Oscars 2020: who votes for the winners? The Academy's membership and the awards voting process explained

The Oscars are world-famous but the voters remain mostly unkown. Picture: Shutterstock
The Oscars are world-famous but the voters remain mostly unkown. Picture: Shutterstock
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They're the biggest awards in cinema but who actually votes for the Oscars?

Some of 2019's best movies will be celebrated on Sunday 9 February at the 92nd Academy Awards ceremony.

Moonlight's 2017 Best Picture win was seen as a breakthrough for the Oscars, although recent years have called that into question. Picture: Djansezian/Getty Images

Moonlight's 2017 Best Picture win was seen as a breakthrough for the Oscars, although recent years have called that into question. Picture: Djansezian/Getty Images

This year, the one-shot war epic 1917 will battle it out with Joker’s dark comic book tale and South Korea’s smash hit, Parasite, to see who comes out on top.

But who actually gets to decide on the winners?

Here’s everything you need to know about how the Oscars voting process works.

Read More: Oscar nominations 2020: full list of Academy Awards nominees as Joker and The Irishman lead the running

Hugh Jackman used his hosting role at the 2009 ceremony to poke fun at The Dark Knight's omission. Picture: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Hugh Jackman used his hosting role at the 2009 ceremony to poke fun at The Dark Knight's omission. Picture: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Who votes for the winners?

The American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is made up of 8,000 individuals who the Academy describes simply as “accomplished men and women working in cinema.”

The group is composed of actors, producers, directors, writers and all kinds of other high-ranking members of the film industry. Beyond that, not very much is known of them – the actual identities of the voters are kept secret, as are the results of the votes.

Each year, many voters will speak to magazines anonymously to talk them through their votes but we never really know much about why things pan out the way they do.

What is clear is that the Academy remains predominantly white and male. In 2014, a study conducted by the LA Times revealed that 76% of voters were male and a staggering 94% were white.

These days, the Academy also veers much older, with an average age of over 60 years old.

How has this changed in recent years?

The average age of voters likely means that many members have not actually been active in the industry for some time, leading many to call for a cap on how long someone can remain a member after retiring.

While this has yet to happen, recent years have seen a push to diversify the voting body more generally, especially after the 2016 #OscarsSoWhite campaign which called the Academy out for continually overlooking non-white performers and film-makers.

In response, the Academy promised to double the number of women in its ranks by 2020.

They added 683 new members that year, 46% of whom were female and 41% of whom were people of colour, and then added a further 774 members the following year.

How does the voting work?

First off, the nominees must be chosen. At this stage, voters are only allowed to weigh in on the categories that relate to their discipline. This means directors vote for Best Director, actors for Best Actor/Actress and so on.

The votes are tallied, resulting in five nominees for each section.

Voters are then sent out a second ballot containing all of the categories. They vote for their favourite nominee in each section and the one with the most votes at the end is given the award.

Why is Best Picture different?

For many years, the Best Picture category featured just five nominations, the same as all of the other major sections.

However, in 2010, it was expanded to include up to ten films in any given year.

This was seen as a response to criticism that the Academy was losing touch with regular moviegoers, highlighted by its failure to nominate the critically acclaimed The Dark Knight at the previous ceremony.

Once the films have been nominated, voters use a “preferential ballot” system to rank the nominees in order of preference.

A movie must receive more than 50% of the vote to win. However, if no film achieves this amount of first-place votes, then the least successful one is removed from the running and the votes it garnered are redistributed to the ballot’s second choice.

This process then continues, with the last-placed film being cut and its votes being re-allocated, until a film gains the necessary majority to win.