Oscars 2017 Category Breakdown: Best Cinematography

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 Cinematography, aka the Is This Finally Roger Deakins’ Year Award.

Year Best Cinematography Winners Other Nominees
1927-1928 Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans The Devil Dancer

The Magic Flame

Sadie Thompson

1928-1929 White Shadows in the South Seas The Divine Lady

4 Devils

In Old Arizona

Our Dancing Daughters

Street Angel

1929-1930 With Byrd at the South Pole All Quiet on the Western Front

Anna Christie

Hell’s Angels

The Love Parade

1930-1931 Tabu: A Story of the South Seas Cimarron


The Right to Love


1931-1932 Shanghai Express Arrowsmith

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

1932-1933 A Farewell to Arms Reunion in Vienna

The Sign of the Cross

1934 Cleopatra The Affairs of Cellini

Operator 13

1935 A Midsummer Night’s Dream Barbary Coast

The Crusades

Les Misérables

1936 Anthony Adverse The General Died at Dawn

The Gorgeous Hussy

1937 The Good Earth Dead End

Wings Over Honolulu

1938 The Great Waltz Algiers

Army Girl

The Buccaneer


Mad About Music


Vivacious Lady

You Can’t Take It With You

The Young in Heart

1939 Black and White: Wuthering Heights

Color: Gone With the Wind

Black and White: First Love

The Great Victor Herbert

Gunga Din

Intermezzo: A Love Story


Lady of the Tropics

Only Angels Have Wings


The Rains Came

Color: Drums Along the Mohawk

The Four Feathers

The Mikado

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

The Wizard of Oz

1940 Black and White: Rebecca

Color: The Thief of Bagdad

Black and White: Abe Lincoln in Illinois

All This, and Heaven Too

Arise, My Love

Boom Town

Foreign Correspondent

The Letter

The Long Voyage Home

Spring Parade

Waterloo Bridge

Color: Bitter Sweet

The Blue Bird

Down Argentine Way

North West Mounted Police

Northwest Passage

1941 Black and White: How Green Was My Valley

Color: Blood and Sand

Black and White: The Chocolate Soldier

Citizen Kane

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Here Comes Mr. Jordan

Hold Back the Dawn

Sergeant York

Sun Valley Serenade


That Hamilton Woman

Color: Aloma of the South Seas

Billy the Kid

Blossoms in the Dust

Dive Bomber

Louisiana Purchase

1942 Black and White: Mrs. Miniver

Color: The Black Swan

Black and White: Kings Row

The Magnificent Ambersons


The Pied Piper

The Pride of the Yankees

Take a Letter, Darling

The Talk of the Town

Ten Gentlemen from West Point

This Above All

Color: Arabian Nights

Captains of the Clouds

Jungle Book

Reap the Wild Wind

To the Shores of Tripoli

1943 Black and White: The Song of Bernadette

Color: Phantom of the Opera

Black and White: Air Force


Corvette K-225

Five Graves to Cairo

The Human Comedy

Madame Curie

The North Star


So Proudly We Hail!

Color: For Whom the Bell Tolls

Heaven Can Wait

Hello, Frisco, Hello

Lassie Come Home

Thousands Cheer

1944 Black and White: Laura

Color: Wilson

Black and White: Double Indemnity

Dragon Seed


Going My Way


Since You Went Away

Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo

The Uninvited

The White Cliffs of Dover

Color: Cover Girl

Home in Indiana


Lady in the Dark

Meet Me in St. Louis

1945 Black and White: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Color: Leave Her to Heaven

Black and White: The Keys of the Kingdom

The Lost Weekend

Mildred Pierce


Color: Anchors Aweigh

National Velvet

A Song to Remember

The Spanish Main

1946 Black and White: Anna and the King of Siam

Color: The Yearling

Black and White: The Green Years

Color: The Jolson Story

1947 Black and White: Great Expectations

Color: Black Narcissus

Black and White: Green Dolphin Street

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

Color: Life with Father

Mother Wore Tights

1948 Black and White: The Naked City

Color: Joan of Arc

Black and White: A Foreign Affair

I Remember Mama

Johnny Belinda

Portrait of Jennie

Color: Green Grass of Wyoming

The Loves of Carmen

The Three Musketeers

1949 Black and White: Battleground

Color: She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

Black and White: Champion

Come to the Stable

The Heiress

Prince of Foxes

Color: The Barkleys of Broadway

Jolson Sings Again

Little Women


1950 Black and White: The Third Man

Color: King Solomon’s Mines

Black and White: All About Eve

The Asphalt Jungle

The Furies

Sunset Boulevard

Color: Annie Get Your Gun

Broken Arrow

The Flame and the Arrow

Samson and Delilah

1951 Black and White: A Place in the Sun

Color: An American in Paris

Black and White: Death of a Salesman

The Frogmen

Strangers on a Train

A Streetcar Named Desire

Color: David and Bathsheba

Quo Vadis

Show Boat

When Worlds Collide

1952 Black and White: The Bad and the Beautiful

Color: The Quiet Man

Black and White: The Big Sky

My Cousin Rachel


Sudden Fear

Color: Hans Christian Anderson


Million Dollar Mermaid

The Snows of Kilimanjaro

1953 Black and White: From Here to Eternity

Color: Shane

Black and White: The Four Poster

Julius Caesar

Martin Luther

Roman Holiday

Color: All the Brothers Were Valiant

Beneath the 12 Mile Reef


The Robe

1954 Black and White: On the Waterfront

Color: Three Coins in the Fountain

Black and White: The Country Girl

Executive Suite

Rogue Cop


Color: The Egyptian

Rear Window

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

The Silver Chalice

1955 Black and White: The Rose Tattoo

Color: To Catch a Thief

Black and White: Blackboard Jungle

I’ll Cry Tomorrow


Queen Bee

Color: Guys and Dolls

Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing

A Man Called Peter


1956 Black and White: Somebody Up There Likes Me

Color: Around the World in 80 Days

Black and White: Baby Doll

The Bad Seed

The Harder They Fall

Stagecoach to Fury

Color: The Eddy Duchin Story

The King and I

The Ten Commandments

War and Peace

1957 The Bridge on the River Kwai An Affair to Remember

Funny Face

Peyton Place


1958 Black and White: The Defiant Ones

Color: Gigi

Black and White: Desire Under the Elms

I Want to Live!

Separate Tables

The Young Lions

Color: Auntie Mame

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

The Old Man and the Sea

South Pacific

1959 Black and White: The Diary of Anne Frank

Color: Ben-Hur

Black and White: Anatomy of a Murder


Some Like It Hot

The Young Philadelphians

Color: The Big Fisherman

The Five Pennies

A Nun’s Story

Porgy and Bess

1960 Black and White: Sons and Lovers

Color: Spartacus

Black and White: The Apartment

The Facts of Life

Inherit the Wind


Color: The Alamo

BUtterfield 8



1961 Black and White: The Hustler

Color: West Side Story

Black and White: The Absent-Minded Professor

The Children’s Hour

Judgment at Nuremberg

One, Two, Three

Color: Fanny

Flower Drum Song

A Majority of One

One-Eyed Jacks

1962 Black and White: The Longest Day

Color: Lawrence of Arabia

Black and White: Birdman of Alcatraz

To Kill a Mockingbird

Two for the Seesaw

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Color: Gypsy


Mutiny on the Bounty

The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm

1963 Black and White: Hud

Color: Cleopatra

Black and White: The Balcony

The Caretakers

Lilies of the Field

Love with the Proper Stranger

Color: The Cardinal

How the West Was Won

Irma la Douce

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

1964 Black and White: Zorba the Greek

Color: My Fair Lady

Black and White: The Americanization of Emily

Fate is the Hunter

Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte

The Night of the Iguana

Color: Becket

Cheyenne Autumn

Mary Poppins

The Unsinkable Molly Brown

1965 Black and White: Ship of Fools

Color: Doctor Zhivago

Black and White: In Harm’s Way

King Rat


A Patch of Blue

Color: The Agony and the Ecstasy

The Great Race

The Greatest Story Ever Told

The Sound of Music

1966 Black and White: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Color: A Man for All Seasons

Black and White: The Fortune Cookie

Georgy Girl

Is Paris Burning?


Color: Fantastic Voyage


The Professionals

The Sand Pebbles

1967 Bonnie and Clyde Camelot

Doctor Dolittle

The Graduate

In Cold Blood

1968 Romeo and Juliet Funny Girl

Ice Station Zebra



1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Anne of the Thousand Days

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

Hello, Dolly!


1970 Ryan’s Daughter Patton


Tora! Tora! Tora!

Women in Love

1971 Fiddler on the Roof The French Connection

The Last Picture Show

Nicholas and Alexandra

Summer of ‘42

1972 Cabaret 1776

Butterflies are Free

The Poseidon Adventure

Travels with my Aunt

1973 Cries and Whispers The Exorcist

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

The Sting

The Way We Were

1974 The Towering Inferno Chinatown



Murder on the Orient Express

1975 Barry Lyndon The Day of the Locust

Funny Lady

The Hindenburg

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest

1976 Bound for Glory King Kong

Logan’s Run


A Star is Born

1977 Close Encounters of the Third Kind Islands in the Stream


Looking for Mr. Goodbar

The Turning Point

1978 Days of Heaven The Deer Hunter

Heaven Can Wait

Same Time, Next Year

The Wiz

1979 Apocalypse Now 1941

All That Jazz

The Black Hole

Kramer vs. Kramer

1980 Tess The Blue Lagoon

Coal Miner’s Daughter

The Formula

Raging Bull

1981 Reds Excalibur

On Golden Pond


Raiders of the Lost Ark

1982 Gandhi Das Boot

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Sophie’s Choice


1983 Fanny and Alexander Flashdance

The Right Stuff



1984 The Killing Fields Amadeus

The Natural

A Passage to India

The River

1985 Out of Africa The Color Purple

Murphy’s Romance



1986 The Mission Peggy Sue Got Married


A Room with a View

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

1987 The Last Emperor Broadcast News

Empire of the Sun

Hope and Glory


1988 Mississippi Burning Rain Man

Tequila Sunrise

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

1989 Glory The Abyss


Born on the Fourth of July

The Fabulous Baker Boys

1990 Dances with Wolves Avalon

Dick Tracy

The Godfather Part III

Henry & June

1991 JFK Bugsy

The Prince of Tides

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Thelma & Louise

1992 A River Runs Through It Hoffa

Howards End

The Lover


1993 Schindler’s List Farewell My Concubine

The Fugitive

The Piano

Searching for Bobby Fisher

1994 Legends of the Fall Forrest Gump

The Shawshank Redemption

Three Colors: Red

Wyatt Earp

1995 Braveheart Batman Forever

A Little Princess

Sense and Sensibility

Shanghai Triad

1996 The English Patient Evita


Fly Away Home

Michael Collins

1997 Titanic Amistad


L.A. Confidential

The Wings of the Dove

1998 Saving Private Ryan A Civil Action


Shakespeare in Love

The Thin Red Line

1999 American Beauty The End of the Affair

The Insider

Sleepy Hollow

Snow Falling on Cedars

2000 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Gladiator


O Brother Where Art Thou?

The Patriot

2001 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Amélie

Black Hawk Down

The Man Who Wasn’t There

Moulin Rouge!

2002 Road to Perdition Chicago

Far from Heaven

Gangs of New York

The Pianist

2003 Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World City of God

Cold Mountain

Girl with a Pearl Earring


2004 The Aviator House of Flying Daggers

The Passion of the Christ

The Phantom of the Opera

A Very Long Engagement

2005 Memoirs of a Geisha Batman Begins

Brokeback Mountain

Good Night, and Good Luck

The New World

2006 Pan’s Labyrinth The Black Dahlia

Children of Men

The Illusionist

The Prestige

2007 There Will Be Blood The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford


The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

No Country for Old Men

2008 Slumdog Millionaire Changeling

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight

The Reader

2009 Avatar Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The Hurt Locker

Inglourious Basterds

The White Ribbon

2010 Inception Black Swan

The King’s Speech

The Social Network

True Grit

2011 Hugo The Artist

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Tree of Life

War Horse

2012 Life of Pi Anna Karenina

Django Unchained



2013 Gravity The Grandmaster

Inside Llewyn Davis



2014 Birdman The Grand Budapest Hotel


Mr. Turner


2015 The Revenant Carol

The Hateful Eight

Mad Max: Fury Road


2016 La La Land Arrival




We have to start with the guild, ASC, and how that matches up to the Oscar. ASC has been handing out awards since 1986, so we have a track record to go by.

  • 1986, Peggy Sue Got Married (lost to The Mission, which it beat for ASC)
  • 1987, Empire of the Sun (lost to The Last Emperor, which it beat for ASC)
  • 1988, Tequila Sunrise (lost to Mississippi Burning, which it beat for ASC)
  • 1989, Blaze (lost to Glory, which wasn’t nominated for ASC)
  • 1990, Dances with Wolves (won both)
  • 1991, Bugsy (lost to JFK, which it beat for ASC)
  • 1992, Hoffa (lost to A River Runs Through It, which it beat for ASC)
  • 1993, Searching for Bobby Fischer (lost to Schindler’s List, which it beat for ASC)
  • 1994, The Shawshank Redemption (Deakins’ first win. Lost to Legends of the Fall, which it beat for ASC)
  • 1995, Braveheart (won both)
  • 1996, The English Patient (won both)
  • 1997, Titanic (won both)
  • 1998, The Thin Red Line (lost to Saving Private Ryan, which it beat for ASC)
  • 1999, American Beauty (won both)
  • 2000, The Patriot (lost to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which it beat for ASC)
  • 2001, The Man Who Wasn’t There (Deakins #2. Lost to Fellowship, which it beat for ASC)
  • 2002, Road to Perdition (won both)
  • 2003, Seabiscuit (lost to Master and Commander, which it beat for ASC. That was a weird year)
  • 2004, A Very Long Engagement (lost to The Aviator, which it beat for ASC)
  • 2005, Memoirs of a Geisha (won both)
  • 2006, Children of Men (fuck yeah! But it lost to Pan’s Labyrinth, which wasn’t even nominated for ASC. That’s a first. Maybe because Navarro wasn’t in the guild?)
  • 2007, There Will Be Blood (won both)
  • 2008, Slumdog Millionaire (won both)
  • 2009, The White Ribbon (lost to Avatar, which it beat for ASC)
  • 2010, Inception (won both)
  • 2011, The Tree of Life (lost to Hugo, which it beat for ASC)
  • 2012, Skyfall (Deakins #3. Lost to Life of Pi, which it beat for ASC)
  • 2013, Gravity (won both)
  • 2014, Birdman (won both)
  • 2015, The Revenant (won both)
  • 2016, Lion (lost to La La Land, which it beat for ASC)

They’re 6/10 the past ten years, 10/20 the past twenty. So at best, they’re only right 60% of the time. Going back all-time, they’re 13/31, which is 42%. So temper those expectations for how much they’re gonna help.

BAFTA’s exactly the same. 6/10. They are 5/5 in the last five years, though. 9/20 in 20 years, so slightly worse than ASC, and going back to 1986, they’re technically 12/31, but if you count them having Mississippi Burning the year after the Oscars did, they’re the exact same as ASC, which is fine, but not great, overall.

BFCA, meanwhile, only started handing out awards since 2009, and are 7/8 overall, only missing Hugo in 2011.

This year, all three awards went to Roger Deakins for Blade Runner 2049. Which means this might be the year, guys. Let’s get our hopes up only to have them dashed again!

Best Cinematography

Blade Runner 2049

Darkest Hour



The Shape of Water


5. Mudbound — Rachel Morrison is the first women ever nominated for this award. Which is an incredible feat and hopefully the first of many more to come. That said… no precursors, the film has the least support in the category… can’t see it anything other than a fifth choice here.

4. Darkest Hour — Six overall nominations including Best Picture. That alone should get it more votes than Mudbound. Plus, it looks gorgeous. Very classically shot, beautiful compositions. But again, no precursors, and no real feeling that it’s gonna get this. It’ll get two awards — Actor and Makeup — but that’s it. Normally a movie like this would threaten to go home empty-handed. I can’t see it getting enough support in this category to overtake the other two.

3. The Shape of Water — The Best Picture favorite. It’ll get votes. It could sneak up and win this. 2006, Children of Men won the precursors before losing to a Guillermo film. So it’s not out of the realm that this wins. That said, gotta keep it a third choice here for now, just because of the lack of precursors and because… well, on sight alone, I have to assume people know what the best efforts were. So it’s a third choice that can happen, but I think it’s a solid third choice.

2. Dunkirk — Watching the stuff this movie accomplishes, I’d have thought this was a slam dunk winner. But it lost every precursor, even the BAFTA. Maybe they’re trying to force Deakins through this year. I hope it works. But for me, this was the best effort of the year, and it’s feeling like people feel like everything about this movie was so on the nose they don’t want to vote for it. Maybe it’ll win like I figured four months ago. Don’t know. But it can’t be considered the favorite right now. So we’ll have to leave this discussion for Oscar night.

1. Blade Runner 2049 — It won all the precursors. ASC and BAFTA being the two biggest, and they are big. Now, this has happened… I already quoted 2006 where a Guillermo movie beat the film that won both of those. It’s rare for both places to agree and then they’re wrong. Before 2006, the other time it happened was 2001… where Roger Deakins lost. So really, the last two times a precursor sweep happened, one of the times, a Guillermo movie won and the other, a Roger Deakins movie lost. So let’s not call this a lock. Dude’s 0-13. But he is the favorite based on all the data we have. So let’s take that for now and see how things progress.

– – – – – – – – – –


One response

  1. I too prefer Van Hoytema, but if the Academy wants to award Roger Deakins and Gary Oldman this year, then that’s their choice.

    February 19, 2018 at 1:45 pm

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