Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature
|Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature|
|Presented by||Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences|
|Currently held by||Morgan Neville
20 Feet from Stardom (2013)
Following the Academy's practice, films are listed below by the award year (that is, the year they were released under the Academy's rules for eligibility). In practice, due to the limited nature of documentary distribution, a film may be released in different years in different venues, sometimes years after production is complete.
In 1942, there was one Documentary category, twenty-five nominees and four winners.
- Africa, Prelude to Victory
- Combat Report
- Conquer by the Clock
- The Grain That Built a Hemisphere
- Henry Browne, Farmer
- High Over the Borders
- High Stakes in the East
- Inside Fighting China
- It's Everybody's War
- Listen to Britain
- Little Belgium
- Little Isles of Freedom
- Mr. Blabbermouth!
- Mister Gardenia Jones
- The New Spirit
- The Price of Victory
- A Ship Is Born
- Twenty-One Miles
- We Refuse to Die
- The White Eagle
- Winning Your Wings
From 1943 there were two separate documentary categories (features and short films)
- 1943 - Desert Victory
- 1944 - The Fighting Lady
- 1945 - The True Glory
- 1946 - none given
- 1947 - Design for Death
- 1948 - The Secret Land
- 1949 - Daybreak in Udi
- 1950 - The Titan: Story of Michelangelo
- 1951 - Kon-Tiki
- 1952 - The Sea Around Us
- 1953 - The Living Desert
- 1954 - The Vanishing Prairie
- 1955 - Helen Keller in Her Story (also known as The Unconquered)
- 1956 - The Silent World
- 1957 - Albert Schweitzer
- 1958 - White Wilderness
- 1959 - Serengeti Shall Not Die
- 1960 - The Horse with the Flying Tail
- 1961 - Sky Above and Mud Beneath, directed by Pierre-Dominique Gaisseau
- 1962 - Black Fox: The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler
- 1963 - Robert Frost: A Lover's Quarrel with the World
- Note: Originally Terminus was announced as one of the nominees, but it was subsequently discovered that the film was first released prior to the eligibility period, and thus the nomination was withdrawn.
- 1964 - World Without Sun
- 1965 - The Eleanor Roosevelt Story
- 1966 - The War Game
- 1967 - The Anderson Platoon
- 1968 - Journey into Self
- Note: At the 41st Awards ceremony on April 14, 1969, Young Americans was announced as the winner of the Documentary Feature Oscar. On May 7, 1969, it was revealed that the film had played in October 1967, which rendered it ineligible for a 1968 Award. The first runner-up, Journey Into Self, was awarded the statuette on May 8, 1969.
- 1969 - Arthur Rubinstein – The Love of Life
- 1970 - Woodstock
- 1971 - The Hellstrom Chronicle
- 1972 - Marjoe
- 1973 - The Great American Cowboy
- 1974 - Hearts and Minds
- 1975 - The Man Who Skied Down Everest1
- 1976 - Harlan County, USA directed by Barbara Kopple
- 1977 - Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids?
- 1978 - Scared Straight!
- 1979 - Best Boy
- 1980 From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China directed by Murray Lerner
- 1981 Genocide directed by Arnold Schwartzman
- 1982 Just Another Missing Kid directed by John Zaritsky
- 1983 He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin' directed by Emile Ardolino
- 1984 The Times of Harvey Milk directed by Rob Epstein and Richard Schmiechen
- 1985 Broken Rainbow directed by Maria Florio and Victoria Mudd
- 1986 - (tie): Artie Shaw: Time Is All You've Got and Down and Out in America
- 1987 The Ten-Year Lunch
- 1988 Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie
- 1989 Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt – Rob Epstein and Bill Couturié
Many critically acclaimed documentaries were never nominated. Examples include Shoah, The Thin Blue Line, Roger & Me, Touching The Void, Hoop Dreams, Paris is Burning, The Interrupters, Blackfish, and Fahrenheit 9/11 (see below). The controversy over Hoop Dreams was enough to force the Academy Awards to change their documentary voting system.2 The Academy's Executive Director, Bruce Davis, took the unprecedented step of asking accounting firm Price Waterhouse to turn over the complete results of that year's voting, in which members of the committee had rated each of the 63 eligible documentaries on a scale of zero to ten. "What I found," said Davis, "is that a small group of members gave zeros to every single film except the five they wanted to see nominated. And they gave tens to those five, which completely skewed the voting. There was one film that received more scores of ten than any other, but it wasn't nominated. It also got zeros from those few voters, and that was enough to push it to sixth place."3
Other documentaries have fallen victim to the Academy's eligibility requirements. In 2005, Grizzly Man, a documentary that had appeared on many critics' top 10 lists4 was not nominated, and had not even made the Academy's internally distributed top 15 list. Grizzly Man's exclusion was later revealed to be the result of an Academy rule disqualifying documentary films that are constructed entirely out of archive footage. However, Grizzly Man included new interviews and other footage shot exclusively for the film. Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, at the time the highest-grossing documentary film in movie history, was ineligible because Moore had opted to have it played on television prior to the 2004 election, an ironic circumstance in light of the 1982 winner, Just Another Missing Kid. The documentary, directed by John Zaritsky, was edited together with footage originally shot for the Canadian investigative journalism TV show The Fifth Estate.
Although documentaries are eligible for the Academy Award for Best Picture, none have yet earned a nomination.
- "1975 (48th) - DOCUMENTARY (Feature)". The Official Academy Awards Database. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on 2013-06-03. Retrieved 2013-06-03.
- "Steve James, Frederick Marx and Peter Gilbert: Hoop Dreams: from short subject to major league"; current.org; July 30, 1995.
- Pond, Steve, The Big Show: High Times and Dirty Dealings Backstage at the Academy Awards, pg. 74, Faber and Faber, 2005
- criticstop10.net Archived June 15, 2007 at the Wayback Machine