Academy Awards: How To Win Best Picture In 7 Steps

Entertainment / Movies
best picture
Posted on January 27, 2016 by Tessa Boyce

The 88th Academy Awards are coming to ABC this February, and the media is buzzing with opinions about the academy’s nomination choices. But what does it take to receive a best picture nomination and win?

PrettyFamous researched historical trends in best picture wins to see which attributes these films have in common. Using data from Gracenote, PrettyFamous researched seven components that illustrate the typical best picture.

Pay attention aspiring directors — if you want to increase your chances of winning best picture at the Academy Awards, follow this blueprint to success.


1. Genre


Piece of advice No. 1? Film a drama. The academy almost always chooses some type of drama for best picture. While other genres may make it into the nomination stage, such as the action-packed thriller Mad Max: Fury Road, it is doubtful that Mad Max will beat serious, dramatic films like Spotlight or The Big Short at this year’s ceremony.


2. Plot


One key plot point the academy often rewards is a heterosexual love story.

Some films have also been successful integrating numerous subjects. Take Forrest Gump or The Sound of Music for example, films that intertwine love, friendship, family and death, along with horrors of war. However, not all WWII love stories make it to the Oscars — Michael Bay‘s Pearl Harbor has a meager 25 percent rating by critics on Rotten Tomatoes.


3. Lead Actor


The chances of winning best picture go way up if the lead actor is male. Less than one in five best pictures feature a female as the lead character. And it’s not enough for the lead to just be male — white male leads are the winningest combination for best pictures.

The exception representing the single Southeast Asian/Indian lead above is Indian actor Dev Patel for the film Slumdog Millionaire, which won best picture in 2008.


4. Director


Directors Alejandro González Iñárritu and Kathryn Bigelow stand out among the long list of white male directors whose films have won best picture. The 2016 Oscar nominations stuck with the status quo: all eight films nominated for best picture were directed by white males between the ages of 46 and 78.


5. Location


Where to film? A family home or household in New York City or England. Films like The Godfather and West Side Story or The King’s Speech use these settings to help make the story come alive.


6. Length


Most films that win best picture are over two hours. The longest film to ever win? Gone With the Wind, which features a whopping run time of three hours and 58 minutes.


7. Release Month


Studios know to release Avengers-style blockbusters in the summer, and intense dramas in the fall and winter.

Recent exceptions? Gladiator, Crash and The Hurt Locker each came out in May or June. Still, it’s best to release a best picture hopeful closer to when the academy votes, so it’s fresh in their minds. Of the 87 films that have won best picture, 49 were released between October and December.

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