Oscar by the Numbers: 90 Fascinating Facts About the Academy Awards

Who’s the Hollywood legend who won 22 Oscars? Why were the Academy Awards created anyway (Hint: it wasn’t out of a love of film) and who is the only actor to have every film he ever appeared in be nominated for Best Picture?

From origin stories to record-setters, read on for Oscars By the Numbers…

Janet Gaynor receiving academy award for best actress in film


1. 1927… The year famed MGM boss Louis B. Mayer founded the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and created the Oscars.

2. 1… The number of reasons why Mayer created the Oscars. Was it a love of cinema? A celebration of the art of filmmaking? Nah. “The best way to handle [filmmakers] was to hang medals all over them,” he said. “If I got them cups and awards they’d kill themselves to produce what I wanted. That’s why the Academy Award was created.”

3. 1929… The year the first Academy Awards ceremony took place, on May 16 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

4. 3 … The number of months in advance the first winners were announced. 

5. 3 … Award categories were abandoned after the first Oscars: Best Artistic Quality Of Production, Best Comedy Direction, and Best Title Writing. 

6. 5 … The price, in dollars, of a ticket to the inaugural Oscars ceremony.

7. 15… The number of minutes the inaugural Academy Awards ceremony lasted. 

8. 15 … The number of statuettes awarded during the first ceremony. 

9. 1940 … The year the term “spoiler alert” may have entered the cultural lexicon, as The Los Angeles Times published the winners from a list supplied to media by the Academy before the show took place.

10. 1941 … The year the Academy stopped giving the media the head’s up about the Oscar winners ahead of time. Thanks, Los Angeles Times.

Hattie McDaniel holding her Academy Award from the film ‘Gone With the Wind,’

Oscar Firsts

11. 1929 … The year Emil Jannings became the first ever Oscar recipient, winning Best Actor for his role in two films, The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh.

12. 1940 … The Academy awards the Best Picture Oscar to a colour film for the first time: Gone With The Wind.

13. 1940 … Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African-American actress to win an Oscar, taking home Best Supporting Actress in Gone With The Wind.

14. 1964 … Sidney Poitier becomes the first African-American actor to win an Oscar, taking home Best Actor for Lilies of the Field.

15. 1966 … The Oscars broadcast for the first time in colour.

16. 1979 … The first Oscar red carpet rolls out, presided over by Regis Philbin.

17. 2009 … The year Precious became the first film helmed by an African-American director to be nominated for Best Picture.

Director Kathryn Bigelow, winner of Best Director award for 'The Hurt Locker,'
Director Kathryn Bigelow, winner of Best Director award for ‘The Hurt Locker,’

The One and Only…

18. 1 … Person in cinema history had every film they appeared in nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture: John Cazale. He appeared in five films before his death from lung cancer at age 42 in 1978, and in one film after he passed: 1972’s The Godfather (as Fredo Corleone), 1974’s The Conversation (as Stan), 1974’s The Godfather Part II (as Fredo Corleone), 1975’s Dog Day Afternoon (as Sal), 1978’s The Deer Hunter (as Stanley) and 1990’s The Godfather Part III (as Fredo Corleonne, in a flashback).

19. 1 … Person named Oscar has won an Oscar: Oscar Hammerstein II in 1941 for the song “The Last Time I Saw Paris” from Lady Be Good.

20. 1 … Silent film won the Best Picture Oscar: Wings, in 1929.

21. 1 … Oscar winner boasts parents who both won Oscars. Liza Minnelli (Best Actress, Cabaret, 1973) is the daughter of Vincente Minnelli (Best Director, Gigi, 1959) and Judy Garland (Honorary Oscar, 1939).

22. 1 … Brother/sister combo have both won Oscars: the Barrymores, Lionel (1931’s A Free Soul: Best Actor) and Ethel (1944’s None But the Lonely Heart: Best Actress)

23. 1 … Person has won an Oscar via a write-in vote, as opposed to being nominated: Hal Mohr in 1935 for Best Cinematography in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Write-in votes have since been discontinued.

24. 1… Person received two nominations for the same acting performance: Barry Fitzgerald got nods for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor in 1945 for his performance in Going My Way. He won the latter. Double nominations for the same role are no longer allowed.

25. 1 … TV series was adapted into a Best Picture-winning film: Marty (1955).

26. 1 … X-rated film won an Oscar for Best Picture: 1969’s Midnight Cowboy.

27. 1 … Canadian film has won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film: 2003’s The Barbarian Invasions, directed by Denys Arcand.

28. 1 … Song from a documentary has won the “Best original Song” Oscar — Melissa Etheridge’s “I Need to Wake Up” from 2006’s An Inconvenient Truth.

29. 1 … Woman has won the Oscar for Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow for 2009’s The Hurt Locker.

30. 1 … French actor has won the Best Actor statuette: Jean Dujardin in 2011’s The Artist.

31. 1 … Dollar is the amount that the Academy will legally buy a winner’s Oscar back from them. They have first rights to purchase it if a winner, or winner’s heir, decides to sell their statuette.

32. 1 … City is listed in the official Oscar nomination criteria, where if a film doesn’t screen in its local theatres then it’s not eligible for Oscar contention. The city, of course, is Los Angeles.

33. 1 … Number of times a film from Estonia or Mauritania has been nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Both received the nominations in 2015.

34. 1 … Woman has been nominated for Best Cinematography — Rachel Morrison, who got the nod in 2018 for her work on Mudbound.

For the Record…

35. 3 … William Wyler’s record for directing the most films to win Best Picture.

36. 4 … The record for most Best Director Oscars, held by John Ford.

37. 4 … Katharine Hepburn’s tally of Best Actress Oscars, the most Oscars awarded for acting to any one person.

38. 5.5 … The length, in minutes, of the longest Oscar acceptance speech, given by Greer Garson after winning for Best Actress in 1943 for Mrs. Miniver.

39. 8 … Actor Justin Henry’s age when he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), making him the youngest nominee is history.

40. 8 … Nominations without a win is the record for the acting categories, with Peter O’Toole holding the dubious honour.

41. 10 … Actress Tatum O’Neil’s age when she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Paper Moon (1973). She is the youngest Oscar winner in history.

42. 11 … The record tally for most Oscars won by a film.

43. 3 … Films have won 11 Oscars: Ben-Hur, Titanic, and Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King.

44. 11 … The record for winning in every category a film was nominated in, held by The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003).

45. 11 … Nominations without a win is the record for a film, shared by The Turning Point (1977) and The Color Purple (1985).

46. 12 … William Wyler’s record for most nominations for Best Director.

47. 12 … Jack Nicholson’s record for Oscar nominations, the most of any male actor.

48. 14 … The record number of Oscar nominations for a film, held by All About Eve, Titanic and La La Land.

49. 14 … Italy’s record for most Foreign Language Film Oscar wins.

50. 19 … The number of times Bob Hope hosted the Oscars – the most in history.

51. 20 … The record for most overall nominations without a win in any category, held by Kevin O’Connell, a sound mixer. It turns out, though, that the 21st time’s a charm, as he finally won in 2017 for his work on Hacksaw Ridge.

52. 21 … Meryl Streep’s record for Oscar nominations, the most of any performer. 

53. 22 … Walt Disney’s record for most Oscars won by a single person.

54. 25 … The number of Oscar ceremonies hosted by the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion – the most of any venue.

55. 36 … France’s record for most Foreign Language Film Oscar nominations

56. 39 … The record number of years between Sylvester Stallone’s two Oscar nominations for playing the same character, Rocky Balboa, in two different films. In 1977, Stallone earned a Best Actor nomination for the role in Rocky. This year the 69-year-old received a Best Supporting Actor nod for playing the same character in Creed. Only four actors have been nominated for Oscars for playing the same role in two different films, but Stallone’s is the longest span of time between Oscar nods for the same character ever.

57. 59 … Walt Disney’s record for most Oscar nominations.

58. 87 … Ennio Morricone’s age when he became the oldest Oscar winner in history (Best Original Score for Hateful Eight, 2016).

59. 89 … 2018 Oscar nominated screenwriter James Ivory’s age when he became the oldest male Oscar nominee in history, for Best Adapted Screenplay for Call Me By Your Name. 

60. 89 … 2018 Oscar nominated French filmmaker Agnès Varda’s age when he became the oldest Oscar nominee in history, in the Best Documentary category for the film Faces Places, beating out fellow 2018 nominee James Ivory by seven days. If she wins she’ll become the oldest Oscar winner in history.

61. 90 … The length, in minutes, of the shortest Best Picture winner, Marty (1956).

62. 238 … The length, in minutes, of the longest Best Picture winner, Gone With The Wind (1940).

63. 1 hour, 40 minutes The length of the shortest Oscar broadcast in history, the 31st Academy Awards in 1959.

64. 4 hours, 23 minutes … The length of the longest Oscar broadcast in history, the 74th Academy Awards in 2002.

65. 2 days, 15 hours, and 38 minutes … The length the 85th Oscar broadcast felt like, with Seth MacFarlane as host, on February 24, 2013.

Did You Know

66. 0 … According to Vanity Fair, the amount, in dollars, Oscar seat fillers are paid to literally sit around all evening.

67. 14 … The number of hours the same Vanity Fair piece reports that seat fillers work the day of the Oscars.

68. 0 … Oscar wins for famed directors such as Robert Altman, Alfred Hitchcock, Akira Kurosawa, Sergio Leone and Sidney Lumet.

69. 2 … Directors have won back-to-back Oscars: John Ford (1940 & 1941) and Joseph L. Mankiewicz (1949 & 1950).

70. 2 … Best Actor/Actress Oscars have been awarded for performances in foreign language films, both Italian: Sophia Loren (Best Actress) in 1960’s Two Women and Roberto Benigni (Best Actor) in 1997’s Life is Beautiful.

71. 3 … Actors/actresses have had no dialogue in a film, yet still won acting Oscars: Jane Wyman in 1948’s Johnny Belinda (Best Actress), Sir John Mills in 1970’s Ryan’s Daughter (Best Supporting Actor) and Holly Hunter in 1993’s The Piano (Best Actress).

72. 3 … Generations of Oscar winners in a family are rare, but it’s happened twice: the Hustons (Walter/John/Anjelica) and the Coppolas (Carmine/Francis Ford/Sofia).

73. 3 … The number of Oscars the most nominated performer in history, Meryl Streep (21 noms), has won: Best Supporting Actress, Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), and Best Actress, Sophie’s Choice (1982) and The Iron Lady (2011).

74. 3 … The number of Oscars the most nominated male performer in history (12 noms), Jack Nicholson, has won: Best Supporting Actor for Terms of Endearment (1983) and Best Actor for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and As Good as It Gets (1997).

75. 3 … The number of Oscars the most nominated director in history (12 noms), William Wyler, won: Mrs. Miniver (1943), The Best Years of Our Lives (1947), Ben-Hur (1960). All three also won Best Picture.

76. 4 … Women have been nominated for Best Director: Lina Wertmüller (Seven Beauties, 1976), Jane Campion (The Piano, 1993), Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, 2003), and Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, 2009).

77. 5 … Actors/actresses have won back-to-back Oscars: Luise Rainer (1936 & 1937), Spenser Tracy (1938 & 1939), Katharine Hepburn (1968 & 1969), Jason Robards (1977 & 1978) and Tom Hanks (1993 & 1994).

78. 5 … Or, to be exact, the Big Five, are the five most prestigious award categories: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Screenplay.

79. 3 … Films have won all Big Five awards: It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

80. 10 … Different theatres/venues have hosted the Oscars.

81. 24 … The number of years, including 2018, that chef Wolfgang Puck has catered the official Oscars after party – the Governors Ball.

82. 45 … The length of time, in seconds, Oscar winners have to recite their acceptance speech.

83. 54 … Oscar statuettes were stolen in March 2000. All but two have been recovered.

84. 500 … The length, in feet, of the modern red carpet.

85. 700 … The number of spectator seats that line the red carpet.

86. 1972 … The year Charlie Chaplin’s film Limelight was eligible for the Oscars, winning for Best Original Dramatic Score. It was released in 1952 but didn’t screen in Los Angeles theatres until 20 years later, thereby finally, by Academy rules, making it eligible for official Oscar contention.

87. 1989 … The year the Academy changed the wording of the award announcements to reflect who the Oscar “goes to,” as opposed to who “the winner” is.

88. 2011 … The last time the Academy awarded the Best Picture Oscar to a black and white fil: The Artist.

89. 3,300 … The number of seats in the Oscars’ current home, The Dolby Theatre.

90. US$1.3 billion  … The combined worldwide gross of all the 2018 Best Picture nominees, according to Forbes. The publication also notes that, of the nine films up for the award, Dunkirk leads the pack in bringing in the big bucks with a box office haul of US$525.6 million.