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.
- 1927/28–1928/29: Academy Award for Outstanding Picture
- 1929/30–1940: Academy Award for Outstanding Production
- 1941–1943: Academy Award for Outstanding Motion Picture
- 1944–1961: Academy Award for Best Motion Picture
- 1962–present: Academy Award for 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 1998 to apply a limit of three producers receiving the award, after the five producers of Shakespeare in Love had received the award.
As of 2014
, the "Special Rules for the Best Picture of the Year Award" limit recipients to those who meet two main requirements:
- 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 90 films that have won Best Picture, 63 have also been awarded Best Director. Only four films have been awarded Best Picture without receiving a Best Director nomination: Wings (1927/28), Grand Hotel (1931/32), Driving Miss Daisy (1989), and Argo (2012). 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. "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 nine foreign language films have been nominated in the category: 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); and Amour (French, 2012).
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 (or styles in case of animation) of film 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 having been nominated after the Academy expanded the number of nominees—but none have won. No science fiction film or superhero film has won (none of the latter has been nominated); only 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 other 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 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 and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Other nominees include The Bells of St. Mary's, The Godfather Part III, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, 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.
Several musical adaptations based on material previously filmed in non-musical form have won Best Picture, including Gigi, West Side Story, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Oliver!, and Chicago.
Silent film winners
This article appears to contradict another article. (July 2014)
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 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.