Science is holding its own in the 2017 Oscar race despite the acclaim that the musical LA LA LAND has garnered. Three of the Best Picture nominees have scientific or technological themes–ARRIVAL, LION, and HIDDEN FIGURES. HIDDEN FIGURES is the fourth Sloan-supported feature film to be nominated for an Oscar (THE MARTIAN, EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT, and IMITATION GAME were nominated in 2015 and 2016). The nominees with scientific or technological themes are:

HIDDEN FIGURES is Theodore Melfi’s dramatic feature about the African American women mathematicians who computed the trajectories for the first astronauts to orbit the earth. It is based on a Sloan-supported non-fiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly, and won a Sloan Science in Film award from the San Francisco Film Society. It is nominated in three categories: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. For more, listen to nominee Octavia Spencer accept the Sloan award.

ARRIVAL is Denis Villeneuve’s feature about a linguist tasked with communicating with an alien spacecraft. It is nominated in eight categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing. For more, read linguist Jessica Coon’s piece on her role consulting on the film.


LION is Garth Davis’ dramatic feature based on the true story of a boy who uses Google Maps to locate his hometown after he has been orphaned. It is nominated in six categories: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, and Best Cinematography. For more, read Science & Film’s interview with nominated screenwriter Luke Davies about depicting technology in film.

ELLE, directed by Paul Verhoeven, stars Isabelle Huppert as the CEO of a game company who becomes entangled in a dangerous sexual fantasy. Huppert is nominated for Best Actress. For more, read Science & Film’s interview with screenwriter David Birke.

FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS is Stephen Frear’s comedy based on the true story of a philanthropist and aspiring opera singer who suffered from Syphilis. The film is nominated in two categories: Best Actress and Best Costume Design. For more, read Science & Film’s article about heavy metals which were used as medicine into the 1930s.


THE LOBSTER, by Greek director Yorgos Lathimos, takes place in a world where it is illegal to be single and those who cannot find a partner are turned into animals. It is nominated for Best Original Screenplay. For more, read Science & Film’s interview with neuroscientist Lucy Brown about finding a perfect match.

LIFE, ANIMATED is a documentary by Roger Ross William about a young man with Autism Spectrum Disorder who finds a way to communicate using his passion for Disney movies. It is nominated for Best Documentary Feature. Fore more, read Science & Film’s interview with neuroscientist Kevin Pelphrey about using cartoons to communicate.

The 89th Academy Awards will be broadcast live on Sunday, February 26 beginning at 4pm EST on ABC. It will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.