Has any film ever had better costumes than Amadeus (1984)?

Has any film ever had better costumes than Amadeus (1984)?

This is also known as the Edith Head Award. Not technically, but she was the foremost costume designer in the film industry for many years and was nominated the first 19 years the award existed.

In spite of the fact that costumes have been an important part of the look of film from the beginning, they didn’t bother to add it as a category until 1948. There’s no question that Gone with the Wind would have been the first film to 14 nominations had Costume Design been a category back in 1939. It missed the opportunity that later films got to pad its nominations because Costume Design was one of the split, Color and Black & White categories until 1967 (except for 57 and 58).

I wouldn’t have given the Oscar to Gone with the Wind (though the Academy probably would have), because it was the same year as The Wizard of Oz. Aside from those two, the Academy (in the pre-1948 years) missed out on awarding The Adventures of Robin Hood, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Children of Paradise and La Belle at la Bette.

The quality of the nominees went up quite a bit after the categories were combined into one, although oddly enough, even with double the nominees, Tom Jones and Lawrence of Arabia were oddly missing this category among their many nominations (10 each). For the first 14 years after the combination, only one Best Picture won Costume Design (The Sting), but from 1981 on, 10 Best Pictures have won, including six in eight years from 1996 to 2003.

Costume Design often goes hand in hand with Art Direction (because period films are often rewarded for both). Of the 77 Oscar winners for Costume Design, 39 also won the Oscar for Art Direction and 23 more were nominated for Art Direction. Only 5 films in the last 30 years have won Costume Design without an Art Direction nomination (Chariots of Fire, Henry V, Adventures of Priscilla, Marie Antoinette and Elizabeth: The Golden Age). Given its connection with Art Direction, a high number of films over the years have received just a single Oscar nomination, that being Costume Design (85 films), but only 3 of those have won the Oscar (Death on the Nile, Adventures of Priscilla and Marie Antoinette). The only category where a film is less likely to win its only nomination is Adapted Screenplay, where it has never happened.

Grades – Winners: A- / Nominees: B+ / Seen: 87.97% 96.57%

Top Costume Designers:

  1. Edith Head  –  645 points   (8 Oscars, 35 nominations)
  2. Irene Sharaff  –  300 points  (5 Oscars, 15 nominations)
  3. Charles Le Maire  –  285 points  (3 Oscars, 16 nominations)

Obviously, Edith Head reigns supreme.  She had 300 points in the 1950’s alone, as many points as any other costume designer in history (5 Oscars, 15 nominations) and still had the most points in three other decades.  Meanwhile, there is also Charles Le Maire, who ends up with the second most points, all in the 1950’s.  He only designed for a couple of more films after 1959, then retired while Edith Head kept getting nominations, year after year (it took until 1967, when the split awards were combined into one for Head to finally not get a nomination).  But Head is so far ahead of the rest of the pack, that even if she only had half as many points (she had twice as many opportunities), she would still be #1 by quite a long way.  The best of the modern designers are Milena Canonero (165 points), Colleen Atwood and Sandy Powell (the latter two both have 150 points as they both have 2 Oscars and both received their 8th nominations this year).

I feel I should also mention Adrian, the costume designer for MGM throughout the thirties and forties.  He did some amazing work and designed great costumes for such films as The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Anna Karenina, Romeo and Juliet, The Great Ziegfeld, Marie Antoinette, Pride and Prejudice, and, of course, The Wizard of Oz.  Unfortunately, he retired in 1948, the same year the Academy finally instituted the award, so he was never even nominated for an Oscar.

Honor Roll: Yojimbo / The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance / The Leopard / The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert / Oscar and Lucinda / Across the Universe

Shame Roll: What’s the Matter with Helen /  Ludwig / The Swarm / When Time Ran Out / Pirates / Harlem Nights / 102 Dalmations / Troy

1948 AA (C): Joan of Arc / The Emperor Waltz

1948 AA (B&W): Hamlet / B.F.’s Daughter

me: Hamlet / The Red Shoes / The Three Musketeers / Joan of Arc / Monsieur Vincent

1949 AA (C): Adventures of Don Juan / Mother is a Freshman

1949 AA (B&W): The Heiress / Prince of Foxes

me: The Heiress / Under Capricorn / In the Good Old Summertime / Little Women / The Adventures of Don Juan

1950 AA (C): Samson and Delilah / The Black Rose / That Forsyte Woman

1950 AA (B&W): All About Eve / Born Yesterday / The Magnificent Yankee

me: Sunset Boulevard / Kind Hearts and Coronets / Cyrano de Bergerac / The Flame and the Arrow / All About Eve

1951 AA (C): An American in Paris / Quo Vadis / David and Bathsheba / The Great Caruso / Tales of Hoffmann

1951 AA (B&W): A Place in the Sun / A Streetcar Named Desire / Kind Lady / The Model and the Marriage Broker / The Mudlark

me: Oliver Twist / Show Boat / An American in Paris / Tales of Hoffmann / La Ronde

1952 AA (C): Moulin Rouge / The Greatest Show on Earth / Hans Christian Anderson / The Merry Widow / With a Song in My Heart

1952 AA (B&W): The Bad and the Beautiful / Affair in Trindad / Carrie / My Cousin Rachel / Sudden Fear

me: Moulin Rouge / Rashomon / Singin in the Rain / Carrie / Miss Julie

1953 AA (C): The Robe / The Band Wagon / Call Me Madam / How to Marry a Millionaire / Young Bess

1953 AA (B&W): Roman Holiday / From Here to Eternity / The Actress / Dream Wife / The President’s Lady

me: The Actress / The Robe / Julius Caesar / Young Bess / Calamity Jane

1954 AA (C): Gate of Hell / Brigadoon / Desiree / A Star is Born / There’s No Business Like Show Business

1954 AA (B&W): Sabrina / The Earrings of Madame De . . . / Executive Suite / Indiscretion of an American Wife / It Should Happen to You

me: Gate of Hell / Le Plaisir / A Star is Born / Brigadoon / The Golden Coach

1955 AA (C): Love is a Many-Splendored Thing / Guys and Dolls / Interrupted Melody / To Catch a Thief / The Virgin Queen

1955 AA (B&W): I’ll Cry Tomorrow / The Rose Tattoo / The Pickwick Papers / Queen Bee / Ugetsu

me: Samurai I / Ugetsu / To Catch a Thief / Oklahoma / Daddy Long Legs

note:  Edith Head called this loss (she was nominated for To Catch a Thief) “the single greatest disappointment of my costume-design career.”  Her opinion of the winning designs by her friend Charles Le Maire: “All the costumes Jennifer Jones wore were Chinese cheong sams, the traditional Chinese dress, which could have been purchased in Chinatown if Charles had wanted to.”  (quotes from Inside Oscar, p 265)

1956 AA (C): The King and I / Around the World in 80 Days / Giant / 10 Commandments / War and Peace

1956 AA (B&W): The Solid Gold Cadillac / The Seven Samurai / The Power and the Prize / The Proud and Profane / Teenage Rebel

me: The Seven Samurai / Richard III / Lust for Life / The King and I / Anastasia

note:  One of the truly great years for color costumes, with all the glorious epics and their historical periods.  But to nominate Giant and its western outfits over Richard III, Lust for Life and Anastasia?  Really?

1957 AA: Les Girls / An Affair to Remember / Funny Face / Pal Joey / Raintree Country

me: Smiles of a Summer Night / Bridge on the River Kwai / Les Girls / Raintree Country / Mother India

1958 AA: Gigi / Bell, Book and Candle / The Buccaneer / A Certain Smile / Some Came Running

me: The Seventh Seal / Gigi / The Brothers Karamazov / Pather Panchali / The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

1959 AA (C): Ben-Hur / The Best of Everything / The Big Fisherman / The Five Pennies / Porgy and Bess

1959 AA (B&W): Some Like It Hot / The Diary of Anne Frank / Career / The Gazebo / The Young Philadelphians

me: Ben-Hur / Ivan the Terrible Part II / Some Like It Hot / The Magician / Wild Strawberries

1960 AA (C): Spartacus / Can-Can / Midnight Lace / Pepe / Sunrise at Campobello

The very worthy 1960 winner of the Oscar for Best Costume Design: Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus (costumes by Valles and Bill Thomas)

1960 AA (B&W): The Facts of Life / Never on Sunday / The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond / Seven Thieves / The Virgin Spring

me: Spartacus / The Virgin Spring / Elmer Gantry / The Hidden Fortress / Lola Montes

note:  The win for The Facts of Life was the first sign that the split really needed to be done away with.  It’s really one of the more ridiculous Oscars.

1961 AA (C): West Side Story / Babes in Toyland / Back Street / Flower Drum Song / Pocketful of Miracles

1961 AA (B&W): La Dolce Vita / Judgment at Nuremberg / Claudelle Inglish / The Children’s Hour / Yojimbo

me: Throne of Blood / Yojimbo / Flower Drum Song / Babes in Toyland / El Cid

note:  The back to back nominations of The Virgin Spring and Yojimbo showed that the costume designers were watching Foreign films, even if nobody else in the Academy except the screenwriters were.

1962 AA (C): The Wonderful World of Brothers Grimm / The Music Man / Bon Voyage / Gypsy / My Geisha

1962 AA (B&W): What Ever Happened to Baby Jane / Days of Wine and Roses / The Miracle Worker / The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance / Phaedra

me: Lawrence of Arabia / The Music Man / Gypsy / The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm / Mutiny on the Bounty

note:  By now, the split is absurd.  I’m glad that at least one group gave a nomination to The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but most of the nominations aren’t even worth mentioning.  And on the other hand, in back to back years of Best Picture winners with truly gorgeous costumes that deserved to win, neither Lawrence of Arabia nor Tom Jones manages a nomination.  How was that possible?

1963 AA (C): Cleopatra / How the West Was Won / The Cardinal / The Leopard / A New Kind of Love

1963 AA (B&W): 8 1/2 / Love with the Proper Stranger / The Stripper / Toys in the Attic / Wives and Lovers

me: Tom Jones / 8 1/2 / The Leopard / Cleopatra / Chushingura

1964 AA (C): My Fair Lady / Becket / Mary Poppins / The Unsinkable Molly Brown / What a Way to Go

1964 AA (B&W): The Night of the Iguana / A House is Not a Home / Hush . . . Hush Sweet Charlotte / Kisses for My President / The Visit

me: Mary Poppins / My Fair Lady / What a Way to Go / Harakiri / The Fall of the Roman Empire

1965 AA (C): Doctor Zhivago / The Sound of Music / The Agony and the Ecstasy / The Greatest Story Ever Told / Inside Daisy Clover

1965 AA (B&W): Darling / Ship of Fools / Morituri / A Rage to Live / The Slender Thread

me: Doctor Zhivago / Kwaidan / Inside Daisy Clover / Viva Maria / The Sound of Music

1966 AA (C): A Man for All Seasons / Gambit / Hawaii / Juliet of the Spirits / The Oscar

1966 AA (B&W): Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf / The Gospel According to St. Matthew / Mandragola / Morgan!

me: A Man for All Seasons / Red Beard / A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum / The Wrong Box / Juliet of the Spirits

1967 AA: Camelot / Bonnie and Clyde / The Happiest Millionaire / The Taming of the Shrew / Thoroughly Modern Millie

me: Bonnie and Clyde / Far from The Madding Crowd / Elvira Madigan / Thoroughly Modern Millie / Camelot

1968 AA: Romeo and Juliet / Oliver! / The Lion in Winter / Planet of the Apes / Star!

me: The Lion in Winter / Charge of the Light Brigade / Funny Girl / Star! / Oliver!

1969 AA: Anne of the Thousand Days / Hello, Dolly! / Gaily Gaily / Sweet Charity / They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

me: Oh! What a Lovely War / The Wild Bunch / Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid / Hello, Dolly! / Anne of the Thousand Days

1970 AA: Cromwell / Airport / Darling Lili / The Hawaiians / Scrooge

me: Women in Love / Cromwell / Little Big Man / Floating Weeds / Twelve Chairs

1971 AA: Nicholas and Alexandra / Bedknobs and Broomsticks / Death in Venice / Mary, Queen of Scots / What’s the Matter with Helen?

me: McCabe and Mrs. Miller / Mary, Queen of Scots / The Go-Between / The Garden of the Finzi-Continis / The Devils

1972 AA: Travels with My Aunt / The Godfather / Lady Sings the Blues / The Poseidon Adventure / Young Winston

me: The Godfather / Cabaret / Travels with My Aunt / Young Winston / The Emigrants

1973 AA: The Sting / Cries and Whispers / Ludwig / Tom Sawyer / The Way We Were

me: Cries and Whispers / The Sting / The Way We Were / Lady Caroline Lamb / Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid / Ludwig

1974 AA: The Great Gatsby / The Godfather Part II / Chinatown / Daisy Miller / Murder on the Orient Express

me: Chinatown / The Godfather Part II / Murder on the Orient Express / The Great Gatsby / The Three Musketeers

1975 AA: Barry Lyndon / The Four Musketeers / Funny Lady / The Magic Flute / The Man Who Would Be King

me: Barry Lyndon / The Man Who Would Be King / Kirol Lir / Amarcord / The Four Musketeers

1976 AA: Fellini’s Casanova / Bound for Glory / The Incredible Sarah / The Passover Plot / The Seven-Per-Cent Solution

me: The Outlaw Josey Wales / The Last Tycoon / Fellini’s Casanova / The Seven-Per-Cent Solution / Bugsy Malone

1977 AA: Star Wars / Julia / Airport’77 / A Little Night Music / The Other Side of Midnight

me: Star Wars / Aguirre – The Wrath of God / Dersu Uzala / Joseph Andrews / 1900

1978 AA: Death on the Nile / Caravans / Days of Heaven / The Swarm / The Wiz

me: The Chess Players / Pretty Baby / Death on the Nile / Days of Heaven / The Wiz

note:  The worst year for costume designs.  In a normal year, I wouldn’t have nominated any of these films.  And the fact that the Academy nominated The Swarm shows had bad it was.

1979 AA: All That Jazz / Agatha / Butch and Sundance: The Early Days / The Europeans / La Cage Aux Folles

me: Picnic at Hanging Rock / All That Jazz / Nosferatu / Monty Python’s Life of Brian / The Europeans

1980 AA: Tess / The Elephant Man / My Brilliant Career / Somewhere in Time / When Time Ran Out

me: Kagemusha / The Elephant Man / Tess / The Empire Strikes Back / My Brilliant Career

note:  The costumes in When Time Ran Out where terrible.  Did the costume designers even see Kagemusha?

1981 AA: Chariots of Fire / Reds / The French Lieutenant’s Woman / Pennies from Heaven / Ragtime

me: Ragtime / Excalibur / Raiders of the Lost Ark / Reds / The French Lieutenant’s Woman

1982 AA: Gandhi / La Traviata / Sophie’s Choice / Tron / Victor/Victoria

me: Sophie’s Choice / Gandhi / Victor/Victoria / Frances / Conan the Barbarian

1983 AA: Fanny & Alexander / Cross Creek / Heart Like a Wheel / The Return of Martin Guerre / Zelig

me: Fanny & Alexander / The Return of Martin Guerre / The Dresser / Danton / Return of the Jedi

1984 AA: Amadeus / A Passage to India / Places in the Heart / The Bostonians / 2010

me: Amadeus / A Passage to India / The Cotton Club / Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom / The Bostonians

1985 AA: Ran / Out of Africa / The Color Purple / Prizzi’s Honor / The Journey of Natty Gann

me: Ran / The Purple Rose of Cairo / The Color Purple / Company of Wolves / The Shooting Party

1986 AA: A Room with a View / The Mission / Otello / Peggy Sue Got Married / Pirates

me: A Room with a View / Legend / The Mission / The Name of the Rose / Ginger and Fred

1987 AA: The Last Emperor / The Dead / Empire of the Sun / Maurice / The Untouchables

me: The Last Emperor / The Princess Bride / The Untouchables / The Dead / Radio Days

1988 AA: Dangerous Liaisons / Coming to America / A Handful of Dust / Sunset / Tucker: The Man and His Dream

Was it ever in question who would win? The wonderful Oscar winning James Acheson costumes in Dangerous Liaisons.

me: Dangerous Liaisons / Red Sorghum / Eight Men Out / Little Dorrit / A Handful of Dust

1989 AA: Henry V / Driving Miss Daisy / The Adventures of Baron Munchausen / Harlem Nights / Valmont

me: Henry V / The Adventures of Baron Munchausen / Glory / Valmont / Camille Claudel

1990 AA: Cyrano de Bergerac / Dances with Wolves / Avalon / Dick Tracy / Hamlet

me: Dick Tracy / Dances with Wolves / Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams / GoodFellas / Miller’s Crossing

1991 AA: Bugsy / The Addams Family / Barton Fink / Hook / Madame Bovary

me: Bugsy / Barton Fink / Hook / Ju Dou / Dead Again

1992 AA: Bram Stoker’s Dracula / Howards End / Enchanted April / Malcolm X / Toys

me: Bram Stroker’s Dracula / Howards End / Last of the Mohicans / Raise the Red Lantern / Malcolm X

1993 AA: The Age of Innocence / Schindler’s List / The Remains of the Day / The Piano / Orlando

me: The Age of Innocence / Schindler’s List / Much Ado About Nothing / Farewell, My Concubine / Orlando

1994 AA: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert / Bullets over Broadway / Little Women / Maverick / Queen Margot

me: Interview with the Vampire / Queen Margot / The Adventures of Priscilla, The Queen of the Desert / Bullets over Broadway / The Madness of King George

note:  For the first time since 1948 (the first year of the award) that all the nominated designers were first-time nominees.  One of those first-timers is Colleen Atwood (for Little Women), now in the top 10 all-time.  Personally, I was stunned that they by-passed the wonderful Sandy Powell costumes from Interview with the Vampire, which had to re-create 18th Century, Louisiana, 19th Century Paris and 20th Century San Francisco.

1995 AA: Restoration / Braveheart / Sense and Sensibility / 12 Monkeys / Richard III

me: Sense and Sensibility / Richard III / An Awfully Big Adventure / Shanghai Triad / Restoration

1996 AA: The English Patient / Portrait of a Lady / Hamlet / Emma / Angels and Insects

me: Hamlet / The English Patient / Ridicule / Evita / Emma

1997 AA: Titanic / Wings of the Dove / Amistad / Kundun / Oscar and Lucinda

me: Titanic / Kundun / Oscar and Lucinda / Amistad / Boogie Nights

1998 AA: Shakespeare in Love / Elizabeth / Pleasantville / Beloved / Velvet Goldmine

me: Elizabeth / Shakespeare in Love / Dangerous Beauty / Velvet Goldmine / The Mask of Zorro

1999 AA: Topsy-Turvy / The Talented Mr. Ripley / Sleepy Hollow / Anna and the King / Titus

me: Topsy-Turvy / Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace / Sleepy Hollow / The Red Violin / Mansfield Park

2000 AA: Gladiator / Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon / Quills / How the Grinch Stole Christmas / 102 Dalmations

me: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon / Oh Brother, Where Art Thou / Quills / Sunshine / The House of Mirth

2001 AA: Moulin Rouge! / The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring / Gosford Park / Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone / Affair of the Necklace

me: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring / Moulin Rouge! / Gosford Park / Lagaan / Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone

2002 AA: Chicago / The Pianist / Gangs of New York / The Hours / Frida

me: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers / Gangs of New York / The Hours / Chicago / The Pianist

note:  Possibly the best year for costumes ever.

2003 AA: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King / Master and Commander: Far Side of the World / Seabiscuit / The Last Samurai / Girl with a Pearl Earring

me: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King / The Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl / The Last Samurai / Master and Commander: Far Side of the World / Nowhere in Africa

2004 AA: The Aviator / Ray / Finding Neverland / Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events / Troy

me: The Aviator / House of Flying Daggers / Hero / Vanity Fair / Phantom of the Opera

2005 AA: Memoirs of a Geisha / Walk the Line / Mrs. Henderson Presents / Pride and Prejudice / Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

me: Memoirs of a Geisha / King Kong / Kingdom of Heaven / The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe / Pride and Prejudice

2006 AA: Marie Antoinette / The Queen / The Devil Wears Prada / Dreamgirls / The Curse of the Golden Flower

me: Marie Antoinette / The Curse of the Golden Flower / The Prestige / The Fountain / The Black Dahlia

2007 AA: Elizabeth: The Golden Age / Atonement / Sweeney Todd / La Vie en Rose / Across the Universe

me: Sweeney Todd / Atonement / There Will Be Blood / Elizabeth: The Golden Age / Stardust

2008 AA: The Duchess / The Curious Case of Benjamin Button / Milk / Revolutionary Road / Australia

2008 me: The Duchess / Australia / The Curious Case of Benjamin Button / Revolutionary Road / Milk

2009 AA:  The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus / The Young Victoria / Bright Star / Nine / Coco Before Chanel

2009 me:  The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus / The Young Victoria / Bright Star / Nine / Inglourious Basterds

Honorary Mentions: Little Women (1994) / The Crucible (1996) / Casanova (2005)

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