What films does Oscar like best?
With the 84th Academy Awards almost upon us, the battle is on for the most prestigious of all the Oscars - the best picture prize. Are some types of film more likely to win than others? Explore the chart below to find out how genres have fared in the category since 1927-28.Continue reading the main story
Select a genre to find out about its Oscar record.
Roll over the decade lines for nominees and winners.
No Country for Old MenThriller: The genre won most nominations in the 1970s - a decade noted for conspiracy films, such as All the President's Men (1976). The period also saw the first Jaws (1975) and psychological-thriller Taxi Driver (1976) win nominations. Yet, despite more than 15 Oscar nods, thrillers have won just two best picture Oscars - Silence of the Lambs (1991) and No Country for Old Men (2007).
The ExorcistHorror: Only one horror film has been nominated for a best picture Oscar - The Exorcist (1973). The film, a story of a mother's attempts to win back her daughter from demonic possession, was actually nominated for 10 Academy Awards that year and won two - but not best picture. However, some class Silence of the Lambs (1991) as horror - and if so, it would be the only horror best picture winner.
Hurt LockerWar: War films are often paired with other genres. However, our research shows Oscar nominations for those primarily defined as war films peaked in the 1940s, inspired by the events of WWII, and have remained steady since. All Quiet on the Western Front (1929-30) was the first to win. Other winners include The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and the more recent The Hurt Locker (2009).
Star WarsSci-fi and fantasy: Science fiction has little success at the Oscars outside the technical categories. The original Star Wars (1977) lost out on the best picture award to Annie Hall and ET: The Extra-terrestrial (1982) was beaten by biopic Gandhi. The genre had to wait until the new century for its first best picture win, with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), despite 15 nominations.
CleopatraPeriod and historical: Most best picture nominations in this genre came in the 1950s and 60s - when the historical epic was at its popular peak. Quo Vadis (1951), Julius Caesar (1953), The Robe (1953), The Ten Commandments (1956) and Cleopatra (1963) all received nods. But it was Ben-Hur (1960) that broke records, converting 11 of 12 nominations. The category has won four best picture Oscars.
Erin BrockovichBiopic: Biopics have done well at the Oscars. Most success came in the 80s and noughties. Winners include Daniel Day-Lewis as disabled artist Christy Brown in My Left Foot (1989), Ben Kingsley as Indian leader Gandhi (1982) and Julia Roberts as activist Erin Brockovich (2000). Overall, there are seven best picture biopic winners up until 2009. The King's Speech (2010) starts the tally for the next decade.
CasablancaRomance: Peaking, perhaps unsurprisingly, in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, romance films have declined in popularity with Oscar. The successful years appear to have mirrored troubled periods of American history, such as the depression era and World War II and its aftermath. Best picture winner Casablanca (1943) is consistently voted the most romantic film of all time.
Raiders of the Lost ArkAction adventure: Few action adventure films have been voted nominees for best picture. Most came in the 1930s - an era of swashbuckling heroes - with Mutiny on the Bounty taking the top prize in 1935. Rocky (1976), Titanic (1997) and Gladiator (2000) are more recent winners. The one Indiana Jones film to make it into the nominations - Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) - missed out to Chariots of Fire.
UpFamily: Family films have not had much best picture success. Skippy (1930-31) and the Yearling (1946) were some early nominees. More recently, Beauty and the Beast (1991), Babe (1995) and Up (2009) received Oscar nods. Yet, films in other categories, such as the Wizard of Oz (1939), the Sound of Music (1965) and Mary Poppins (1964), could be classified as family movies and would increase the total.
Shakespeare in LoveComedy: Many claim comedy is undervalued on Oscars night. Nominations appear to have peaked in the 1930s - the era of screwball comedies - but tailed off, before having a resurgence and remaining steady. But, despite more than 60 nominations, only nine have won the top prize. Black comedy Dr. Strangelove (1964) missed out. The last best picture winner was Shakespeare in Love (1999) - a romantic comedy.
Brokeback MountainWestern: Many argue the Western does not receive the Oscar credit it deserves. While the 1930s, 40s and 50s were the Western glory years at the box office, two of the genre's three best-picture winners are from more recent times: Indian epic Dances With Wolves (1990) and Clint Eastwood's gunman-for-hire tale Unforgiven (1992). Recently, Brokeback Mountain lost out to Crash in 2005.
Great ZiegfeldMusical: At their popular peak in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, musicals have, over the years, been rewarded with more than 40 Oscar nominations and have won 10. Most nods came in the 1930s - including one for ultimate winner The Great Ziegfeld (1936). Other notable musical winners are West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965). Musical nominations petered out in the 1980s.
Million Dollar BabyDrama: Drama has been rewarded well at the Oscars, although it is the broadest category. It received the largest percentage of nominations in all decades except for the 1950s, when it was outdone by romance. Our research shows drama has also won the most Oscars - a total of 20. Winners include One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and Million Dollar Baby (2004).
The GodfatherCrime: Crime and gangster films date back to film's silent era, but Oscar nominations peaked in the 1970s and 90s. It was in the 70s that gangster classics The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II (1974) won top honours. In the 90s came The Godfather, Part III (1990) - although it didn't win - GoodFellas (1990) and Pulp Fiction (1994). In total, six crime films have won a best picture Oscar.
- All genres
- Sci-fi and fantasy
- Period and historical
- Action adventure
- (w) Oscar winner
- Source: Academy Awards database, American Film Institute, IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
About the data: The chart shows the percentage of best picture nominees by genre and per decade. It tracks the change from one decade to another - up to 2009. All films have been categorised by the most commonly used genre by the American Film Institute (AFI), the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and Rotten Tomatoes.
For ease of analysis, where a film falls into multiple categories, its most defining category has been used, eg. if it is classed as a crime drama, it is included in crime. The period and historical category includes most epics, crime includes gangster and detective films, the thriller genre includes mystery and suspense and comedy includes comedy drama and romantic comedy. Although the categorisation is not intended to be definitive, it aims to give a flavour of the rise and fall of different genres over time.