Drama and Film

Oscar AnalysisTHE JOURNEYS OF ACADEMY AWARD BEST PICTURE WINNERS

The Academy Award for Best Film has been awarded to both hero and heroine journey films.  A few of the winners (such as The Artist ) have a hero’s journey arc for one character and a heroine’s journey arc for another.  The chart below identifies the Academy Award Winners for Best Film in the last twenty-five years and whether we felt the leading protagonist’s narrative journey was a hero or  heroine journey. In the case of Crash, which follows multiple characters whose lives are affected by a car accident, we viewed the story as a whole.

Though the majority of the winning films follow the Hero’s Journey pattern, there has been a significant increase in Heroine Journey films receiving the award in recent years. This  sampling  reinforces our observation that literature and films with Heroine Journey arcs most often  female protagonists or men who are marginalized due to an unusual characteristic or prejudice.

Year Winning Film Hero or Heroine’s Journey?
1990 Dances with Wolves Hero’s Journey
1991 The Silence of the Lambs Heroine’s Journey 
1992 Unforgiven Hero’s Journey
1993 Schindler’s List Hero’s Journey
1994 Forrest Gump Hero’s Journey
1995 Braveheart Hero’s Journey
1996 The English Patient Heroine’s Journey
1997 Titanic Hero’s Journey
1998 Shakespeare in Love Hero’s Journey
1999 American Beauty Hero’s Journey
2000 Gladiator Hero’s Journey
2001 A Beautiful Mind Heroine’s Journey
2002 Chicago Hero’s Journey
2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Hero’s Journey
2004 Million Dollar Baby Hero’s Journey
2005 Crash Heroine’s Journey
2006 The Departed Hero’s Journey
2007 No Country for Old Men Hero’s Journey
2008 Slumdog Millionaire Hero’s Journey
2009 The Hurt Locker Heroine’s Journey 
2010 The King’s Speech Heroine’s Journey 
2011 The Artist Heroine’s Journey
2012 Argo Hero’s Journey
2013 12 Years a Slave Heroine’s Journey
2014 Birdman Hero’s Journey

The Silence of the Lambs: female protagonist

The English Patient:female protagonist

A Beautiful Mind male protagonist who is mentally ill

Crash: multiple outsider protagonists and overall story examines racial prejudice from many angles

The Hurt Locker: a male protagonist with PTSD

The King’s Speech:  male protagonist with a speech impediment

The Artist male protagonist  who is literally without a voice

12 Years a Slave:   disenfranchised African American male protagonist who is enslaved.

 


 

 

3 thoughts on “Drama and Film

  1. Rose Eddystone says:

    So, couldn’t you argue that the ‘heroine’s journey’ isn’t so much the journey of a female so much as that of a member of society suffering an imbalance with another member/group? Women are a large group of these people, but not the masculine/feminine binary seems one of any possible stories told with this model.

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    • nballard says:

      The essence of the Heroine’s Journey isn’t who the protagonist is, but the nature of the journey. The Hero’s journey ends with the hero bringing a treasure or insight back to his/her community and then being recognized as leader and assuming leadership/ wisdom role in community. The heroine’s journey may start out this way, but the heroine is never treated or accepted as community leader for long. He /she must continue to search and find wholeness, e.g. acceptance of self and world without either/or, good/bad, self aggrandizement/self-sacrifice, etc. — e.g. without binaries.

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    • nballard says:

      Rose, The Heroine’s journey is, at bottom, a journey toward wholeness and embracing all of life, rather than a journey that ends in conquest, superiority or leadership. Many would say its the post-hero journey and certainly is not limited to women. But society has an interest in preserving the hero’s tale as the dominant narrative because it supports and top-down hierarchy of the world, and promises that if one tries hard then one can become king, and bring riches to one’s own self/kin/people. Thus it supports a capitalistic and individualistic orientation (and tends to also support blaming those that don’t succeed as if success is always merit-based). The reason that the journey toward wholeness is associated with women and minorities is that women and minorities or non-dominant members of the society can win for a moment (such as a race or a single battle) but usually are undermined soon afterwards by those who are threatened by an upending of traditional power relationships. We called this our site the heroine’s journey because this is what the alternative to Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey is generally called.

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