Oscars 2022: Can Steven Spielberg Win Best Director a Third Time?

Few modern filmmakers are as well-known as Steven Spielberg. The director of Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, and countless others remains one of the most influential Hollywood icons of all time. And his two Academy Awards for Best Director are a testament to his legacy. Now the 2022 Oscars ceremony is right around the corner. And Spielberg could find himself heading back up to the podium for yet another Best Picture contender.

Steven Spielberg looks to his side while wearing a suit on the red carpet
Steven Spielberg | Roy Rochlin

Steven Spielberg has a long history at the Oscars

Spielberg made his directorial debut with 1971’s Duel. And he landed his first major awards contender just a few years later. Jaws was nominated for several Oscars that year, including Best Picture. Spielberg himself was notoriously snubbed for Best Director. And it wasn’t until 1993’s Schindler’s List — following nods for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial — that he won his first Oscars.

Just a few years later, Spielberg received a second Best Director trophy for another World War II drama, Saving Private Ryan. Ever since then, he’s received periodical nods for Best Director and/or Best Picture. But Spielberg himself failed to secure a win for Munich, Letters from Iwo Jima (which he only produced), War Horse, Lincoln, Bridge of Spies, or The Post. However, the 2022 Oscars could be open to adding a third trophy to his mantle.

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‘West Side Story’ could be his third Best Director win

Citing 1961’s West Side Story as a personal favorite, Spielberg shared for years his desire to make a movie musical. Ironically, he eventually signed on to direct a remake of that Best Picture-winning classic. Alas, the 2021 West Side Story became an unfortunate box office failure, as reported by sites like Vanity Fair. Nevertheless, critics are over the moon about the movie, which received nearly universal acclaim.

In fact, much of the movie’s praise centers on Spielberg’s direction. After all, the filmmaker found a way to breathe new life into a 60-year-old classic, which some demanded needed to justify its own existence. Besides, Spielberg’s West Side Story shows a very different side to the director than Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. So it’s very possible the academy opts to reward the filmmaker’s ability to surprise audiences even so many years later.

Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ could win nothing

It’s been a long time since Spielberg’s previous win. So some might argue he could be due yet again. That said, the Best Director race at the 2022 Oscars is still wide open. Despite its seven nominations, West Side Story might lose many of those categories to Best Picture frontrunner The Power of the Dog. And most pundits agree that film’s director, Jane Campion, will win Best Director, which she lost for The Piano the year Spielberg won his first one.

In fact, Gold Derby — which tracks awards season odds and predictions — currently has Spielberg least likely to win Best Director. Behind Campion is Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza), followed by Kenneth Branagh (Belfast), Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Drive My Car), and finally Spielberg. Still, Spielberg is too legendary and beloved a filmmaker to completely count out. If he is destined to win a third Best Director, West Side Story is perhaps his best chance.

The 94th Academy Awards air on ABC on March 27, 2022.

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