Oscar Directors: Winners at First (and Only) Nomination

Directors Careers

This essay is part of a bigger project (and forthcoming book): Age, Creativity, and Productivity in Film







Of the 67 individuals who have won the best Director Oscar over the past 89 years (1927-28 to 2016), 22 (or less than one third) have won gold at their first nomination  This group consisted of directors who have been nominationed only once.

Most winning directors have been nominated multiple times.  The record holder is still William Wyler, who had been nominated 12 times, winning 2 Oscars, in 1942 for Mrs. Miniver and in 1946 for The Best Years of Our Lives.

forrest_gump_3_hanksI realize that some of these directors (the recent winners) are still young–Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) and Tom Hopper (The King’s Speech) are good examples–and thus may receive another directing nomination in the future.

Is is a coincidence that most of these directors have made some of the weakest films to have won the Best Picture.  It may be a mater of taste, but I consider Rocky, Terms of Endearment, Dances with Wolves, Braveheart, Slumdog Millionaire, and The King’s Speech as weak film artistically, which fail to withhold the test of time.


Director                                      Film                                 Year

Fleming, Victor                          Gone with the Wind      1939

Mann, Delbert                              Marty                                1955

Robbins, Jerome                        West Side Story             1961

Richardson, Tony                      Tom Jones                       1963

Schaffner, Franklin                    Patton                               1970

Avildsen, John                            Rocky                                1976

Cimino, Michael                          The Deer Hunter          1979

Attenborough, Richard           Gandhi                              1982

Brooks, James                          Terms of Endearment    1983

Costner, Kevin                           Dances with Wolves      1990

Demme, Jonathan                   Silence of the Lambs      1991

Zemeckis, Robert                     Forrest Gump                  1994

Minghella, Anthony                The English Patient       1996

Mendes, Sam                             American Beauty           1999

Soderbergh, Steven                  Traffic                              2000

Ang Lee                                      Brokeback Mountain     2005

Boyle, Danny                             Slumdog Millionaire     2008

Bigelow, Kathryn                     The Hurt Locker             2009

Hopper, Tom                             The King’s Speech         2010

Hazanovicius, Michel             The Artist                          2011

Alfonso Cuaron                        Gravity                              2014

Damien Chazelle                     La La Land                        2016

Guillermo del Toro                 The Shape of Water        2017



Jerome Robbins, better known as choreographer, co-directed (with Robert Wise) West Side Story and perhaps should be eliminated from the list since he had not directed another picture.