In 2020, the COVID pandemic caused the motion picture academy to cancel the Governors Awards, which has been a stand-alone event since 2009. Instead, it presented the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to both Tyler Perry and the Motion Picture & Television Fund during the Oscars. This morale booster was a bright spot in the ceremony.
The Governors Awards are set to return on January 15, 2022. Honorary Oscars will be presented to multi-hyphenate Elaine May as well as actors Samuel L. Jackson and Liv Ullmann. Another actor, Danny Glover, will be feted with the Hersholt for his work on behalf of UNICEF.
There have been four honorees at the Governors Awards every year but two (2011, 2015) since 2009. As detailed below, all but one of the academy’s 17 branches — Visual Effects — are represented among the roster of 138 winners of honorary Oscars. In the case of Visual Effects, the academy has presented special achievement awards to a host of films in years in which there was no competitive category. In addition, there have been 42 recipients of the Hersholt and 37 producers have received the Irving G. Thalberg (Darryl F. Zanuck got it three times while Hal B. Wallis bagged two).
Note: This full list was compiled using the academy’s Honorary Index, which allows for filtering by branch. It does not include companies and organizations which were honored. Nor does it include those 10 juvenile performers who received miniature statuettes or the many others who received certificates, scrolls, plaques and medals.
Honorees indicated by an * are listed in the database under the term “Personalities” and have been assigned to the branch in which they are most identified, unless they were nominated or won in a different category (e.g., the actor Robert Redford who won an Oscar for directing “Ordinary People”).
Three individuals were honored for a specific production, with Charlie Chaplin (“The Circus”) and Laurence Olivier (“Henry V”) being assigned to the Actors branch while Walter Wanger (“Joan of Arc”) is listed under Producers.
In addition, 15 people received honorary awards for work outside of the branches and they are detailed at the bottom of this roster.
Five were feted for Choreography (of these, you will find Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly under Actors and Jerome Robbins under Directors);
Three for Film Preservation; and
Two for Stunts
The text under each name is the official description of the reason for the honorary award being made.
1927/28 (1st): Charles Chaplin (listed under Production)
for acting, writing, directing and producing The Circus.
1937 (10th): Edgar Bergen
for his outstanding comedy creation, “Charlie McCarthy.”
1939 (12th): Douglas Fairbanks*
recognizing the unique and outstanding contribution of Douglas Fairbanks, first President of the Academy, to the international development of the motion picture.
1940 (13th): Bob Hope*
in recognition of his unselfish services to the Motion Picture Industry.
1946 (19th): Laurence Olivier (listed under Production)
for his outstanding achievement as actor, producer and director in bringing Henry V to the screen.
1946 (19th): Harold Russell
for bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans through his appearance in The Best Years of Our Lives.
1947 (20th): James Baskett
for his able and heart-warming characterization of Uncle Remus, friend and story teller to the children of the world in Walt Disney’s Song of the South.
1949 (22nd): Fred Astaire (listed under Choreography)
for his unique artistry and his contributions to the technique of musical pictures.
1949 (22nd): Jean Hersholt*
for distinguished service to the motion picture industry.
1950 (23rd): George Murphy*
for his services in interpreting the film industry to the country at large.
1951 (24th): Gene Kelly (listed under Choreography)
in appreciation of his versatility as an actor, singer, director and dancer, and specifically for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film.
1952 (25th): Bob Hope*
for his contribution to the laughter of the world, his service to the motion picture industry, and his devotion to the American premise.
1952 (25th): Harold Lloyd
master comedian and good citizen.
1954 (27th): Greta Garbo
for her unforgettable screen performances.
1954 (27th): Danny Kaye*
for his unique talents, his service to the Academy, the motion picture industry, and the American people.
1956 (29th): Eddie Cantor*
for distinguished service to the film industry.
1958 (31st): Maurice Chevalier
for his contributions to the world of entertainment for more than half a century.
1959 (32nd): Buster Keaton
for his unique talents which brought immortal comedies to the screen.
1960 (33rd): Gary Cooper
for his many memorable screen performances and the international recognition he, as an individual, has gained for the motion picture industry.
1960 (33rd): Stan Laurel
for his creative pioneering in the field of cinema comedy.
1969 (42nd): Cary Grant
for his unique mastery of the art of screen acting with the respect and affection of his colleagues.
1970 (43rd): Lillian Gish
for superlative artistry and for distinguished contribution to the progress of motion pictures.
1971 (44th): Charles Chaplin*
for the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century.
1972 (45th): Edward G. Robinson
who achieved greatness as a player, a patron of the arts and a dedicated citizen…in sum, a Renaissance man. From his friends in the industry he loves.
1973 (46th): Groucho Marx
in recognition of his brilliant creativity and for the unequalled achievements of the Marx Brothers in the art of motion picture comedy.
1975 (48th): Mary Pickford*
in recognition of her unique contributions to the film industry and the development of film as an artistic medium.
1978 (51st): Laurence Olivier*
for the full body of his work, for the unique achievements of his entire career and his lifetime of contribution to the art of film.
1979 (52nd): Alec Guinness
for advancing the art of screen acting through a host of memorable and distinguished performances.
1980 (53rd): Henry Fonda
the consummate actor, in recognition of his brilliant accomplishments and enduring contribution to the art of motion pictures.
1981 (54th): Barbara Stanwyck
for superlative creativity and unique contribution to the art of screen acting.
1982 (55th): Mickey Rooney
in recognition of his 60 years of versatility in a variety of memorable film performances.
1984 (57th): James Stewart
for his fifty years of memorable performances. For his high ideals both on and off the screen. With the respect and affection of his colleagues.
1985 (58th): Paul Newman
in recognition of his many and memorable compelling screen performances and for his personal integrity and dedication to his craft.
1986 (59th): Ralph Bellamy
for his unique artistry and his distinguished service to the profession of acting.
1990 (63rd): Sophia Loren
one of the genuine treasures of world cinema who, in a career rich with memorable performances, has added permanent luster to our art form.
1990 (63rd): Myrna Loy
in recognition of her extraordinary qualities both on screen and off, with appreciation for a lifetime’s worth of indelible performances.
1993 (66th): Deborah Kerr
in appreciation for a full career’s worth of elegant and beautifully crafted performances.
1995 (68th): Kirk Douglas
for fifty years as a creative and moral force in the motion picture community.
2001 (74th): Sidney Poitier*
in recognition of his remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being.
2002 (75th): Peter O’Toole
whose remarkable talents have provided cinema history with some of its most memorable characters.
2009 (82nd): Lauren Bacall
in recognition of her central place in the golden age of motion pictures.
2010 (83rd): Eli Wallach
for a lifetime’s worth of indelible screen characters.
2011 (84th): James Earl Jones
for his legacy of consistent excellence and uncommon versatility.
2013 (86th): Angela Lansbury
an entertainment icon who has created some of cinema’s most memorable characters, inspiring generations of actors.
2013 (86th): Steve Martin*
in recognition of his extraordinary talents and the unique inspiration he has brought to the art of motion pictures.
2014 (87th): Maureen O’Hara
one of Hollywood’s brightest stars, whose inspiring performances glowed with passion, warmth and strength.
2015 (88th): Gena Rowlands
who has illuminated the human experience through her brilliant, passionate and fearless performances.
2016 (89th): Jackie Chan
charming audiences with his dazzling athleticism, inventive stunt work and boundless charisma
2017 (90th): Donald Sutherland
for a lifetime of indelible characters, rendered with unwavering truthfulness.
2018 (91st): Cicely Tyson
whose unforgettable performances and personal integrity have inspired generations of filmmakers, actors and audiences.
2019 (92nd): Wes Studi
in recognition of the power and craft he brings to his indelible film portrayals and for his steadfast support of the Native American community.
2021 (94th): Samuel L. Jackson
a cultural icon whose dynamic work has resonated across genres and generations and audiences worldwide.
2021 (94th): Liv Ullman
whose bravery and emotional transparency has gifted audiences with deeply affecting screen portrayals.
ANIMATION – SHORT FILMS AND FEATURE (6)
1931/32 (5th): Walt Disney
for the creation of “Mickey Mouse.”
1938 (11th): Walt Disney
for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, recognized as a significant screen innovation which has charmed millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field for the motion picture cartoon.
1943 (16th): George Pal
for the development of novel methods and techniques in the production of short subjects known as Puppetoons.
1978 (51st): Walter Lantz
for bringing joy and laughter to every part of the world through his unique animated motion pictures.
1995 (68th): Chuck Jones
for the creation of classic cartoons which have brought worldwide joy for more than half a century.
2014 (87th): Hayao Miyazaki
a master storyteller whose animated artistry has inspired filmmakers and audiences around the world.
2016 (89th): Lynn Stalmaster
has been instrumental in the careers of many celebrated actors.
1952 (25th): George Alfred Mitchell
for the design and development of the camera which bears his name and for his continued and dominant presence in the field of cinematography.
2000 (73rd): Jack Cardiff
master of light and color.
2009 (82nd): Gordon Willis
for unsurpassed mastery of light, shadow, color and motion.
2017 (90th): Owen Roizman
whose expansive visual style and technical innovation have advanced the art of cinematography.
COSTUME DESIGNERS (1)
2013 (86th): Piero Tosi, a visionary whose incomparable costume designs shaped timeless, living art in motion pictures.
DESIGNERS (ART DIRECTORS) (1)
2007 (80th): Robert Boyle
in recognition of one of cinema’s great careers in art direction.
1935 (8th): David Wark Griffith
for his distinguished creative achievements as director and producer and his invaluable initiative and lasting contributions to the progress of the motion picture arts.
1937 (10th): Mack Sennett
for his lasting contribution to the comedy technique of the screen, the basic principles of which are as important today as when they were first put into practice, the Academy presents a Special Award to that master of fun, discoverer of stars, sympathetic, kindly, understanding comedy genius
1946 (19th): Ernst Lubitsch
for his distinguished contributions to the art of the motion picture.
1949 (22nd): Cecil B. DeMille
distinguished motion picture pioneer, for 37 years of brilliant showmanship.
1952 (25th): Merian C. Cooper
for his many innovations and contributions to the art of motion pictures.
1961 (34th): Jerome Robbins (listed under Choreography; same year he won Best Director Oscar with Robert Wise for “West Side Story”)
for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film.
1974 (47th): Howard Hawks
A master American filmmaker whose creative efforts hold a distinguished place in world cinema
1974 (47th): Jean Renoir
a genius who, with grace, responsibility and enviable devotion through silent film, sound film, feature, documentary and television, has won the world’s admiration.
1978 (51st): King Vidor
for his incomparable achievements as a cinematic creator and innovator.
1989 (62nd): Akira Kurosawa
for accomplishments that have inspired, delighted, enriched and entertained audiences and influenced filmmakers throughout the world.
1991 (64th): Satyajit Ray
in recognition of his rare mastery of the art of motion pictures, and of his profound humanitarian outlook, which has had an indelible influence on filmmakers and audiences throughout the world.
1992 (65th): Federico Fellini
in recognition of his place as one of the screen’s master storytellers.
1994 (67th): Michelangelo Antonioni
in recognition of his place as one of the cinema’s master visual stylists.
1997 (70th): Stanley Donen
in appreciation of a body of work marked by grace, elegance, wit and visual innovation.
1998 (71st): Elia Kazan
in recognition of his indelible contributions to the art of motion picture direction.
1999 (72nd): Andrzej Wajda
in recognition of five decades of extraordinary film direction.
2001 (74th): Robert Redford*
Actor, director, producer, creator of Sundance, inspiration to independent and innovative filmmakers everywhere.
2003 (76th): Blake Edwards*
in recognition of his writing, directing and producing an extraordinary body of work for the screen.
2004 (77th): Sidney Lumet*
in recognition of his brilliant services to screenwriters, performers and the art of the motion picture.
2005 (78th): Robert Altman
in recognition of a career that has repeatedly reinvented the art form and inspired filmmakers and audiences alike.
2009 (82nd): Roger Corman*
for his rich engendering of films and filmmakers.
2010 (83rd): Jean-Luc Godard*
for passion. For confrontation. For a new kind of cinema.
2017 (90th): Charles Burnett
a resolutely independent and influential film pioneer who has chronicled the lives of black Americans with eloquence and insight.
2019 (92nd): David Lynch
for fearlessly breaking boundaries in pursuit of his singular cinematic vision.
2019 (92nd): Lina Wertmuller
for her provocative disruption of political and social norms delivered with bravery through her weapon of choice: the camera lens.
1953 (26th): Pete Smith
for his witty and pungent observations on the American scene in his series of “Pete Smith Specialties.”
1961 (34th): William L. Hendricks
for his outstanding patriotic service in the conception, writing and production of the Marine Corps film, A Force in Readiness, which has brought honor to the Academy and the motion picture industry.
2012 (85th): D.A. Pennebaker
who redefined the language of film and taught a generation of filmmakers to look to reality for inspiration.
2016 (89th): Frederick Wiseman
illuminating lives in the context of social, cultural and government institutions.
2017 (90th): Agnès Varda
whose compassion and curiosity inform a uniquely personal cinema.
1948 (21st): Adolph Zukor*
a man who has been called the father of the feature film in America, for his services to the industry over a period of forty years.
1950 (23rd): Louis B. Mayer*
for distinguished service to the motion picture industry.
1952 (25th): Joseph M. Schenck*
for long and distinguished service to the motion picture industry.
1966 (39th): Y. Frank Freeman*
for unusual and outstanding service to the Academy during his thirty years in Hollywood.
FILM EDITORS (2)
1977 (50th): Margaret Booth
for her exceptional contribution to the art of film editing in the motion picture industry.
2016 (89th): Anne Coates
she has worked side by side with many leading directors on an impressive range of films.
MAKEUP ARTISTS & HAIRSTYLISTS (3)
1964 (37th): William Tuttle
for his outstanding make-up achievement for 7 Faces of Dr. Lao.
1968 (41st): John Chambers
for his outstanding makeup achievement for Planet of the Apes.
2011 (84th): Dick Smith
for his unparalleled mastery of texture, shade, form and illusion.
1985 (58th): Alex North
in recognition of his brilliant artistry in the creation of memorable music for a host of distinguished motion pictures.
2006 (79th): Ennio Morricone
in recognition of his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music.
2018 (91st): Lalo Schifrin
in recognition of his unique musical style, compositional integrity and influential contributions to the art of film scoring.
1945 (18th): Walter Wanger*
for his six years service as President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
1947 (20th): Colonel William N. Selig, Albert E. Smith, Thomas Armat and George K. Spoor*
(one of) the small group of pioneers whose belief in a new medium, and whose contributions to its development, blazed the trail along which the motion picture has progressed, in their lifetime, from obscurity to world-wide acclaim.
1948 (21st): Walter Wanger (listed under Production)
for distinguished service to the industry in adding to its moral stature in the world community by his production of the picture Joan of Arc.
1957 (30th): B.B. Kahane*
for distinguished service to the motion picture industry.
1957 (30th): Gilbert M. (“Broncho Billy”) Anderson*
motion picture pioneer, for his contributions to the development of motion pictures as entertainment.
1967 (40th): Arthur Freed*
for distinguished service to the Academy and the production of six top-rated Awards telecasts.
1983 (56th): Hal Roach*
in recognition of his unparalleled record of distinguished contributions to the motion picture art form.
2018 (91st): Marvin Levy
for an exemplary career in publicity that has brought films to the minds, hearts and souls of audiences all over the world.
1959 (32nd): Lee De Forest
for his pioneering inventions which brought sound to the motion picture.
1957 (30th): Charles Brackett*
for outstanding service to the Academy.
1970 (43rd): Orson Welles*
for superlative artistry and versatility in the creation of motion pictures.
2000 (73rd): Ernest Lehman
in appreciation of a body of varied and enduring work.
2014 (87th): Jean-Claude Carrière
whose elegantly crafted screenplays elevate the art of screenwriting to the level of literature.
2015 (88th): Spike Lee*
filmmaker, educator, motivator, iconoclast, artist.
2021 (94th): Elaine May
for her bold, uncompromising approach to filmmaking, as a writer, director and actress.
1953 (26th): Joseph I. Breen
for his conscientious, open-minded and dignified management of the Motion Picture Production Code.
1961 (34th): Fred L. Metzler
for his dedication and outstanding service to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
1972 (45th): Charles S. Boren
Leader for 38 years of the industry’s enlightened labor relations and architect of its policy of non-discrimination. With the respect and affection of all who work in films.
1979 (52nd): Hal Elias
for his dedication and distinguished service to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
2012 (85th): George Stevens, Jr.
a tireless champion of the arts in America and especially that most American of arts: the Hollywood film.
FILM PRESERVATION (3)
1954 (27th): Kemp R. Niver
for the development of the Renovare Process which has made possible the restoration of the Library of Congress Paper Film Collection.
1973 (46th): Henri Langlois
for his devotion to the art of film, his massive contributions in preserving its past and his unswerving faith in its future.
2010 (83rd): Kevin Brownlow
for the wise and devoted chronicling of the cinematic parade.
(Fred Astaire (1949), Gene Kelly (1951) and Jerome Robbins (1961) are listed in the Index under this category; the first two have been assigned to Actors, the latter to Directors.)
1968 (41st): Onna White
for her outstanding choreography achievement for Oliver!
1996 (69th):Michael Kidd
in recognition of his services to the art of the dance in the art of the screen.
1966 (39th): Yakima Canutt
for achievements as a stunt man and for developing safety devices to protect stunt men everywhere.
2012 (85th): Hal Needham
an innovator, mentor, and master technician who elevated his craft to an art and made the impossible look easy.
JEAN HERSHOLT HUMANITARIAN AWARD (41)
Given to an “individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.”
1956 (29th): Y. Frank Freeman
1957 (30th): Samuel Goldwyn
1959 (32nd): Bob Hope
1960 (33rd): Sol Lesser
1961 (34th): George Seaton
1962 (35th): Steve Broidy
1965 (38th): Edmond L. DePatie
1966 (39th): George Bagnall
1967 (40th): Gregory Peck
1968 (41st): Martha Raye
1969 (42nd): George Jessel
1970 (43rd): Frank Sinatra
1972 (45th): Rosalind Russell
1973 (46th): Lew Wasserman
1974 (47th): Arthur B. Krim
1975 (48th): Dr. Jules C. Stein
1977 (50th): Charlton Heston
1978 (51st): Leo Jaffe
1979 (52nd): Robert Benjamin
1981 (54th): Danny Kaye
1982 (55th): Walter Mirisch
1983 (56th): M. J. Frankovich
1984 (57th): David L. Wolper
1985 (58th): Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers
1989 (62nd): Howard W. Koch
1992 (65th): Audrey Hepburn
1992 (65th): Elizabeth Taylor
1993 (66th): Paul Newman
1994 (67th): Quincy Jones
2001 (74th): Arthur Hiller
2004 (77th): Roger Mayer
2006 (79th): Sherry Lansing
2008 (81st): Jerry Lewis
2011 (84th): Oprah Winfrey
2012 (85th): Jeffrey Katzenberg
2013 (86th): Angelina Jolie
2014 (87th): Harry Belafonte
2015 (88th): Debbie Reynolds
2019 (92nd): Geena Davis
2020 (93rd): Motion Picture & Television Fund
2020 (93rd): Tyler Perry
2021 (94th): Danny Glover
IRVING G. THALBERG AWARD (37)
Presented to “creative producers whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production.”
1937 (10th): Darryl F. Zanuck
1938 (11th): Hal B. Wallis
1939 (12th): David O. Selznick
1941 (14th): Walt Disney
1942 (15th): Sidney Franklin
1943 (16th): Hal B. Wallis
1944 (17th): Darryl F. Zanuck
1946 (19th): Samuel Goldwyn
1948 (21st): Jerry Wald
1950 (23rd): Darryl F. Zanuck
1951 (24th): Arthur Freed
1952 (25th): Cecil B. DeMille
1953 (26th): George Stevens
1956 (29th): Buddy Adler
1958 (31st): Jack L. Warner
1961 (34th): Stanley Kramer
1963 (36th): Sam Spiegel
1965 (38th): William Wyler
1966 (39th): Robert Wise
1967 (40th): Alfred Hitchcock
1970 (43rd): Ingmar Bergman
1973 (46th): Lawrence Weingarten
1975 (48th): Mervyn LeRoy
1976 (49th): Pandro S. Berman
1977 (50th): Walter Mirisch
1979 (52nd): Ray Stark
1981 (54th): Albert R. Broccoli
1986 (59th): Steven Spielberg
1987 (60th): Billy Wilder
1990 (63rd): David Brown and Richard D. Zanuck
1991 (64th): George Lucas
1994 (67th): Clint Eastwood
1996 (69th): Saul Zaentz
1998 (71st): Norman Jewison
1999 (72nd): Warren Beatty
2000 (73rd): Dino De Laurentiis
2009 (82nd): John Calley
2010 (83rd): Francis Ford Coppola
2018 (91st): Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall
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