Oscar Winning Writers in the 1980s

We took a look at the Oscar winning writers in the 1990s recently. Now we are taking a look at the people who won Oscars in the writing categories in the 1980s.

Adapted (the work it is adapted from in parentheses):
1980* — Ordinary People – Alvin Sargent (1976 novel, same name by Judith Guest)
1981 — On Golden Pond – Ernest Thompson ( 1979 play, same name, same author)
1982 — Missing – Costa-Gavras & Donald Stewart (1978 book The Execution of Charles Horman: An American Sacrifice by Thomas Hauser)
1983* — Terms Of Endearment – James L. Brooks (1975 novel, same name by Larry McMurtry)
1984* — Amadeus – Peter Shaffer (1979 play, same name, same author)
1985* — Out Of Africa – Kurt Luedtke (1937 memoir, same name by Isak Dinesen; 1977 book Silence Will Speak by Errol Trzebinski; 1982 book Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller by Judith Thurman)
1986 — A Room With A View – Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (1908 novel, same name by E. M. Forster)
1987* — The Last Emperor – Mark Peploe & Bernardo Bertolucci (1967 autobiography, From Emperor to Citizen: The Autobiography of Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi by Henry Pu Yi)
1988 — Dangerous Liaisons – Christopher Hampton (1985 play, Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Christopher Hampton from 1782 novel, same name by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos)
1989* — Driving Miss Daisy – Alfred Uhry (1987 play, same name by Alfred Uhry)

And the 1980s Oscars for Original Screenplays went to:
1980 — Melvin and Howard – Bo Goldman
1981* — Chariots of Fire – Colin Welland
1982* — Gandhi -John Briley
1983 — Tender Mercies – Horton Foote
1984 — Places in the Heart – Robert Benton
1985 — Witness – William Kelley, Earl Wallace (story/screenplay), Pamela Wallace (story)
1986 — Hannah and Her Sisters – Woody Allen
1987 — Moonstruck – John Patrick Shanley
1988* — Rain Man – Ronald Bass (screenplay), Barry Morrow (story/screenplay)
1989 — Dead Poets Society – Tom Schulman

The asterisk shows the films that also won Best Picture. Oliver Stone’s “Platoon” was the Best Picture in 1986.

Now how bad do you really need to know the writers’ names in terms of competing on Jeopardy!? The answer is not that bad. Horton Foote, for example, has only been in 3 Jeopardy clues over 9 years! All 3 Triple Stumpers. The first clue, way back in 2001, mentioned him by name and Robert Duvall but nobody knew it. Then in 2006, nobody knew this one in “National Medal of Arts Recipients”: This Texas playwright also wrote the screenplays for “To Kill a Mockingbird” & “Tender Mercies”. Foote won Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar in 1962 for “Mockingbird” — and Robert Duvall was in that one, too. The last clue on Foote was in 2009 (the year he died) when nobody knew the title town for the play that earned Foote the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. 3 clues — obviously, you’re not going to bomb on Jeopardy! if you don’t know who Horton Foote is.

Still the adapted screenplay lists are useful in giving you a quick glance at the source(s) for notable films. The books and plays come up more frequently.

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7 Responses

  1. vj says:

    I’ve only seen about 10 of these myself. Honestly, I don’t like going to the movies so a lot of films I don’t even see till later. I did get dragged off to see Gremlins in ’84. Stands out cause I was miffed at being strong armed into going. Then little Gizmo looked just like a Pekingese dog I once had named Ching Chang so I got over it.

    I liked Rain Man and actually got two almost 20-somethings to watch that again with me last year. One said it gave her a different opinion about Tom Cruise.

    I liked The Last Emperor. That little kid! But in the 1990s they had Farewell My Concubine. If I was going to watch one of them again, it would be the latter.

    Don’t shoot me but I don’t much care much for Jack Nicholson, but I did see The Shining. Found him more comical than scary. The book was scary.

    I liked Full Metal Jacket too. Is that a jelly doughnut, Private Pyle? I love Vincent D’Onofrio long time.

    My kids watched the ¡Three Amigos! and Stand By Me so many times, it’s a wonder I still like Steve Martin and Kiefer Sutherland.

    • william k says:

      “I did get dragged off to see Gremlins in ’84.”


      The damage seems minimal, vj.

    • william k says:

      When I think of the best of Nicholson, I think of “Chinatown”, “Five Easy Pieces”, and especially, “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest”. You know, seventies stuff.

      As good as his later work has often been (Joker anyone?) he does come off as kind of mailing it in, more or less, and not stretching himself very hard.

    • william k says:

      One more thing…

      “The Last Detail” is another great film in which to see Nicholson in his prime…in the seventies. [TCM has shown it later at night in recent years.]

  2. eric steele says:

    For me, Platoon was a good movie,and I know this is unfair, but the narration reminded my too much of Apocalypse Now: for obvious reasons, but still obvious for a reason.
    Out one year later, Full Metal Jacket had me pinned. That movie was intense and blew Platoon out of the water.

    • william k says:

      Fair enough. Eye of the beholder stuff, but I thought the storyline of Platoon was taut, the pacing was excellent, and the characters were well drawn. Sgt Elias (Defoe) versus Sgt Barnes (Berenger) was the axis of the story, but the intensity of the scenes where the Vietnamese villagers were raped and brutalized was both eye-openingly horrifying, and appropo as a case study in the history of warfare since time immemorial.

      Full Metal Jacket was an excellent film as well, it just didn’t hit the same intellectual and emotional bulls-eyes that Platoon did for me personally –I was in the USMC by the time of both.

  3. william k says:

    Interesting to compare this list with the 90s list.

    I haven’t seen as many of the films on this 80s list as the 90s list, but the ones that, for me, jump out here (for various reasons) are, “Ordinary People”, “Out of Africa”, “A Room with a View”, “Driving Miss Daisy”, “Chariots of Fire”, “Gandhi”, and “Rain Man”. I can see that there are at least a couple I should probably see before I judge, but the 90s seem to have the better overall crop of films, if these lists are a reasonable measure/sampling.

    I wonder what others here think. vj? eric? blahuta? jacob?


    P.S. Probably a guy thing for the most part, but “Platoon” left a major mark as one of the great 80s films, in my opinion. It should go down as Oliver Stone’s master work, most likely.