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Here's how National Board of Review compares to the Oscars

December 6, 2007 |  6:07 pm

The National Board of Review, founded in New York in 1909, began naming the year's best movies a few months after the first Oscar ceremony was held in Hollywood in 1929. New this year for the NBR was a top ten list separate from the actual winner — "No Country for Old Men." How many of these eleven will make it to Oscar's final five?

Looking back over the last 20 years may give us some idea of how closely (or not) the opinions of the NBR members (most of whom are not involved in moviemaking) will match up with the best picture nominees. However, the recent changes to the true decisionmakers at the NBR — the Exceptional Photoplay Committee — could mean that this year's list is more in line with that of the critics rather than Oscar voters.

Of the 100 films nominated for best picture at the Oscars over the last two decades, the NBR named 72 of them on their annual lists. While this is a respectable enough percentage, remember that the NBR doubles their chances by choosing ten movies a year versus the Academy's five. Having said that, in three of those years, the NBR not only had all five nominees but also had as their pick for best pic the one that ended up winning the Oscar - 1989 ("Driving Miss Daisy"), 1994 ("Forrest Gump"), and 2002 ("Chicago"). However, there were only four other years when the NBR choice went on to win at the Academy Awards - 1990 ("Dances With Wolves"), 1991 ("Silence of the Lambs"), 1993 ("Schindler's List"), and 1999 ("American Beauty").

That leaves 13 years where the top movie differed. Sometimes, the NBR had the best pic winner on their list but chose another of the eventual nominees as their top choice. This happened in 1992 ("Howards End" over "Unforgiven"), 1995 ("Sense and Sensibilty" over "Braveheart"), 1996 ("Shine" over "The English Patient"), 1997 ("LA Confidential" over "Titanic") and in each of the last three years: 2004 ("Finding Neverland" over "Million Dollar Baby"), 2005 ("Good Night, and Good Luck" over "Crash") and 2006 ("Letters from Iwo Jima" over "The Departed").

Then there are the years where the NBR and AMPAS do not seem to be singing from the same hymn book. Sometimes the NBR top pic does not even make the cut at the Oscars. This occurred in 1987 ("Empire of the Sun"), 1998 ("Gods and Monsters"), and 2000 ("Quills"). While the NBR did include the eventual winners on their lists those years, there are other years when they did not - 1988 ("Rain Man"), 2001 ("A Beautiful Mind"), and 2003 ("The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"). The last was no surprise as the NBR had not named either of the first two parts of the trilogy though they both went on to be best picture nominees.

The comments to this entry are closed.


Comparing awards over a course of 20 years isn't very useful since times, conditions, and moods change. 20 years ago the calendar was different and not nearly as much attention was given to every tiny step in the process the way it is today. Just looking at the last 4 or 5 years is more accurate of the trend that might hold true today. And if you look at the NBR since 2002, they've picked 22 of 25, and no less than 4 of 5 per year. A large part of that is because of the wide-open nature of the last few years, the trend has been for groups like the film critics and NBR to throw a few films out there and for everyone else to latch on and follow suit.

I disagree with WP. I think those analysis are the best part of any Oscar site; if you study them closely, they help you predict nominations better each year.

Someone, I think you're on to something there, though I disagree with your opinion of "Blood Diamond" (kinda sorta). Placing "Bucket List" and "Bourne Ultimatum" (which was an exciting action film) over "There Will Be Blood", a film that is having the word 'classic' thrown at it, I thought that was the major sin of omission there.

While I think that WP was a little harsh, I do agree with what he said. I wish this article had extended to Actor, Actress, Screenplay, et cetera, rather than simply focusing on Picture.

They called "Blood Diamond" one of the best films last year, while it was a real disaster! It should have won some Raspberries instead. They do not know anything about good films (they chose "Good Night and Good Luck" over "Brokeback Mountain"!!!), so there decision is unimportant.

Tom, I gotta say I really enjoy ready gold derby. However....It is getting really really annoying for you to do your "analysis" of awards shows and the "comparison" between one show and the oscars. There was nothing of substance in this article at all! So best picture matched someimtes, not others? I mean, I could have gone to and figured that out for myself! You not only leave out any discernable theme or pattern to the connection and/or lack thereof between the two awards shows, you also fail to move beyond the Best Picture matchup! What about the lead actor/actress races?! Director? Screenplay? ANYTHING beyond a mindless display of percentages and movie name dropping would be an improvement!

"Chicago" didn't win best picture from the National Board of Review in 2002. "The Hours" won best picture from the NBR.



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