The screenplay categories can often produce some of the more exciting nominations at the Oscars. The Best Original Screenplay category, in particular, feels like a chance for the Academy’s writer branch to nominate something outside of the box, which is unlikely to show up in Best Picture, or anywhere else, on nomination morning.
Since 2010, these are the films nominated for Best Original Screenplay, without any other nominations:
- “Another Year” (Mike Leigh, 2010)
- “Margin Call” (J.C. Chandor, 2011)
- “Moonrise Kingdom” (Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, 2012)
- “Nightcrawler” (Dan Gilroy, 2014)
- “Straight Outta Compton” (Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge and Alan Wenkus, 2015)
- “The Lobster” (Efthymis Filippou and Yorgos Lanthimos, 2016)
- “20th Century Women” (Mike Mills, 2016)
- “The Big Sick” (Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, 2017)
- “First Reformed” (Paul Schrader, 2018)
These movies found support throughout their respective seasons but only managed a screenplay nomination at the Oscars. This year, it seems like “Knives Out” could be a sole Best Original Screenplay nominee. Rian Johnson’s crowd-pleasing whodunnit has made over $120 million at the domestic box office and received rave reviews from critics. It was nominated for three Golden Globes and appeared on the AFI’s Top 10 list. Despite the acclaim, where else could it appear on nomination morning? Best Original Screenplay seems like a key place to reward such a hit.
The Best Adapted Screenplay doesn’t tend to produce as many surprises as its counterpart category. These are the films, since 2010, that only received a nomination in the category:
- “The Ides of March” (George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon, 2011)
- “Before Midnight” (Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, and Richard Linklater, 2013)
- “The Disaster Artist” (Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, 2017)
- “Logan” (Scott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green, 2017)
- “Molly’s Game” (Aaron Sorkin, 2017)
Best Adapted Screenplay nominees often correlate with Best Picture nominees, which doesn’t leave as room for as many surprise nominations. This year, “Little Women” continues to be a question mark in the awards race. It has critical support and received two Golden Globe nominations. Even so, without across the board traction in the race, it’s hard to know where the film will land at the Oscars. A nomination for Greta Gerwig in Best Adapted Screenplay seems like a way to acknowledge the film.
A lot of the top categories this year seem fluid. As a result, some movies are likely to underperform because there just isn’t enough space. While there are a handful of films that seem to be across-the-board contenders, some are bound only to receive one nomination. Keep an eye on Best Original Screenplay for a surprise nomination.