Academy Awards History, Voting Categories and Facts

The Academy Awards (The Oscars) is unarguably the highest award that an actor or filmmaker can aspire to win in his or her career.  It began in the year 1989 and has since then been rewarding brilliance in all spheres of movie making on a yearly basis as organized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). Even though The Academy is based in Hollywood, it also recognizes outstanding movies and filmmakers from different parts of the world. Find out more about The Academy Awards here including its history and origin, the categories and voting processes, rules and fun facts about the awards.

Origin and History of the Academy Awards

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was established in 1927 and tasked with resolving boiling issues in the movie industry. One of the avenues they explored was to set up an awards committee which recommended that the awards be started. This recommendation was approved and the very first Oscars ceremony took place a year later. It happened on the 16th of May 1929 and had less than 300 guests in attendance. From this humble beginning, The Academy Awards has grown to become the most celebrated award ceremony in the world. In fact, top awards of excellence in other disciplines such as sports or photography are often referred to as the Oscars of such disciplines.

Voting Process

The voting process is the exclusive preserve of the Academy. The voting procedure is in two stages. At the initial stage, renowned audit firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) compiles the names of eligible contestants and sends it to the members of The Academy for their votes. After the first stage, PwC calculates the outcome and reveals the contenders. The Academy members vote again in the second stage. The winners are then revealed at the ceremony proper.

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The Academy Awards has 24 standard categories as well as other special categories. The most anticipated ones are usually:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Actor
  • Best Actress
  • Best Supporting Actor
  • Best Supporting Actress
  • Best Directing
  • Best Foreign Language Film
  • Best Animated Feature Film (introduced in 2001) etc.

The Academy Awards also has special categories such as

  • The Technical Achievement Award
  • Academy Honorary Award
  • Gordon E. Sawyer Award
  • Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award
  • Academy Special Achievement Award
  • Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award

The special categories awards are not necessarily awarded each year.


For a movie to qualify for the year’s award, it must be publicly shown at a commercial cinema in the United States for one straight week in the preceding year (that is from January 1st to December 31st). Therefore a movie released in March 2012 and another released on the 25th of December 2012 both qualify for the 2013 Oscars.

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Nominees for the best foreign language film are exempted from the requirement of having been shown in a cinema in the U.S.

Another rule is that for a movie to be eligible, it must be at least 40 minutes long (Feature-length). This requirement obviously does not apply to films in the short categories.

Facts About the Academy Awards

1. Starting from 1950, an Oscar winner cannot sell his statuette without offering the option of first refusal to The Academy. The Academy reserves the right to buy it back for only $1.

2. The youngest person to win an Oscar was 10 years old Tatum O’Neal in 1974. She won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the 1973 movie, Paper Moon.

3. The 1968 Oscars ceremony was postponed from the 8th of March to the 10th of March. This was due to the funeral of slain civil rights icon, Martin Luther King Jr.

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4. Halle Berry is the first Black woman to win the Oscar for Best Actress in a leading role. She achieved this feat in 2002 with the movie, Monster’s Ball.

Halle Berry and Meryl Streep at The Academy Awards/Oscars 2017
Halle Berry and Meryl Streep at Oscars 2017 (image source)

5. Meryl Streep is the actor/actress with the most Academy Award nominations. She has been nominated 17 times and won three.

6. Three movies hold the record for the most Oscars wins – 11. They are Titanic (1997), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) and Ben-Hur (1959).

7. In the past, the list of Oscar winners was given to pressmen before the ceremony. They, however, do not publish it until after the ceremony. This practice continued until 1939 when the L.A. Times committed a gaffe and released the list before the ceremony. Presently, winners are only revealed during the ceremony.

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