Who actually votes for the major awards?

Every year, between the months of January and March, the world stops to reflect on the previous twelve months at the cinema, It is in this time that we all forget our preferences and allow a conglomerate of faceless industry figures to decide for us what motion pictures we should consider the best. But who are these critical deities and how do they decide who should win the most coveted awards in film?

Look no further for answers. Here at The Film Blog we’ve done our research and assembled all the information you need to know who actually votes for the major awards…

Academy Awards


First awarded eighty-nine years ago, the Academy Awards – better known by the nickname ‘the Oscars’ – is the oldest entertainment awards ceremony in the world. 

Twenty-four awards are dished out every year by an organisation elusively known as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Membership is by invitation only and generally includes actors, directors, writers and film production associates, who have been sponsored by two Academy members.

In order to sustain membership, members must have been active in the production of at least one motion picture within the previous ten years. Lifetime membership is granted to anyone who has been active consistently across three decades.

Historically, members of the Academy have been almost exclusively white. male and over fifty. This dramatically changed, however, when the #OscarsSoWhite campaign helped pressure the inclusion of 683 new, more diverse, members in 2016. A further 774 joined in 2017. The gender proportions are still off but the Academy have committed to doubling female membership by 2020. Presently, over 8000 members make up the Academy.

A film must have been released between 1 January and 31 December in the previous year to stand a chance of winning at the Oscars.

For qualifying films, there are two stages between them and victory. First members of the Academy are given the opportunity to vote for any and all of the eligible films. This stage results in a list of nominees and is followed by a second vote.

As for who will host this year’s Academy Awards…we can only offer our speculation.

British Academy Film Awards


There’s good reason that the BAFTAs are so often used to predict the Oscars. This British equivalent ceremony – first held in May 1949 – is voted for an overlapping collection of industry insiders.

Winners at the BAFTAs are decided by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, a group made up of active workers in the entertainment industry who are willing to pay £450 in membership fees annually. Prince William is the present President of BAFTA, which is currently said to have over 7,500 members.

Unlike with the Oscars, films are eligible for BAFTA recognition if they have been released between 1 January of the previous year and mid-February of the present year. It is for this reason that British distributers often wait later for release than their transatlantic counterparts.

Voting is conducted online and involves two stages, much like the Oscars. Both ceremonies see nominees chosen exclusively by relevant members – actors vote for the acting categories, for instance – before everyone has a say in the final choice.

Golden Globe Awards


Still reeling from 2019’s controversial winners? The Golden Globes boast a much more exclusive membership than the Oscars and BAFTAs, being chosen by a collection of approximately ninety members. This has been so since the foundation of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association seventy-six years ago.

Each member of the HFPA represents a publication from one of fifty-five countries across the globe, with an estimated combined readership of more than 250m. These are strictly non-industry journalists and thus represent a distinct variation to its fellow awards deciders.

Membership depends on an individual having a primary residence in Southern California, as well as having attended at least four general meetings and produced a minimum of four articles for foreign publications in the prior year.

Every member is entitled to vote in every category and must rank the nominees on a one to five scale, rather than choosing a singular favourite. 

Golden Raspberry Awards


Love them or hate them, the Razzies have been mocking the worst in cinema for almost forty years. 

Co-founded by University of California Los Angeles graduates and industry veterans John J. B. Wilson and Mo Murphy, this awards ceremony is held the day before the Oscars and just down the road.

Razzie recipients are decided by paying members of the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation, with the majority based in the US. There are just over a thousand members and whilst many are journalists and industry professions many more are simply cinema goers prepared to donate $50 a year.

It’s no wonder that members has been accused of not actually watching the films they critique.

Independent Spirit Awards


First held thirty-five years ago, the Independent Spirit Awards were created to champion independent cinema. Recent winners have included Get Out and Moonlight, whilst none of the favourites for this year’s Oscars has a nomination for Best Film.

Winners are decided by Film Independent members and anyone can apply, providing that they have a passion for cinema and a bank account. Nominees are determined by a small committee of industry insiders but thereafter it’s up to members.

People’s Choice Awards

Sandra Bullock

Er…you do.

Created in 1975, the People’s Choice Awards is the fast and loose ceremony which gives members of the public their chance to name their favourite film of the year. 

Voting switched from polling to online selection in 2005, with nominees now aggregated from sources like the box office and online viewership.

Satellite Awards


The Satellite Awards are the gongs given by the International Press Academy, which is itself comprised of professional entertainment journalists from across the world.

All full-time entertainment journalists are eligible to join, providing that they are listed in the Motion Picture Association of America directory.

Screen Actors Guild Award


The not-so-succinctly named Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) decide this one and have done since 1995.

Representing over 116,000 members, SAG-AFTRA is a union for film and television actors, journalists, radio personalities, recording artists, singers, voice actors, and other media professionals worldwide. Originally SAG and AFTRA were separate organisations but merged in 2012.

Nominees are decided a committee of 2500 members, randomly selected afresh each year. Once the nominations are finalised, a second stage of voting sees all active members choose the final winner. All voters and nominees are actors.


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