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82% of Best Picture Oscar nominees are “emotional”, “fun”, “powerful” or “tense”

4 minute read | February 2024

Do films with certain characteristics tend to get nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards? Nielsen’s Gracenote ran an analysis to answer this question tapping our deep trove of descriptive metadata around entertainment content.

Among other characteristics, the taxonomy of Gracenote Video Descriptors cover 294 different Video Moods organized hierarchically from broad, high-level concepts (Level 1) to more granular, specific concepts (Level 4). For example, under the broad L1 mood descriptor of “fun” sits ‘quirky,’ one of 22 more granular mood descriptors. 

Gracenote ascribes progressively granular descriptors to movies and TV shows to provide the clearest understanding of their makeup across multiple dimensions. The hierarchical nature of the taxonomy also enables comparing and contrasting content through the corresponding broader, higher-level parent descriptors. 

Here is what we found when we analyzed the high-level moods of the films nominated for Best Picture over the past 15 years.

•     The most important moods of 82% of the 136 movies nominated for Best Picture since 2010 include those classified under just four of the possible 17 at the top of Gracenote’s mood hierarchy – “emotional”, “fun”, “powerful” or “tense”.

•   This year, nine of the 10 nominees’ most important moods come from within one of these four groups. The sole exception is Poor Things whose primary mood is ‘wondrous’, classified under “fantastic” by Gracenote’s taxonomy.

•    The “thoughtful” Parasite (2020) is the only Best Picture winner since The Departed (2007) which does not have a primary mood classified under “emotional”, “fun”, “powerful” or “tense” in Gracenote’s Video Descriptors.

•    “Powerful” movies have been the most popular nominees for Best Picture over the past 15 years. The ‘epic’, ‘gripping’ Oppenheimer, the ‘compelling’ Killers of the Flower Moon and the ‘uplifting’ Past Lives are all “powerful” nominees this year.

•    Past Lives also has a “romantic” mood and is therefore the only one of this year’s nominees with one of the eight calmer L1 moods amongst its primary descriptions.

•    Only 26% of nominees for Best Picture in the last 10 years have had one of these eight calmer L1 moods amongst their most important features – “heartwarming”, “thoughtful”, “introspective”, “mysterious”, “upbeat”, “romantic”, “serious” or “dark”  according to Gracenote’s analysis. In the 10 years from 2005 to 2014, 42% of Best Picture nominees had one of these primary L1 moods.

•    American Fiction, Barbie and The Holdovers are this year’s “fun” nominees with all three being either ‘satirical’, ‘hilarious’ or both according to Gracenote.

•    The ‘moving’ Maestro and ‘somber’ The Zone of Interest both have “emotional” moods. The Zone of Interest, like Killers of the Flower Moon, also has a “frightening” mood amongst its most important.

•    “Frightening” moods are unusual amongst Best Picture nominees. Since 2010, the only “frightening” Best Picture nominees before this year’s pair were the ‘terrifying’ Get Out (2017) and the ‘brutal’ 127 Hours (2011).

•    The “tense” Anatomy of a Fall and the aforementioned “fantastic” Poor Things complete this year’s Best Picture nominees.

Note: Sensual is not included in the chart above. No Best Picture nominee has ever had a primary mood which falls into the sensual group.

Primary moods for this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Picture

FilmL4 – Granular/Child DescriptorsL1 – Broad/Parent Descriptors
American FictionSatirical, SuspensefulFun, Tense
Anatomy of a FallUnpredictableTense
BarbieHilarious, SatiricalFun
The HoldoversHilariousFun
Killers of the Flower MoonCompelling, UnsettlingPowerful, Frightening
MaestroMovingEmotional
OppenheimerGripping, EpicPowerful
Past LivesUplifting, RomanticPowerful, Romantic
Poor ThingsWondrousFantastic
The Zone of InterestSomber, HorrificEmotional, Frightening

About Gracenote Video Descriptors

Gracenote Video Descriptors, part of Gracenote’s Advanced Discovery suite of offerings, provides hierarchical, rich descriptors with a structured global taxonomy applied across content. The taxonomy provides descriptors across mood, theme, scenario, character, setting and topic, enabling customers to connect audiences with fresh and relevant content aligning with their preferences – increasing viewer satisfaction, engagement and retention on their services. For more information: https://preprod.nielsen.com/solutions/content-metadata/video-descriptors

About Gracenote

Gracenote is the content solutions business unit of Nielsen providing entertainment metadata, content IDs and related offerings to the world’s leading creators, distributors and platforms. Gracenote technology enables advanced content navigation and discovery capabilities ensuring consumers can easily connect to the music, TV shows, movies and sports they love while delivering powerful content analytics making complex business decisions simpler.

About Nielsen

Nielsen shapes the world’s media and content as a global leader in audience measurement, data and analytics. Through our understanding of people and their behaviors across all channels and platforms, we empower our clients with independent and actionable intelligence so they can connect and engage with their audiences—now and into the future. Nielsen operates around the world in more than 55 countries. Learn more at www.nielsen.com and connect with us on social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram).

Media Contact

Simon Gleave

simon.gleave@nielsen.com