The Best Picture award at the Academy Awards is the most prestigious prize that an aspiring filmmaker could work towards.
Are there any trends that you should follow to ensure you get a look in?
The first thing to look at is genre, and incredibly, almost half of the best picture winners have been Drama’s. This includes films such as “Birdman” from only a couple of years ago to “All Quiet on the Western Front” winning in 1929. And whilst we’re on the topic of ‘Western’, this is a category you’d be well advised to avoid, with only one Oscar winner coming in 1992 with “Unforgiven”.
We’ll now take a look at duration. The length of your film may seem unimportant, but it’s more relevant than you may imagine. No films of under an hour and a half have managed to make it all the way to Best Picture. Definitely something to keep in mind if your feature is coming in at a mean hour and twenty five minutes. The shortest on the list is “Marty” coming in at exactly ninety minutes whereas the longest is the 1939 epic “Gone with the Wind”.
The third thing to consider is the release date. Again, if you think it’s unimportant then you are very much mistaken. Thirty nine out of eighty one films in this dataset have come out between the months of October and December, proving that the later in the year you release your film the better chance you have of taking home that golden trophy. This is coincidentally the nearest grouping that can be considered for the next years Oscars. Apparently if you go last it remains pretty fresh in the Academy’s memory.
Finally, it’s time to look at what the critics are saying. Out of the 40 Best Picture winners that have a Metacritic rating, twenty seven of them have a score of 81 or over, which also equates to 4/5 stars and over. That is telling. Telling in the sense that unless the critics think your film is great (or the ‘best’), the academy probably won’t either. There are some exceptions to this, with “Gladiator” and “Rain Man” each earning a 64 and 65 rating respectively. That being said, I’d play close attention to make it not only popular with the audience, but with the harshest critics as well.
These four key features show common themes between the characteristics of your film/it’s release that will land you in the strongest position possible to take home that Oscar. Happy Awards Season!