When Oscars' Best Director Doesn't Win Best Picture

Brokeback Mountain
Focus Features

Set in 1963, the film follows a love story between two cowboys that herd sheep together in Wyoming. Due to the time period and their conventionally macho occupations, Ennis (Heath Ledger) and Jack’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) relationship was viewed by their contemporaries as taboo. Brokeback Mountain was nominated for eight Academy Awards, and the film’s director, Ang Lee, won for Best Director.

There have been 22 instances in which the film by the year's top helmer didn't take home best picture, including the three times it happened to John Ford.

If Ben Affleck’s Argo continues its awards season hot streak and takes home best picture during Sunday’s Academy Awards, one thing is certain: there will be a best director winner whose film failed to snag Oscar’s top prize. (Affleck is not nominated in the best director category.)

The two awards usually go hand in hand, but there have been 22 instances in which helmers took home directing honors without their films winning best picture.

It happened most recently in 2005 when Ang Lee won the award while his Brokeback Mountain fell to Crash.

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Other relatively recent examples include Roman Polanski’s 2002 win for The Pianist while the film lost to Chicago; Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic being bested by Gladiator (2000); Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan losing to Shakespeare in Love (1998); and Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July falling to Driving Miss Daisy (1989).

John Ford, who took home a record four best director statues, won three of them in years in which his films did not take best picture: 1935's The Informer; 1940's The Grapes of Wrath; and 1952's The Quiet Man. (Ford’s other best director honor came in 1941, when his How Green Was My Valley defeated Citizen Kane for best picture.)

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Find the complete list of best directors whose films didn’t win best picture below.

1927-1928: Frank Borzage (Seventh Heaven - Dramatic Picture); Lewis Milestone (Two Arabian Knights -Comedy Picture)

1928-29: Frank Lloyd (The Divine Lady)

1930-31: Norman Taurog (Skippy)

1931-32: Frank Borzage (Bad Girl)

1935: John Ford (The Informer)

1936: Frank Capra (Mr. Deeds Goes to Town)

1937: Leo McCarey (The Awful Truth)

1940: John Ford (The Grapes of Wrath)

1948: John Huston (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre)

1949: Joseph Mankiewicz (A Letter to Three Wives)

1951: George Stevens (A Place in the Sun)

1952: John Ford (The Quiet Man)

1956: George Stevens (Giant)

1967: Mike Nichols (The Graduate)

1972: Bob Fosse  ( Cabaret)

1981: Warren Beatty (Reds)

1989: Oliver Stone (Born on the Fourth of July)

1998: Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan)

2000: Steven Soderbergh (Traffic)

2002: Roman Polanski (The Pianist)

2005: Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)