Only Eight Of This Decade's Best Picture Nominees Are Original

Yesterday we posted a blog post pointing out that only two of the top 30 grossing movies of this decade were original (ie not based on an existing story (fictional or true)/character/property, be it a sequels, remake or adaptation). In fact, out of the top 50 grossing films of this decade, there are only 9 movies based on original properties. And five of those nine films were created by Pixar Animation Studios, another two produced by DreamWorks Animation. So basically, only two live-action films out of 50. The post got a lot of millage, so I thought a follow-up was warranted.

You would think that there would be a huge divide between the most profitable and the most critically acclaimed  films of this decade, right? You would think that while mainstream America flocks to established properties, the Academy of Motion Pictures would lean more towards rewarding originality. Not So... /Film commenter Keith points out that only 8 of the 45 Academy Award Best Picture nominees of this decade (so far) are original.

Here is Keith's original posting:

I took a look at the Best Picture nominees from 2000-2008, of which there are 45. Because kottke considers something like Pirates to be an unoriginal property, I am using similarly strict criteria. So, on to the list. There have been 45 nominees for Best Picture so far this decade. Of these:

  • 1 was a remake of another movie (The Departed)
  • 1 was based on a TV series (Traffic)
  • 1 was based on a Greek myth and an Italian Opera (Moulin Rogue)
  • 1 was a sequel (The Queen)
  • 3 were based on plays (Frost/Nixon, Chicago, Finding Neverland)
  • 4 were based on short stories (Million Dollar Baby, In the Bedroom, Brokeback Mountain, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
  • 4 were straight up biopics, which I argue is not not an original property in the sense that a studio acquires rights to tell a story, and arguably the originality involved is similar to adapting a book. (Erin Brokovich, Ray, Good Night and Good Luck, Milk)
  • 8 were based on nonfiction books (The Pianist, Gangs of New York, A Beautiful Mind, The Aviator, Capote, Letters From Iwo Jima, Seabiscuit, Munich)
  • 14 were based on novels or fictional books (LoTR 1, 2, 3, The Hours, Master and Commander, Mystic River, Sideways, No Country For Old Men, Atonement, There Will Be Blood, Slumdog Millionaire, The Reader, Chocolat, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon)
  • This leaves EIGHT that are original: Gladiator, Gosford Park, Lost in Translation, Crash, Babel, Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, and Michael Clayton.

    Those astute in math will note that 7/45 (17.778%) is worse than 9/50 (18%). So it seems that the box office appreciates originality more than the Academy. Take from this what you will.


    Peter Sciretta here again: The point of this post is not to call out a good chunk of this decade's best films out for being unoriginal, but to point out that some of the best movies being made today are also based on established properties, be it books, tv series, true life stories or plays (okay, mostly books and true stories). I find it fascinating that everyone calls Hollywood out for being unoriginal each and every time a new sequel or remake is announced, yet every year we reward "unoriginal" films. Being unoriginal doesn't mean a film is any less good than a completely original production. Heck, there are a lot of horrible films not based on previously released characters or stories. What matters is the execution.