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7 Secrets To Making An Oscar-Winning Movie

BuzzFeed analyzed data on all Best Picture winners since the 1930s to find the perfect Oscar bait. It should be a drama with "night" in the title.

Posted on February 22, 2013, at 6:26 p.m. ET

1. Get $41 million.

In an original data analysis, BuzzFeed looked at the Oscar winners for Best Picture since the 1930s and adjusted all their budgets for inflation. The average budget of a Best Picture winner, in 2013 dollars, is $41 million. So that should be all you need to get started.

2. Find a dramatic script (stay away from comedies).


Over half the Best Picture winners have been dramas, so sticking to that genre will increase your odds. Your worst bet: musicals, which have won only 9% of the time.

3. Sign Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson.

Christopher Polk / Getty Images

They are the living actors with most Best Actor or Actress nominations — she has 12, he has 8. They both each have two wins, also the most of any living actor. Others with two: Jodie Foster, Hillary Swank, Sally Field, Sean Penn, Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks, and Daniel Day-Lewis. Hire them all and make it an ensemble!

4. Don't make it too long.

Contrary to what you might think, extra-long epics don't do especially well in the Oscar race — just 12% have been over three hours long. Sixty-five percent have been 150 minutes or shorter.

5. Get an R rating.

Forty-five percent of Best Picture winners have been rated R — just 20% got PG-13. So throw in a few extra swear words or some naked people (but not too many, since an NC-17 movie has never won a major Oscar).

6. Consider adding the word "night" or "king" to the title.

These words appear more frequently than any others (except articles and prepositions) in the titles of Best Picture winners. The average title of a Best Picture winner is three words long — the longest was The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Twenty winners have had one-word titles.

7. Basically, make this movie.

John Gara for BuzzFeed

An R-rated drama starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep should net you an Oscar for sure. All you need is $41 million, an entire crew, and all the skills needed to produce and direct a film. Easy!

Data analysis by Arun Mikkilineni.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.