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Oscars 2015 Category Breakdown: Best Original 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 Original Screenplay, a category I’m pretty pleased with, overall.

Year Best Original Screenplay Winners Other Nominees
1940 The Great McGinty Angels over Broadway

Dr. Erlich’s Magic Bullet

Foreign Correspondent

The Great Dictator

1941 Citizen Kane The Devil and Miss Jones

Sergeant York

Tall, Dark and Handsome

Tom, Dick and Harry

1942 Woman of the Year One of Our Aircraft Is Missing

Road to Morocco

Wake Island

The War Against Mrs. Hadley

1943 Princess O’Rourke Air Force

In Which We Serve

The North Star

So Proudly We Hail!

1944 Wilson Hail the Conquering Hero

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek

Two Girls and a Sailor

Wing and a Prayer

1945 Marie-Louise Dillinger

Music for Millions

Salty O’Rourke

What Next, Corporal Hargrove?

1946 The Seventh Veil The Blue Dahlia

Children of Paradise

Notorious

Road to Utopia

1947 The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer Body and Soul

A Double Life

Monsieur Verdoux

Shoeshine

1948 No Award Given. No category.
1949 Battleground Jolson Sings Again

Paisan

Passport to Pimlico

The Quiet One

1950 Sunset Boulevard Adam’s Rib

Caged

The Men

No Way Out

1951 An American in Paris Ace in the Hole

David and Bathsheba

Go for Broke!

The Well

1952 The Lavender Hill Mob The Atomic City

The Sound Barrier

Pat and Mike

Viva Zapata!

1953 Titanic The Band Wagon

The Desert Rats

The Naked Spur

Take the High Ground!

1954 On the Waterfront The Barefoot Contessa

Genevieve

The Glenn Miller Story

Knock on Wood

1955 Interrupted Melody The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell

It’s Always Fair Weather

Mr. Hulot’s Holiday

The Seven Little Foys

1956 The Red Balloon The Bold and the Brave

Julie

La Strada

The Ladykillers

1957 Designing Woman Funny Face

Man of a Thousand Faces

The Tin Star

I Vitelloni

1958 The Defiant Ones The Goddess

Houseboat

The Sheepman

Teacher’s Pet

1959 Pillow Talk The 400 Blows

North by Northwest

Operation Petticoat

Wild Strawberries

1960 The Apartment The Angry Silence

The Facts of Life

Hiroshima Mon Amour

Never on Sunday

1961 Splendor in the Grass Ballad of a Soldier

La Dolce Vita

General della Rovere

Lover Come Back

1962 Divorce, Italian Style Freud

Last Year at Marienbad

That Touch of Mink

Through a Glass Darkly

1963 How the West Was Won 8 ½

America, America

The Four Days of Naples

Love with the Proper Stranger

1964 Father Goose A Hard Day’s Night

One Potato, Two Potato

The Organizer

That Man from Rio

1965 Darling Casanova 70

Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines

The Train

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

1966 A Man and a Woman Blowup

The Fortune Cookie

Khartoum

The Naked Prey

1967 Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner Bonnie and Clyde

Divorce American Style

La Guerre Est Finie

Two for the Road

1968 The Producers 2001: A Space Odyssey

The Battle of Algiers

Faces

Hot Millions

1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

The Damned

Easy Rider

The Wild Bunch

1970 Patton Five Easy Pieces

Joe

Love Story

My Night at Maud’s

1971 The Hospital Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

Klute

Summer of ‘42

Sunday Bloody Sunday

1972 The Candidate The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Lady Sings the Blues

Murmur of the Heart

Young Winston

1973 The Sting American Graffiti

Cries and Whispers

Save the Tiger

A Touch of Class

1974 Chinatown Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

The Conversation

Day for Night

Harry and Tonto

1975 Dog Day Afternoon Amarcord

And Now My Love

Lies My Father Told Me

Shampoo

1976 Network Cousin, cousine

The Front

Rocky

Seven Beauties

1977 Annie Hall The Goodbye Girl

The Late Show

Star Wars

The Turning Point

1978 Coming Home Autumn Sonata

The Deer Hunter

Interiors

An Unmarried Woman

1979 Breaking Away All That Jazz

…And Justice for All

The China Syndrome

Manhattan

1980 Melvin and Howard Brubaker

Fame

Mon oncle d’Amerique

Private Benjamin

1981 Chariots of Fire Absence of Malice

Arthur

Atlantic City

Reds

1982 Gandhi Diner

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

An Officer and a Gentleman

Tootsie

1983 Tender Mercies The Big Chill

Fanny and Alexander

Silkwood

WarGames

1984 Places in the Heart Beverly Hills Cop

Broadway Danny Rose

El Norte

Splash

1985 Witness Back to the Future

Brazil

The Official Story

The Purple Rose of Cairo

1986 Hannah and Her Sisters Crocodile Dundee

My Beautiful Laundrette

Platoon

Salvador

1987 Moonstruck Au revoir, les enfants

Broadcast News

Hope and Glory

Radio Days

1988 Rain Man Big

Bull Durham

A Fish Called Wanda

Running on Empty

1989 Dead Poets Society Crimes and Misdemeanors

Do the Right Thing

Sex, Lies and Videotape

When Harry Met Sally…

1990 Ghost Alice

Avalon

Green Card

Metropolitan

1991 Thelma & Louise Boyz N the Hood

Bugsy

The Fisher King

Grand Canyon

1992 The Crying Game Husbands and Wives

Lorenzo’s Oil

Passion Fish

Unforgiven

1993 The Piano Dave

In the Line of Fire

Philadelphia

Sleepless in Seattle

1994 Pulp Fiction Bullets Over Broadway

Four Weddings and a Funeral

Heavenly Creatures

Three Colors: Red

1995 The Usual Suspects Braveheart

Mighty Aphrodite

Nixon

Toy Story

1996 Fargo Jerry Maguire

Lone Star

Secrets & Lies

Shine

1997 Good Will Hunting As Good as It Gets

Boogie Nights

Deconstructing Harry

The Full Monty

1998 Shakespeare in Love Bulworth

Life is Beautiful

Saving Private Ryan

The Truman Show

1999 American Beauty Being John Malkovich

Magnolia

The Sixth Sense

Topsy-Turvy

2000 Almost Famous Billy Elliot

Erin Brockovich

Gladiator

You Can Count on Me

2001 Gosford Park Amélie

Memento

Monster’s Ball

The Royal Tenenbaums

2002 Talk to Her Far from Heaven

Gangs of New York

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Y tu mama también

2003 Lost in Translation The Barbarian Invasions

Dirty Pretty Things

Finding Nemo

In America

2004 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind The Aviator

Hotel Rwanda

The Incredibles

Vera Drake

2005 Crash Good Night, and Good Luck

Match Point

The Squid and the Whale

Syriana

2006 Little Miss Sunshine Babel

Letters from Iwo Jima

Pan’s Labyrinth

The Queen

2007 Juno Lars and the Real Girl

Michael Clayton

Ratatouille

The Savages

2008 Milk Frozen River

Happy-Go-Lucky

In Bruges

Wall-E

2009 The Hurt Locker Inglourious Basterds

The Messenger

A Serious Man

Up

2010 The King’s Speech Another Year

The Fighter

Inception

The Kids Are All Right

2011 Midnight in Paris The Artist

Bridesmaids

Margin Call

A Separation

2012 Django Unchained Amour

Flight

Moonrise Kingdom

Zero Dark Thirty

2013 Her American Hustle

Blue Jasmine

Dallas Buyers Club

Nebraska

2014 Birdman Boyhood

Foxcatcher

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Nightcrawler

The thing with the Screenplay awards… the WGA can only help you so much. Sure, they’re helpful, but you have to take into account ineligibles, plus the Oscars leaning toward Best Picture movies. But still, we’ll go over some stuff anyway:

  • 2014: Birdman was ineligible for the WGA and won the Oscar. The Grand Budapest Hotel won the WGA.
  • 2013: The WGA and Oscar category were the same and Her won both.
  • 2012: Django was ineligible for the WGA and won the Oscar. Zero Dark Thirty won the WGA.
  • 2011: Midnight in Paris won both, and the category only had two nominees the same.
  • 2010: Inception won the WGA, but The King’s Speech won the Oscar. The King’s Speech was ineligible for WGA.
  • 2009: The Hurt Locker won both, and the category was only two the same.
  • 2008: Milk won both and that was the only similarity between the two categories.
  • 2007: Juno won both and the category was 4/5 the same.
  • 2006: Little Miss Sunshine won both and the category matched 3/5.
  • 2005: Crash won both and the category matched 3/5.
  • 2004: Eternal Sunshine won both and the category matched 3/5.
  • 2003: Lost in Translation won both and the category matched 3/5.
  • 2002: Two different winners, the category matched 3/5. The two winners weren’t nominated on either category.
  • 2001: Gosford Park won both and the category matched 3/5.
  • 2000: Almost Famous won the Oscar and You Can Count on Me won the WGA, and the category matched 4/5.

So, okay, the WGA, when the winner is eligible, does match up a lot of the time.

Not that we need the help this year, because just looking at this category, you know what’s going to win.

Best Original Screenplay

Bridge of Spies

Ex Machina

Inside Out

Spotlight

Straight Outta Compton

The only major snub is Quentin. And that’s not even all that shocking to me.

Rankings:

5. Inside Out — Pixar has never won this category, and it won’t start now. They’ll show it the respect of nominating it, but I don’t think anyone will respect an animated film enough in an open vote to actually give it a writing Oscar. Until something changes, you almost always have to consider Pixar a #5 in the Screenplay categories.

4. Ex Machina — The film was great, and people loved it, but this is one of those “nomination is the reward’ situations. It’ll never happen. The nomination was the hard part. Just seeing it nominated is enough for most people. They’ll vote elsewhere over this. It’ll get a few votes, but not enough to take down the other three.

3. Bridge of Spies — The Coens helped write this. So that’ll get votes. Plus it’s a film that older voters will respond to. So that’ll get it a few votes. Spielberg. It’s a fair contender. But not a frontrunner. Because the other two will clearly beat this out in the end.

2. Straight Outta Compton — Because of the controversy. People will vote for this because of that. They will. And because of that, it’ll get the second most amount of votes. And if it wins, that’ll shock me and shock everyone else. But it’s not the frontrunner now matter how much you think that might happen.

1. Spotlight — It won WGA and BFCA, and it’ll probably win BAFTA tomorrow. It’s the frontrunner, and I would personally be shocked if this lost. If this loses Screenplay, then there’s no way it can win Best Picture. No way they’d let that happen. Either way, this is the frontrunner, and I’d put my money on this to win the Oscar.

– – – – – – – – –

All right. We’ve hit the home stretch. Only big categories left now. Tomorrow is Best Supporting Actress, which

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