The 2022 Oscars were a milestone for the streaming era — but not for the reasons anyone was expecting. After Netflix’s The Power of the Dog paraded through awards season with frontrunner status, this year’s coveted Best Picture award went to CODA, the Apple TV Plus family drama. This marks the first streaming-exclusive film to win the Academy Awards’ top prize.
Based on the 2014 French film La Famille Bélier, CODA was the Little Film That Could of the 2022 Oscar gauntlet. Pairing relative newcomer Emilia Jones with a number of Deaf actor veterans, including Troy Kotsur (honored at the 2022 Oscars with a Best Supporting Actor win) and Marlee Matlin (herself a previous Oscar winner for 1987’s Children of a Lesser God), the film fell into a feel-good dramedy category that, in recent years, has become a pejorative for Lifetime originals and the like. But CODA clicked with audiences from the very beginning; writer-director Sian Heder began her awards-run at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, where the film became the first premiere ever to win Sundance’s grand jury prize, directing prize, audience award, and a special jury prize for Best Ensemble.
CODA failed to make a splash with critics groups or the other award-season mile-markers throughout the season, but once the movie arrived on Apple TV Plus, it found its way onto the right kind of radars. Even though it only scored a few Oscar nominations (and not even the ones like Best Editing or Director that typically bolster a Best Picture win), the movie started building momentum after wins at the British BAFTAs, SAG Awards, and PGA Awards. Though The Power of the Dog was heralded, the tough-to-chew-on drama gave the heartfelt CODA room to win over the masses.
The past several years have seen Netflix spending gobs of money in an attempt to win Oscar clout. And to some degree, it’s worked: the streaming service’s movies have been nominated for Best Picture each year since 2019, and have won in categories like Best Supporting Actress, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Documentary, and many of the shorts categories. But 2022 was looking like the year for a true sea change, in which Netflix — which pumps out hundreds of movies each year for a slate that rivals the entire American studio industry — could finally become the home of a genuine Best Picture winner.
But that didn’t happen. Apple TV Plus is still in its streaming infancy compared to Netflix, but it swooped into Sundance to pick up CODA, and as many Oscar prognosticators have noted in the weeks leading up to the Academy Awards ceremony, strategically rolled it out to maximize visibility. CODA premiered in theaters way back in August 2021, but then conversation about it fell relatively silent. Apple’s platform brought it back into play at just the right time, and now the tech giant owns this milestone in Oscar history. Apple TV Plus is the first streaming service to snag a Best Picture winner — but it certainly won’t be the last.