Oscars 2015 Category Breakdown: Best Editing

Every year before the Oscars I break down each of the 24 categories. I do this to familiarize everyone with the category, how it works, what its history is, how it usually turns out, and also as a precursor to my picks article, allowing me to get most of the heavy lifting out of the way beforehand.

How these work is — I go over each category’s history, give you all the previous winners and nominees, then list the current year’s nominees. And then I’ll go over how each of the guilds (if there is a corresponding guild) have went, and how that corresponds to the Oscars (some guilds mean a lot to how a category will play out. Others mean nothing). It’s basically everything you need to know in order to make an informed decision when you make your picks on Oscar night. And then I also rank the nominees at the end in terms of where I see them in terms of their likelihood to win.

Today is Best Editing. And we all know what the motto of an editor is: “I’ll fucking cut you.”

Year Best Editing Winners Other Nominees
1934 Eskimo/Mala the Magnificent Cleopatra

One Night of Love

1935 A Midsummer Night’s Dream David Copperfield

The Informer

Les Misérables

Lives of a Bengal Lancer

Mutiny on the Bounty

1936 Anthony Adverse Come and Get It

The Great Ziegfeld

Lloyd’s of London

A Tale of Two Cities

Theodora Goes Wild

1937 Lost Horizon The Awful Truth

Captains Courageous

The Good Earth

One Hundred Men and a Girl

1938 The Adventures of Robin Hood Alexander’s Ragtime Band

The Great Waltz

Test Pilot

You Can’t Take It with You

1939 Gone With the Wind Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

The Rains Came


1940 North West Mounted Police The Grapes of Wrath

The Letter

The Long Voyage Home


1941 Sergeant York Citizen Kane

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

How Green Was My Valley

The Little Foxes

1942 The Pride of the Yankees Mrs. Miniver

The Talk of the Town

This Above All

Yankee Doodle Dandy

1943 Air Force Casablanca

Five Graves to Cairo

For Whom the Bell Tolls

The Song of Bernadette

1944 Wilson Going My Way


None but the Lonely Heart

Since You Went Away

1945 National Velvet The Bells of St. Mary’s

The Lost Weekend

Objective, Burma!

A Song to Remember

1946 The Best Years of Our Lives It’s a Wonderful Life

The Jolson Story

The Killers

The Yearling

1947 Body and Soul The Bishop’s Wife

Gentleman’s Agreement

Green Dolphin Street

Odd Man Out

1948 The Naked City Joan of Arc

Johnny Belinda

Red River

The Red Shoes

1949 Champion All the King’s Men


Sands of Iwo Jima

The Window

1950 King Solomon’s Mines All About Eve

Annie Get your Gun

Sunset Boulevard

The Third Man

1951 A Place in the Sun An American in Paris

Decision Before Dawn

Quo Vadis

The Well

1952 High Noon Come Back, Little Sheba

Flat Top

The Greatest Show on Earth

Moulin Rouge

1953 From Here to Eternity Crazylegs

The Moon is Blue

Roman Holiday

The War of the Worlds

1954 On the Waterfront The Caine Mutiny

The High and the Mighty

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

1955 Picnic Blackboard Jungle

The Bridges at Toko-Ri


The Rose Tattoo

1956 Around the World in 80 Days The Brave One


Somebody Up There Likes Me

The Ten Commandments

1957 The Bridge on the River Kwai Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

Pal Joey


Witness for the Prosecution

1958 Gigi Auntie Mame


The Defiant Ones

I Want to Live!

1959 Ben-Hur Anatomy of a Murder

North by Northwest

The Nun’s Story

On the Beach

1960 The Apartment The Alamo

Inherit the Wind



1961 West Side Story Fanny

The Guns of Navarone

Judgment at Nuremberg

The Parent Trap

1962 Lawrence of Arabia The Longest Day

The Manchurian Candidate

The Music Man

Mutiny on the Bounty

1963 How the West Was Won The Cardinal


The Great Escape

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

1964 Mary Poppins Becket

Father Goose

Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte

My Fair Lady

1965 The Sound of Music Cat Ballou

Doctor Zhivago

The Flight of the Phoenix

The Great Race

1966 Grand Prix Fantastic Voyage

The Russians are Coming, the Russiands are Coming

The Sand Pebbles

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

1967 In the Heat of the Night Beach Red

The Dirty Dozen

Doctor Dolittle

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

1968 Bullitt Funny Girl

The Odd Couple


Wild in the Streets

1969 Z Hello, Dolly!

Midnight Cowboy

The Secret of Santa Vittoria

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

1970 Patton Airport


Tora! Tora! Tora!


1971 The French Connection The Andromeda Strain

A Clockwork Orange


Summer of ‘42

1972 Cabaret Deliverance

The Godfather

The Hot Rock

The Poseidon Adventure

1973 The Sting American Graffiti

The Day of the Jackal

The Exorcist

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

1974 The Towering Inferno Blazing Saddles



The Longest Yard

1975 Jaws Dog Day Afternoon

The Man Who Would Be King

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Three Days of the Condor

1976 Rocky All the President’s Men

Bound for Glory


Two-Minute Warning

1977 Star Wars Close Encounters of the Third Kind


Smokey and the Bandit

The Turning Point

1978 The Deer Hunter The Boys from Brazil

Coming Home

Midnight Express


1979 All That Jazz Apocalypse Now

The Black Stallion

Kramer vs. Kramer

The Rose

1980 Raging Bull Coal Miner’s Daughter

The Competition

The Elephant Man


1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark Chariots of Fire

The French Lieutenant’s Woman

On Golden Pond


1982 Gandhi Das Boot

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

An Officer and a Gentleman


1983 The Right Stuff Blue Thunder



Terms of Endearment

1984 The Killing Fields Amadeus

The Cotton Club

A Passage to India

Romancing the Stone

1985 Witness A Chorus Line

Out of Africa

Prizzi’s Honor

Runaway Train

1986 Platoon Aliens

Hannah and Her Sisters

The Mission

Top Gun

1987 The Last Emperor Broadcast News

Empire of the Sun

Fatal Attraction


1988 Who Framed Roger Rabbit Die Hard

Gorillas in the Mist

Mississippi Burning

Rain Man

1989 Born on the Fourth of July Driving Miss Daisy

The Fabulous Baker Boys


The Bear

1990 Dances with Wolves Ghost

The Godfather Part III


The Hunt for Red October

1991 JFK The Commitments

The Silence of the Lambs

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Thelma & Louise

1992 Unforgiven Basic Instinct

The Crying Game

A Few Good Men

The Player

1993 Schindler’s List The Fugitive

In the Line of Fire

In the Name of the Father

The Piano

1994 Forrest Gump Hoop Dreams

Pulp Fiction

The Shawshank Redemption


1995 Apollo 13 Babe


Crimson Tide


1996 The English Patient Evita


Jerry Maguire


1997 Titanic Air Force One

As Good as It Gets

Good Will Hunting

L.A. Confidential

1998 Saving Private Ryan Out of Sight

Shakespeare in Love

The Thin Red Line

Life is Beautiful

1999 The Matrix American Beauty

The Cider House Rules

The Insider

The Sixth Sense

2000 Traffic Almost Famous


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Wonder Boys

2001 Black Hawk Down The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

A Beautiful Mind


Moulin Rouge!

2002 Chicago Gangs of New York

The Hours

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

The Pianist

2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King City of God

Cold Mountain

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World


2004 The Aviator Collateral

Finding Neverland

Million Dollar Baby


2005 Crash Cinderella Man

The Constant Gardener


Walk the Line

2006 The Departed Babel

Blood Diamond

Children of Men

United 93

2007 The Bourne Ultimatum The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Into the Wild

No Country for Old Men

There Will Be Blood

2008 Slumdog Millionaire The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight



2009 The Hurt Locker Avatar

District 9

Inglourious Basterds

Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire

2010 The Social Network Black Swan

127 Hours

The Fighter

The King’s Speech

2011 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo The Artists

The Descendants



2012 Argo Life of Pi


Silver Linings Playbook

Zero Dark Thirty

2013 Gravity American Hustle

Captain Phillips

Dallas Buyers Club

12 Years a Slave

2014 Whiplash American Sniper


The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

I say this every year. The category is supposed to be about what the best edited film is, but there’s a bit of a vague definition of editing by the Academy. Technically Editing is the construction of scenes into a finished film. In that sense, the Best Picture nominees should all be nominated for Editing (or at least the top five). But sometimes, to them, a lot of editing means good editing. The Bourne Ultimatum won Best Editing. So it changes year to year. But, the one thing we know, historically, about this category — if a film is to be considered a Best Picture favorite, it needs a Best Editing nomination. The only films to win Best Picture and not be nominated for Best Editing are:

It Happened One Night, The Life of Emile Zola, Hamlet, Marty, Tom Jones, A Man for All Seasons, The Godfather Part II, Annie Hall, Ordinary People, Birdman.

Ten times, and one of them was the very first Best Editing category. Three of the last four three don’t make any sense, specifically Godfather II. I’d expect Annie Hall and Ordinary People to get Editing nominations, but I understand why they didn’t. Godfather II makes no sense. And Birmdan — clearly the point of that film was that it appeared to not be edited. So there was no real reason for it to be nominated there.

Aside from last year, where it makes complete sense, the Best Picture winner has been nominated for Best Editing. So, essentially, if a Best Picture nominee isn’t nominated for Best Editing, you can basically throw out its chances at winning. Though here, four of the five nominees are Best Picture nominees. Which feels like more than we usually get.

As for the category itself, it goes its own way. Sometimes the obvious choice wins, sometimes the Best Picture winner will take it just so people can show support for it, sometimes something crazy wins. Sometimes you can telegraph a Best Picture win with an Editing win. When Crash won for Best Editing, we knew how Best Picture was gonna turn out. Typically there’s either an obvious choice, the Best Picture winner will take it, or it’s gonna be something crazy, which is rare, but happens.

Guild-wise, the ACE Eddies are pretty good as a prognosticator. They missed the past two years. Last year the Eddies went with Boyhood, but Whiplash won the Oscar. 2013, they gave it to Captain Phillips, and Gravity won the Oscar (which was an easy choice). Before that, 2011, they gave it to The Descendants, but Hugo won the Oscar. Before that, 2000, Gladiator won the Eddie and Traffic won the Oscar. And before that, Braveheart won the Eddie and Apollo 13 won the Oscar. 1989, Glory won the Eddie and Born on the Fourth of July won the Oscar. 1998, Rain Man and Mississippi Burning tied the Eddie and Who Framed Roger Rabbit won the Oscar. So in 30 years, the Eddies have matched with the Oscar winner 23 times. They’re pretty good. That’s slightly higher than 75%.

This year, the Eddies went to Mad Max: Fury Road for Dramatic and The Big Short for Comedic.

And, I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty certain one of those two is winning this category.

Best Editing

The Big Short

Mad Max: Fury Road

The Revenant


Star Wars: The Force Awakens


5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens — It’s nice, but it won’t win. It was slightly surprised to see it here because I didn’t think they took it that seriously. I thought they’d go all Best Picture and put The Martian on here. But it doesn’t have a chance here. This would shock everyone.

4. Spotlight — This is the least edited of the bunch. I guess I should have put edited in quotes. You’d think it would be fifth, but it’s not. Because sometimes they give films like this Best Editing to tip off a Picture win. Argo won Best Editing. Not a whole lot going on there, though admittedly more than this. Crash, I kinda get, given all the storylines (but even still). I put this above Star Wars purely because of the potential Best Picture win.

3. The Revenant — It has a shot, even if it doesn’t win Best Picture. Though something tells me people have other things to vote for above this. Solidly a contender, but without any major precursor win, you can’t consider it any higher than third.

2. The Big Short — This is a two horse race. It won the Eddie for Comedy, which helps it quite a bit. And it looks like the frontrunner for Best Picture, which also helps. This feels like the kind of movie that would win for Editing purely because of the amount of storylines and things they had to edit together in order for the movie to be so coherent. I’m not convinced this doesn’t end up winning the category when all is said and done. I can see this ending up with Picture, Editing and Screenplay. That’s a healthy tally and typical of a Best Picture winner nowadays. But it’s not the frontrunner because…

1. Mad Max: Fury Road — ACE Eddie for Drama. BFCA. BAFTA. Crazy action film with a lot of things to sift through. It’s your frontrunner. Might not win, but it’s definitely the favorite to.

– – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow we start the Screenplay categories with Best Adapted Screenplay.


One response

  1. “Argo won Best Editing. Not a whole lot going on there, though admittedly more than this.”
    I think it made total sense. The others, even Zero Dark Thirty, didn’t feel like the most challenging editing jobs to me. Argo, even though it had a central story, had to juggle multiple parallel events alongside it. From the opening embassy takeover (soldiers vs. protesters vs. House Guests) to the Bazaar/Sahar’s Test to the airport sequence (yeah…), you feel all the pieces moving even as you’re only watching one of them on the screen at a time.

    About The Bourne Ultimatum…Did you think it deserved Best Editing against Diving Bell/Butterfly, Into The Wild, No Country…, and There Will Be Blood?

    February 17, 2016 at 2:35 pm

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