ⓘ Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject)


ⓘ Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject)

This is a list of films by year that have received an Academy Award together with the other nominations for best documentary short subject. Following the Academys practice, the year listed for each film is the year of release: the awards are announced and presented early in the following year.


1. Rules and eligibility

Per the recent rules of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences AMPAS, a Short Subject Documentary is defined as a nonfiction motion picture "dealing creatively with cultural, artistic, historical, social, scientific, economic or other subjects". It may be photographed in actual occurrence, or may employ partial reenactment, stock footage, stills, animation, stop-motion or other techniques, as long as the emphasis is on fact, and not on fiction. It must have a run time of no more than 40 minutes and released during a special eligibility period which may vary from year to year, but generally begins the month of September of the prior year and ends in August of award year. This eligibility differs from most other Academy Award categories which only includes films released between January and December of the award year. The documentarys release must also occur within 2 years of the films completion, and there are also rules governing the formatting of audio and video used to produce and exhibit the picture.

In addition, to be eligible the film must meet one of the following criteria:

  • regardless of any public exhibition or nontheatrical release the film must have won a qualifying award at a competitive film festival, as specified by the Academy; or
  • complete a commercial showing of at least 7 days in either Los Angeles County, California or the borough of Manhattan, New York before being released to other non-theatrical venues such as DVD or TV; or
  • win a Gold, Silver or Bronze Medal award in the Academys Student Academy Award Competition.

The film must run daily for 7 days, open to the public for paid admission, and must be advertised in one of the citys major circulars during its run. The film must have narration or dialogue primarily in English or with English subtitles, and must be the whole of an original work. Partial edits from larger works and episodes from serialized films are not eligible.

Eligibility rules for prior years may have differed from these.


1.1. Rules and eligibility Nomination process

The Documentary Branch of the Academy first votes to select ten pictures for preliminary nomination, after which a second round of balloting is conducted to select the five documentary nominees. The entire Academy membership will then vote for one of these five for the Oscar. A maximum of two people involved with the production of the documentary may be nominated for the award, one of whom must be the films credited director. One producer may also be nominated, but if more than one non-director producer is credited the Academy Documentary Branch will vet the producers to select the one they believe was most involved in the creation of the film.