Oscars 2015 Category Breakdown: Best Adapted Screenplay
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 Adapted Screenplay, which is pretty cut and dry, as it tends to be most years.
|Year||Best Adapted Screenplay Winners||Other Nominees|
|1927-1928||Seventh Heaven||Glorious Betsy
The Jazz Singer
|1928-1929||The Patriot||The Cop
In Old Arizona
The Last of Mrs. Cheyney
Our Dancing Daughters
Sal of Singapore
A Woman of Affairs
Wonder of Women
|1929-1930||The Big House||All Quiet on the Western Front
Street of Chance
|1930-1931||Cimarron||The Criminal Code
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
|1932-1933||Little Women||Lady for a Day
|1934||It Happened One Night||The Thin Man
|1935||The Informer||The Lives of a Bengal Lancer
Mutiny on the Bounty
|1936||The Story of Louis Pasteur||After the Thin Man
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
My Man Godfrey
|1937||The Life of Emile Zola||The Awful Truth
A Star is Born
You Can’t Take It With You
|1939||Gone With the Wind||Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
|1940||The Philadelphia Story||The Grapes of Wrath
The Long Voyage Home
|1941||Here Comes Mr. Jordan||Hold Back the Dawn
How Green Was My Valley
The Little Foxes
The Maltese Falcon
|1942||Mrs. Miniver||49th Parallel
The Pride of the Yankees
The Talk of the Town
The More the Merrier
The Song of Bernadette
Watch on the Rhine
|1944||Going My Way||Double Indemnity
Meet Me in St. Louis
|1945||The Lost Weekend||Mildred Pierce
Pride of the Marines
The Story of G.I. Joe
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
|1946||The Best Years of Our Lives||Anna and the King of Siam
Rome, Open City
|1947||Miracle on 34th Street||Boomerang
|1948||The Treasure of the Siera Madre||A Foreign Affair
The Snake Pit
|1949||A Letter to Three Wives||All the King’s Men
The Fallen Idol
|1950||All About Eve||The Asphalt Jungle
Father of the Bride
|1951||A Place in the Sun||The African Queen
A Streetcar Named Desire
|1952||The Bad and the Beautiful||5 Fingers
The Man in the White Suit
The Quiet Man
|1953||From Here to Eternity||The Cruel Sea
|1954||The Country Girl||The Caine Mutiny
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
|1955||Marty||Bad Day at Black Rock
East of Eden
Love Me or Leave Me
|1956||Around the World in 80 Days||Baby Doll
Lust for Life
|1957||The Bridge on the River Kwai||Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison
12 Angry Men
|1958||Gigi||Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
The Horse’s Mouth
I Want to Live!
|1959||Room at the Top||Anatomy of a Murder
The Nun’s Story
Some Like It Hot
|1960||Elmer Gantry||Inherit the Wind
Sons and Lovers
Tunes of Glory
|1961||Judgment at Nuremberg||Breakfast at Tiffany’s
The Guns of Navarone
West Side Story
|1962||To Kill a Mockingbird||David and Lisa
Lawrence of Arabia
The Miracle Worker
|1963||Tom Jones||Captain Newman, M.D.
Lilies of the Field
Sundays and Cybele
|1964||Becket||Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
My Fair Lady
Zorba the Greek
|1965||Doctor Zhivago||Cat Ballou
Ship of Fools
A Thousand Clowns
|1966||A Man for All Seasons||Alfie
The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
|1967||In the Heat of the Night||Cool Hand Luke
In Cold Blood
|1968||The Lion in Winter||The Odd Couple
|1969||Midnight Cowboy||Anne of the Thousand Days
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
I Never Sang for My Father
Lovers and Other Strangers
Women in Love
|1971||The French Connection||A Clockwork Orange
The Garden of the Finzi Continis
The Last Picture Show
Pete ‘n’ Tillie
|1973||The Exorcist||The Last Detail
The Paper Chase
|1974||The Godfather Part II||The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
Murder on the Orient Express
|1975||One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest||Barry Lyndon
The Man Who Would Be King
Profumo di donna
The Sunshine Boys
|1976||All the President’s Men||Bound for Glory
The Seven Per-Cent Solution
Voyage of the Damned
I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
That Obscure Object of Desire
Heaven Can Wait
Same Time, Next Year
|1979||Kramer vs. Kramer||Apocalypse Now
La Cage aux Folles
A Little Romance
|1980||Ordinary People||Breaker Morant
Coal Miner’s Daughter
The Elephant Man
The Stunt Man
|1981||On Golden Pond||The French Lieutenant’s Woman
Pennies from Heaven
Prince of the City
|1983||Terms of Endearment||Betrayal
|1984||Amadeus||Greystroke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes
The Killing Fields
A Passage to India
A Soldier’s Story
|1985||Out of Africa||The Color Purple
Kiss of the Spider Woman
The Trip to Bountiful
|1986||A Room with a View||Children of a Lesser God
The Color of Money
Crimes of the Heart
Stand by Me
|1987||The Last Emperor||The Dead
Full Metal Jacket
My Life as a Dog
|1988||Dangerous Liaisons||The Accidental Tourist
Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
|1989||Driving Miss Daisy||Born on the Fourth of July
Enemies, a Love Story
Field of Dreams
My Left Foot
|1990||Dances with Wolves||Awakenings
Reversal of Fortune
|1991||The Silence of the Lambs||Europa Europa
Fried Green Tomatoes
The Prince of Tides
|1992||Howards End||Enchanted April
A River Runs Through It
Scent of a Woman
|1993||Schindler’s List||The Age of Innocence
In the Name of the Father
The Remains of the Day
|1994||Forrest Gump||The Madness of King George
The Shawshank Redemption
|1995||Sense and Sensibility||Apollo 13
Leaving Las Vegas
|1996||Sling Blade||The Crucible
The English Patient
|1997||L.A. Confidential||Donnie Brasco
The Sweet Hereafter
Wag the Dog
The Wings of the Dove
|1998||Gods and Monsters||Out of Sight
A Simple Plan
The Thin Red Line
|1999||The Cider House Rules||Election
The Green Mile
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
O Brother Where Art Thou?
|2001||A Beautiful Mind||Ghost World
In the Bedroom
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
|2002||The Pianist||About a Boy
|2003||The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King||American Splendor
City of God
Million Dollar Baby
The Motorcycle Diaries
The Constant Gardener
A History of Violence
|2006||The Departed||Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Children of Men
Notes on a Scandal
|2007||No Country for Old Men||Atonement
Away from Her
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
There Will Be Blood
|2008||Slumdog Millionaire||The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
|2009||Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire||District 9
In the Loop
Up in the Air
|2010||The Social Network||127 Hours
Toy Story 3
|2011||The Descendants||The Ides of March
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
|2012||Argo||Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
|2013||12 Years a Slave||Before Midnight
The Wolf of Wall Street
The Grand Budapest Hotel
We’ll start with the WGA, since it is a guild and guilds are important. I don’t consider this one to be one you have to listen to, since they have weird eligibility requirements, and if someone isn’t in the guild, then they can’t win. So you can’t say, “Oh, but so and so won the WGA over the favorite,” and use that as rationalization if the favorite wasn’t even eligible for the WGA. There are limits to how much you can use it. That said, let’s look at the Adapted Screenplay WGA category and how it’s matched up with the Oscars:
- 2014: The Imitation Game won both and the category matched 4/5.
- 2013: 12 Years a Slave wasn’t eligible, and we knew that was gonna win, so that category is a wash. Captain Phillips won the WGA.
- 2012: Argo won both and the category matched 4/5.
- 2011: The Descendants won both and the category matched 3/5.
- 2010: The category matched 3/5 and The Social Network won both.
- 2009: Up in the Air won WGA and Precious won the Oscar, and those were the only two that matched both categories.
- 2008: Slumdog won both and they matched 4/5.
- 2007: No Country won both and the categories matched 3/5.
- 2006: The Departed won both and the categories matched 3/5.
- 2005: Brokeback won both and the categories matched 4/5.
- 2004: Sideways won both and the categories matched 3/5.
- 2003: Return of the King won the Oscar, American Splendor won the WGA and they matched 4/5.
- 2002: The Pianist won the Oscar, the Hours won the WGA (I’m guessing The Pianist wasn’t eligible for WGA) and the categories matched 4/5.
- 2001: A Beautiful Mind won both and the categories matched 3/5.
So typically, yeah, they match up, outside of eligibility issues. Or sweeps.
And before we get into my rankings, here are all the times the Best Picture winner hasn’t won Best Screenplay:
- 2011, The Artist loses to Midnight in Paris.
- 2004, Million Dollar Baby loses to Sideways.
- 2002, Chicago loses to The Pianist.
- 2000, Gladiator loses to Almost Famous.
- 1997, Titanic isn’t even nominated.
- 1996, The English Patient loses to Sling Blade.
- 1995, Braveheart loses to The Usual Suspects.
- 1992, Unforgiven loses to The Crying Game.
- 1986, Platoon loses to Hannah and Her Sisters.
- 1978, The Deer Hunter loses to Coming Home.
- 1976, Rocky loses to Network.
- 1968, Oliver! loses to The Lion in Winter.
- 1965, The Sound of Music isn’t even nominated.
- 1964, My Fair Lady loses to Becket.
- 1962, Lawrence of Arabia loses to To Kill a Mockingbird.
- 1961, West Side Story loses to Judgment at Nuremberg.
- 1959, Ben-Hur loses to Room at the Top.
- 1952, The Greatest Show on Earth isn’t even nominated.
- 1949, All the King’s Men loses to A Letter to Three Wives.
- 1948, Hamlet isn’t even nominated.
- 1947, Gentleman’s Agreement loses to Miracle on 34th Street.
- 1941, How Green Was My Valley loses to Here Comes Mr. Jordan.
- 1940, Rebecca loses to The Philadelphia Story.
- 1938, You Can’t Take It With You loses to Pygmalion.
- 1936, The Great Ziegfeld isn’t even nominated. (Though there was only one Screenplay category. Also, the nominees were The Story of Louis Pasteur, After the Thin Man, Dodsworth, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and My Man Godfrey. That’s awesome.)
- 1935, Mutiny on the Bounty loses to The Informer.
- 1932-1933, Cavalcade isn’t even nominated.
- 1931-1932, Grand Hotel isn’t even nominated.
- 1929-1930, All Quiet on the Western Front loses to The Big House.
- 1928-1929, The Broadway Melody isn’t even nominated.
- 1927-1928, Wings isn’t even nominated.
And look at that list more closely: 11 out of 31 times it happened were in the last 40 years. So a third of your list was within 40 years, and two-thirds happened before that. If we go to 50 years, then it’s 14 out of 31, which is less than half. Meaning it doesn’t happen as often recently.
And, to keep the focus narrowed: My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Oliver! and Chicago are musicals. Not exactly Screenplay winner material. Woody Allen beat two of the remaining ten (and one of them was a silent film). When Woody wins, we understand it. Alexander Payne wins, we understand it. Titanic makes sense as a non-winner. It’s all spectacle. Gladiator, same. Then, you look at what’s left… Rocky loses to Network. Paddy Chayefsky. Totally makes sense. Then, Braveheart… not really a writing kind of movie, and it lost to Usual Suspects. Understandable. Unforgiven… they don’t usually do westerns, and The Crying Game won. Makes sense. And then English Patient losing to Sling Blade… kind of a surprise. And Deer Hunter losing to Coming Home, can’t say about that. It does make some sense, though.
So, ultimately, you can usually see a Best Picture film losing, if it’s gonna happen.
This year, the Best Picture frontrunners are most likely going to win the Screenplay categories, so that shouldn’t matter. But it is a stat to keep in mind (because it does hurt The Revenant’s chances).
Best Adapted Screenplay
The Big Short
No Steve Jobs. That’s the big, big, huge atrocious snub of the year. That aside, there were only these five contenders outside of Sorkin. So this wasn’t surprising.
5. Brooklyn — Love the film, it won’t win. It’ll get a small handful of votes, but nothing even close to winning. Especially with such a frontrunner that can’t lose.
4. Carol — This might even be #5. It has no shot. I’m not even gonna waste words on this. Only one script can win this category.
3. The Martian — People like the film, but they won’t vote for the script. This movie lost all support once it got nominated. No chance.
2. Room — It’ll get votes, and I suspect it’ll finish second overall, given the love that’s out there for this movie (Picture and Director nominations), but no one is beating Adam McKay this year.
1. The Big Short — He can’t lose. WGA, BFCA, probably BAFTA, and I’m sure it’ll take that USC Scripter thing, where people say that basically tells you what’s gonna win Adapted Screenplay. Hard to see any scenario where this can even remotely lose this category.
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Tomorrow is Original Screenplay. MORE WORDS.