Due to the yearlong pandemic, the Academy Awards are being held at the latest point of spring ever since 1934, when the ceremony moved into the first quarter for the first time. Because “awards season” has been longer than ever, that allowed us to do some dives into the data of Oscars past. The winners are remembered most, but many of the top nominations over the past 50 years might surprise you. As we are about to embark on a new decade of Oscars, join us as we look back at each preceding decade, starting with the New Hollywood era of the 1970s through Parasite’s history-making win last year. Yes, that was last year!

After perusing our look back, scan all the titles from Oscars’ past, available to watch on demand on Vudu. They’ve broken them down like we did below, with an on-demand list for most nominations, Best Picture nominees, and both lead acting categories.


The 1970s: The Godfather, The Sting, and The First Woman Nominated for Best Director

Oscars 70s Recap

The Godfather, of course, launched Al Pacino’s career and though he never won an Oscar in the 1970s, Pacino became the most nominated actor of the decade with nominations for The Godfather, Serpico, The Godfather Part II, Dog Day Afternoon and …And Justice for All. Not bad for someone that the studio tried to fire while Francis Ford Coppola was already shooting the first Godfather film. Pacino, famously, would rack up nomination after nomination before finally winning for the 1992 film, Scent of a Woman. Francis Ford Coppola’s first gangland opus won Best Picture but Coppola wouldn’t win Best Director until The Godfather Part II, which also won Best Picture and became the first sequel to win the top award.

Meanwhile, Ellen Burstyn and Jane Fonda tied for the most nominations for an actress in the 1970s. Like Pacino, Burstyn started in the Supporting category with The Last Picture Show before The Exorcist went on to become the first horror movie nominated for Best Picture (Burstyn also became the first to be nominated in lead acting category in a horror film). Burstyn won for Martin Scorsese’s motherhood drama, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, and she was nominated once more in the decade, for Same Time, Next Year. Fonda was a double winner in the 1970s, winning for both the thrilling murder-mystery, Klute, and the Vietnam War drama, Coming Home. She was also nominated for The China Syndrome and Julia.

There was a four-way tie for the most nominations for a single film released in the 70s, but Turning Point was the only film with 11 nominations to not win a single Oscar, an unusual occurrence at the time which has become more common place in the subsequent decades. Turning Point starred Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft as two women who embarked on different paths through the ballet world one remained a dancer, while the other became a wife and mother and runs a ballet school that her daughter has now joined.

The landmark nomination from the era, however, goes to Italian director Lina Wertmüller, who became the first woman ever nominated for Best Director with Seven Beauties. Wertmüller was also nominated for her Seven Beauties screenplay, a dark — sometimes comedic — journey of mishaps and misjudgments set during WWII Italy. She won an Honorary career achievement Oscar last year.

Oscars 70s Recap

While the first two Godfather movies have the most historical lore from this era (there are even dueling properties being made right now, a feature film and a television series, about the making of The Godfather) it might surprise you to know that The Sting actually out-grossed it in the States ($156M to $135M). The Robert Redford-Paul Newman Best Picture winner, however, was not released internationally, making it the only highest-grossing Best Picture winner that wasn’t the worldwide champ on this list. On the way to becoming a global phenomenon, The Godfather grossed $246M worldwide.


The 1980s: Political Epics, Meryl Streep Begins Her Dominant Four-Decade Run

Oscars 80s Recap

Unlike the 1970s, which shared the wealth, the 1980s were big on the Oscar sweeps to match the epic runtimes of many of the Best Picture nominees. With the Cold War a focal point under Ronald Reagan, the movies reflected that as well with The Last Emperor — documenting Pu Yi, the final Emperor of China before the Communist Revolution — was the biggest winner of the decade with nine Oscar wins. And Warren Beatty’s Reds — documenting American sympathizers with the Soviet Revolution — was the most nominated film of the 1980s with 12 nominations (it won three, including Best Director for Beatty).

Alongside those awards behemoths were two actors who did not share their real estate with others, Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, who were the most nominated actors of the decade. Nicholson won Best Supporting Actor for Terms of Endearment — which also won Best Picture — and was also nominated for Reds, Prizzi’s Honor, and Ironweed. Nicholson’s co-lead in Ironweed, Meryl Streep, officially began her dominance of Oscar nominations in the 1980s. Though, she’d won her first Oscar in 1979 for Kramer vs. Kramer, the 1980s would grant her an astounding six nominations in 10 years, including her first Best (Leading) Actress win for Sophie’s Choice. Streep is far and away the most nominated actor ever with 21 total Oscar nominations. Her closest rival for most nominations? Nicholson, with a mere 12. Streep was also nominated in the 1980s for The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Silkwood, Out of Africa, Evil Angels, and Ironweed, opposite Nicholson.

Streep only won once in the 1980s, however, and in a rare year where Streep wasn’t nominated, Marlee Matlin was, for Children of a Lesser God. When Matlin won, she became the youngest Best Actress winner ever (at 21) and the first and only performer to win for a sign-language performance. Matlin, who is deaf, made her film debut with Children of a Lesser God and will be one of the key presenters at this year’s Oscar ceremony.

Oscars 80s Recap

While many of the 1980s Best Picture winners were globe-trotting epics (much like the 1960s Best Picture winners), there were a few crowd-pleasers in the mix. And nothing was more crowd pleasing than Rain Man, which became the highest-grossing Best Picture winner of the 1980s. The pairing of Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise as brothers who’ve just discovered each other, and Hoffman’s genius for numbers, also won Hoffman his second Best Actor Oscar.


The 1990s: Titanic and The Silence of the Lambs’ Major Feats

Oscars 90s Recap

Speaking of epics, you can’t get much bigger than James Cameron’s Titanic, which could not be stopped at the box office or at the Oscars. Cameron’s film was number one at the box office for 15 straight weeks, a record that still holds to this day despite it no longer being the highest-grossing film of all time. There was no iceberg to sink its Oscar hopes, either, as it became the most nominated film of the 1990s, with 14, and the biggest winner with 11 (including Best Director for Cameron).

The Silence of the Lambs was also a major winner from the decade. It became the first and only horror movie to win Best Picture. More impressively, Silence became one of only three films to ever win all five of the top Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director (Jonathan Demme), Best Screenplay (Ted Tally), Best Actress (Jodie Foster) and Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins). Silence was such a phenomenon that it spawned its own film and television franchises. And the actor who portrayed Hannibal the Cannibal, Hopkins, would become the most nominated actor of the 1990s, with additional nominations for The Remains of the Day, Nixon, and Amistad. Hopkins, however, only won for Lambs, which is one of the shortest performances ever honored with an Oscar. Shocking as this may sound, Dr. Lecter only has 16 minutes of screen time.

Meryl Streep did not win an Oscar in the 1990s, but she was nominated four times, for Postcards from the Edge, The Bridges of Madison County, One True Thing and Music of the Heart. Streep shared the most nominations for an actress that decade with Susan Sarandon, who did win for the prison drama Dead Man Walking and was also nominated for Thelma & Louise, Lorenzo’s Oil, and The Client.

The history-making nomination from the decade went to John Singleton who became the first Black filmmaker nominated for Best Director with Boyz n the Hood.  At just 23 years of age, Singleton also became the youngest Best Director nominee ever. Singleton lost to Demme’s Silence of the Lambs, but he was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay. All massive feats from a directorial debut that launched not only his career but future 90s Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. (Jerry Maguire).

Oscars 90s Recap


The 2000s: One Ring to Rule the Decade

Oscars 00s Recap

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won every single category it was nominated for with 11 wins. Outside of rewarding the culmination of a popular trilogy, however, most of the 2000s was about spreading the Oscar love. Many films racked up huge nomination tallies, including The Lord of the Rings, Chicago, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but outside of Rings, only the Mumbai-set Slumdog Millionaire went on to win more than six Oscars.

The spreading the wealth around included a four-way tie for both the most-nominated actors of the decade and the most-nominated actresses of the decade. Sean Penn, however, was the biggest winner because he won Best Actor twice in the 2000s, for both Clint Eastwood’s mystery, Mystic River, and Gus Van Sant’s biopic of Harvey Milk, Milk. Notable among the women is that after six nominations, Kate Winslet finally won an Oscar for The Reader. The Reader was also the end of Stephen Daldry’s streak, who was nominated for Best Director for each film he made from 2000-2008 (Billy Elliot, The Hours, and The Reader) but has not been nominated since.

There were also two major historical milestones for Oscar winners in the 2000s, with Halle Berry becoming the first Black actress to win an Oscar for a leading role in the widower drama Monster’s Ball. Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to ever win Best Director with the modern warfare portrait, The Hurt Locker. As we enter the most diverse Oscar ceremony ever, in regards to both acting nominations and the Best Director lineup, both Berry and Bigelow remain the only winners with these distinctions. Might they both have company with these historical designations after April 25, 2021?

Oscars 00s Recap

An Oscar mainstay throughout the first few years of the 2000s was Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. The series was nominated for 30 Academy Awards across the three films and it won 17 total Oscars, 11 of which were for the final film, The Return of the King. Jackson’s final film has multiple distinctions in Oscar lore, including being the only film with more than ten nominations to bat 100% at the ceremony, the only film series where every film was nominated for Best Picture, and the first fantasy film to win Best Picture. At nearly $3B earned worldwide, it is also one of the most successful film franchises.


The 2010s: Best Picture/Best Director Splits, Increased Diversity

Oscars 00s Recap

In 2009, the Oscars expanded to ten nominations in Best Picture and also to a ranked-voting system. In 2012, ranked voting was applied to the Best Picture nominating process as well; after this tinker to the system, ten nominations were the maximum number that could land in Best Picture but anywhere from five to ten films could make the cut depending on how many top-tier votes they received. There has not been a ten-film lineup since this change, each year has received eight or nine Best Picture nominations. This year, it’s eight.

From 2012 onward this approach, plus a desire to spread the wealth more, led to a distinct shift between Best Picture and Best Director. Starting with Argo, where director Ben Affleck wasn’t even nominated for Best Director, Best Picture and Best Director have been awarded to different films every year excepting when Birdman, The Shape of Water, and Parasite won both awards. With Birdman and The Revenant and Gravity and Roma, directors Alejandro González Iñárritu and Alfonso Cuarón won Best Director for back-to-back films for the first time since Joseph L. Mankiewicz won two in a row from 1949-1950 for A Letter to Three Wives and All About Eve.

This desire to spread the love is apparent not just in the Best Picture-Best Director splits but also in Cuarón’s Gravity, which won the most Oscars of any film in the decade, with 7, but lost Best Picture to 12 Years a Slave. Similarly, La La Land is the most nominated film of the decade at 14 but famously lost to Moonlight in an unfortunate moment where the presenters, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, read the wrong card aloud as a winner before realizing the mistake and that Barry Jenkins’ coming-of-age drama was the actual Best Picture winner.

Moonlight made history as the first film featuring an all-black cast (including Mahershala Ali, who won Best Supporting Actor) to win Best Picture. And just a few years later, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite became the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture. These long overdue events, as well as the increased diversity in the 2020 nominees, come on the heels of the Academy’s demographic shift to include more members from underrepresented groups after the 2014 nominations sparked immense outrage via the online #OscarSoWhite campaign.

Where the wealth hasn’t been spread out is the near automatic Meryl Streep acting nomination. In the 2000s, Streep became the most nominated actor of all time and in the 2010s she added five more nominations and one win (for playing Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady), her first since 1982. Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper shared the crown for most nominated actors from the last decade; however, only Bale has logged a win, winning on his first nomination out of the gate for the boxing drama, The Fighter

Oscars 00s Recap

As box office trends have moved more to superhero movies and serials—and even away from star vehicles—the highest-grossing Best Picture-winner from the previous decade was the first winner in that decade, The King’s Speech. The Royal Family drama, which also won Colin Firth Best Actor, was even more sensational abroad as it earned $427M worldwide, making it hands down the most profitable Best Picture of the previous decade.


This decade’s Oscar history starts Sunday! Check out all the nominees and where to watch them, in theaters or on demand.


The 93rd Academy Awards broadcast starts Sunday, April 25 at 5pm PST.