Oscar 2021: Historical Year of Breaking Many Records

The 2021 Oscar ceremony took place in the Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre and downtown L.A.’s Union Station.

Only presenters, nominees and guests will attend in person.

The Oscars air today, Sunday, April 25 on ABC at 5 p.m. PT.


History-making: Chadwick Boseman became the 7th actor to receive a posthumous nomination with his first acting nomination for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Leading Oscar nominee Mank received several historic nominations as a black-and-white film and Netflix approached a milestone record held by United Artists.



Riz Ahmed and Steven Yeun Make History in Best Actor Category

Riz Ahmed, nominated for his role in The Sound of Metal, became the first Muslim actor nominated in the category. The nomination of Ahmed, the British Pakistani rapper and actor, follows two wins by Mahershala Ali in the supporting actor category for Moonlight (2016) and Greenbook (2018).

Ali remains the only Muslim actor to win an Oscar, with Omar Sharif also nominated in the supporting Oscar category for 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia.

Minari‘s Steven Yeun became the first Asian American actor to receive a best actor nomination.

Both The Sound of Metal and Minari are nominated for best picture.

Female Directors Break Record 

For the first time in Oscar history, more than one female director has been nominated in the best director category. Directors Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) and Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) were both nominated in the best director category, with Zhao also becoming the first non-white woman to be nominated.

Only 5 women have been nominated in the best director category.

The first woman nominated in the category was Lina Wertmüller in 1977 for Seven Beauties, followed by nominations for Jane Campion (The Piano, 1994), Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, 2003), Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, 2010), and Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird, 2018).

Bigelow is the first and only woman to win in the category.

Zhao is the first woman to receive four nominations in a single year, for film editing, adapted screenplay, director, and best picture categories.

Fennell, who is the first woman to be nominated for a feature debut.  She received 3 nominations, the third woman to do so, along with Coppola for Lost in Translation and Fran Walsh (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King).

Along with Zhao and Fennell, the other nominees in the category are Lee Isaac Chung (Minari), David Fincher (Mank), and Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round).

Women: Record Nominations 

The nominations for the 93rd annual Oscars saw 70 women receive 76 nominations, a record for any given year.

Chadwick Boseman Posthumously Nominated 

Chadwick Boseman was posthumously nominated for best actor for his work in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The late Black Panther actor died during post-production of the Ma Rainey film, which is directed by George C. Wolfe and about Ma Rainey, an influential blues singer in the 1920s. Boseman plays Levee Green, a talented trumpet player. Although he had been nominated throughout his career, including winning a Golden Globe this year for the same film, this year marked the first time Boseman received an Oscar nomination.

Boseman is the 7th performer to receive posthumous nomination.

The others were James Dean (Actor, East of Eden, 1955, and Actor, Giant, 1956); Spencer Tracy (Actor, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, 1967); Peter Finch, the only posthumous acting winner to date (Actor in a Leading Role, Network, 1976); Ralph Richardson (Actor in a Supporting Role, Greystoke: The Legend of TarzanLord of the Apes, 1984); Massimo Troisi (Actor in a Leading Role, The Postman (Il Postino), 1995) and Heath Ledger (Actor in a Supporting Role, The Dark Knight, 2008).  — Ryan Parker 

Leslie Odom Jr. and Frances McDormand: Double Nominations

Leslie Odom Jr. is the fourth person and first man to receive acting and song nominations for the same film with One Night in Miami. Odom Jr. was nominated for a best supporting actor for playing soul legend Sam Cooke, and a best original song nomination with Sam Ashworth for the song, “Speak Now.”

Previous nominees who achieved this include Mary J. Blige for Mudbound (2017), Lady Gaga for A Star Is Born (2018) and Cynthia Erivo for Harriet (2019).

Barbra Streisand was the first nominee to receive nominations in both categories but for different films.

Frances McDormand is now the third woman, after Streisand and Oprah Winfrey, and 20th person to receive both acting and best picture nomination for Nomadland.

Asian Actors 

Korean-born, Michigan-raised Steven Yeun is the first Asian American nominee with Minari co-star Youn Yuh-jung receiving her first nomination for best supporting actress.

A year after Korea’s Parasite swept the Oscars (except in the acting categories), the two have become the first performers born in that country to earn Oscar recognition.

Minari also makes producer Christina Oh the first Asian American woman to receive a nomination for best picture, a category that also saw history made with Judasall-black producing trio of Shaka King, Charles D. King and Ryan Coogler.

Minari filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung, who also earned nod for original screenplay, becomes the second Asian American (after The Sixth Sense‘s M. Night Shyamalan) nominated for best director.  

Mank Becomes Seventh Black-and-White Film Nominated 

David Fincher’s Mank is leading the Oscars race with 10 nominations, though it will emerge as the biggest loser.

It has become the 7th black-and-white film to be nominated for Costume Design and the 17th to be nominated for Cinematography after separate categories for color and black-and-white films merging in 1967.

The last costume design nomination and win was the 2011 film, The Artist, whereas 2019’s The Lighthouse was the last to receive a cinematography nomination.

Viola Davis Becomes Most Nominated Black Actress 

With her fourth nomination, best actress nominee Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s) is now the most-nominated Black actress in Oscar history, and the only one with two lead acting nods.

She’ll compete in a category that also includes The United States vs. Billie Holliday‘s Andra Day.

Amid increasing amplification of incidents in which Black performers are forced to style themselves (or endure inexpert treatment), the anointing of Ma Rainey’s Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson as the first Black nominees in makeup is significant.   

Judas and the Black Messiah 

After racking up six Oscar nominations, Judas and the Black Messiah made history in multiple regards: The film’s best picture nomination marks the first time an all-Black produced film was nominated in that category. Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield’s acting nominations for best supporting actor signals the first time two Black male actors have been nominated from the same film’s 10 Black nominated contributors means the film now has the most Black Oscar nominees ever from a single film. The previous record-holder? The Color Purple, with seven. — Katie Kilkenny 

Nominees Age

Two nominees made history for their age.

The Father star Anthony Hopkins, at 83, is the oldest best actor nominee ever.

Richard Farnsworth held the record for 2000’s The Straight Story while he was 79.

Costume designer Ann Roth (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), at 89, ties the record for the oldest Oscar nominee at large.

She holds the record with 2018 best documentary nominee Agnès Varda and 2018 best adapted screenplay nominee James Ivory, who were both 89.

End of Major Studios Era

Netflix Approaches Distributor Record

With its 35 nominations in 2021, Netflix got close to the record set by United Artists in 1941, the year of The Philadelphia Story and The Great Dictator, when it earned 45 nominations.

None of the major studios are represented in 2021’s best picture. 

Netflix landed two nominations and Amazon, A24, Focus, Searchlight and Sony Classics each had one.