Oscars 2020: Which Movie Won the Most Awards?

Awards season is always a bit of a whirlwind, but 2019-2020 was even crazier. Part of this can be attributed to the Oscars taking place a few weeks earlier than usual. As the culmination of awards season, folks working within the industry were left scrambling to stay on top of it all.

On top of that, the discourse this year seemed coarser than ever. The academy faced several controversies, including the lack of diversity and the absence of female Best Director nominees. Yet, one film presented the potential Cinderella story many within the industry were rooting for.

An Oscars statue on the red carpet
An Oscars statue on the red carpet | MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images

Which films were expected to win the big awards at the 2020 Oscars?

When awards season started in the fall of 2019, the smart money was on either Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. Both films felt like traditional Oscar fare. Both featured standout performances and epic tales. And both represented a kind of culmination of their directors’ careers.

Yet, as the months past by, the narrative changed significantly. Tarantino and Scorsese’s movies lost much of their steam. And Sam Mendes’ World War I drama 1917 and Bong Joon Ho‘s South Korean thriller Parasite emerged as favorites. In particular, the former’s Golden Globe win for Best Motion Picture Drama turned the tide.

Going into the Oscar telecast, 1917 felt like the clear frontrunner. Nominated for 10 Oscars, Mendes’ movie had just the right balance of spectacle and substance to deliver a potential sweep. While 1917 did take home three Oscars, those wins were all on the technical side. Instead, another movie rose up to dominate Hollywood’s big night.

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‘Parasite’ pulled off a surprising sweep and made some history

In the end, Parasite became the first foreign-language film to ever win the Best Picture Oscar. Several international releases have been nominated for the top honor over the years — including Roma, Amour, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon — but none made it this far before. Yet, the academy didn’t just give Parasite the Best Picture trophy.

Going into the evening, the only award Bong’s movie was a lock for was Best International Feature. As the first South Korean movie nominated for the award — formerly Best Foreign Language Film — Parasite was always going to be a pioneer of sorts. Once Bong won Best Original Screenplay, it became clear that a Parasite mini-sweep was a distinct possibility.

And by the time the curtain closed on Oscar night, Parasite had won four of its six categories, more than any other film. Bong defeated frontrunner Mendes for Best Director, setting the stage for the Best Picture victory. The only awards Parasite lost were for production design and film editing to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Ford v Ferrari, respectively.

What does this mean for next year’s Oscars?

Industry insiders are already assessing whether Parasite‘s historic Oscar wins could be a sign of things to come. But coming just a year after the divisive Green Book won Best Picture, it’s far too early to tell if Bong’s Oscar triumph has anything legitimate to say about what the future may hold.

For all its talk of change, the academy still nominated only one person of color among its 20 acting nominees. Even though Little Women got several nominations, director Greta Gerwig was not among them. And female and minority-led (and directed) films such as The Farewell, Hustlers, and Us were overlooked entirely.

For now, Parasite appears to be the exception rather than the rule. In its presenters and musical performers, the 2020 Oscars made a spirited effort to make up for the lack of representation. Let’s hope the academy puts the same commitment to continuing the progress Parasite‘s exciting wins tease may lie ahead.