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Academy Awards: 7 Steps to Winning a Best Picture Oscar

Academy Awards: 7 Steps to Winning a Best Picture Oscar
7 2016 oscar nominated best picture movies

Article by Tessa Boyce

The 88th Academy Awards are hitting the small screen on Sunday, and for over a month the media has spouting their opinions about the academy’s nomination choices, not to mention the lack of diversity in the nominations. Since we’ve already covered that part of the Oscars, we thought it would be interesting to answer the question many people, including aspiring filmmakers, what exactly does it take to receive a best picture nomination and win?

Our friends at Pretty Famous 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.

Academy Awards 7 steps to winning a best picture oscar 2016


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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