Special Report

30 Famous Firsts in Oscars History

Every year, the Academy Awards ceremony expands its demographic of winners and nominees with a number of historic firsts. The 2022 Academy Awards, for example, saw the first openly queer woman of color win an Oscar, when Ariana DeBose took home the Best Supporting Actress statuette for her role as Anita in “West Side Story.” (Not everybody wants to win an Oscar, however. Here are famous people who have turned down major awards or nominations.)

To determine 30 famous firsts in Oscars history, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data from the Academy Awards database of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. We compiled a list of nominations and wins with historical significance in the award show’s history. Achievements are listed in chronological order.

Some historic firsts include the first Black man winning Best Actor in 1963, the first deaf actor winning an Oscar in 1986, and the first Asian woman winning best director in 2020. Other firsts involve award-winning movies that represent previously underappreciated film genres, such as “Rocky,” which became the first sports movie to win Best Picture in 1976, and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” which became the first martial arts film nominated for Best Picture in 2000.

Click here to see 30 famous firsts in Oscars history

Although the Academy Awards are continually striving to recognize a broader range of talent, there is still much room for growth in diversity and representation. In its 94-year history, for instance, only seven women have ever been nominated for Best Director, and only three have won the honor. (These are the Oscars’ most egregious snubs.)

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