1991 Academy Awards®
Winners and History
Note: Oscar® and Academy Awards® and Oscar® design mark are the trademarks and service marks and the Oscar© statuette the copyrighted property, of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This site is neither endorsed by nor affiliated with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Academy Awards History (By Decade):
Introduction, 1927/8-39, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s
Academy Awards Summaries
Winners Charts:
"Best Picture" Oscar®, "Best Director" Oscar®, "Best Actor" Oscar®, "Best Supporting Actor" Oscar®,
"Best Actress" Oscar®, "Best Supporting Actress" Oscar®, "Best Screenplay/Writer" Oscar®

The winner is listed first, in CAPITAL letters.
Best Picture


Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Bugsy (1991)

JFK (1991)

The Prince of Tides (1991)

ANTHONY HOPKINS in "The Silence of the Lambs", Warren Beatty in "Bugsy", Robert De Niro in "Cape Fear", Nick Nolte in "The Prince of Tides", Robin Williams in "The Fisher King"
JODIE FOSTER in "The Silence of the Lambs", Geena Davis in "Thelma & Louise", Laura Dern in "Rambling Rose", Bette Midler in "For the Boys", Susan Sarandon in "Thelma & Louise"
Supporting Actor:
JACK PALANCE in "City Slickers", Tommy Lee Jones in "JFK", Harvey Keitel in "Bugsy", Ben Kingsley in "Bugsy", Michael Lerner in "Barton Fink"
Supporting Actress:
MERCEDES RUEHL in "The Fisher King", Diane Ladd in "Rambling Rose", Juliette Lewis in "Cape Fear", Kate Nelligan in "The Prince of Tides", Jessica Tandy in "Fried Green Tomatoes"
JONATHAN DEMME for "The Silence of the Lambs", Barry Levinson for "Bugsy", Ridley Scott for "Thelma & Louise", John Singleton for "Boyz N the Hood", Oliver Stone for "JFK"

The five films nominated for Best Picture for 1991 were a very distinctive mix of different types of films: a musical animation, a horror/thriller, a gangster bio, a political conspiracy thriller, and a romantic melodrama.

The big winner was director Jonathan Demme's The Silence of the Lambs (with seven nominations and five wins). Its surprise win came for many reasons:

The top-notch film, a shocking psychological horror picture about a cannibalistic killer and his strange relationship with a newbie FBI agent, was based on Thomas Harris's 1988 best-selling novel of the same name. It was a sequel to an earlier film Manhunter (1986) (aka Red Dragon: The Pursuit of Hannibal Lecter), also based on a Thomas Harris novel titled Red Dragon published in 1981. The two nominations without wins were for Best Sound and Best Film Editing. Jonathan Demme (with his first directorial nomination) won the Best Director award for The Silence of the Lambs, a film with uncharacteristic subject matter that was not usually the recipient of so many Oscar awards.

The other four Best Picture nominees that spread the nominations fairly evenly were:

Two of the directors of Best Picture nominees were not nominated for Best Director: Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise for Beauty and the Beast, and Barbra Streisand for The Prince of Tides. [Streisand was the third female director who failed to receive a nomination for a Best Picture-nominated film. The other two were Randa Haines for Children of a Lesser God (1986), and Penny Marshall for Awakenings (1990). Part of the controversy over the nominations for director was because Streisand had been overlooked one other time as director - for Yentl (1983).]

Their two directors' places were taken by Ridley Scott (with his first directorial nomination) for his stridently feminist buddy/road film Thelma & Louise (with six nominations and one win - Callie Khouri's Best Original Screenplay), and 24 year-old black director/writer John Singleton (with his directorial debut) for his tragic film about South Central Los Angeles gang violence in the ghetto drama Boyz N the Hood (with two nominations and no wins).

[Singleton became the youngest nominee for Best Director in Academy history, and the first African-American to be nominated as Best Director. He was also the third non-white director ever nominated - the first was Hiroshi Teshigahara for Woman in the Dunes (1965), and the second was Akira Kurosawa for Ran (1985). Singleton was also cited with a nomination for Best Original Screenplay - but surprisingly, no Best Picture nod for Boyz N the Hood. Interestingly, Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett played a divorced couple in this film, and would become Oscar nominees for What's Love Got to Do With It (1993) two years later as the real-life battling couple Ike and Tina Turner.]

The Best Actor winner was Anthony Hopkins (with his first nomination and first Oscar) for his chilling portrayal as cannibalistic, menacing, psychopathic serial psychiatrist/killer Dr. Hannibal "Cannibal" Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. Hopkins' performance - supposedly comprised of about 16 minutes of screen time, was purported to be one of the shortest Best Actor performance ever, up to this time. David Niven also had an extremely short role in Separate Tables (1958). (Hopkins was on-screen less than the Best Supporting Actor winner, Jack Palance, for City Slickers.)

The competing Best Actor nominees were:

The Best Actress Oscar was presented to Jodie Foster (with her third nomination and second Oscar) for her performance as strong-willed, brainy, yet vulnerable FBI agent trainee Clarice Starling searching for a brutal serial killer in The Silence of the Lambs. [She had previously won a Best Actress Oscar for The Accused (1988), three years earlier.]

Two other Best Actress nominees were the co-stars in Thelma & Louise, two gutsy, pistol-wielding female outlaws who raise hell and joyride until they have nowhere left to escape from surrounding FBI agents:

The remaining two Best Actress nominees were:

The Best Supporting Actor Oscar was a surprise win for seventy-two year-old Jack Palance (with his third nomination and first Oscar - it was thirty-nine years since his last nomination for Sudden Fear (1952)), for his role as trail boss Curly in director Ron Underwood's adventure/comedy City Slickers (the film's sole nomination and win). This was the award for which Palance performed one-arm pushups.

[Palance tied the existing record of thirty-nine years between nominations and victory with Helen Hayes - her span of films existed between The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931-2) and Airport (1970). The record holder of the longest span between acting nominations was Henry Fonda, with forty-one years between The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and On Golden Pond (1981).]

Two competing Best Supporting Actor nominees were co-stars in Bugsy:

[Keitel has repeatedly been overlooked by the Academy, although he has consistently given original and strong Oscar-worthy performances, including these roles: Charlie Cappa in Mean Streets (1973), "Sport" Matthew in Taxi Driver (1976), Judas Iscariot in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Jake Berman in The Two Jakes (1990), Hal Slocumb in Thelma & Louise (1991), Mr. Larry White in Reservoir Dogs (1992), George Baines in The Piano (1993), Winston Wolf in Pulp Fiction (1994), and more!]

The remaining two Best Supporting Actor nominees were:

Mercedes Ruehl (with her first nomination) won the Best Supporting Actress award for her performance as video store owner Anne Napolitano and girlfriend of burned-out radio talk-show host (Jeff Bridges) in The Fisher King - it was the film's sole Oscar win.

The remaining Best Supporting Actress nominees were:

It should be noted that Terminator 2: Judgment Day with Arnold Schwarzenegger won four technical Oscars (out of its six nominations): Best Makeup, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Visual Effects.

Oscar Snubs and Omissions:

Ray Harryhausen, the special-effects genius of notable films during the 50s-80s, including It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), One Million Years, BC (1966), The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), and Clash of the Titans (1981) -- but who never received even a single Oscar nomination -- was awarded the Gordon E. Sawyer honorary Academy Award this year.

Ridley Scott's Thelma & Louise should have been nominated for Best Picture. Coming before Jane Campion's The Piano (1993) was the New Zealand director's second feature film in this year - the un-nominated, autobiographical An Angel at My Table with Kerry Fox as novelist/poet Janet Frame. Director/writer/actor Albert Brooks' existential fantasy comedy about heaven, Defending Your Life lacked nominations, and recognition for Brooks as recently-deceased Daniel Miller on trial in the afterlife, for Meryl Streep as his love interest Julia, for Rip Torn as Daniel's reassuring defense attorney Bob Diamond, and for Lee Grant as prosecutor Lena Foster.

As mentioned earlier, there was no Best Picture nod for John Singleton's Boyz N the Hood, and Laurence Fishburne was denied a nomination for his role as strict, tough-love South LA father Jason "Furious" Styles.

There were also many acting performances that deserved some sort of recognition by the Academy:

Previous Page Next Page