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
Our Dancing Daughters
Sal of Singapore
A Woman of Affairs
Wonder of Women
|1929-1930||The Big House||All Quiet on the Western Front
Street of Chance
|1930-1931||Cimarron||The Criminal Code
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
|1932-1933||Little Women||Lady for a Day
|1934||It Happened One Night||The Thin Man
|1935||The Informer||The Lives of a Bengal Lancer
Mutiny on the Bounty
|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
A Star is Born
You Can’t Take It With You
|1939||Gone With the Wind||Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
|1940||The Philadelphia Story||The Grapes of Wrath
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
The Talk of the Town
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
Rome, Open City
|1947||Miracle on 34th Street||Boomerang
|1948||The Treasure of the Siera Madre||A Foreign Affair
The Snake Pit
|1949||A Letter to Three Wives||All the King’s Men
The Fallen Idol
|1950||All About Eve||The Asphalt Jungle
Father of the Bride
|1951||A Place in the Sun||The African Queen
A Streetcar Named Desire
|1952||The Bad and the Beautiful||5 Fingers
The Man in the White Suit
The Quiet Man
|1953||From Here to Eternity||The Cruel Sea
|1954||The Country Girl||The Caine Mutiny
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
|1955||Marty||Bad Day at Black Rock
East of Eden
Love Me or Leave Me
|1956||Around the World in 80 Days||Baby Doll
Lust for Life
|1957||The Bridge on the River Kwai||Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison
12 Angry Men
|1958||Gigi||Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
The Horse’s Mouth
I Want to Live!
|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
Tunes of Glory
|1961||Judgment at Nuremberg||Breakfast at Tiffany’s
The Guns of Navarone
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
My Fair Lady
Zorba the Greek
|1965||Doctor Zhivago||Cat Ballou
Ship of Fools
A Thousand Clowns
|1966||A Man for All Seasons||Alfie
The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
|1967||In the Heat of the Night||Cool Hand Luke
In Cold Blood
|1968||The Lion in Winter||The Odd Couple
|1969||Midnight Cowboy||Anne of the Thousand Days
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
I Never Sang for My Father
Lovers and Other Strangers
Women in Love
|1971||The French Connection||A Clockwork Orange
The Garden of the Finzi Continis
The Last Picture Show
Pete ‘n’ Tillie
|1973||The Exorcist||The Last Detail
The Paper Chase
|1974||The Godfather Part II||The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
Murder on the Orient Express
|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
The Seven Per-Cent Solution
Voyage of the Damned
I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
That Obscure Object of Desire
Heaven Can Wait
Same Time, Next Year
|1979||Kramer vs. Kramer||Apocalypse Now
La Cage aux Folles
A Little Romance
|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
|1983||Terms of Endearment||Betrayal
|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
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
Full Metal Jacket
My Life as a Dog
|1988||Dangerous Liaisons||The Accidental Tourist
Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey
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
Reversal of Fortune
|1991||The Silence of the Lambs||Europa Europa
Fried Green Tomatoes
The Prince of Tides
|1992||Howards End||Enchanted April
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
The Shawshank Redemption
|1995||Sense and Sensibility||Apollo 13
Leaving Las Vegas
|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
A Simple Plan
The Thin Red Line
|1999||The Cider House Rules||Election
The Green Mile
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
O Brother Where Art Thou?
|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
|2003||The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King||American Splendor
City of God
Million Dollar Baby
The Motorcycle Diaries
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
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
|2009||Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire||District 9
In the Loop
Up in the Air
|2010||The Social Network||127 Hours
Toy Story 3
|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
The Wolf of Wall Street
|2014||The Imitation Game||American Sniper
The Theory of Everything
|2015||The Big Short||Brooklyn
|2017||Call Me By Your Name||The Disaster Artist
|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 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.
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