Oscars 2017 Category Breakdown: Best Adapted Screenplay

Every year, as we lead up to the Oscars, I break down each of the 24 categories. I do this to familiarize everyone with the category; what the trends are, how the guilds and stuff help (or don’t), etc. I also do it as a precursor to my giant Oscar ballot. I get most of the heavy lifting out of the way here, so that way when I get to the article, I’m just kind of riffing on how I think it’ll turn out and talking myself into all the bad decisions. It’s like college. And this is the pregame.

How these articles work is — I give you all the previous winners and nominees of each of the categories, then tell you how accurate each of the respective guilds and precursors are in what they vote for versus what wins the Oscar, tell you how each of them voted this year, then give you this year’s category, along with a quick rundown of how we ended up with that category (what was a surprise, etc). After that, I rank each of this year’s nominees in terms of how I see them right now in terms of their likelihood to win. Which is nothing more than my perception (notice that underline, even though you won’t) of how the category seems at the moment based on everything I know and have seen. Which will give you a general sense of the favorites.

Today is Best Adapted Screenplay. You can tell my confidence in how categories will turn out by how long before the guilds announce that I go over the categories.

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

The Leatherneck

Our Dancing Daughters

Sal of Singapore


The Valiant

A Woman of Affairs

Wonder of Women

1929-1930 The Big House All Quiet on the Western Front


The Divorcee

Street of Chance

1930-1931 Cimarron The Criminal Code


Little Caesar


1931-1932 Bad Girl Arrowsmith

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

1932-1933 Little Women Lady for a Day

State Fair

1934 It Happened One Night The Thin Man

Viva Villa!

1935 The Informer The Lives of a Bengal Lancer

Mutiny on the Bounty

Captain Blood

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

Captains Courageous

Stage Door

A Star is Born

1938 Pygmalion Boys Town

The Citadel

Four Daughters

You Can’t Take It With You

1939 Gone With the Wind Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington


Wuthering Heights

1940 The Philadelphia Story The Grapes of Wrath

Kitty Foyle

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

Random Harvest

The Talk of the Town

1943 Casablanca Holy Matriomy

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

Brief Encounter

The Killers

Rome, Open City

1947 Miracle on 34th Street Boomerang


Gentleman’s Agreement

Great Expectations

1948 The Treasure of the Siera Madre A Foreign Affair

Johnny Belinda

The Search

The Snake Pit

1949 A Letter to Three Wives All the King’s Men

Bicycle Thieves


The Fallen Idol

1950 All About Eve The Asphalt Jungle

Born Yesterday

Broken Arrow

Father of the Bride

1951 A Place in the Sun The African Queen

Detective Story

La Ronde

A Streetcar Named Desire

1952 The Bad and the Beautiful 5 Fingers

High Noon

The Man in the White Suit

The Quiet Man

1953 From Here to Eternity The Cruel Sea


Roman Holiday


1954 The Country Girl The Caine Mutiny

Rear Window


Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

1955 Marty Bad Day at Black Rock

Blackboard Jungle

East of Eden

Love Me or Leave Me

1956 Around the World in 80 Days Baby Doll

Friendly Persuasion


Lust for Life

1957 The Bridge on the River Kwai Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

Peyton Place


12 Angry Men

1958 Gigi Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

The Horse’s Mouth

I Want to Live!

Separate Tables

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

The Sundowners

Tunes of Glory

1961 Judgment at Nuremberg Breakfast at Tiffany’s

The Guns of Navarone

The Hustler

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

Mary Poppins

My Fair Lady

Zorba the Greek

1965 Doctor Zhivago Cat Ballou

The Collector

Ship of Fools

A Thousand Clowns

1966 A Man for All Seasons Alfie

The Professionals

The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

1967 In the Heat of the Night Cool Hand Luke

The Graduate

In Cold Blood


1968 The Lion in Winter The Odd Couple


Rachel, Rachel

Rosemary’s Baby

1969 Midnight Cowboy Anne of the Thousand Days

Goodbye, Columbus

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?


1970 MASH Airport

I Never Sang for My Father

Lovers and Other Strangers

Women in Love

1971 The French Connection A Clockwork Orange

The Conformist

The Garden of the Finzi Continis

The Last Picture Show

1972 The Godfather Cabaret

The Emigrants

Pete ‘n’ Tillie


1973 The Exorcist The Last Detail

The Paper Chase

Paper Moon


1974 The Godfather Part II The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz


Murder on the Orient Express

Young Frankenstein

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

Fellini’s Casanova

The Seven Per-Cent Solution

Voyage of the Damned

1977 Julia Equus

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

Oh, God!

That Obscure Object of Desire

1978 Midnight Express Bloodbrothers

California Suite

Heaven Can Wait

Same Time, Next Year

1979 Kramer vs. Kramer Apocalypse Now

La Cage aux Folles

A Little Romance

Norma Rae

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


1982 Missing Das Boot

Sophie’s Choice

The Verdict


1983 Terms of Endearment Betrayal

The Dresser

Educating Rita

Reuben, Reuben

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

Prizzi’s Honor

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

Fatal Attraction

Full Metal Jacket

My Life as a Dog

1988 Dangerous Liaisons The Accidental Tourist

Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey

Little Dorrit

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


The Grifters

Reversal of Fortune

1991 The Silence of the Lambs Europa Europa

Fried Green Tomatoes


The Prince of Tides

1992 Howards End Enchanted April

The Player

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

Nobody’s Fool

Quiz Show

The Shawshank Redemption

1995 Sense and Sensibility Apollo 13


Leaving Las Vegas

Il Postino

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

Primary Colors

A Simple Plan

The Thin Red Line

1999 The Cider House Rules Election

The Green Mile

The Insider

The Talented Mr. Ripley

2000 Traffic Chocolat

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

O Brother Where Art Thou?

Wonder Boys

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



The Hours

2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King American Splendor

City of God

Mystic River


2004 Sideways Before Sunset

Finding Neverland

Million Dollar Baby

The Motorcycle Diaries

2005 Brokeback Mountain Capote

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

Little Children

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



The Reader

2009 Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire District 9

An Education

In the Loop

Up in the Air

2010 The Social Network 127 Hours

Toy Story 3

True Grit

Winter’s Bone

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

Captain Phillips


The Wolf of Wall Street

2014 The Imitation Game American Sniper

Inherent Vice

The Theory of Everything


2015 The Big Short Brooklyn


The Martian


2016 Moonlight Arrival


Hidden Figures


The WGA is the main precursor here, which is still only helpful to an extent, because a lot of times things are ineligible at the WGA and end up nominated at the Oscars.

That said, here’s how the WGA does vs. the Oscars:

  • 2016: Moonlight won both (while technically being nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the WGA), and the category matched 3/5 (though 4/5, since we knew Moonlight would get on and technically it was nominated at the WGA).
  • 2015: The Big Short won both and the category matched 3/5.
  • 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 Social Network won both, and the category matched 3/5.
  • 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.

They’re generally pretty good.

BAFTA meanwhile… in the years where the WGA was wrong… last year, Moonlight went Original for them too and lost that category, so that’s a wash. 2009, they also had Up in the Air and were also wrong. 2003, they had Return of the King (and we all knew that was winning regardless). 2002, they had Adaptation and not The Pianist. So if WGA is wrong, BAFTA tends to be wrong too, if you can’t already know the winner without them.

BFCA… they had Moonlight as Original and it lost there (to Manchester by the Sea, which also won BAFTA Original and won the Oscar for Original. So it’s not like they were straight up wrong. The category differences were the cause of that). They also tend to go their own way on the Screenplay categories and can’t really be considered helpful. But in 2009 they also had Up in the Air and before that they had one Screenplay category, which helps no one.

So yeah, WGA is the most helpful unless there’s an ineligible. However they don’t announce til tomorrow night, so that will only either confirm or deny what I’m about to say here. Fortunately, the Oscar category and the WGA category are straight up the same, so that’ll help us out there.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Call Me By Your Name

The Disaster Artist


Molly’s Game


This was a year where the original screenplays were stronger than the adapted ones, so this category was left in a situation where there were legitimately four very strong choices that we all knew would make it (Call Me By Your Name, Molly’s Game, Mudbound and The Disaster Artist), and then two others that were competing for that final spot, Logan and Wonder. BFCA had the same top four and Wonder as the fifth, the WGA had Logan as the fifth. BAFTA, in typical BAFTA fashion, had only Molly’s Game and Call Me By Your Name and nominated Paddington 2 in their screenplay category. So not overly helpful.

Call Me By Your Name has already won BFCA. It will likely win BAFTA (because James Ivory wrote it). And if it loses, unless it’s to Molly’s Game, that’s gonna be a complete wash. And then I can’t imagine it’ll lose WGA tomorrow night. So you all know where this is headed.


5. Logan — Not even The Dark Knight pulled off a Screenplay nomination. This is a big deal. Of course, won’t come close to winning, but the nomination is nice. Unless this pulls off a huge WGA win (so unlikely I won’t even entertain the notion), no one’s gonna vote for a superhero movie. That’s why I didn’t think, despite the evidence, that they’d even nominate it. But they did. Still, no one will vote for a superhero movie, so the only people you’re getting are the ones who love the film or its director to the point where they’re gonna take this over other, better choices, which I can’t see as being a strong enough contingent to take this anywhere other than fifth choice in the category.

4. The Disaster Artist — I hesitated with making this fifth, because it’s a very specific film and did not resonate with BAFTA at all. However, I think a few people will go, “It was funny” and throw it a vote just because they know Call Me By Your Name will win anyway, probably don’t care for Sorkin and won’t vote for Mudbound because of various possible reasons. The only reason this is fourth is because I assume no one will vote for a superhero movie in this category. This won’t win at all. The nomination is the reward. “Congrats, you made a funny movie out of a weird premise.” That’s all it is. This is so clearly the fourth choice that no one who knows what they’re doing would even entertain the idea that this would win, and would be legitimately shocked if you saw this come out on top on Oscar night. There’s no way this has any sort of support to overtake the other three nominees. Maybe you can make a case for them getting more votes than Sorkin, but you won’t convince me it’s overtaking either Mudbound or Call Me By Your Name. No way.

3. Mudbound — I think I might end up making this the #2 when all is said and done. Sorkin got his Oscar and I think is gonna settle in to just nominations going forward, unless he’s got another huge contender on his hands. This will get a lot of the side votes that Call Me By Your Name won’t get. I know it’s gonna sound bad, but people will vote for this because it was written by a black woman and they want to make a statement. That doesn’t make it good or bad, that’s just what’ll happen. Still not gonna be the favorite no matter what we do, so, for the time being, having only what I have to go on, since Molly’s Game does have that extra BAFTA nomination, until BAFTA and WGA shake out, I’m considering this the third choice in the category. Though I do think when we get to Oscar night, if anything’s gonna beat Call Me By Your Name, this is the one you look to.

2. Molly’s Game — It’s Sorkin, and he hit all the precursors. Of course, as I always say, precursors mean nothing and once you get into the final category, the slate is wiped clean and everything changes. So that’s why I think he’ll end up a third choice come Oscar night. But for now, since he can win the BAFTA, which Mudbound cannot, and because Mudbound completely missed on BAFTA and has the Netflix thing going against it, I’ll put Sorkin as the second choice. Not that it’ll matter, since I think this is also one of the more sure-thing categories of the night, and I think we all know what the frontrunner is and what’s likely gonna end up winning.

1. Call Me By Your Name — This was the favorite throughout the entire process. Nothing in this category looked like it could come close to taking this down. This movie was beloved, it has James Ivory, a three-time nominee for Best Director before this, as its writer, and there’s no bigger contender in the category. It’s got BFCA already, it’ll get WGA, and BAFTA, if it doesn’t win that, then has either Molly’s Game (fair), The Death of Stalin (blank), Paddington 2 (blank) or Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (blank) as its winner, and changes almost nothing. This is your frontrunner, and I think we’d all be pretty shocked if this weren’t your eventual winner come Oscar night.

– – – – – – – – – –


2 responses

  1. Call me By Your Name deserves it, but I’m hoping for a Logan upset. Wish Hugh Jackman could have got that Best Actor nomination vacated by James Franco and all his alleged baggage.

    February 10, 2018 at 1:34 pm

  2. Molly’s Game and Disaster Artist deserve this award way more than CMBYN. Sucks that neither have a chance. :/

    February 10, 2018 at 5:06 pm

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