Adaptations Are 64% of 2017 Major Oscar Nominations

by John Robert Marlow

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The long-trending dominance of adaptations continues in 2017, with 28 of 44 (or 64% of) major-category Academy Award nominations. This year, 6 of the 9 Best Picture nominees are based on a book, true-life story, play or short story.

The 5 nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay are adaptations—but so is one of the 5 Best Original Screenplay nominees.

Likewise, 4 of 5 Best Actress nods go to performances in movies based on other works. Ditto 2 of 5 Best Actor noms.


The same goes for 4 of 5 Best Supporting Actress nods, and 3 of 5 Best Supporting Actor nominees.

Finally, 3 of the 5 Best Director nominations go to directors of adaptations.

Last year, adaptations took 100% of all major category wins (Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress).

Last year (2016), 100% of major category wins (Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress) were for adaptations, or work on adaptations. (See this post for details.)

Given this year’s numbers, adaptations should make another strong showing on Oscar night. (Details on specific adaptations below.)


Arrival: based on the short story Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang.

Fences: based on the the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by August Wilson.

Hacksaw Ridge: based on the true-life story of Desmond Doss, a WW2 soldier who, because of his religious beliefs, refused to carry weapons or kill enemy soldiers.

Hidden Figures: based on the nonfiction book of the same name, by Margot Lee Shetterly.

Lion: based on the nonfiction book A Long Way Home, by Saroo Brierly, about a 5-year-old Indian boy accidentally separated from his family for 25 years.

Moonlight: based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, by Tarell Alvin McCraney.


Hidden Figures


20th Century Women (based on the childhood experiences of writer/director Mike Mills).


Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
Denzel Washington – Fences


Isabelle Huppert – Elle (based on the novel Oh… by Philippe Djian)

Ruth Negga – Loving (based on the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, whose 1967 U.S. Supreme Court Case struck down all state laws banning interracial marriage)

Natalie Portman – Jackie (based on the life of Jacqueline Kennedy after JFK’s assassination)

Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins (based on the life of the opera-singing New York heiress famous for her lack of singing talent)


Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Dev Patel – Lion

Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals (based on the novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright)


Viola Davis – Fences
Naomi Harriss – Moonlight
Nicole Kidman – Lion
Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures


Denis Villeneuve – Arrival
Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

With 28 of 44 major Academy Award nominations going to adaptations (or performances in adaptations), and 76 of the top 100 highest-grossing movies of all time being adaptations (see The 100 Highest-Grossing Adaptations of All Time—there has never been a better time for authors and other storytellers looking to make the jump to Hollywood.



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