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Trailblazing Oscar Moments
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The Academy

As we celebrate Black History Month, it’s the perfect time to honor some of the remarkable trailblazers who have taken home statuettes on Oscar night for their work both in front of and behind the camera. Spanning nine decades, here are some of the films that showcased talent who became historic firsts in their fields. 

1

Black Panther

2018

WHERE TO WATCH

One of the most lauded comic book-based films in history, this Marvel production from 2018 earned seven Oscar nominations and three wins including a history-making one in Costume Design for Ruth Carter, the first African-American to win the category. In 1993, Carter had been the first Black woman to be nominated in the category, for her work on Malcolm X. (Sharen Davis became the second with her nomination for 2004’s Ray.) 

WHERE TO WATCH
Black Panther
2018
134 Mins | PG-13
Black Panther must save his nation and the rest of the world from a powerful old enemy.


2

Dear Basketball

2017

The late Kobe Bryant earned his place in the cinematic record books as the first pro athlete to win an Oscar in any category as well as the first Black winner for Animated Short Film for Dear Basketball (2017), a film he wrote and narrated based on his own real-life retirement letter to the sport he loved so dearly.  

WHERE TO WATCH
Dear Basketball
2017
06 Mins
An animated telling of Kobe Bryant's poem.


3

Get Out

2017

WHERE TO WATCH

Writer-director Jordan Peele’s surprising and influential blend of horror and satirical comedy broke new ground when he became the first Black winner for Original Screenplay, and the film also earned him a Directing nomination. The film’s mixture of biting social commentary and twisty thrills made it a major player on the modern horror scene, with its very title becoming a part of pop culture.

WHERE TO WATCH
Get Out
2017
104 Mins | R
A young man uncovers a dark secret when he meets his girlfriend's parents for the first time.


4

Glory

1989

WHERE TO WATCH

Denzel Washington became the first African-American actor to earn two acting nominations (following Cry Freedom in 1987) and won his second time out for Supporting Actor for his role in this film about an often overlooked chapter in Civil War history. Washington clinched his place in Oscar history again as the first Black actor to win multiple awards when he took home the award for Best Actor for Training Day (2001).

WHERE TO WATCH
Glory
1989
122 Mins | R
Col. Robert G.Shaw (Matthew Broderick) trains, then leads an all-black Civil War regiment.


5

Gone With the Wind

1939

WHERE TO WATCH

The honor for the first African-American to win (and be nominated for) an Oscar goes to Hattie McDaniel, who won Supporting Actress for her role in David O. Selznick’s oft-debated, epic look at the American South from 1939, set during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. 

WHERE TO WATCH
Gone With the Wind
1939
222 Mins | G
Civil War rogue Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) loves Southern belle Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh).


6

Lilies of the Field

1963

WHERE TO WATCH

Bahamian-American actor Sidney Poitier cemented his status as one of the most popular leading men of the 1960s with this deeply affecting drama that made him the first Black Best Actor winner at the Academy Awards, one of many honors over the course of his career.

WHERE TO WATCH
Lilies of the Field
1963
94 Mins | U
A traveling handyman (Sidney Poitier) helps five German nuns build a chapel in Arizona.


7

Monster's Ball

2001

Halle Berry brought down the house as she became the first Black woman to take home the Oscar for Best Actress, with an impassioned acceptance speech that name-checked the first Black actress ever nominated in the category, Dorothy Dandridge (whom Berry had played just a few years earlier, to acclaim). 

WHERE TO WATCH
Monster's Ball
2001
112 Mins | 16
A racist prison-guard (Billy Bob Thornton) has an affair with a black woman (Halle Berry).


8

An Officer and a Gentleman

1982

WHERE TO WATCH

Already established as a leading and character actor in numerous films, Louis Gossett Jr. was the first African-American winner for Supporting Actor for his fiery portrayal as one of the screen’s most memorable drill sergeants. 

WHERE TO WATCH
An Officer and a Gentleman
1982
125 Mins | R
A hardened loner shapes up for a military drill instructor and a factory girl from town.


9

Shaft

1971

WHERE TO WATCH

After wowing Oscar night viewers with his dazzlingly funky performance of “Theme from Shaft,” Isaac Hayes became the first African-American winner for Original Song, with later winners ranging from Stevie Wonder to Common. Hayes was also nominated for Original Dramatic Score for the innovative Black action classic from 1971.

WHERE TO WATCH
Shaft
1971
100 Mins | R
A Harlem mob boss (Moses Gunn) hires a private eye (Richard Roundtree).


10

Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse

2018

WHERE TO WATCH

Peter Ramsey, one of the five winners for Animated Feature Film for this mind-bending adventure, was the first African-American to be nominated for and win in the category. Among the voice talent for the film was another Oscar winner, Mahershala Ali, who was the first Black actor to win twice in the same category for Supporting Actor with Moonlight (2016) and Green Book (2018).

WHERE TO WATCH
Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse
2018
117 Mins | A
Spider-Man battles the evil Kingpin, a hulking madman who can open portals to other universes.


11

12 Years a Slave

2013

WHERE TO WATCH

Kenyan-raised Lupita Nyong’o’s searing performance as Patsey was a standout element of British filmmaker Steve McQueen’s triple Oscar-winning 2013 drama about the abducted Solomon Northup, who was forced into a grueling life of slavery in the South. Nyong’o earned a Supporting Actress win—a first for an African thespian—while McQueen made history as the first Black filmmaker to win for Best Picture.

WHERE TO WATCH
12 Years a Slave
2013
134 Mins | R
Free black New Yorker Solomon Northup is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South.


12

Undefeated

2011

WHERE TO WATCH

This documentary, from directors Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin, about a dramatic season for Memphis’ Manassas Tigers high school football team, nabbed the Oscar for Documentary Feature, making Martin the first Black director to take home a statuette for a feature-length film.

The 93rd Oscars will be held on Sunday, April 25th at 8 pm EST.  Watch it live on ABC or go to ABC.com and log in with your TV provider.

WHERE TO WATCH
Undefeated
2011
113 Mins | PG-13
High-school football players strive to win their school's first playoff game in 110 years.


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