Best Picture Winner: By The Books

Posted by Kristen Humbert

While watching the Oscars, even other writers take a bathroom break when the winners for Best Screenplay give their speeches. You don’t watch the Oscars to see unfamiliar faces thank their spouses and children and mothers and God, it’s all about the celebrities. But what’s interesting, is just how important writers – and books – are to the Academy.

Over the past eighty-four Academy Awards, forty-eight Best Picture winners were films adapted from books (or short stories). That’s more than half (about 57%). This leads me to believe the Academy has a thing for the adaptation.
I can’t really blame them. 

Of the forty-eight adaptations, forty-two were based on fictional novels, and six were based on works of non-fiction. 
This year, Argo’s been sweeping a lot of the pre-game awards and Lincoln seems to be a favorite. But neither is necessarily a shoe-in. People use all sorts of gimmicks to figure out who’s going to win Best Picture, so why not look to the past winners’ literary (or not so literary) origins?
It’s been a minute since the Best Picture winner was a film adapted from a novel. 2008’s Academy Awards was the last time, with Slumdog Millionaire taking the big prize. The longest we’ve gone without a book-to-film winner is four years, but more frequently, it’s a span of three. The 1997-2000 run was extinguished at the 2001 awards with A Beautiful Mind’s win (based on an autobiography, btw). Kramer vs. Kramer took the golden man home at the 1979 Oscars to end the 1976-1978 “slump.” And Scarlett O’Hara and crew squashed the 1936-1938 book-adaptation dormancy at the 1939 awards.
Currently, we’re in another three year streak of original screenplay domination with The Hurt Locker (2009), The King’s Speech (2010), and The Artist (2011). So, by the law of patterns and averages and stuff that goes over our heads: a book-adaptation is due to take Best Picture at this year’s 85th Academy Awards.
Out of this year’s nine nominees, we can cross-out four original screenplay flicks: Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Zero Dark Thirty, and Django Unchained. We also lose Argo because it’s based on a 2007 Wired Magazine article (not a book).
Four books adapted into films, four great contenders for the Oscar. Who do you think will win? 
You can follow Kristen on Twitter @ludakris10. She takes full responsibility for incorrect predictions and any and all bad math.