A history of horror movies at the Oscars

Max von Sydow in The Exorcist (1973)
Max von Sydow in The Exorcist (1973) / Journal Sentinel files

This year's Oscar nominees have finally been released! Although there are no horror nominees this year (Poor Things only has elements of horror), the Oscars have not been averse to giving great horror movies the accolades they deserve. Throughout the 95 years that the Academy Awards has taken place, a total of 21 horror movies have won Oscars. The list starts further back than you may think.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde made history in 1932 as the first horror movie to win an Oscar, with its lead Fredric March claiming the award for Best Actor. About 40 years later, The Exorcist became the first horror movie to be nominated for Best Picture. Although it didn't receive that award, it was nominated for as many as 10 Oscars and won Best Adapted Screenplay as well as Best Sound. The biggest success for horror at the Oscars was in 1992, as The Silence of the Lambs became the first and only horror movie to win Best Picture. The film cleaned up at the Academy Awards, also winning Best Actor (Sir Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodie Foster), Best Director (Jonathan Demme), and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Jodie Foster and Sir Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs / Ken Regan, USA TODAY via Imagn Content

The Best Picture category has also nominated the likes of Jaws, The Sixth Sense, Black Swan, and Get Out. Although these movies didn't win Best Picture, only The Sixth Sense went home empty-handed. Jaws won Oscars for Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Dramatic Score. Natalie Portman of Black Swan was awarded Best Actress in 2011 and Jordan Peele's Get Out won Best Original Screenplay in 2018.

Psychological horror had its Oscar breakthrough in 1946 with The Picture of Dorian Grey winning Best Cinematography. Later in 1963, the classic What Ever Happened to Baby Jane won the Oscar for Best Costume Design. One of the most iconic staples of psychological horror, Rosemary's Baby (1968) won for Best Adapted Screenplay. In 1991, the astounding Kathy Bates won Best Actress for her performance as Annie Wilkes in Misery.

Fantasy and horror go hand-in-hand, which is extremely evident in 2006's Pan's Labyrinth, winning Oscars for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Makeup. The comedy horror Death Becomes Her won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects in 1993. Another black comedy, An American Werewolf in London won Best Makeup in 1982 thanks to makeup legend Rick Baker. Baker later worked on The Wolfman in 2010, also earning the film an Oscar for Best Makeup.

David Naughton in An American Werewolf in London / Sunset Boulevard/GettyImages

One of our favorite subgenres, gothic horror, has certainly had its time in the spotlight. Early on, Phantom of the Opera (1943) won two Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction. Another horror musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, won the award for Best Art Direction in 2008. The Omen, still remembered for its haunting music, won Best Original Score at the 1977 Oscars. In 1993, perhaps the most gothic of the bunch, Bram Stoker’s Dracula won three Oscars for Costume Design, Sound Effects Editing, and Makeup.

Of course, what would horror be without sci-fi? Alien (1979) was surprisingly only nominated for two Oscars and won for Best Visual Effects. Its beloved sequel Aliens was nominated for seven Academy Awards in 1987 and claimed two for Best Sound Effects and Best Visual Effects. That same year, David Cronenberg's The Fly won the award for best makeup, as was very much deserved.

I look forward to the future of The Oscars and all the unforeseen horror movies that may be nominated. Be sure to tune into The Oscars live on March 10 to find out this year's winners. I will personally be rooting for Poor Things to win in every category possible.

Next. Poor Things Review. Poor Things is a powerful Frankenstein retelling. dark