held in 1935, the period of eligibility became the full previous calendar year from January 1 to December 31.
|Wings||Paramount Famous Lasky|
|The Racket||The Caddo Company|
|The Broadway Melody||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer|
|In Old Arizona||Fox|
|The Patriot||Paramount Famous Lasky|
Individuals with multiple wins
Individuals with multiple nominations
Production companies with multiple nominations and wins
|20th Century Fox||60||9|
|Warner Bros. Pictures||25||9|
|Fox Searchlight Pictures||17||4|
|Walt Disney Studios||13||0|
|Samuel Goldwyn Productions||8||1|
|The Weinstein Company||6||2|
|Selznick International Pictures||5||2|
|J. Arthur Rank-Two Cities Films||3||1|
|Pixar Animation Studios||2||0|
|The Caddo Company||2||0|
|Walter Wanger (production company)||2||0|
- The 2nd Academy Awards is unique in being the only occasion where there were no official nominees. Subsequent research by AMPAS has resulted in a list of de facto nominees, based on records of which films were evaluated by the judges at the time.
- The Academy also announced that A Farewell to Arms came in second, and Little Women third.
- The Academy also announced that The Barretts of Wimpole Street came in second, and The House of Rothschild third.
- The Academy also announced that The Informer came in second, and Captain Blood third.
- BAFTA Award for Best Film
- Independent Spirit Award for Best Film
- Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Picture
- Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama
- Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
- Producers Guild of America Award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture
- Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
- List of actors who have appeared in multiple Best Picture winners
- List of superlative Academy Award winners and nominees
- List of presenters of the Academy Award for Best Picture
- List of Big Five Academy Award winners and nominees
- Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture
- List of Academy Award-winning films
- List of film production companies
- List of films considered the best
- Lists of films
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The Technicolor footage for this sequence has since been lost, and only a black-and-white version is now available.
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