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Tuesday
Jan292019

Oscar Trivia: How often do three films dominate the acting categories?

Bradley & Gaga at the beginning of their run for "A Star is Born"by Nathaniel R

With the 20 acting nominations this year coming from only 11 films this year we got to wondering how frequently that happens. The FavouriteVice, and A Star is Born all received 3 acting nods each. Green Book and Roma received doubles, though of course doubles happen frequently. But how often do three acting noms from three separate films happen in a single year? And is this anything like a record? This was somewhat tough to investigate but investigate we did.

MOST NOMINATIONS EVER FOR ACTING FROM A SINGLE FILM

Before we get to individual years which had a small pool of films dominating the acting prizes, let's look at the films that hold the record for nominations:  It's an nine-way tie for the record with the following films receiving 5 acting nominations each...

Monty & Frank in "From Here to Eternity"

  • Mrs Miniver (1942) 2 leads, 3 supporting 
  • All About Eve (1950) 2 leads, 3 supporting
  • From Here to Eternity (1953) 3 leads, 2 supporting
  • On the Waterfront (1954) 1 lead, 4 supporting
  • Peyton Place (1957) 1 lead, 4 supporting
  • Tom Jones (1963) 1 lead, 4 supporting
  • Bonnie & Clyde (1967) 2 leads, 3 supporting
  • The Godfather Pt II (1974) 1 lead, 4 supporting
  • Network (1976) 3 leads, 2 supporting  *tied for most acting wins ever with A Streetcar Named Desire. Each took 3 wins*

What's telling about this list is that it ends abruptly in 1976. Our suspicion as to why that is is three-fold: 1) Rampant Category Fraud began to remove the possibility of multiple leading nominations from the same film. 2) The proliferation of precursor awards started focusing Oscar voters on a fewer and fewer people in each category each year and 3) there are far more movies released in a year now than there used to be, so the conversation goes wider... at least at first. 

Bale, Adams, and Cooper in "American Hustle"

The runner up position for most acting nominations from a film is way too long to list with 28 films receiving 4 acting nominations, most recently with two consecutive David O. Russell films (Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle) in 2012 and 2013.

But how often do we see three films hogging the acting nominations as we've seen this year? Here are the years wherein a greedy trio really hogged the acting honors, even moreso than this year.

YEARS WHERE THREE MOVIES HOGGED 50% OR MORE OF THE ACTING NOMINATIONS
(do please let us know if we left a key year out. Again this was painstaking to research.)

Curtis & Poitier, both nominated in Best Actor for "The Defiant Ones"

1958 Three movies The Defiant Ones, Separate Tables, and Some Came Running accounted for 10 of the 20 nominations or 50%. Only 11 movies were nominated for acting prizes (same as this year but with slightly more dominance from the big three.) 

1967 Three movies Bonnie & Clyde, The Graduate, and Guess Who's Coming To Dinner? accounted for 12 (!) of the 20 nominations, or a full 60% which we believe is the record for most dominant threesome in acting category history. Only 10 films in total were nominated for any acting prizes. 

Redgrave and Fonda in "Julia"

1977 Three movies JuliaTurning Point, and The Goodbye Girl  accounted for 11 of the 20 nominations or 55%. Only 10 films were nominated for any acting prizes.

1978 Three movies The Deer Hunter, Coming Home, and Heaven Can Wait accounted for 10 of the 20 nominations or 50% but 12 movies were nominated for acting prizes.

1981 Three movies Reds, On Golden Pond, and Only When I Laugh accounted for 10 of the 20 nominations or 50%. Only 9 films were nominated for acting prizes since there were a few doubles, too. We believe this is the record for least amount of films nominated for acting in a single year.

The cast of "Chicago" were reunited 10 years later at the Oscars

2002 Three movies Chicago, The Hours, and Adaptation accounted for 10 of the 20 nominations or 50% but 12 movies were nominated for acting prizes.

2012 Three movies Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and The Master accounted for 10 of the 20 nominations or 50% but 12 movies in total were nominated for acting prizes.

YEARS WHERE THE MOST MOVIES WERE NOMINATED FOR ACTING

Tom Wilkinson and George Clooney in "Michael Clayton"

We believe that it's 2007. Thanks for your comments to help us decipher this. The norm seems to be around 14 films nominated for the 20 acting categories but 2007 had an incredible 18 films nominated for acting prizes with only Michael Clayton receiving multiple nominations. The runner up, we believe, is 1992 in which 17 films received acting nominations with no triple nominees but a few films getting doubles (Howards End, The Crying Game and Unforgiven). Will we ever see a 20 film year? We can dream!

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Reader Comments (30)

U forgot the wonderful Peyton Place!!! 5 acting noms 1957.

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTobias s

Hi Nathaniel, Great trivia! I think you're right about all of it.

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

I’d love to see a year with 20 movies nominated for acting!

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBushwick

So, in your opinion, which post-1976 films deserved more acting noms that they actually got?

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Peggy Sue -- oh, i'm not saying any DESERVED that. 5 is a ridiculous amount from one film! I'm just saying that it doesn't happen anymore.

January 29, 2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I did a random look-up of 1978 - Coming Home, Deer Hunter, and Heaven Can Wait also took up 50% of the acting nominees

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKristenCraze

You are correct. 18 is the record for 2007. The runner up is 1992 with 17 films nabbing all the acting nods. Only Unforgiven, Howards End and The Crying Game nabbed two each.

Close to the record is also 1976. Network took 5, while Rocky 3, Taxi Driver, ATPM and Carrie all 2. Only 11 films got acting nominations that year.

As well as 1951. A Streetcar got 4, but Death of a Salesman got 3 while Detective Story, African Queen, Quo Vadis, Place in the Sun and Blue Veil got 2. Only 10 movies were nominated for acting that year.

It feels very low (or at least it did to me) but the average is actually 14-15. Which makes sense, most years there are 3-4 movies getting multiple acting nominations.

Multiple nominations in lead has become less and less common. Not since 1995 (Dead Man Walking and Leaving las Vegas) have we had 2 films score in both lead categories. The record is three films getting two nominations in lead which happened in 51, 67 and 81.

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAlexD

Sorry, bored at work.

1951 - All About Eve & Sunset Boulevard account for 9 out of the 20, then you can pick either double nominations for Harvey or Caged to get you over 50%. 11 films nominated total.

1958 - Peyton Place & Sayonara make up 8 of the 20, then you can pick either double nominations for Witness for the Prosecution, Wild is Wind or Bridge on the River Kwai to get you over 50%. 11 movies nominated total.

1963 - Tom Jones & Hud make up 8 of the 20, then you can pick either double nominations for Lilies in the Field or This Sporting Life to get you over 50%. 12 movies nominated total.

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKristenCraze

Everybody should be nominated in All About Eve! Even Monroe with that "Why do they always look like unhappy rabbits?"

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterFeline Justice

1957 is also a year when 3 films took up 50% of the acting nominations: Peyton Place (5) + Sayonara (3) + either Bridge on the River Kwai, Wild Is the Wind or Witness for the Prosecution (2 each). 11 movies received nominations altogether.

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

In recent times, I actually thought American Hustle had a chance at 5 nominations, the 4 it did receive plus Jeremy Renner as Supporting Actor along with Bradley Cooper.

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

1962 - The Hustler & Judgment at Nuremberg make up 8 of the 20, then you can pick either double nominations for West Side Story or Summer and Smoke to get you over 50%. 12 movies nominated total.

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKristenCraze

Sorry, a couple of my years were off because I was looking at year the awards were vs. when the movies came out. The info is right but the years may be off by one.

1948 - I Remember Mama & Johnny Belinda make up 8 of the 20, then you can pick either double nominations for Joan of Arc or Hamlet to get you over 50%. 11 movies nominated total.

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKristenCraze

KristenCraze: Great stats, but even better if you quote the film year rather than the awards ceremony year - so, The Hustler in 1961 rather than 1962. :-)

Peggy Sue: I'll answer it! I think Richard Gere can count himself unlucky that he wasn't a fifth nominee for Chicago. I also think that Jeff Daniels would have been a worthy fifth nominee for Terms of Endearment.

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Edward L - yeah, it's been an hour and I JUST noticed that. Sorry!

CORRECTED:

1948 - I Remember Mama & Johnny Belinda make up 8 of the 20, then you can pick either double nominations for Joan of Arc or Hamlet to get you over 50%. 11 movies nominated total

1950 - All About Eve & Sunset Boulevard account for 9 out of the 20, then you can pick either double nominations for Harvey or Caged to get you over 50%. 11 films nominated total.

1957 - Peyton Place & Sayonara make up 8 of the 20, then you can pick either double nominations for Witness for the Prosecution, Wild is Wind or Bridge on the River Kwai to get you over 50%. 11 movies nominated total.

1961 - The Hustler & Judgment at Nuremberg make up 8 of the 20, then you can pick either double nominations for West Side Story or Summer and Smoke to get you over 50%. 12 movies nominated total.

1962 - Tom Jones & Hud make up 8 of the 20, then you can pick either double nominations for Lilies in the Field or This Sporting Life to get you over 50%. 12 movies nominated total.

1978 - Coming Home, Deer Hunter, and Heaven Can Wait.

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKristenCraze

Nvm, I keep messing up the dates still. I'm tired. I am just gonna stop here. I wish I could edit comments.

1963 - Tom Jones & Hud make up 8 of the 20, then you can pick either double nominations for Lilies in the Field or This Sporting Life to get you over 50%. 12 movies nominated total.

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKristenCraze

Another trivia.

This is the oscar with the most Best Picture Nominees with queer characters:

A Star is Born - the gay bar
Bohemian Rhapsody - Freddy
The Favourite - the lesbian trio
Green Book - Dr. Don Shirley
Vice - Mary Cheney

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Oh

Kristen -- love it but i was looking for instances where only 3 films dominated (hence the must have 3 with at least 3 noms each. so i gotta add the 1978. good catch, people.

January 29, 2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I would have nominated all the women in Volver, but I can't think of other examples.

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

This is the kind of article I want to read!
Congratulations, Nathaniel!

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterFabio Dantas Flappers

1 lead, 4 supporting: the Amy Adams story

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Great question, Peggy Sue!

Brokeback Mountain, The Hours, Chicago, The Fisher King, Terms Of Endearment and Ordinary People came close for me with four great choices for nominations.
In a week year I would be ok with Goodfellas having five nominations (Liotta, DeNiro, Sorvino, Pesci and Bracco).

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDoug

I always dream that the entire cast of The Misfits received nominations. Montgomery Clift, Clark Gable, Eli Wallach, Thelma Ritter and of course, Marilyn Monroe who was so poetic, vulnerable and utterly captivating.

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

What you didn't mention is that this stands to be the first year in which NONE of those three movies with three acting nominations pick up acting wins! I suppose Cooper or Elliott have the best chances of the lot, but if it goes the way of SAG then VICE, STAR, and FAVOURITE take 0/9 acting trophies. Unprecedented!

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

@Jonathan: I'd say Bale has the best chance of the lot.

January 29, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBruno

I'd be curious to know how many films are nominated every year-- that is, films that have one nomination in any Oscar category for feature films.

A few years after the change from 5 to 5-10 nominees (I think it was after the 2012 nominations?), there were a few thinkpieces about how the change had actually lead *fewer* films to be nominated across all categories. It was an interesting theory about how having more films in the conversation for Best Picture had led the Academy to just nominate those BP contenders in all the categories, taking away nominations from fringe contenders.

January 30, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I 100% forgot who the fourth nominee in Terms of Endearment was: John Lithgow! I had assumed it was Jeff Daniels, but it turns out he's never even been nominated.

January 30, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

I got nothing to say. Just more great work, Nathaniel!

January 30, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

The CHICAGO pic reminds me that Gere was famously snubbed that year.

January 30, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJakey

@ Mareko - Thanks...that gave me a chuckle, which I needed since, wildly-nilly, she is probably headed to yet another loss.

February 1, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCarl

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