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How often do Brits win at the Oscars?

British actors and directors have seen their talent rewarded at the Oscars on several occasions

British talent has often been awarded at the Oscars, but how do they fare on average? Yahoo has the data. (PA Images)
British talent has often been rewarded at the Oscars, with winners ranging from Daniel Day-Lewis to Vivien Leigh and Daniel Kaluuya, but how do they fare on average? Yahoo has the data. (PA)

It's awards season and that means that the Oscars is almost upon us, with the public ready and waiting to see which films, and stars, are declared the best in the industry over the past year.

Read more: Who will win at the 2024 Oscars?

From acting to directing, animation to sound, there's so many prizes to be given out at the Academy Awards, but the question often asked by UK-based film fans is how Brits have fared at the Oscars? Ahead of this year's ceremony, which looks to be dominated by Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer, Yahoo has crunched the numbers to reveal the answer.

How often do Brits win at the Oscars?

As a US institution, the Oscars has tended to favour homegrown talent when it comes to awards like Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Director. That isn't to say that Brits aren't doing well at the event though as, in actual fact, the data reveals that winners from the UK make up the second largest group of winners overall.

The Academy Awards first began in 1929, and over the course of its 94-year history the event has given 75 awards to British actors and directors in total. According to the data, 12 of these wins consist of Best Director wins, while 35 went to male actors and 27 to female ones.

An Oscar was first given to a Brit in 1929, to Scottish director Frank Lloyd for his film The Divine Lady which starred Corinne Griffith as a young woman who embarks on an affair after away by her husband. The first British actor to win at the Academy Awards was George Arliss, who in 1930 was given the Best Actor award for his role as prime minister Benjamin Disraeli in Disraeli.

1933: Frank Lloyd [Best Director, CAVALCADE] with his Oscar, 3/19/34
Frank Lloyd was the first Brit to win an Academy Award for The Divine Lady in 1929, he is pictured with his second Oscar for Cavalcade in 1934. (PA Images)

It wasn't until 1939 that a female actor was rewarded at the ceremony, with the Best Actress goin going to Vivien Leigh for her role as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind in 1939. The epic historical romance swept the board that year, winning 10 Oscars overall including Best Supporting Actress for Hattie McDaniel — who became the first African American to win at the event.

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Leigh won an Oscar once more in 1951 for her performance in A Streetcar Named Desire, which she starred in opposite Marlon Brando and Kim Hunter. She was not the only female British actor to win multiple times at the awards show as Olivia de Havilland won prizes on two separate occasions for To Each His Own in 1946 and The Heiress in 1949, as did Elizabeth Taylor for Butterfield 8 in 1960 and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1966.

British icons of the silver screen like Judi Dench, Audrey Hepburn, Laurence Olivier, Elizabeth Taylor and Alec Guinness have also all been awarded Oscars once, respectively. While the late Glenda Jackson won the Best Actress award in 1970 and 1973 for Women in Love and A Touch of Class, and Maggie Smith won Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and California Suite.

Male British actors like Michael Caine have also been awarded at the Oscars multiple times, Caine won Best Supporting Actor twice for Hannah and Her Sisters and The Cider House Rules in 1986 and 1999. Anthony Hopkins, meanwhile, has also been awarded twice at the ceremony, first for The Silence of the Lambs in 1991 —which also saw Jodie Foster win Best Actress — and more recently in 2020 for The Father.

Maggie Smith has won two Oscars over the course of her career, she is pictured in 1979 after winning best supporting actress for California Suite. (AP Photo)
Maggie Smith has won two Oscars over the course of her career, she is pictured in 1979 after winning Best Supporting Actress for California Suite. (AP Photo)

The most decorated male British actor to win at the Oscars is Daniel Day-Lewis. Now retired from the profession, Day-Lewis delivered a number of phenomenal performances over the course of his career thanks to his method acting approach. He has won Best Actor three times – for My Left Foot in 1989, There Will Be Blood in 2007 and Lincoln in 2012.

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In terms of the Best Director category the winners have all been male —though given the Academy Awards' tendency to nominate more men than women this shouldn't be surprising. Lloyd and David Lean are the only directors to win more than once, with Lloyd winning for The Divine Lady and Cavalcade and Lean earning the prize for his iconic work on The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia.

Director Danny Boyle poses in the 81st Annual Academy Awards press room held at The Kodak Theatre on February 22, 2009 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
Danny Boyle (pictured in 2009) is one of the British directors to win at the Oscars, the category has been dominated by male winners over the years. (FilmMagic)

Richard Attenborough was awarded the prize in 1982 for his film Gandhi —which also earned Ben Kingsley Best Actor— while Sam Mendes won the award for his work on American Beauty in 1999, and Danny Boyle won for Slumdog Millionaire in 2008. The most recent British director to win the award is Tom Hooper, who was received the prize for The King's Speech in 2010.

While there is a notable gender gap when it comes to Brits being honoured at the Academy Awards there is also another trend regarding their age. On average, male winners have been more than 10 years older than their female counterparts, with women between the ages of 25 to 40 tending to be rewarded whereas the age of male winners averages between 30 to 60.

Of course this isn't a hard and fast rule when it comes to the Oscars, as actors like Mirren and Dench have won prizes in their 60s, and the oldest female Brit to win is Jessica Tandy who, at the age of 80, won the award for Best Actress for Driving Miss Daisy in 1989. The youngest British male actor to win at the Academy Awards is Daniel Kaluuya, who won the prize for Best Supporting Actor in 2020 for his performance in Judas and the Black Messiah.

The 2024 edition of the awards show may well be a successful one for British talent, with Nolan a strong contender to win the Best Director category for Oppenheimer — Irish actor Cillian Murphy is also tipped to win Best Actor for the film. Elsewhere Jonathan Glazer's The Zone of Interest has also gained a huge amount of critical acclaim and may well win the Best International Feature Film category.

The Oscars will be live-streamed on ITV1 and ITVX on Sunday 10th March, at 10.30pm.

Watch: American Fiction cast say Oscars shouldn't just reward 'Black pain'