How often do Oscars split Best Picture and Director?


Although “12 Years a Slave” is still favored to win Best Picture, its helmer Steve McQueen is locked in a tight race for Best Director with Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity“). History favors McQueen winning as these two awards have lined up for 63 of the 85 years of Oscar.

However, of the 22 times they have not, the most recent instance was last year when Ang Lee won his second Academy Award for helming the 3-D spectacle “Life of Pi” while “Argo” won Best Picture despite director Ben Affleck not being nominated. 

That marked only the fourth time in Oscar history that the director of the Best Picture was snubbed by the academy. The other instances:

1927/28: “Wings” won Best Picture; William Wellman was snubbed: Frank Borzage won Best Director for “Seventh Heaven”;

1931/32: “Grand Hotel” won Best Picture; Edmund Goulding was snubbed: Frank Borzage won Best Director for “Bad Girl”; and

1989: “Driving Miss Daisy” won Best Picture winner; Bruce Beresford was snubbed; Oliver Stone won Best Director for “Born on the Fourth of July”

There have been 18 years where Best Picture went to one film and Best Director went to another even though the helmer of the big winner was nominated. 

At the second Oscars (1928/29), Frank Lloyd won Best Director for “The Divine Lady.” That was the only time this race went to the helmer of a film not nominated for Best Picture. “The Broadway Melody” won that award while Harry Beaumont lost his Best Director bid.  

John Ford won Best Director three times even though his film lost the big prize. He edged out fellow nominees in:

1935: Frank Lloyd‘s “Mutiny on the Bounty” won Best Picture; Ford won his first Oscar for “The Informer”;

1940: Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” won Best Picture; Ford won his second Oscar for “The Grapes of Wrath”;

1952: Cecil B. DeMille‘s “The Greatest Show on Earth” won Best Picture; Ford won his record fourth Oscar for “The Quiet Man” (he had claimed this third in 1941 for helming Best Picture champ “How Green Was My Valley”). 

And George Stevens pulled off the same suprise in: 

1951: Vincente Minnelli‘s “An American in Paris” won Best Picture; Stevens won Best Director for “A Place in the Sun”; and 

1956: Michael Anderson‘s “Around the World in 80 Days” won Best Picture; Stevens won Best Director for “Giant.”

The other dozen times that the prizes split came in:

1930/31: Wesley Ruggles‘ “Cimarron” won Best Picture; Norman Taurog won Best Director for “Skippy”; 

1936: Robert Z. Leonard‘s’ “The Great Ziefeld” won Best Picture; Frank Capra won Best Director for “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”; 

1937: William Dieterle‘s “The Life of Emile Zola” won Best Picture; Leo McCarey won Best Director for “The Awful Truth”; 

1948: Laurence Olivier‘s “Hamlet” won Best Picture; John Huston won Best Director for “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”; 

1949: Robert Rossen‘s “All the Kings Men” won Best Picture; Joseph L. Mankiewicz won Best Director for “A Letter to Three Wives”; 

1967: Norman Jewison‘s “In the Heat of the Night” won Best Picture; Mike Nichols won Best Director for “The Graduate”; 

1972: Francis Ford Coppola‘s “The Godfather” won Best Picture; Bob Fosse won Best Director for “Cabaret” which set the record for most Oscars (8) without taking the top prize; 

1981: Hugh Hudson‘s “Chariots of Fire” won Best Picture; Warren Beatty won Best Director for “Reds”; 

1998: John Madden‘s “Shakespeare in Love” won Best Picture; Steven Spielberg won Best Director for “Saving Private Ryan”; 

2000: Ridley Scott‘s “Gladiator” won Best Picture; Steven Soderbergh won Best Director for “Traffic”; 

2002: Rob Marshall‘s “Chicago” won Best Picture; Roman Polanski won Best Director for “The Pianist”; and

2005: Paul Haggis‘ “Crash” won Best Picture; Ang Lee won Best Director for “Brokeback Mountain.”

Who do you think is going to win Best Director? Vote below using our easy drag-and-drop menu. 


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