Now that the 91st Academy Awards are practically here, it’s time to fill out your ballot and indulge your competitive streak. Because “It’s an honor just to be nominated” is great and all, but you know what’s a slightly bigger honor? Winning an Oscar. And you know what’s an even bigger honor than that? Winning lots and lots of Oscars. So as we enter the final stretch of this year’s awards season, we couldn’t help but look back to see whose trophy case is the most stuffed with little gold men.
That would be Walt Disney, who won 22 competitive Oscars (out of 59 nominations) and four honorary Academy Awards in his long career. His first win in competition was for best animated short for the 1932 Silly Symphonies cartoon Flowers and Trees; his last, awarded posthumously, was in the same category for 1968’s Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. Out of competition, he took home his first honorary Oscar in 1932 for the creation of Mickey Mouse; in 1939, he received one normal statuette along with seven tiny Oscars to honor Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; and in 1942, he was awarded a certificate recognizing Fantasia as well as the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award.
Looking only at actors (as so many of us, for better or worse, are wont to do), the performer with the most decorated mantelpiece is Katharine Hepburn, who won four Oscars out of 12 nominations — all for best actress. She took home the gold on her first nomination, for 1933’s Morning Glory, then received eight more nods without winning over the following 33 years, then collected top honors three more times with the last three nominations of her career, for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968), and On Golden Pond (1981).
But what about Meryl Streep, you ask? Good question! The great Meryl does hold the record as the most-nominated performer, with an astonishing 21 Oscar nods. She has yet to match Hepburn’s number of wins, however, as she’s only collected three — for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), Sophie’s Choice (1982), and The Iron Lady (2011).
As for directors, John Ford holds the title of most honored, having won four statuettes — for The Informer (1935), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), How Green Was My Valley (1941), and The Quiet Man (1952) — out of five nominations. William Wyler and Frank Capra are tied for second place among best director winners, with three victories each, while Wyler holds the distinction of most nominated, having racked up 12 nods over three decades.
And if you break it down by film, Ben-Hur (1959), Titanic (1997), and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) are tied as the Academy’s most recognized, each having scored 11 Oscars. Along with Titanic, All About Eve (1950) and La La Land (2016) are the most-nominated films in the show’s history, with 14 nods each.
The 91st annual Academy Awards telecast airs live on Sunday, Feb. 24, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on ABC.