The Greek Oscar Winners Over the Decades

Greek actor Katina Paxinou won the won Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1944

The 92nd annual Academy Awards, Hollywood’s most important event, get underway Sunday evening at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Throughout its glamorous history five Greeks got hold of the gold-plated statue: Katina Paxinou (1944), Manos Hadjidakis (1961), Vassilis Photopoulos (1965), Vangelis Papathanassiou (1982) and Costas Gavras (1983).

Many others, including artists of Greek descent distinguished themselves over the years. Yorgos Lanthimos, for example, was nominated in 2017 for Best Screenplay for his film “Lobster.” In 2019 “The Favored One” was nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Film and Best Director.

Katina Paxinou

Greeks and the Oscars go way back, to the time of World War II, when in 1944 Katina Paxinou won Best Supporting Actress award for her role in “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, a film based on Ernest Hemingway’s famous novel.

Paxinou was not only the first Greek woman to hold the Oscars. She also became the first non-American to be honored with an American Film Academy Award.

Wearing a black dress in her acceptance speech at the awards ceremony, Paxinou paid tribute to her colleagues at the National Theater of Greece and the American soldiers who were fighting in many fronts around the globe.

“The honor gives me the opportunity to send my deep love and admiration to the heroic soldiers of your great nation, the young people of America who fight with their allies all over the world for Freedom, Justice and Human Dignity,” she said.

Manos Hadjidakis

On April 17, 1961, Manos Hadjidakis was awarded the Oscar for Best Song for “Children of Piraeus” in Jill Dassen ‘s film “Never on Sunday.”

However, the Greek composer never treated the Oscars as a special moment in his career: “It might be a simple song that brought me the Oscar. But my ambitions and my obligations do not stop there …For me, it’s not the crown of a career, but my true beginning.”

Vassilis Photopoulos

Vassilis Photopoulos, an influential Greek painter, film director, art director and set designer, became an Academy Award winner in 1965 for Art Directions for the film “Zorba the Greek.”

Vangelis Papathanassiou

On March 29, 1982, composer Vangelis Papathanassiou, known internationally as Vangelis, won an Oscar for the music of Hugh Hudson’s film “Roads of Fire.”

It is based on the true story of two British amateur runners aiming to win the gold medal at the 1924 Olympics. The music of the Greek composer played an important role in the success of the film. The music of the opening titles is considered to be one of the most popular moments in the history of cinema music and has been used extensively in films and television shows.


The following year, on April 11, 1983, Greek-born filmmaker Costa-Gavras was honored with an Oscar-winning screenplay for his film “The Missing.”

The film was based on a book by Thomas X that tells the true story of American journalist Charlie Horman, who disappeared in Chile during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. The film’s music was written by Vangelis Papathanasiou, an Oscar nominee.

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