There are a great number of awards given out on Oscar night that reflect the past year in film, and you're likely familiar with all the big ones: Best Actor/Actress, Best Director, Best Picture... but you're probably also wondering if the Oscars have Lifetime Achievement Awards. You know, the type of awards that recognize greatness not just within the past year, but over a person's prestigious career in the movie industry. But does such an award exist at the Oscars?
Kind of, but it's not called a Lifetime Achievement Award. Instead, the Oscars give out something called the Academy Honorary Award, which is meant to function as an Oscar for a category not recognized at the Oscars. First awarded in 1927, when it was called the Special Award, it was often awarded to individuals, or even studios, for a significant technical or cultural achievement in the industry. The first ever recipient was Warner Bros., who received the award for producing The Jazz Singer, the first feature-length "talkie." Another early recipient was Walt Disney, who received three separate Special Awards over his career: One for creating Mickey Mouse; one for producing Snow White, the first full length animated feature; and another for Fantasia, thanks to its revolutionary use of sound.
By the 1970s, the award began to resemble a Lifetime Achievement Award. Laurence Olivier, Charlie Chaplin, Lillian Gish, Alec Guinness, Mary Pickford, Groucho Marx, and Orson Welles all picked up awards in the decade in recognition of their career contributions to the motion picture industry.
Since 2009, the awards are not actually given out at the Academy Awards, but at their own separate ceremony called the Governors Awards. Multiple individuals receive Academy Honorary Awards each year at the ceremony, and many of them have gone their entire careers without previously ever winning an Oscar. The 2016 Governor's Awards took place on Nov. 12, and four different people were honored — each one with a unique contribution to film.
One was Anne V. Coates, a 91-year-old film editor who has worked on films including Lawrence of Arabia, The Elephant Man, and most recently, 50 Shades of Grey. Next is Lynn Stalmaster, 89, a casting director who put together the casts of dozens of films over several decades. Director and documentarian Frederick Wiseman, 87, also received an award in 2016 for his lifetime of work. But it's the fourth honoree who is undoubtedly the most well-known (and the youngest).
Jackie Chan, 62, was recognized for his lengthy career of action movies that has made him China's biggest movie star, and the actor was pretty overwhelmed by the honor, calling it a "dream." Just try not to choke up while watching his charming and heartfelt acceptance speech.
Although the Oscars don't technically give out a lifetime achievement, today's Academy Honorary Award that's given out at the Governors Awards basically has the same function of honoring those individuals whom the Academy has otherwise largely ignored.