Oscars 2021: Here's a look back at posthumous Oscar winners

Written By: Pragati Awasthi | Updated: Apr 22, 2021, 07:32 PM IST

The Oscars 2021 is just a few days away and this year Chadwick Boseman is one of the frontrunners in the Best Actor category for his work in 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom'. The late actor could even make history by becoming the first African American to posthumously win in the category. 

As the cinemas biggest night approaches, we made a list of actors who’ve taken home the big awards posthumously. 

Here is the list of famous posthumous Oscar winners:

Sidney Howard

Year: 1940
Award: Best Adapted Screenplay, 'Gone with the Wind'

Hollywood's renowned screenwriter Sidney Howard was the first posthumous Oscar winner at the 1940 ceremony for Best Adapted Screenplay for his work on the cult classic 'Gone With the Wind'. Howard was the only one who was credited for the script adaptation process from Margaret Mitchell’s bestselling novel. But before the Oscars and the movie premiere, he died in a horrific accident with a tractor at the age of 48.


Victor Young

Year: 1957
Award: Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, 'Around the World in 80 Days'

The next posthumous Oscar winner comes nearly after two decades. Victor Young had a highly successful career in Hollywood and was nominated 22 times previous for his work until his posthumous win and ad scored notable films such as 'Gulliver’s Travels' and For 'Whom The Bell Tolls' and more.

 Young was posthumously honoured after he passed away due to a cerebral haemorrhage at the age of 57.   



William A. Horning

Year: 1958 & 1959
Award: Best Art Direction, Gigi and Ben-Hur

William A. Horning is the only person who won an Oscar posthumously two times in a row, although he recieved an Academy nominations before. 

Horning first won for Best art direction for his work on the 1957 musical film 'Gigi', which won Best Picture in 1958. The following year he won again in the same category for the Biblical epic 'Ben-Hur', which also won Best Picture. William passed away in 1956.



Sam Zimbalist

Year: 1959
Award: Best Picture, Ben-Hur

Producer Sam Zimbalist was another posthumous Oscar winner for the 1959 movie 'Ben-Hur' following William A. Horning win. Zimbalist is the only person to win a posthumous Oscar for Best Picture. He died in 1958 at age 57 before he could accept the award for his work on the classic Roman tale. 


Eric Orbom

Year: 1960
Award: Best Art Direction, 'Spartacus'

Swedish-born art director Eric Orbom was posthumously awarded the Best Art Direction Award in 1960 for the movie 'Spartacus'. He was awarded the Best Art Direction Award along with 3 other designers Julia Heron, Russell Gausman and Alexander GolitzenEric. He died in the year 1959 at the age of 43. 



Walt Disney

Year: 1969
Award: Best Short Film, 'Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day'

The founder of one of Hollywood’s first studios, Walt Disney, despite so many movies and loving character he holds the record for most Oscar nominations and wins with an impressive 26 Oscars, including four honorary ones, out of 59 total nominations. Though he died in 1966 aged 65, his last Oscar was awarded posthumously in 1969 for 'Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day'. 


Raymond Rasch & Larry Russell

Year: 1972
Award: Best Music, 'Limelight'

Twenty years after the initial release of the Charlie Chaplin movie 'Limelight' the movie was released in 1952, but it was not screened in Los Angeles after being boycotted because of Chaplin’s alleged communist affiliations. The movie was re-released in 1972 and become critics favourite and, it garnered two Oscars, one for Raymond Rasch and Larry Russell posthumous wins for Best Music and one an honorary Academy Award for Chaplin. Both Russell and Rasch had passed away before their historic win. 



Peter Finch

Year: 1977
Award: Best Actor, Network

Peter Finch was the first actor to receive a posthumous Academy Award for his portrayal of TV news anchor Howard Beale in the satirical ‘Network’. The movie went on to win three more awards: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Original Screenplay. Before his win, he was a victim of a heart attack at the age of 60. 



Geoffrey Unsworth

Year: 1981
Award: Best Cinematography, 'Tess'

The well-known Cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth won his second Academy Award for 'Tess' in 1981. Previously, he had won in the past for his work on the film 'Cabaret'.Unsworth was awarded after he passed away due to a heart attack during the filming of the movie.


Howard Ashman

Year: 1992
Award: Best Music, 'Beauty and the Beast'

Playwright, lyricist and stage director Howard Ashman is the only artist to have been posthumously nominated four times, three for his work on Disney‘s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and one for another Disney feature, ‘Aladdin’. Earlier, he won an Oscar for 'The Little Mermaid' song “Under the Sea,”. However, after his death in 1991 due to complications from AIDS, he went on to win another Academy for Best Original Song for the title track from Disney’s 'Beauty and the Beas'.


Thomas C. Goodwin

Year: 1993
Award: Best Documentary 'Educating Peter'

Producer Thomas C. Goodwin won a posthumous Oscar for this short subject documentary 'Educating Peter'. Goodwin died before he could accept his Oscar for Best Documentary Short at the 1993 Oscar Awards.


Gil Friesen

Year: 2014
Award: Best Documentary Feature, '20 Feet From Stardom'

Gil Friesen, American music and film executive known for being chairman of A&M Records. Friesen won his posthumous Oscar for Best Documentary feature which he produced in 2013. 


Heath Ledger

Year: 2009
Award: Best Supporting Actor, 'The Dark Knight'

Heath Ledger is the only the second actor ever to win an Oscar posthumously in 2009 after Peter Finch. He was the last actor to win it for his villainous turn as The Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’. The actor died of an accidental drug overdose at the age of 28.