Oscars 2019 Category Breakdown: Best Adapted 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 Adapted Screenplay. Which is when you take a book, write it down slightly differently and then take all the credit for yourself when you win.

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


2017 Call Me By Your Name The Disaster Artist


Molly’s Game


2018 BlacKkKlansman The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Can You Ever Forgive Me

If Beale Street Could Talk

A Star Is Born

The WGA is the precursor here, with BAFTA and BFCA as supporting pieces.

Here’s WGA vs. the Oscars:

  • 2018: Can You Ever Forgive Me? wins WGA Adapted. BlacKkKlansman wins the Oscar.
  • 2017: Call Me By Your Name wins WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2016: Moonlight wins WGA Original and the Oscar.
  • 2015: The Big Short wins WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2014: The Imitation Game wins WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2013: Captain Phillips wins WGA Adapted. 12 Years a Slave isn’t eligible for WGA and wins the Oscar.
  • 2012: Argo wins both WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2011: The Descendants wins both WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2010: The Social Network wins both WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2009: Up in the Air wins WGA Adapted. Precious wins the Oscar.
  • 2008: Slumdog Millionaire wins both WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2007: No Country for Old Men wins both WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2006: The Departed wins both WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2005: Brokeback Mountain wins both WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2004: Sideways wins both WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2003: American Splendor wins WGA Adapted. Return of the King wins the Oscar.
  • 2002: The Hours wins WGA Adapted. The Pianist is not eligible for the WGA and wins the Oscar.
  • 2001: A Beautiful Mind wins both WGA Adapted and the Oscar.
  • 2000: Traffic wins both WGA Adapted and the Oscar.

They’ve generally been really solid. Aside from ineligibles, only three misses. One is the obvious sweep vote we all saw coming, one is one of the bigger Oscar shockers of the past 15 years, and the other was kind of a tossup based on the precursor, but I think we all expected Spike to take that one down. So really, you can kinda know when it’s gonna go opposite.

BAFTA, meanwhile, not so great on their own, and 3/5 on WGA misses (they had BlacKkKlansman, Return of the King and Traffic. Everyone missed Precious and everyone missed The Pianist. So overall, pretty good for figuring who it’s gonna be if the WGA is wrong.

And BFCA… not amazing here. They had 12 Years a Slave (which was an obvious winner), missed everything else and had some other not-right choices along the way.

Oh, and there’s the USC Scripter award, which I’m not crazy about, but they are pretty accurate. Last year their winner wasn’t nominated, and before that all they missed was 2009, which everyone else missed. So generally they’ve been on the mark.

Generally, if the WGA says it’s gonna win, it’s probably gonna win, but also, if everyone else likes an alternative choice, that also could win as well. Generally you have a pretty good idea just by looking at who voted for what.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Irishman

Jojo Rabbit


Little Women

The Two Popes

Not that crazy a category. Only six scripts hit the precursors along the way, and the alternative to these five was A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Considering Two Popes had the Globe nomination for Best Picture and was generally pretty liked, you figured that would be on. Little Women, Jojo and Irishman were all locks to be on, and you knew Joker would be on. It was a pretty easy one to figure out. Just leave off the film with zero support outside of Tom Hanks. And then you had your category.

In terms of the precursors this year, it started off strong in one direction and then roared back the other way since then:

  • WGA: Jojo Rabbit
  • BAFTA: Jojo Rabbit
  • BFCA: Little Women
  • USC Scripter: Little Women

So yeah. Enough to parse this one fairly simply.


5. The Two Popes — I can’t really see this getting votes. The nomination is the reward, and I think that’s pretty apparent when you look at the category. It’s the least lauded film in the category and I’m not sure where the votes are coming from. I can’t really see it as anything other than fifth in this.

4. Joker — No precursor and no real respect for it. I’m not talking about the number of nominations, I mean in terms of genre. Comic book movies never win here. They barely get nominated. And even if you wanna go, “But they’re doing Scorsese/70s!” — none of Marty’s movies before Goodfellas was ever nominated for Screenplay. Not Raging Bull, not Taxi Driver, not Mean Streets. There is no way this is getting votes here. I could actually make the case that Two Popes will get more votes than this in this category, but given 11 nominations, I’m showing it the respect of fourth.

3. The Irishman — It’s Steve Zaillian. So that’s respect. But, Marty movies have rarely been nominated for Screenplay, and when they are, they never win. The Departed is the only Marty movie to actually win for its script. So I can’t see this happening, but we’ll show it the respect of third because I really can’t see the other two competing for it.

2. Little Women — I’m rooting hard for Greta. I watched this movie again yesterday and I think it’s just a masterpiece. But, my feeling has nothing to do with what’s gonna happen. She started off really strong, with the BFCA win and then the Scripter win, but then Jojo went off and took both the WGA and BAFTA. And it’s hard to think that Jojo won’t have more love for it than this will. This is respected, but people will think of how funny Jojo is and I think that will ultimately sway them. That’s not to say that Greta can’t win this, but I have to consider her the second choice all the way through.

1. Jojo Rabbit — WGA and BAFTA. Those are the two big ones. BFCA isn’t great in this category (5/10 the past decade) and the Scripter I really can’t put too much stock in because it’s a school that’s awarding it. WGA and BAFTA have real voters in there. So this has to for sure be considered the favorite to win until it loses.

– – – – – – – – – –


One response

  1. GO GRETA!

    February 4, 2020 at 2:13 pm

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