Academy Awards history was made in 2020, with the first time a foreign-language film won the Oscar for Best Picture: “Parasite” capped off a surprise sweep, winning four out of six nominations. The film took home an impressive four awards, all in major categories: Best Original Screenplay for Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director for Joon-ho, and Best Picture.
This is not the only record broken by the South Korean dramedy. “Parasite” was the first South Korean film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, Best Director at the Golden Globes, and any award at the BAFTAs, and the first South Korean film to win the Palme d’Or, top honor at the Cannes Film Festival. It was also the first foreign-language film to win Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards, as only the second film to ever be nominated following 1997’s Italian Holocaust drama “Life is Beautiful.”
There were several reasons for “Parasite’s” history of the top prize at the Oscars. While the Oscars had never before granted Best Picture to a non-English film, other factors were working against “Parasite’s” victory. The film failed to garner any acting nominations, which often undermines a Best Picture nominee’s chances. Only 11 previous winners held zero acting nominations. However, this was also true for the expected victor, “1917,” as well.
Finally, the competition was stiff this season, with many incredible films nominated and several more facing frustrating snubs. The expected films to beat were World War I drama “1917,” Quentin Tarantino’s revisionist history love-letter to the movies “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” and bleak Batman-villain origin story, “Joker,” which had 10, 10, and 11 nominations, respectively, and were all excepted to sweep the awards.