Honorary Award

Governors Awards - Honorary Award

The Academy’s Honorary Award is given at the discretion of the Board of Governors and not necessarily awarded every year. The Honorary Award may or may not be an Oscar statuette; when it is, the Award is presented as part of the Academy Awards ceremony. This is the Honorary Award most familiar to the public. It is sometimes given to honor a filmmaker for whom there is no annual Academy Award category: choreographer Michael Kidd in 1996, for instance, or animator Chuck Jones in 1995. It can be also given to an organization, such as the National Film Board of Canada in 1988, or even a company, such as Eastman Kodak, which received it that same year.

The Honorary Award is not called a lifetime achievement award by the Academy, but it is often given for a life’s work in filmmaking such as Polish director Andzrej Wajda in 1999 and Elia Kazan the previous year.

The Honorary Award can be given for outstanding service to the Academy, although the last time this happened was in 1979 when an Oscar statuette was presented to Academy Governor Hal Elias, who had served more than a quarter century on the Board of Governors.

The Honorary Award can also take the form of a life membership in the Academy, a scroll, a medal, a certificate or any other design chosen by the Board of Governors. The John A. Bonner Medal of Commendation, given for “outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy,” is considered an Honorary Award. It is usually given at the annual presentation of Scientific and Technical Awards, a dinner ceremony separate from the annual Oscar telecast.

The only life membership to be conferred as an Honorary Award was given to Bob Hope in 1944 “for his many services to the Academy.” Hope received four Honorary Awards. In addition to his life membership, he received a special silver plaque in 1940 “in recognition of his unselfish service to the Motion Picture Industry,” a gold medal in 1965 for “unique and distinguished service to our industry and the Academy” and an Oscar statuette in 1952 “for his contribution to the laughter of the world, his service to the motion picture industry, and his devotion to the American premise.” And, while it wasn’t an Honorary Award, the Bob Hope Lobby of the Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Study (home of the Margaret Herrick Library) was dedicated to Hope in 1990 when he continued to serve the Academy and the industry with a contribution of $1 million to the Center’s Endowment Fund.

The most unusual Honorary Awards went to Edgar Bergen in 1937 and Walt Disney the following year. Bergen’s, presented “for his outstanding comedy creation, ‘Charlie McCarthy,’” was a wooden Oscar statuette with a movable mouth. Disney’s Honorary (his second) was “for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, recognized as a significant screen innovation which has charmed millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field for the motion picture cartoon.” It was a standard Oscar statuette and seven miniature statuettes on a stepped base.

Rules for the awarding of the Honorary Award can be found in the annual Academy Awards Rules section.

Year Winner
1950 (23rd) George Murphy
1951 (24th) Gene Kelly
1952 (25th) George Alfred Mitchell
1952 (25th) Joseph M. Schenck
1952 (25th) Merian C. Cooper
1952 (25th) Harold Lloyd
1952 (25th) Bob Hope
1953 (26th) Pete Smith
1953 (26th) 20th Century-Fox Film Corporation
1953 (26th) Joseph I. Breen
1953 (26th) Bell and Howell Company
1954 (27th) Bausch & Lomb Optical Company
1954 (27th) Kemp R. Niver
1954 (27th) Greta Garbo
1954 (27th) Danny Kaye
1954 (27th) Jon Whiteley and Vincent Winter 
1956 (29th) Eddie Cantor
1957 (30th) Charles Brackett
1957 (30th) B.B. Kahane
1957 (30th) Gilbert M. ("Broncho Billy") Anderson
1957 (30th) The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers
1958 (31st) Maurice Chevalier
1959 (32nd) Lee De Forest
1959 (32nd) Buster Keaton
1960 (33rd)  Gary Cooper
1960 (33rd)  Stan Laurel
1960 (33rd)  Hayley Mills
1961 (34th) Fred L. Metzler
1961 (34th) Jerome Robbins
1961 (34th) William L. Hendricks
1964 (37th) William Tuttle
1965 (38th) Bob Hope
1966 (39th) Yakima Canutt
1966 (39th) Y. Frank Freeman
1967 (40th) Arthur Freed
1968 (41st) Onna White
1968 (41st) John Chambers
1969 (42nd) Cary Grant
1970 (43rd) Lillian Gish
1970 (43rd) Orson Welles
1971 (44th) Charles Chaplin
1972 (45th) Charles S. Boren
1972 (45th) Edward G. Robinson
1973 (46th) Henri Langlois
1973 (46th) Groucho Marx
1974 (47th) Howard Hawks
1974 (47th) Jean Renoir
1975 (48th) Mary Pickford
1977 (50th) Margaret Booth
1978 (51st) Walter Lantz
1978 (51st) The Museum of Modern Art Department of Film
1978 (51st) Laurence Olivier
1978 (51st) King Vidor
1979 (52nd) Alec Guinness
1979 (52nd) Hal Elias
1980 (53rd) Henry Fonda
1981 (54th) Barbara Stanwyck
1982 (55th) Mickey Rooney
1983 (56th) Hal Roach
1984 (57th) James Stewart
1984 (57th) National Endowment for the Arts
1985 (58th) Paul Newman
1985 (58th) Alex North
1986 (59th) Ralph Bellamy
1988 (61st) National Film Board of Canada
1988 (61st) Eastman Kodak Company
1989 (62nd) Akira Kurosawa
1990 (63rd) Sophia Loren
1990 (63rd) Myrna Loy 
1991 (64th) Satyajit Ray
1992 (65th)  Federico Fellini
1993 (66th) Deborah Kerr
1994 (67th) Michelangelo Antonioni
1995 (68th) Chuck Jones
1995 (68th) Kirk Douglas
1996 (69th) Michael Kidd
1997 (70th) Stanley Donen
1998 (71st) Elia Kazan
1999 (72nd) Andrzej Wajda
2000 (73rd)  Jack Cardiff
2000 (73rd)  Ernest Lehman
2001 (74th) Sidney Poitier
2001 (74th) Robert Redford
2002 (75th) Peter O'Toole
2003 (76th) Blake Edwards
2004 (77th) Sidney Lumet
2005 (78th) Robert Altman
2006 (79th) Ennio Morricone
2007 (80th) Robert Boyle
2009 (82nd) Roger Corman
2009 (82nd) Gordon Willis
2009 (82nd) Lauren Bacall
2010 (83rd) Kevin Brownlow
2010 (83rd) Jean-Luc Godard
2010 (83rd) Eli Wallach
2011 (84th) James Earl Jones
2011 (84th) Dick Smith
2012 (85th) Hal Needham
2012 (85th) D. A. Pennebaker
2012 (85th) George Stevens, Jr.
2013 (86th) Angela Lansbury
2013 (86th) Steve Martin
2013 (86th) Piero Tosi
2014 (87th) Jean-Claude Carrière
2014 (87th) Hayao Miyazaki
2014 (87th) Maureen O'Hara
2015 (88th) Spike Lee
2015 (88th) Gena Rowlands
2016 (89th) Jackie Chan
2016 (89th) Anne Coates
2016 (89th) Lynn Stalmaster
2016 (89th) Frederick Wiseman
2017 (90th) Agnès Varda
2017 (90th) Charles Burnett
2017 (90th) Donald Sutherland
2017 (90th) Owen Roizman
2018 (91st) Marvin Levy
2018 (91st) Lalo Schifrin
2018 (91st) Cicely Tyson
2019 (92nd) David Lynch
2019 (92nd) Wes Studi
2019 (92nd) Lina Wertmüller
2021 (94th) Samuel L. Jackson
2021 (94th) Elaine May
2021 (94th) Liv Ullmann
2022 (95th) Euzhan Palcy
2022 (95th) Diane Warren
2022 (95th) Peter Weir
2023 (96th) Angela Bassett
2023 (96th) Mel Brooks
2023 (96th) Carol Littleton