Who Votes for the Oscars?

Every year, movie fans watch the Oscars to see if their favorite movies, actors and filmmakers win. Most viewers have no say in the actual winners. Even the most popular movies of the year may lose to other films or performances. So who actually votes for the Oscar winners

Oscar statues in a row
A bunch of Oscars |Matt Petit – Handout/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images

Showbiz Cheat Sheet is here to help. Here is an explanation of who votes for the Oscars and how it works. 

Academy members vote for the Oscars 

The Oscar is the award the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gives out. Founded in 1927, The Academy currently includes over 9,000 people in all aspects of the film industry, but it is still an exclusive membership. The Academy invites anyone they nominated for an Oscar to join the Academy, but the Academy also extends invitations to new members every year. 

Oscar winner Lady Gaga holds her Star Is Born award
Lady Gaga | Toni Anne Barson/FilmMagic

Currently, the Academy allows paper ballots and online voting for nominations. By the year 2021, the Academy states that most members prefer online voting. Once they select nominees, the Academy says they conduct final voting online. In most years, voting begins in December. For the 2021 ceremony, the eligibility period extended into the beginning of the new year due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic delaying most 2020 movie releases. 

Different members vote for different Oscars 

Specific Oscar categories are only voted on by members of that branch. For example, only actors vote in the lead and supporting actor categories. Even more specifically, only writers vote for writers, directors vote for directors, makeup artists vote for makeup, editors vote for editing, etc. 

2 Oscars
Two Oscars | Richard Harbaugh – Handout/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images

The only categories in which all 9,000 Academy members get a vote are Best Picture, Animated Feature and International Feature, if they’ve seen all the nominees. However, Best Picture is such a significant category, there’s a complicated system to tally the votes of the entire Academy body. Read on to find out more. 

How the Best Picture winner is calculated 

The Best Picture Oscar is more than a simple tabulation of 9,000 votes. Variety put together a helpful video to explain the complicated process, but we’ll try to summarize it below. 


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So, 9,000 voters rank their favorite movies of the year. In 2021 there are eight Best Picture nominees so they would rank each nominee from one to eight. First, Price Waterhouse Cooper tabulates all the number one votes, but a film has to earn 50% of the votes plus one to win Best Picture. So, approximately 4501 votes. 

If none of the eight films get 4501 votes, then they eliminate the film with the lowest number of votes and add the second choice on those ballots to the tally. If no film still reaches 4501 votes, the seventh least favorite film is eliminated, and the second choices of those ballots are added, and so on and so on. Got it? 

Source: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences