Which of the Adapted Screenplay nominees has the best chance to win according to recent Oscar history?

A screenplay could be adapted from many different forms of existing works — everything from a novel or a memoir to a newspaper article. The academy’s ruling also means that remakes/sequels/prequels etc, which all may feature made-up characters and stories, are classed as adapted, too as they are taken from their original films.

Let’s take a look back at the last five Oscars and examine the source material of the 25 Adapted Screenplay nominees to find out which type has proven to be the most winning. That could help us figure out who is ahead in this competitive race on Sunday. 

2018:
Winner: “Call Me By Your Name” – Novel
“The Disaster Artist” – Non-fiction book
“Logan” – Comic-book/graphic novel
“Molly’s Game” – Memoir
“Mudbound” – Novel

2017:
Winner: “Moonlight” – Play
“Arrival” – Short story
“Fences” – Play
“Hidden Figures” – Non-fiction book
“Lion” – Memoir

2016:
Winner: “The Big Short” – Non-fiction book
“Brooklyn” – Novel
“Carol” – Novel
“The Martian” – Novel
“Room” – Novel

2015:
Winner: “The Imitation Game” – Non-fiction book
“American Sniper” – Memoir
“Inherent Vice” – Novel
“The Theory of Everything” – Memoir
“Whiplash” – Short film

2014:
Winner: “12 Years a Slave” – Memoir
“Before Midnight” – Existing films
“Captain Phillips” – Memoir
“Philomena” – Non-fiction book
“The Wolf of Wall Street” – Memoir

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Of the last 25 Adapted Screenplay nominees, seven of the scripts were adapted from a novel, seven  from a memoir, five from a non-fiction book, and two from a play. The final three nominated scripts came from a comic-book (“Logan” 2018), a short film (“Whiplash” 2015), and existing films (“Before Midnight” 2014, adapted from “Before Sunrise,” 1996, and “Before Sunset,” 2005).

So adapting a novel or a memoir is the way to go if you fancy an Oscar nomination, while adapting a non-fiction book isn’t a bad way to go, either. Two of the last five Adapted Screenplay winners have been adapted from non-fiction books – “The Imitation Game” (2015) and “The Big Short” (2016) And in each of the last five years, a script adapted from a non-fiction book has been nominated – no other source material is as consistent.

Over the last 10 ceremonies, scripts adapted from a non-fiction book have won four times (the other two being “Argo,” 2013, and “The Social Network,” 2011). Scripts based on a novel have also won four times – “Slumdog Millionaire,” 2009, “Precious,” 2010, “The Descendants,” 2011, and last year’s “Call Me By Your Name.” The other two winning scripts were adapted from a play (2017’s “Moonlight”) and a memoir (“12 Years a Slave,” 2014). One of the four winning scripts adapted from a non-fiction book was also inspired by a newspaper article, too. That was “Argo.”

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So scripts based on novels are the way to go, primarily – with seven nominations in the last five years and four wins in the last 10 years. What does that mean in regards to this year’s contenders? Here are this year’s five nominees and which category they fall under:

BlacKkKlansman” – Spike Lee, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott – Memoir
If Beale Street Could Talk” – Barry Jenkins – Novel
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” – Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty – Memoir
A Star is Born” – Bradley Cooper, Eric Roth, and Will Fetters – Existing films
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” – Joel and Ethan Coen – Short stories

The academy’s voting record suggests one of these three will win:Oscar winner Barry Jenkins  is ’ adaptate  James Baldwin’s novel “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” was adapted from a memoir. And Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty won at the WGA for their script adaptation of Lee Israel‘s memoir “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

The Coen brothers’ script for “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” meanwhile, is a bit of an odd one. The anthology film is split into six separate stories – with some of them original stories written directly for the screen and some based on existing pieces of short fiction written by the Coen brothers themselves. And a couple of them were directly inspired by real-life tales. “Arrival” was the only script adapted from a short story to earn an Oscar bid in the last five ceremonies.

And “A Star is Born” is an update of a story filmed three times before. Adapting existing material has not proven to be a winning formula as of late.

Be sure to check out how our experts rank this year’s Oscar contenders. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your own Oscar predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until winners are announced on February 24.

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