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"Chang" is a nominee in the very first ceremony in 1929 in the one-time-only category, "Best Picture, Unique and Artistic Production." The documentary/fiction hybrid was made by white filmmakers but shot in Thailand with a Thai cast.


Mitchell Leisen, who was closeted, is probably the first gay Oscar nominee. He got a nod at the second Oscars, in 1930, for art-directing "Dynamite."

On the way to becoming the most-nominated Asian American in Oscar history, cinematographer James Wong Howe wins his first of 10 nods for "Algiers" in 1939.


Hattie McDaniel becomes the first Black Oscar winner in 1940, for her supporting role in "Gone With the Wind." Jim Crow laws prevented her from attending the Atlanta premiere. But she did go to the Oscar ceremony, held at a segregated hotel in Los Angeles, but was banished to a distant table.

Harold Russell is the first winner with a disability. The actor, who lost both hands in an Army accident, won for "The Best Years of Our Lives" in 1947 but wasn't cast in another movie for 34 years.

Jose Ferrer nosed out the competition to win an Oscar for his performance in Cyrano de Bergerac.
Jose Ferrer nosed out the competition to win an Oscar for his performance in Cyrano de Bergerac.


Jose Ferrer is the first Latino acting winner in 1950, taking best actor for "Cyrano de Bergerac" (Latinos have subsequently won best supporting actor and supporting actress but not the actress trophy).

Actor Dorothy Dandridge becomes the first presenter of color in 1955.

In 1957, Miyoshi Umeki ("Sayonara") becomes the first Asian performer to win, as best supporting actress.

While their "outness" is debatable in a time when Hollywood was closeted, costume designer Orry-Kelly and composer Aaron Copland both earn several nominations in the decade, with each winning at least once.

 The 1963 movie 'Lilies of the Field' stars Lilia Skala (at left) and Sidney Poitier (right).
The 1963 movie 'Lilies of the Field' stars Lilia Skala (at left) and Sidney Poitier (right).

United Artists


Sidney Poitier is the first Black person to win best actor, for "Lilies of the Field" in 1964.

In 1966, Laurence Olivier is nominated for playing the title role in "Othello," for which he used blackface makeup.


"Sounder" is nominated for best picture and three other Oscars, becoming the first film with Black contenders for actor (Paul Winfield) and actress (Cicely Tyson). Lonne Elder is the first Black writer to be nominated for screenplay.

Marlee Matlin in 'Children of a Lesser God.'
Marlee Matlin in 'Children of a Lesser God.'

Paramount Pictures


Although LGBTQ people have won Oscars, John Gielgud, who took home the supporting award in 1982 for "Arthur," is considered to be the first openly gay actor to win.

For cowriting the original song, "Up Where We Belong," from "An Officer and a Gentleman," Buffy Sainte-Marie becomes the first Indigenous Oscar recipient. (In 2020, Taika Waititi wins the adapted screenplay award for "Jojo Rabbit" and actor Wes Studi receives an honorary Oscar.)

Marlee Matlin becomes the only Oscar-winning actor who is deaf, for "Children of a Lesser God" in 1987. Her unicorn status could change with the upcoming "CODA," a Sundance Film Festival winner expected to compete for many awards next year.

Not counting music, Willie D. Burton becomes the first Black winner of an Oscar in the craft awards. His sound trophy in 1988, for "Bird," is the first of his four Oscars (Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler are the first Black people to win for costume design and production design, both for "Black Panther" in 2019).


Spike Lee's classic, "Do the Right Thing," does not earn nominations for best picture or director. He gets a nod for his screenplay but loses to "Dead Poets Society." Lee would finally get a directing nomination for "BlacKkKlansman" in 2019. He lost.

Halle Berry in 'Monster's Ball.'
Halle Berry in 'Monster's Ball.'



Halle Berry is the first — and, so far, the only — Black best actress, winning in 2001 for "Monster's Ball."

In 2005, Ang Lee is the first person of color to win best director, for "Brokeback Mountain." In 2009, Kathryn Bigelow becomes the only woman to win that trophy, for "The Hurt Locker."

Guillermo del Toro celebrates his win for best director for 'The Shape of Water.'
Guillermo del Toro celebrates his win for best director for 'The Shape of Water.'

Chris Pizzello • Invision/AP


Between Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Guillermo del Toro, the directing prize has gone to Latino men five times in the decade. Lee picks up another statuette for "Life of Pi."

When he gets the supporting actor award for "Beginners" in 2012, Christopher Plummer, 82, becomes Oscar's oldest winner. That year's host, Billy Crystal, stirs up controversy by doing a Sammy Davis Jr. impression in blackface.

In 2015, #OscarsSoWhite trends on Twitter after the announcement that all 20 acting nominees were white. (The same would be true in 2016.)

Anohni becomes the first transgender Oscar nominee for writing "Manta Ray," a song from the documentary "Racing Extinction," in 2016. She boycotts the ceremony after not being asked to perform. (Other nominees, including "Juno" star Elliot Page, have come out as trans after their nominations.)

Rachel Morrison becomes the only woman nominated for cinematography for "Mudbound" in 2017. No woman has ever won.

Also in 2017, Mahershala Ali becomes the first Muslim winner for his supporting performance in "Moonlight." (He won another supporting actor Oscar in 2019 for "Green Book.")

"Get Out" makes Jordan Peele the first Black screenplay winner in 2018.


Last year, with awards for directing, co-writing and coproducing "Parasite," Bong Joon-ho becomes the most honored filmmaker of Asian descent in Oscar history.