The very first Academy Awards ceremony, popularly referred to as the Oscars after the name of the statuette awarded to honorees, took place in 1929. In the 90 years since, many notable milestones and groundbreaking winners have been awarded. Here is a list of the 10 most groundbreaking winners in Oscar history.
In 2009, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director, for her Iraq War epic The Hurt Locker. Just how groundbreaking is Kathryn Bigelow’s win? Only five women have been nominated for Best Director in the Academy’s entire 90-year history. Interestingly, Bigelow’s indie film The Hurt Locker competed for Best Picture against blockbuster titan Avatar, directed by none other than her ex-husband and previous Best Director winner James Cameron. The Hurt Locker’s Best Picture and Best Director awards were something of a coup, and one worth celebrating.
No screen presence can rival that of Sidney Poitier, and few careers are as iconic as his. That’s why it makes sense that the iconic Poitier was the first African-American to win Best Actor for his work in 1963’s Lilies of the Field. While it’s a shame that it took the Oscars almost 40 years to award an African-American actor for his work, Poitier was an essential progressive figure in his day, enough to garner a Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama in 2009.