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Parasite wins Best Picture and makes Oscars history

The film took home four Oscars, including the biggest prize of the night.

Parasite wins Best Picture at the Oscars on February 9, 2020.
Photo by MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

Parasite made history at the 2020 Oscars on Sunday, becoming the first non-English-language film to win the grand prize of Best Picture.

Only 10 films that the Academy has classified as “international feature films” (previously recognized as foreign language films) have ever been nominated for Best Picture. Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, nominated in 2019, was the most recent before Parasite.

Parasite also won Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and International Feature Film.

However, none of its cast was nominated in any of the four acting categories. That turn of events makes the film’s Best Picture win a little bittersweet, in that the movie was recognized for its excellence but its actors didn’t receive the same appreciation from Academy voters. The acting omission feels even more egregious when considered in the context of Parasite’s character-driven story, and how the cast personified the film’s tale of inequality, morality, and fighting against a social and economic system that’s rigged against you.

The last movie to win a Best Picture Oscar without any acting nominations was Slumdog Millionaire in 2009. As with Parasite, the cast of Slumdog Millionaire was made up of actors of color and didn’t have the same name recognition among Oscar voters as the year’s eventual acting nominees did.

The Oscars don’t have a great track record of honoring nonwhite actors in general.

In 2015 and 2016, all 20 acting nominees were white, and while the nominations slate was more diverse in 2017, 2018, and 2019, this year, only one performer of color — Cynthia Erivo in Harriet — was nominated in the four major acting categories. (While the Academy’s nonwhite membership has doubled from 8 percent in 2015 to 16 percent in 2019, it is still predominantly white.)

Parasite’s Best Picture win has no doubt changed Oscars history and could signal change for the future. But even in taking home the top prize, there were still some hurdles it couldn’t overcome.