Oscars 2017 Category Breakdown: Best Original 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 Original Screenplay. One of the most competitive categories of the year. The WGA announced their winner two days ago, and as you can tell, I waited for them to see what the hell I’m gonna do with this one.
|Year||Best Original Screenplay Winners||Other Nominees|
|1940||The Great McGinty||Angels over Broadway
Dr. Erlich’s Magic Bullet
The Great Dictator
|1941||Citizen Kane||The Devil and Miss Jones
Tall, Dark and Handsome
Tom, Dick and Harry
|1942||Woman of the Year||One of Our Aircraft Is Missing
Road to Morocco
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
Music for Millions
What Next, Corporal Hargrove?
|1946||The Seventh Veil||The Blue Dahlia
Children of Paradise
Road to Utopia
|1947||The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer||Body and Soul
A Double Life
|1948||No Award Given.||No category.|
|1949||Battleground||Jolson Sings Again
Passport to Pimlico
The Quiet One
|1950||Sunset Boulevard||Adam’s Rib
No Way Out
|1951||An American in Paris||Ace in the Hole
David and Bathsheba
Go for Broke!
|1952||The Lavender Hill Mob||The Atomic City
The Sound Barrier
Pat and Mike
|1953||Titanic||The Band Wagon
The Desert Rats
The Naked Spur
Take the High Ground!
|1954||On the Waterfront||The Barefoot Contessa
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
|1957||Designing Woman||Funny Face
Man of a Thousand Faces
The Tin Star
|1958||The Defiant Ones||The Goddess
|1959||Pillow Talk||The 400 Blows
North by Northwest
|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
The Four Days of Naples
Love with the Proper Stranger
|1964||Father Goose||A Hard Day’s Night
One Potato, Two Potato
That Man from Rio
Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
|1966||A Man and a Woman||Blowup
The Fortune Cookie
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
|1969||Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid||Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
The Wild Bunch
|1970||Patton||Five Easy Pieces
My Night at Maud’s
|1971||The Hospital||Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion
Summer of ‘42
Sunday Bloody Sunday
|1972||The Candidate||The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Lady Sings the Blues
Murmur of the Heart
|1973||The Sting||American Graffiti
Cries and Whispers
Save the Tiger
A Touch of Class
|1974||Chinatown||Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
Day for Night
Harry and Tonto
|1975||Dog Day Afternoon||Amarcord
And Now My Love
Lies My Father Told Me
|1977||Annie Hall||The Goodbye Girl
The Late Show
The Turning Point
|1978||Coming Home||Autumn Sonata
The Deer Hunter
An Unmarried Woman
|1979||Breaking Away||All That Jazz
…And Justice for All
The China Syndrome
|1980||Melvin and Howard||Brubaker
Mon oncle d’Amerique
|1981||Chariots of Fire||Absence of Malice
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
An Officer and a Gentleman
|1983||Tender Mercies||The Big Chill
Fanny and Alexander
|1984||Places in the Heart||Beverly Hills Cop
Broadway Danny Rose
|1985||Witness||Back to the Future
The Official Story
The Purple Rose of Cairo
|1986||Hannah and Her Sisters||Crocodile Dundee
My Beautiful Laundrette
|1987||Moonstruck||Au revoir, les enfants
Hope and Glory
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…
|1991||Thelma & Louise||Boyz N the Hood
The Fisher King
|1992||The Crying Game||Husbands and Wives
In the Line of Fire
Sleepless in Seattle
|1994||Pulp Fiction||Bullets Over Broadway
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Three Colors: Red
|1995||The Usual Suspects||Braveheart
Secrets & Lies
|1997||Good Will Hunting||As Good as It Gets
The Full Monty
|1998||Shakespeare in Love||Bulworth
Life is Beautiful
Saving Private Ryan
The Truman Show
|1999||American Beauty||Being John Malkovich
The Sixth Sense
|2000||Almost Famous||Billy Elliot
You Can Count on Me
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
|2004||Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind||The Aviator
|2005||Crash||Good Night, and Good Luck
The Squid and the Whale
|2006||Little Miss Sunshine||Babel
Letters from Iwo Jima
|2007||Juno||Lars and the Real Girl
|2009||The Hurt Locker||Inglourious Basterds
A Serious Man
|2010||The King’s Speech||Another Year
The Kids Are All Right
|2011||Midnight in Paris||The Artist
Zero Dark Thirty
Dallas Buyers Club
The Grand Budapest Hotel
|2015||Spotlight||Bridge of Spies
Straight Outta Compton
|2016||Manchester by the Sea||20th Century Women
Hell or High Water
La La Land
The WGA is the guild to look at here, but they can only help so much, especially with all the ineligibles and category swaps. But, you know.
- 2016: Moonlight won WGA Original and won the Oscar for Adapted. So I guess they were right?
- 2015: Spotlight won both the WGA and the Oscar, and two of the WGA nominees went Adapted at the Oscars.
- 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.
For what it’s also worth, BAFTA, going back to 2000, is 11/17. In all six misses, the Oscar winner was nominated five of those times (Her was the only Oscar winner BAFTA didn’t nominate for Screenplay). The only one they got right when the WGA got it wrong was last year, with Manchester by the Sea (but that’s just because WGA went Moonlight, which also won an Oscar). I believe Almodovar was ineligible for WGA in 2002, otherwise that would have been a second.
Oh, and because we can, BFCA — who only split up the Screenplay categories in 2009 — 7/8. Missed in ’09 (taking Quentin, who lost to Mark Boal in the end), otherwise they’ve hit every year since. Though last year was a tie with Manchester and La La Land. So they were set regardless.
Oh, and before we get into who won what, one last thing to chew on — 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.
31 times ever out of 89 (or 90, if you count Sunrise). But we can talk about that in depth during the picks article. Here, that’s just something you should know before we get into the rankings.
Best Original Screenplay
The Big Sick
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
This category felt like the right one all the way through. Some question about The Big Sick getting on in the end. The other four were locks all the way. But that fifth spot could have been any number of choices. The Post. Phantom Thread. Darkest Hour. I, Tonya. So you had to figure out which was gonna get it, but otherwise it went according to expectations. The guild had 4/5, not having Three Billboards (I, Tonya instead), as it wasn’t WGA eligible. BFCA had all these five, plus The Post, for fun. BAFTA had I, Tonya instead of The Big Sick. So it was kinda dicey, but it seemed like it was gonna end up this way more likely than not.
Now, in terms of precursor wins — Get Out won the WGA and BFCA. McDonagh (in a single category) won the Globe (being ineligible for the WGA). BAFTA is on Sunday, but seeing as how In Bruges won there nine years ago over eventual Oscar-winner Milk, I suspect McDonagh will take that too. But I can’t say for sure. I’m just gonna talk about this one now in terms of how I see it, and then reconfigure based on what happens at BAFTA.
5. The Big Sick — “I’m just lucky to be nominated” really applies here. It wasn’t even a sure thing to get on the nominations list. No way this has any support over the other four to make any kind of headway here. Being nominated is the reward for this one.
4. The Shape of Water — I can’t believe I’m saying that the current Best Picture favorite is a fourth choice in the Screenplay category, but here we are. Even The Artist was a second choice. Plus, Best Picture winners (assuming this is the winner and not the film I’m listing as the favorite in this category) win just about 2/3 of the time. 58 times out of 89. But this is an insanely strong year where eight of the nine Best Picture nominees are based on original screenplays, and this has exactly zero precursors to this point. Seems like they’re gonna reward Guillermo in Director only (which will be the opposite of the favorite in this category). Fortunately it is just under 2/3 of the time, because otherwise I’d have to forcibly call this more of a contender than it feels like. Because right now, it feels like a ‘yeah, and that’s there too’ nominee.
3. Lady Bird — Greta Gerwig just ran into buzzsaws this year. This sucks. I’d want to vote for this in almost any other year. But so far, no wins. It’ll get votes because people adored this movie, but I don’t know how far it gets in the end. With Guillermo tapped to win Best Director, all the votes for her might funnel here instead of there to the people who took Guillermo over her. Then again, I could also say that for our next contender, who does have precursor wins. I think she’s a moderate contender, but can’t place her any higher than third at the moment.
2. Get Out — It has a BFCA win, which is not insignificant, as they have guessed the Original Screenplay winner correctly for the past seven years straight, and more importantly, has a WGA win. Based on those two alone, you should consider it a favorite at the moment. But with my presumptive favorite ineligible at the WGA and seemingly on tap for a BAFTA win, I’m comfortable putting this here. That’s not to say it can’t or won’t win the Oscar (because absolutely it can and just might), I just feel like the odds slightly favor this next nominee over this one in the end.
1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — Doesn’t this feel like it’s gonna win? Sure, Inglourious Basterds felt like it was gonna win too, only to lose to The Hurt Locker. Up in the Air also felt like it was gonna win that year and lost to Precious. Things happen. But here, if The Shape of Water doesn’t win Best Picture, chances are, this will. And that’ll add to that stat about Best Picture winners winning Best Screenplay. But that aside — I feel like it probably would have won the WGA had it been nominated, and I think it’s gonna win BAFTA. All around, this feels like it’s your favorite going into Oscar night. Not the on paper favorite, but the spiritual favorite. I think it is a dual til the end with this and Get Out (it’s feeling a lot like the Birdman/Grand Budapest duel that ended up going Birdman’s way in 2014). Whether or not this wins, the way this category goes will give you a big hint at how Best Picture is likely to turn out. If Get Out beats this, then expect to see The Shape of Water win Best Picture (or some big upset like Lady Bird or Get Out). If this wins, then the Best Picture win is firmly in play (but not guaranteed. Just a stronger possibility). Of course, if this wins Editing, then all the eyebrows are gonna raise. Either way, I’m calling this the favorite, because that’s what it feels like.
– – – – – – – – – –