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Report card: Would this year’s Oscar best picture nominees meet 2024 inclusion standards?

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Illustration: Andrea Brunty, USA TODAY Network, and Getty Images

The Oscars best picture race might start to look different come 2024 – or will it?

That was the question on everyone's minds when the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced last September it would implement new diversity and inclusion standards for the best picture race in 2024.

In the future, would that disqualify a film like this year's Oscar juggernaut "Mank," chock-full of white actors? What about a film like "Promising Young Woman," which mostly featured white women? Will writers have to start changing stories to only feature marginalized groups like Black people and the LGBTQ community?

A USA TODAY analysis found the answers to all those questions: No.

Using this year's best picture nominees as a sample – though these films are not yet subject to the new rules – our findings showed it's not that difficult to pull off adhering to the Academy's upcoming standards, even if a film doesn't have a diverse cast. In fact: All eight films met the standards.

That's because of the Academy's key rule: Films only need to meet two out of the four diversity standards. Read them in full here, but this is the gist:

  • Standard A: A major lead or supporting cast member must be from an underrepresented community, or about one-third of the secondary cast must be from several underrepresented demographics, or a major storyline must be about an underrepresented group (women, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, etc.)
  • Standard B: A determined level of diversity is required behind-the-scenes – think director, writer and/or even a significant portion of the crew overall.
  • Standard C: The film must offer paid apprenticeship and internship opportunities to underrepresented groups and training opportunities and skills development for crew members from underrepresented groups.
  • Standard D: Marketing, publicity, or distribution departments must have diversity in leadership.
Here's the breakdown of the new Oscars diversity and inclusion rules
Entertain This!, USA TODAY

Our process: USA TODAY reached out to the studios behind each 2021 best picture nominee to determine if they qualified for each standard and cross-checked that with independent research. While Standards A and B were more obvious to spot, Standards C and D proved trickier to nail down. 

Dig into our guide below to find out how each film did:

‘The Father’

‘The Father’

Anthony Hopkins stars as a man with dementia trying to make sense of his constantly shifting reality in Florian Zeller's "The Father."
Anthony Hopkins stars as a man with dementia trying to make sense of his constantly shifting reality in Florian Zeller's "The Father." SEAN GLEASON

Would this film qualify for best picture in 2024?

Yes.

Why?

The film's subject matter clears the Academy's first standard; it primarily focuses on Anthony Hopkins' character's battle with dementia. This goes to show that though a white-led film may not appear on the surface that it honors diversity, it all depends on how one defines the term. It also cleared other standards including B, that at least 30% of its crew is made of underrepresented groups.

‘Judas and the Black Messiah’

‘Judas and the Black Messiah’

With a majority-Black cast and diverse behind-the-scenes staff, "Judas and the Black Messiah" easily passes Academy muster.
With a majority-Black cast and diverse behind-the-scenes staff, "Judas and the Black Messiah" easily passes Academy muster. Glen Wilson, Warner Bros. Entertainment

Would this film qualify for best picture in 2024?

Yes.

Why?

With a majority-Black cast and the first best picture contender with all Black producers, "Judas and the Black Messiah" easily passes Academy muster.

"Judas" is notable in this year's race as the only Black-led film to emerge as a best picture nominee, despite critical acclaim for films like Netflix's "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" and "Da 5 Bloods," as well as Amazon's "One Night in Miami."

‘Mank’

‘Mank’

Gary Oldman stars as screenwriting gadfly Herman Mankiewicz in the Netflix film "Mank."
Gary Oldman stars as screenwriting gadfly Herman Mankiewicz in the Netflix film "Mank." NETFLIX

Would this film qualify for best picture in 2024?

Yes.

Why?

Netflix's marketing and publicity senior staff is diverse, which automatically helps the studio clear one of the Academy's benchmarks. This gives the streaming service leeway, if it so chose, to bypass other qualifications, as long as they hit one more. "Mank," according to our analysis, also had enough representation behind the camera to make up for its predominantly white leading and supporting cast, pushing it to qualify for a second crucial standard.

‘Minari’

‘Minari’

Steven Yeun, left, Alan S. Kim, Yuh-jung Youn, Yeri Han and Noel Cho star in "Minari," a heartwarming story about Korean-American immigrants.
Steven Yeun, left, Alan S. Kim, Yuh-jung Youn, Yeri Han and Noel Cho star in "Minari," a heartwarming story about Korean-American immigrants. JOSH ETHAN JOHNSON/A24

Would this film qualify for best picture in 2024?

Yes.

Why?

The heartwarming story about Korean American immigrants directed by Lee Isaac Chung passed the standards with its cast and crew. During a time of heightened Asian American violence, many have been vocal that representation is critical in front of and behind the camera in telling authentic, human stories. 

‘Nomadland’

‘Nomadland’

Filmmaker Chloe Zhao (right) made history as the first woman of color to be Oscar-nominated for best director.
Filmmaker Chloe Zhao (right) made history as the first woman of color to be Oscar-nominated for best director. AP

Would this film qualify for best picture in 2024? 

Yes.

Why?

The story centering on van-dwelling Fern (Frances McDormand) meets the threshold for a narrative about an underrepresented group (women). Filmmaker Chloe Zhao, who made history becoming the first woman of color to be Oscar-nominated for best director, and other senior production staff help further propel the film through the Academy standards.

‘Promising Young Woman’

‘Promising Young Woman’

Carey Mulligan stars as a clever woman on a quest for vengeance in "Promising Young Woman."
Carey Mulligan stars as a clever woman on a quest for vengeance in "Promising Young Woman." FOCUS FEATURES

Would this film qualify for best picture in 2024?

Yes.

Why?

Director Emerald Fennell's powerful revenge drama about a woman's (Carey Mulligan) quest to torture toxic men mostly features white women both onscreen and off. Under the 2024 guidelines, that's not enough to qualify for best picture. But "Promising Young Woman" meets representation thresholds thanks to Laverne Cox's casting in a major supporting role and diversity in its senior production staff – not to mention its key storyline obviously focused on women.

‘Sound of Metal’

‘Sound of Metal’

Riz Ahmed stars as a drummer who experiences a sudden loss of hearing in "Sound of Metal."
Riz Ahmed stars as a drummer who experiences a sudden loss of hearing in "Sound of Metal." TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Would this film qualify for best picture in 2024?

Yes.

Why?

Starring British Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed, "Sound of Metal" focuses on the deaf community, an underrepresented group defined by the Academy, clearing Standard A. Much like "The Father," it suggests that disability-focused movies don't need to include other underrepresented groups in casting (even though "Metal" did). Diverse senior production staff, including Ahmed, who produced, also helped the film clear the standards. 

‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’

‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’

Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, left) is roughed up by court marshals in "The Trial of the Chicago 7."
Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, left) is roughed up by court marshals in "The Trial of the Chicago 7." NIKO TAVERNISE/NETFLIX

Would this film qualify for best picture in 2024?

Yes.

Why?

At first glance, the Aaron Sorkin film doesn't seem like it would qualify, but we found it does under at least three standards, thanks to its cast (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II appears in a significant supporting role), senior production staff and marketing teams (again, a Netflix film). 

What did we learn?

What did we learn?

When the Academy announced its new best picture qualifications, critics raised some concerns the best picture race would see a major shake-up and unfairly target majority-white films once the new standards went into effect. But if these results say anything, it's that the industry is already meeting these requirements as they stand – at least in the case of this year's best picture nominees. While it's exciting to see these films had diverse representation, does this mean the standards didn't go far enough? We analyze here. Studies show that there's far more work to be done to be meaningfully inclusive

Our biggest takeaways:

  • The Academy's language matters. If a film has only one or two prominent actors of color, for example, that qualifies under its diverse cast or storyline standard – even if the rest of the cast is mostly white, like in the case of "The Trial of the Chicago 7."
  • White women alone won't "diversify" your film.  White women both in front of the camera and behind the scenes won't cut it for "diversity" (something "Promising Young Woman" appears to have circumvented). While women are considered an underrepresented group, fine print in the standards emphasizes representation from racial or ethnic groups over gender.
  • Questions loom for the Academy. Will actors (like Riz Ahmed) who both star and work behind-the-scenes double-count across these standards? Does a film starring a female protagonist automatically mean its main narrative is about the underrepresented gender as a whole? What qualifies as a leadership role in a film company or studio's marketing, makeup or hair department, among others? 
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