Retrospective: Academy Awards

Spotlight / Editorial Spotlight
Edward Smith (he/him)
Apr 22, 2021
Iconic photography is synonymous with The Academy Awards; from Fay Dunaway enjoying breakfast by the pool with ‘Oscar’ after her win for Actress In a Leading Role in the movie ‘Network’, to Hattie McDaniel’s historic nomination—the first for a Black person—and subsequent win in 1940 for her supporting role as Mammy in ‘Gone With The Wind’, and fashion moments that have punctuated the decades since including that swan dress worn by Björk, Celine Dion’s reverse tuxedo and of course Cher’s now‑legendary Bob Mackie black dress and bejeweled headpiece.

It stands to reason that Getty Images' top 100 all‑time Oscars content, predominantly, comes from our incredible archive pre‑2000. Demonstrating that time and time again the nostalgia of entertainment events is as vibrant today as it ever was.
With the COVID‑19 global pandemic redefining the scale and spectacle of live events around the world, it’s understandably inevitable that the 2021 Academy Awards will feature a series of firsts. Directed for the sixth time by Emmy Award‑winning director Glenn Weiss, the 2021 ceremony marks just the fourth time in its 93‑year history that the event itself has been delayed. This last occurred in 1981 following the attempted assassination of President Ronald Regan, before that it was owing to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968 and flooding in LA in 1938. 

Broadcasting on 25 April, this year's ceremony will take place at the now‑infamous Dolby Theatre on Hollywood Blvd in Los Angeles, alongside a secondary location at Union Station passenger terminal – marking the first time it has been set over multiple locations. Due to the global restrictions on travel and public health, the 93rd ceremony is embracing the vast‑changing nature of the new socially distanced and digital world, Steven Soderbergh – the director behind Contagion – will produce, alongside Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins, as they promise acceptance speeches and the evening itself to feature more like a movie than a ceremony in a shift to adhere with government guidelines around social distancing.  
Hosting duties will once again be shared among an ensemble cast of featured stars, marking the third year such an approach has been seen.  Soderbergh and his team have compiled a starry list of “performers,” including 2020’s acting winners Laura Dern, Renee Zellweger, Joaquin Phoenix, and Brad Pitt, as well previous nominees and winners Halle Berry, Bong Joon Ho, Reese Witherspoon, Regina King, Harrison Ford, Don Cheadle, and more.  
Getty Images has been documenting the glitz and glamour of The Academy Awards for decades and with all eyes turning to the 2021 event, we stepped back into the vast depths of our incredible archives to celebrate some of the most iconic moments in history—and feature the most‑downloaded Oscar images from the last decade.
As the top‑downloaded images below illustrate, traditional red‑carpet content prevails. Iconic fashion moments have been and continue to be in the top‑downloaded images. However, the type of talent and moments depicted in these top fashion moments looks very different in recent years than it did a decade ago. Over the course of the last 10 years, we’ve seen an evolution of the highest‑performing visuals being the polished red carpet poses to more humanised, relatable, internet‑breaking moments – an indication, perhaps, of more inclusive media coverage.  

In 2010 Penelope Cruz was nominated for Actress in a Supporting Role as Carla in Rob Marshall’s movie musical ‘Nine’ and featured three times within our top‑ten list in this year wearing a strapless maroon gown designed by Donna Karan with jewels by Chopard.
We’ve seen an evolution of the highest‑performing indication, perhaps, of more inclusive media coverage.
Diamonds might be a girl's best friend but they didn't help Anne Hathaway and James Franco, who co‑hosted the 83rd Annual Acadamy Awards in 2011 to less‑than‑favorable reviews but it did help this image reach the top spot in our top‑ten list. 
In correlation with the rise of 24‑hour news and the invention of social media platforms like Facebook (2004), Twitter (2006), Pinterest (2009), Instagram (2010), Snapchat (2011) and most recently TikTok (2016), the need for more differentiated content has significantly impacted the way in which consumers engage with content online, and in print. As such, intimate and headline grabbing moments—and the imagery depicting these moments—continue to increase in popularity. 

By 2012, social media was well established and Angelia Jolie became a now‑famous meme when her ‘leg dress’ pose swept the internet overnight and started a trend that was replicated by celebrities at subsequent events in that year. The chic black velvet dress designed by Atelier Versace helped Jolie reach the top of our most downloaded images from the Oscars in 2012.
When accepting her Academy Award for Actress in a Leading Role for ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, 2013, Jennifer Lawrence slipped on her Christian Dior Couture gown while making her way to the stage only to replicate the miss‑step the following year on the Oscars red carpet. Of the 2013 moment Lawrence commented, “You are supposed to kick the dress out while you walk, and I totally forgot because I was thinking about cake! And that's why I fell.”
The now‑famous ‘Oscar's selfie’ featuring Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Lupita Nyong'o and her brother Peter, Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, and more broke the internet when it was retweeted over 3 million times in 2014 and was not surprisingly our most downloaded image from that year. 
Before her Acadamy Award win for Mia in ‘La La Land’, 2017, Emma Stone topped the Getty Images download charts in 2015. Her floor‑length, lime green, Elie Saab dress featured in all the ‘best dressed’ lists in 2015, and the beading detail was something she replicated when Stone took home an Oscar just two years later. 
Floor‑length glamour was the order of the day in 2016 and our entire top ten from this year featured chic figure‑hugging gowns with designs by Armani Prive, August Getty, Dior Haute Couture, Brandon Maxwell, Gucci, Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Tom Ford. However, it was Julianne Moore wearing Chanel that was the most popular amongst our customers.
Not only did Emma Stone take home an Academy Award for her role in 'La La Land' she was back to the top of our most downloaded chart in 2017 wearing a golden Givenchy Haute Couture dress designed by Riccardo Tisci.
At the age of 87, Rita Moreno turned heads and found herself the most downloaded image from the 2018 ceremony. In 1962, she was the first Hispanic woman to win an Oscar for her role as Anita in ‘West Side Story’—and the E.G.O.T (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner up‑cycled the exact same dress (designed by Pitoy Moreno) from that year in 2018.   
At the 91st Academy Awards in 2019, 'Pose' star Billy Porter challenged conventional gender stereotypes by wearing the stunning Christian Siriano black velvet tuxedo dress. The tailored jacket was synched at the waist and while the lower half cascaded to the ground, it went beyond being a fashion moment and sparked a conversation about what is socially accepted in modern society. Porter told The Guardian, “I should have put this dress on 20 years ago” and commented, “I know it was going to be a thing”. 
While Porter took the top spot for the most downloaded individual image, it was Lady Gaga who dominated 2019 with half of the most downloaded images from this year being of her. In this year she was nominated for Actress in A Leading Role for ‘A Star Is Born’ and nominated, and won, for Original Song, ‘Shallow’, which she performed with Bradley Cooper on the night.
After being invited to perform with her brother Finneas during the In Memorium section of the evening, music sensation Billie Eilish, at the age of 19, attended the ceremony in 2020 sporting her signature style of oversized wear, designed by Chanel, rejecting the traditional figure‑hugging red carpet look and was amongst the most downloaded images in 2020. With over 100 million followers across Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, Eilish brought a much younger demographic to proceedings but wanted to remain authentic to her style.
Interestingly, there were images that we didn’t see featured in our data research. Patricia Arquette's ground‑breaking female empowerment speech dominated the headlines in 2015 but didn’t appear in the top‑ten featured images of that year. Similarly, Leonardo DiCaprio, whose long‑awaited Oscar win in 2016 flooded the internet, is nowhere to be seen. And in 2017, despite 'Moonlight' winning Best Picture after the fiasco mix‑up with 'La La Land', no‑one from the film is visually represented in the top 10. This highlights that, although there is interest in a particular moment, person, or time, it doesn’t always translate into popular imagery. When it comes to imagery from the Academy Awards, fashion moments take the most‑downloaded prize.
However, the shift from the top content featuring only traditional movie stars to including more diversity of gender, age, sexuality, and gender expression, suggests audiences want to see the entertainment world better reflect the world in which we live – something that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the Academy Awards, is actively addressing.

AMPAS recognises there is still a long way to go with regards to equal and accurate representation across gender, race, sexuality, age and minority demographics. In 2020, the organization introduced ‘Aperture 2025’—an initiative aimed at increasing the diversification of talent across four inclusivity standards which they hope will be a call to action across the entertainment industry.
2021’s nominees including Chloé Zhao, Chadwick Boseman, Frances McDormand, Daniel Kaluuya and Glenn Close are all expected to take part in this year’s ceremony on Sunday, 25 April and we hope to see the increased diversification of eligibility translate into content popularity amongst our customers from what promises to be a historic year like no other.   
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