Chloé Zhao's Frances McDormand-starring drama is only the second film directed by a woman to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

By Joey Nolfi
April 25, 2021 at 11:19 PM EDT
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Nomadland is driving away from awards season with a van full of Oscars.

Chloé Zhao's Frances McDormand-starring drama won Best Picture at Sunday night's Academy Awards ceremony, becoming only the second Best Picture winner to be directed by a woman in Oscars history.

Accepting the statuette, Zhao expressed "deepest gratitude to Linda May, Swankie, Bob Wells, and the nomadic community," all of whom were all the people she "met on the road" while filming the project. She continued: "Thank you for teaching us the power of resilience and hope, and reminding us what true kindness looks like."

McDormand also accepted the award — her first for Best Picture, after two prior acting wins — as one of the film's producers, becoming the first Best Actress nominee to win for a film she also made behind-the-scenes.

"Please watch our movie on the largest screen possible," she said, "and, one day very, very soon, take everyone you know into a theater, shoulder-to-shoulder in that dark space, and watch every film that's represented here tonight. We give this one to our wolf!"

Earlier during the ceremony, Zhao became the first Asian woman (and first woman of color in general) to win the Oscar for Best Director.

The only other Best Picture winner directed by a woman remains Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, for which she also became the first woman to win the Best Director Oscar at the 2010 Academy Awards.

Nomadland
Credit: Searchlight Pictures

Nomadland — about a woman grappling with emotional and economic strife on the road in her trusty van — steamrolled the longest Oscar race in history, beginning with top-prize victories at the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival last year, and continuing through to the 2021 Golden Globes, the Directors Guild of America, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and the Producers Guild of America.

"This stuff is scary, looking back at it," Zhao recently told EW of pondering Nomadland's themes. "You just aren't completely sure you're going to have it. And it's only after those moments, I say 'cut,' and I walk away and go, 'Oh my God, we have a movie.' That's the risk you take.... It's a road movie. You want it to [have] a sense of discovery."

Check out more from EW's The Awardist, featuring exclusive interviews, analysis, and our podcast diving into all the highlights from the year's best films.

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Nomadland

Nomadland (2021 movie)

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  • Chloe Zhao

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