The Oscars’ voting process explained

Learn how your favorite movie of the year can become an Academy award winner.

On March 12, the 95th Academy Awards will be held at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Therefore, it is the perfect opportunity to learn how the most prestigious gold statue in the film industry is handed out. Here is a complete guide on the people and the processes that define the nominees and winners of the Oscars.

Who votes on the Oscars?

The Oscars are voted on by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), which is a group of more than 10,000 members who are professionals in the industry. Each member belongs to one of the 17 branches in the Academy.

What are the branches?

Each Oscar category has a branch, such as Actors, Cinematographers, Directors, Music, Producers, etc. Members of AMPAS can belong to one single branch. FUN FACT: The acting category is by far the largest branch, with more than 1,300 members.

How do you become a member of the AMPAS?

Only by invitation. The Board of Governors are the ones responsible for sending the invitations. There are two ways to be eligible: have an Oscar nomination, or be sponsored by two current Academy members from the same branch to which the candidate seeks admission. Membership reviews take place only once a year, in spring.

What does campaigning have to do?

A good (and expensive) campaign is a way of drawing attention to a film. The Academy has strict rules on what a studio can and can’t do to rally support around a film. So, they must follow the rules or the nomination will be annulled. The most important thing in every campaign is to make sure voters see the film.

How are the nominees chosen?

At the nomination stage, members of AMPAS can vote for their branch’s categories (that is to say actors nominate actors, directors nominate directors, and so on and so forth) and for Best Picture. That means that all voting members have a saying on which will be the contestants for Best Picture. All votes are tabulated by PricewaterhouseCoopers, an international professional services brand of firms.

How do we get a winner?

Okay, bear with us. This one is tricky. AMPAS members vote for one choice in every category except for Best Picture. For the Best Picture category, the Academy uses the preferential-ballot system, also known as ranked choice voting. “What does that mean?”, you may ask. Well, AMPAS members are asked to rank the nominees from 1 (favorite) to 10 (least favorite) and then PricewaterhouseCoopers counts the number of ballots that have been cast.

In order to win the big golden statue, a film must receive 50% + 1 of the votes. So, if a film earns more than 50% of number one votes, it automatically wins. But this usually never happens. However, if no film receives 50% + 1 votes, PricewaterhouseCoopers eliminates the film with the least votes and distributes those votes to the number two option in each members’ ballot. If they still don’t get a winner, they eliminate the next film with the least votes and distribute those votes to the number three option in each members’ ballot. This process continues until one film breaks the 50% threshold.


1. According to online media company INSIDER, longer films have a better chance at winning. Since 1960, 76% of all film winners have been more than 2 hours long. It seems like the Academy thinks that longer films give a feeling of importance. And we don’t mean importance in the context of cinematic achievements, we mean importance in the context of how much actors had to change their physical appearance to look like their character or how hard it was to film in certain places (like a desert island), all the interesting facts that the audience loves to hear and that makes them want to watch the movie.

2. Science fiction and horror movies have never won in the category of Best Picture. More than 90% of Best Picture winners are dramas. The Academy loves a good story about overcoming difficulties, and it also loves a real life story. In the past twelve years, six Best Actor winners portrayed a real life person. Seems like reality trumps fiction.

You are now an Oscar expert, MyFamilier! All you need to know about the prestigious award ceremony is here, so you can come back to this guideline whenever you feel like refreshing your memory. 😉

Do you want to win 1 free year of MFC? All you need to do is tell us your predictions for this year’s Oscars. Do you think you have what it takes? Put your cinephile knowledge to the test!

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1 Comment

  1. geometry dash lite

    Members of AMPAS can vote for Best Picture as well as the categories for their respective branches (i.e., actors can nominate actors, directors can nominate directors, and so on). So, the Best Picture contenders are decided by the votes of all voting members.


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