Academy Awards

Best Screenplays
and Writers

Facts & Trivia (1)
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Best Screenplays and Writers Sections

Facts & Trivia (1) | Facts & Trivia (2) | Facts & Trivia (3) | Winners Chart

The Best Screenplays/Writers Academy Awards
Facts and Trivia (1)

One indicator of the types of screenplays that are nominated for awards is within the Best Picture category. The vast majority of films that have won the top prize have been adapted from other sources (novels, short stories, remakes of other films, stage plays or musicals, TV shows, various writings, etc.), while many fewer have been original screenplays: See also: 101 Greatest Film Screenplays of All-Time and 101 Funniest Screenplays of All-Time.

There have been many writers who have unofficially worked on various nominated (and winning) screenplays who are not included or credited for the screenplay. [Uncredited but talented screenwriters include neophytes, called screenplay polishers, who make minor rewrites to improve the dialogue or scene directions.] The Academy Awards include only those who are officially nominated.

History of Changes in the Award:

See an entire detailed listing of Academy Award Script/Screenplay Winners from 1927/28 to the Present on this site.

This awards category has varied considerably over the first 30 years of the awards ceremony, but solidified itself by about 1970:

  • in the first year of the Academy Awards, 1927/1928, there were only two writing categories: Best Writing, Adaptation and Best Original Story; there was also a short-lived category termed Best Title Writing, discontinued after this year at the end of the silent era

  • in the second and third years of the Academy Awards (1928/29 and 1929/30), there was only a single writing award: Writing Achievement, with no distinction between original works and adaptations. Only the titles of the nominated films were announced. Writers were nominated for all of their work that year, rather than nominating the writer for a specific film

  • in the next four ceremonies (1930/31, 1931/32, 1932/33, and 1934), the distinction between original works and adaptations was resumed with two categories: Best Writing, Adaptation and Best Original Story

  • beginning in 1935, the term screenplay was first used as a nomination category (replacing Best Writing, Adaptation - it was used to indicate an adaptation rather than an original story), so now there were two categories: Best Original Story and Best Screenplay (adaptation)

    (Because of these rules, The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936) remains the only film to win its two writing nominations in one ceremony for the same screenwriters (Pierre Collings and Sheridan Gibney), for both Best Original Story and Best Screenplay (adaptation). Collings and Gibney are the only screenwriters to win two Oscars each for their work on a single film.)

  • in 1940, the Academy started a new category - Best Original Screenplay, in addition to the other two categories: Best Original Story and Best Screenplay (adaptation). Best Original Story was intended to give credit to the authors of performance works (not novels) that films were based on. Therefore, oftentimes, the source and its adaptation would earn nominations - and Oscars.

    (Besides The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936) with more than one writing Oscar, Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) was the first to win two writing Oscars, followed by Going My Way (1944) and Miracle on 34th Street (1947). But in these other three cases, the script authors were different people from the writers credited with the screenplay.)

  • in 1942, the titles for the three awards were: Best Screenplay (adaptation), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Original Motion Picture Story

  • in 1948, the award went back to only two awards: Best Motion Picture Story (original screenplay) and Best Screenplay (adaptation); the Best Original Screenplay category was dropped

  • in 1949, the award was expanded back to three nebulous categories: Best Motion Picture Story, Best Screenplay (adaptation) and Best Story and Screenplay (the new name for the Best Original Screenplay category)

  • in 1956, there were again three nominees, retaining Best Motion Picture Story and two other renamed categories: Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay

  • in 1957, the modern division of the award into "original" and "adapted" screenplays was finally implemented - with only two renamed categories: Best Screenplay - Based on Material From Another Medium (Adapted Screenplay) and Best Story and Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Original Screenplay); the category of Best Motion Picture Story was discarded by being merged into the other categories

  • in 1969, the category of Best Story and Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen was renamed: Best Story and Screenplay - Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published or Produced

  • since then, the category names for the writing awards have been simplified to Adapted Screenplay and Original Screenplay

Currently, there are two basic categories of writing awards:

  • Writing, Adapted Screenplay: awarded to the writer of a screenplay adapted from another source (novel or play usually)
  • Writing, Original Screenplay: awarded to the writer of a script not based on previously published material

Top Academy Award Screenwriting Nominees and Winners:

Woody Allen (16) and Billy Wilder (12) have been nominated the most for any screenwriting category. Five individuals have been awarded with three (3) screenwriting Oscars: Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen, and Paddy Chayefsky.

Top Screenwriting Oscar Winners: Overall

Woody Allen

16 nominations
3 wins
Annie Hall (1977)
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Midnight in Paris (2011)

Nominated For:
Interiors (1978)
Manhattan (1979)
Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
Radio Days (1987)
Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
Alice (1990)
Husbands and Wives (1992)
Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
Mighty Aphrodite (1995)
Deconstructing Harry (1997)
Match Point (2005)

Blue Jasmine (2013)

Note: All of Allen's nominations were under the Best Original Screenplay category.

Billy Wilder
12 nominations
3 wins
The Lost Weekend (1945)
- (Best Screenplay - adaptation)
Sunset Boulevard (1950) - (Best Story and Screenplay - original)
The Apartment (1960)
- (Best Original Story and Screenplay)

Nominated For:

Ninotchka (1939) - (Best Screenplay - adaptation)
Hold Back the Dawn (1941)
- (Best Screenplay - adaptation)
Ball of Fire (1941)
- (Best Original Story)
Double Indemnity (1944) - (Best Screenplay - adaptation)
A Foreign Affair (1948)
- (Best Screenplay - adaptation)
Ace in the Hole (1951)
- (Best Story and Screenplay - original)
Sabrina (1954)
- (Best Screenplay - adaptation)
Some Like It Hot (1959) - (Best Adapted Screenplay)
The Fortune Cookie (1966)
- (Best Original Screenplay)

Note: Wilder had 7 Adapted Screenplay nominations, 4 Original Screenplay nominations, and one Best Original Story nomination.

Together, Wilder and Charles Brackett are responsible for a total of 14 screenplay nominations. They co-share 5 screenplay nominations (from 1939-1950) and two wins: The Lost Weekend (1945) and Sunset Boulevard (1950).

Charles Brackett

7 nominations
3 wins
The Lost Weekend (1945) - (Best Screenplay - adaptation)
Sunset Boulevard (1950) - (Best Story and Screenplay - original)
Titanic (1953) - (Best Story and Screenplay - original)

Nominated For:
Ninotchka (1939) - (Best Screenplay - adaptation)
Hold Back the Dawn (1941)
- (Best Screenplay - adaptation)
To Each His Own (1946) - (Best Original Motion Picture Story)
A Foreign Affair (1948) - (Best Screenplay - adaptation)

Only two of Brackett's nominated screenplays, To Each His Own (1946) and Titanic (1953) did not involve his frequent scriptwriting collaborator, Billy Wilder.

John Huston

8 nominations
1 win
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
(Best Screenplay - adaptation)
Nominated For:
Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet (1940) - (Best Original Screenplay)
The Maltese Falcon (1941) - (Best Screenplay - adaptation)
Sergeant York (1941) - (Best Original Screenplay)
The Asphalt Jungle (1950) - (Best Screenplay - adaptation)
The African Queen (1951) - (Best Screenplay - adaptation)
Heaven Knows Mr. Allison (1957) - (Best Adapted Screenplay)
The Man Who Would Be King (1975) - (Best Adapted Screenplay)

Federico Fellini

8 nominations
0 wins
Nominated For: Best Original Screenplay:
Paisan (1946) - awarded 1949
Vitelloni, I (1953) - awarded 1957
La Strada (1954)
- awarded 1956
La Dolce Vita (1960) - awarded 1961
8 1/2 (1963) - awarded 1963
Amarcord (1973) - awarded 1975

Nominated For: Best Adapted Screenplay:
Open City (1945)
- awarded 1946
Casanova (1976)
- awarded 1976

Note: Federico Fellini has the record for most screenplay nominations for a foreign language film. Four of his films won Best Foreign Language Film Oscars: La Strada (1954) in 1956, Nights of Cabiria (1957) in 1957, 8½ (1963) in 1963, and Amarcord (1973) in 1974.

Francis Ford Coppola

5 nominations
3 wins
Patton (1970) - (Best Original Screenplay)
The Godfather (1972) - (Best Adapted Screenplay)
The Godfather, Part II (1974) - (Best Adapted Screenplay)

Nominated For:
The Conversation (1974) - (Best Original Screenplay)
Apocalypse Now (1979) - (Best Adapted Screenplay)

Paddy Chayefsky

4 nominations
3 wins
Marty (1955)
- (Best Adapted Screenplay)
The Hospital (1971)
- (Best Original Screenplay)
Network (1976)
- (Best Original Screenplay)

Nominated For:
The Goddess (1958) - (Best Original Screenplay)

Note: Billy Wilder, Francis Ford Coppola, Charles Brackett, Woody Allen and Paddy Chayefsky share the Academy Award record for Oscar writing wins (3) in all categories.

Joel and Ethan Coen

6 nominations
2 wins
Fargo (1996) - (Best Original Screenplay)
No Country For Old Men (2007) - (Best Adapted Screenplay)

Nominated For:
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) - (Best Adapted Screenplay)
A Serious Man (2009) - (Best Original Screenplay)
True Grit (2010) - (Best Adapted Screenplay)
Bridge of Spies (2015) - (Best Original Screenplay)

Quentin Tarantino

4 nominations
2 wins

Pulp Fiction (1994)
Django Unchained (2012)

Nominated For:
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Once Upon a Hollywood (2019)

All Best Original Screenplay

Frances Marion

3 nominations
2 wins

The Big House (1930) (Best Writing Achievement)
The Champ (1931) (Best Original Story)

Nominated For:
The Prizefighter and the Lady (1933) (Best Original Story)

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

3 nominations
2 wins

A Room with a View (1985)
Howards End (1992)

Nominated For:
The Remains of the Day (1993)

All Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

Ingmar Bergman

5 nominations
0 wins

Wild Strawberries (1957) - (Best Original Screenplay) (nom. in 1959)
Through a Glass Darkly (1961) - (Best Original Screenplay) (nom. in 1962)
Cries & Whispers (1972) - (Best Adapted Screenplay) (nom. in 1973)
Autumn Sonata (1978) - (Best Original Screenplay)
Fanny & Alexander (1982) - (Best Original Screenplay)
(nom. in 1983)

Leo McCarey

4 nominations
0 wins
Nominated for: Best Original Story:
Love Affair (1939)
My Favorite Wife (1940)
Going My Way (1944)

Note: McCarey was also nominated for My Son John (1952) for Best Motion Picture Story - equivalent to Best Original Screenplay.

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