Oscars 2019 Category Breakdown: Best Original Screenplay
Here’s how this works: every day leading up to the Oscars, I break down each of the 24 categories. The goal is to both familiarize everyone with the category itself (how it works, what its history is and how you go about figuring out what’s gonna win) while also making it easier to reference when I write my giant article with picks and everything. A lot of the leg work is already here. But really, the goal is to see if there’s anything to look for leading into Oscar night that could be a shortcut to me picking the category.
What we do is — I give you all the winners of the category throughout history, go over all the recent trends if there are any, discuss the precursors and whether or not they matter, and then we talk about this year’s category and how we got to it, and then just look at where we are and rank the nominees in terms of their likelihood of winning (at the current moment in time. Of course, things can and will change going into the ceremony). It’s all pretty simple. I’ve done this every year. Everyone should know the drill.
Today is Best Original Screenplay, and boy, do I get happy when more Best Pictures come from original scripts than adapted ones.
|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
|2017||Get Out||The Big Sick
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
|2018||Green Book||The Favourite
It’s a screenplay category, so the WGA is the big precursor, and then we have BAFTA and BFCA. Technically the Globes give out a Screenplay award too, but it’s a single category that includes everything. Plus, it’s the Globes.
The big note for this, though, is that the WGA does have ineligible scripts (the big one this year is ineligible at the WGA). But typically you have a good idea of the category just by looking at it too. But we’ll start with the WGA.
Here’s the WGA’s recent history in this category:
- 2018: Eight Grade wins the WGA and Green Book wins the Oscar. (Eighth Grade was not nominated for the Oscar.)
- 2017: Get Out wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
- 2016: Moonlight wins WGA Original and won the Oscar for Adapted. So I guess they were right?
- 2015: Spotlight wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
- 2014: Birdman is ineligible for the WGA and wins the Oscar. The Grand Budapest Hotel wins WGA Original.
- 2013: Her wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
- 2012: Django Unchained is ineligible for the WGA and wins the Oscar. Zero Dark Thirty wins WGA Original.
- 2011: Midnight in Paris wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
- 2010: The King’s Speech is ineligible for the WGA and wins the Oscar. Inception wins WGA Original.
- 2009: The Hurt Locker wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
- 2008: Milk wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
- 2007: Juno wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
- 2006: Little Miss Sunshine wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
- 2005: Crash wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
- 2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
- 2003: Lost in Translation wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
- 2002: The WGA winner and the Oscar winner were not nominated in the other’s category. So this one’s a blank.
- 2001: Gosford Park wins both WGA Original and the Oscar.
- 2000: You Can Count on Me wins WGA Original and Almost Famous wins the Oscar.
We’ve only got two instances in 20 years where something was eligible at the WGA and lost and still won the Oscar. One is last year, which is unhelpful all around, because Eighth Grade wasn’t even nominated for the Oscar. But both Green Book and Roma, the presumed favorites, lost at the WGA. But at least the winner wasn’t nominated, so it didn’t really throw that much of a wrench in the plans. 2000 is the only time where something won the WGA, was nominated for the Oscar and then lost.
BAFTA, meanwhile, is 11/19. In seven of the eight misses, the Oscar winner was also nominated there (Her being the exception). And BFCA, since they split their Screenplay categories in 2009, are 8/10. Their misses were in 2009, where they picked Quentin, who lost to The Hurt Locker in the end, and then last year, where they voted for First Reformed, which lost. The Globes are 13/19 since 2000 in their Screenplay winner winning one of the two categories. Which is solid, all things considered.
Also, just so we’re clear about this part, here’s a lost of all the times the Best Picture winner did not win Best Screenplay (either category):
- 2017, The Shape of Water loses to Get Out.
- 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.
32 times out of 91 Best Picture winners. So generally look at those, but also pay attention to the precursors.
Best Original Screenplay
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
This category was pretty straightforward. The only real major alternatives were The Farewell and Booksmart. Booksmart hit all the big precursors but also felt like something they’d leave off. And The Farewell just never got the real support anywhere to contend. Plus 1917 was showing huge support across all the guilds, so it makes sense these were the five.
Currently, only BFCA and the Globe have announced, and both went to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Quentin is ineligible for the WGA, which he’s always been, despite two previous Oscar wins and nearly a third, and I don’t think we need a BAFTA winner to rank these five.
5. Knives Out — Sorry, Rian Johnson. But at least they nominated you. This is the only nomination for the film. The last time a non-Best Picture nominee won this category was Eternal Sunshine, aka Charlie Kaufman in his third nomination after arguably two snubs (and the only Picture nominee it had to beat was The Aviator, which wasn’t that difficult). And the last time a film won Original Screenplay with it being it’s only nomination? 1957. Designing Women. So yeah, unless this wins WGA or BAFTA, it’s the fifth choice and is never gonna happen.
4. Marriage Story — Best Picture nominee, six nominations overall and Noah Baumbach. However, no precursors to this point (and I can’t see BAFTA going its way, and a WGA win, if it happens, will be tainted either way because of the Quentin ineligibility) and this is Buambach’s first nomination. Hard to see it happening, so I’ll keep it the fourth choice for now, even though in the end I might be persuaded to bump it up to third.
3. 1917 — It’s the presumed Best Picture frontrunner, which should command enough respect to make it a third choice. Do we all think on a pure ‘screenplay’ level that Marriage Story should be put above it? Sure. But the Best Picture winner tends to also come along in Screenplay a lot of years. Though this is a war movie, so it doesn’t need to and would make sense if it didn’t. But I am gonna show it that respect for the moment and we’ll see if either the WGA goes there in the end. BAFTA didn’t nominate it either, which tells you something. But I’m thinking this doesn’t ever get higher than third.
2. Parasite — It’s a big Best Picture contender and perhaps the consensus favorite film of the year. I suspect this will win the WGA in the absence of Quentin and we’ll see which way BAFTA goes between the two. But until this wins some precursors I can’t consider it the favorite just yet, even though clearly it’s a 50/50 proposition.
1. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — It’s Quentin and he’s won it twice, and this time he’s got a major Best Picture nominee. Granted, he had one with Basterds and lost. But that was to Hurt Locker, which won Best Picture. He’s already got a Globes win (meaningless, but helpful) and a BFCA win (more helpful). He can’t win the WGA because he’s ineligible, but if he wins BAFTA, then this should be a done deal. If Parasite wins both, then we talk and we’ve got an interesting toss up on our hands. But for now, he’s gotta be considered the favorite based on what we’ve seen so far.
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