15 Oscar Records That Are Basically Impossible to Break


Pageantry. Screw ups. Touching tributes. Private beefs made public. There are plenty of reasons to watch the Oscars. But they all amount to partaking in, witnessing, movie history in its many forms — the high art, the gossip, the record-breaking moments when an arthouse director becomes a household name. 

However, there are a lot of ways to set a record. There are big moments like Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King tying the record with 11 trophies or Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite becoming the first film not in English (or silent) to win Best Picture. And then, beyond those sit the oddities and records that are nearly impossible to break. Give me records like Walter Brennan winning three Best Supporting Actor awards because, as a former extra, he was popular with the Union of Film Extras, who were allowed to vote. At least, the story goes, they were allowed to cast ballots until they voted Brennan into a third Best Supporting Actor win. 

It’s that kind of offbeat Oscar history we’re digging into below. Here are 15 Oscar records that are unlikely to be broken, even if it’s technically possible. 

The Individual With the Most Oscar Wins

Walt Disney — yes, that Walt Disney — holds the record for the most Oscars at 22, including four honorary awards. The closest person to Disney is art director Cedric Gibbons, who has 11 wins. The most by any living person is VFX legend Dennis Muren, with nine. 

Disney set the mark in a different era, and it’s not likely to be beaten. Disney set other records that are similarly difficult to beat, such as his 59 total nominations, six nominations in a single year, and four wins in a year. Though, to be fair, the first of those isn’t untouchable. John Williams currently has 54 nominations. 

Oldest Average Age of Acting Award Winners

Everyone knows there is at least some bias — arguably a lot, but we’ll agree on “some” — toward younger actors in Hollywood. The four acting category winners in 1982 had an average age of 70.5, the oldest average age of the four winners from any Oscar ceremony. 

The winners featured a 77-year-old Henry Fonda (On Golden Pond), a 72-year-old Katharine Hepburn (On Golden Pond), a 77-year-old John Gielgud (Arthur), and a 56-year-old Maureen Stapleton (Reds). 

Least Screen Time for a Nominated Actor

To grossly simplify the situation, an acting award requires enough screen time to build a character and move viewers. So, extra kudos to Hermione Baddeley, who moved people and earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination with just two minutes and 20 seconds of screen time in 1959’s Room at the Top

Baddeley’s number is shocking, but there are other versions of this record that are just about as unlikely to be bested. Beatrice Straight has the least screen time of any Best Supporting Actress winner, appearing in just over five minutes of Network. Ned Beatty was in just six minutes of that same movie and received a Best Supporting Actor nomination. “I worked a day on Network and got an Oscar nomination for it,” he later joked about the role. Ben Johnson had the least screen time of any actor who won that category. His Best Supporting Actor Oscar came from nine minutes and 54 seconds of work in The Last Picture Show.

Most Screen Time for a Best Actor or Actress Winner

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Vivien Leigh holds the record, having won Best Actress for Gone With the Wind, a movie in which she appeared for two hours and 23 minutes. 

On the actor side, no one touches Leigh, making the marks a little more attainable. The Best Actor winner with the most screen time is Charlton Heston, with just over two hours of Ben-Hur under his belt. However, had Denzel Washington won for Malcolm X, he would have almost reached Leigh’s mark. He has the most screen time of any Best Actor nominee at two hours and 22 minutes.

Most Consecutive Best Actress Nominations

To have great roles year after year is a hard thing to do. So, good luck topping Bette Davis and Greer Garson in this category. They each got five consecutive Best Actress nominations. Davis did it from 1939 to 1943 and Garson from 1942 to 1946. 

A handful of people have grabbed four consecutive nominations, including Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, Jennifer Jones, Thelma Ritter, and, most recently, Al Pacino from 1973-76. Three, on the other hand, has been done quite a few times. Bradley Cooper did that from 2013-15, as has Renée Zellweger (2002-04), Russell Crowe (2000-02), William Hurt (1985-87), Glenn Close (1983-85), and Meryl Streep (1982-84), to name the most recent examples.

Shortest Film Nominated for Best Picture

This is a case of the times changing, even though Oscar rules allow a feature to be as short as 40 minutes. The shortest Best Picture nominee was 1934’s She Done Him Wrong at just 66 minutes. 

The shortest film to win Best Picture is Marty at 90 minutes, and the longest is Gone With the Wind at 224 minutes. Those are tough marks to break, of course, but they’re not impossible. Do you think Martin Scorsese is opposed to making an Oscar-worthy five-hour epic? It could happen.

Most Nominations for a Single Film

All About Eve, Titanic, and La La Land all got 14 nominations, a record that is technically breakable, but will be a steep mountain to climb. The weird confluence of events — an Oscar-worthy film with not just great performances but also score and visual effects and makeup, etc. — that has to take place to get that many nominations is astounding. 

Technically, English-language films are currently eligible for 16 nominations and a film that qualifies for Best International Feature could get 17. Though, that hasn’t always been the case as categories have shifted. Starting in 1982, there were two sound awards. That was the case until 2020, when they were unified into a single category, making it even harder for films to match this record. So, Titanic and La La Land were eligible for 17 awards. That will happen again, though, when Best Casting becomes a category in 2026, meaning English-language films can get 17 nominations and films that qualify for Best International Feature could get up to 18 kicks at the can.

Most Wins in Music Categories

This is only partly about John Williams because the Jaws composer, surprisingly, doesn’t hold the record for the most Oscar wins in music categories. He is, however, evidence that the record is unlikely to be broken. Between composition and songwriting awards, it’s Alfred Newman leading the pack with nine wins, all for Best Original Score. 

It’s not impossible to break, but if Williams, with his staggering 54 nominations, hasn’t done it, who will? The closest to Newman’s mark is Alan Menken, who has eight Oscars. He’s trailed by Williams, John Barry, and Johnny Green, who have five wins each. However, Green only won four for his scores and a fifth for producing a musical short film, “The Merry Wives of Windsor Overture.”

Most Consecutive International/Foreign Noms for a Country

An important record? No. Star-studded? Not really. But unbreakable? Well, probably. In the early years of the Oscars, the Best Foreign Language Film (now Best International Feature Film) almost exclusively rewarded films from European countries or Japan. The first winner that wasn’t a product of Europe or Japan was Costa-Gavras’ brilliant Z in 1969. Until 2000, only three winners were from countries besides Russia/U.S.S.R., Japan, or European nations. Since 2000, there have been nine winners outside of those regions. 

Anyhow, the record. Italy had a film nominated in six straight years from 1975 to 1980, a run that included a win for Federico Fellini’s Amarcord. France has come close, with five consecutive nominations on three separate occasions. Italy hit five consecutive nominations twice outside of its six-year run. Sure, this is a breakable record, but as things have changed over the years, it’s become increasingly unlikely that any single country will have a film recognized that many years in a row. Since 1988, there hasn’t been a country that has received more than three nominations in a row. 

Directors with the Most International Feature/Foreign Language Film Wins

The award for Best International Feature doesn’t go to the director but to the country that submitted the film. Nonetheless, we’re talking about directors. Vittorio de Sica and Fellini lead the pack with four wins. (De Sica also has the most category nominations of any director, with five.) Ingmar Bergman and René Clément are next, with three each. Akira Kurosawa and Asghar Farhadi come next with two wins each. No other director has won more than once in the category. 

Farhadi is the only living director with more than one. It’s certainly possible that he breaks the record. He makes beautiful films, and he’s just 51 years old. Moreover, many great directors who have been nominated in the category have also spent time making English-language films that aren’t eligible here, limiting their kicks at the can, so to speak. We’re thinking of directors like Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, Bong Joon-ho, Wim Wenders, Thomas Vinterberg, Ang Lee, Denis Villeneuve, and Yorgos Lanthimos. 

Most Nominations for an International Film

Even as films from outside the U.S. and U.K. more consistently receive recognition from the Academy — just look at The Zone of Interest, Past Lives, and Anatomy of a Fall this year — the high-water mark for an international film feels hard to break. Both Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Roma garnered 10 nominations. That’s astounding because it’s hard for any film to get that many nominations, and incredibly rare for an international film.

Parasite, for instance, broke barriers but only garnered six nominations. It would take truly special circumstances for a film to topple the record shared by Ang Lee and Alfonso Cuaron’s films. 

An Actor Appears in Multiple Movies with 11 Oscar Wins

Only three times in history has a film won 11 Oscars. For an actor to find themselves in a position to be in two films that achieve that near-impossible mark, it sounds like it would never happened. 

Except that it has. Bernard Hill did it. He played Captain Edward Smith in Titanic and Theoden in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. The third film that shares the record of 11 Oscar wins is William Wyler’s Ben-Hur. That film’s 11 wins are extra impressive because, at that time, it was only eligible for 15 categories instead of 16.

Most Nominations for a Single Acting Performance

This one simply cannot happen again. Barry Fitzgerald was nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for his role as Father Fitzgibbon in 1944’s Going My Way. Fitzgerald won Best Supporting Actor, apparently for supporting himself. No one will get nominated in both categories for a single role again.

Actors can still be nominated in both acting categories, but it has to be for two separate films. That feat has happened 12 times, most recently by Scarlett Johansson for roles in Marriage Story and Jojo Rabbit. However, no one has ever won both categories. Including Fitzgerald, only seven of those 12 people won one of the two categories when they were nominated for both acting categories.

Most Acting Nominations

Of course, we’re talking about Meryl Streep. She leads all actors with 21 nominations. It would be surprising if she didn’t add to that total at some point, since that’s the kind of thing she does. 

That total is high, but it’s hard to see just how impressive it is without context. The actors next on the list are Jack Nicholson and Katharine Hepburn with 12 nominations. The next closest living actors are Denzel Washington and Al Pacino with nine, then Robert De Niro, Glenn Close, Cate Blanchett, and Judi Dench with eight each. No one is catching Streep’s nomination record. At best, you’d need someone like Washington to have Oscar-worthy roles every year for the next 12 years and hope that Streep hasn’t added to her total in the meantime.

Most Consecutive Awards

And we’re back to Walt Disney, who won an Oscar in eight straight years, piling up a total of 10 statuettes from 1931 to 1939. This is an untouchable record.  Though, as untouchable as it might be, some people deserve a shoutout for getting as close as anyone can.

Thomas Little won four consecutive awards for Best Art Direction, starting with 1941’s How Green Was My Valley. A handful of people have managed to get three, including Emmanuel Lubezki for Best Cinematography (Gravity, Birdman, and The Revenant), Edith Head did it for Best Costume Design from 1949 to 1951, Roger Edens won three straight for Best Original Score from 1948 to 1950, Thomas Moulton did it in Best Sound Mixing from 1948 to 1950, Dennis Muren did it for Best Visual Effects (E.T., Return of the Jedi, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), and then Jim Rygiel and Randall William Cook won Best Visual Effects in three straight ceremonies for the Lord of the Rings movies.

Those are all deeply impressive marks, but how can anyone touch what Disney did?

The post 15 Oscar Records That Are Basically Impossible to Break appeared first on Den of Geek.

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