The only filmmaker who has been thanked more than God at the Oscars

From “Jaws” to “Bridge of Spies,” Spielberg’s influence is enormous.
From “Jaws” to “Bridge of Spies,” Spielberg’s influence is enormous.
Image: AP/John Shearer/Invision
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Dozens of Hollywood hopefuls are likely polishing off their acceptance speeches for the 89th annual Academy Awards. Today, the gracious winners will fight back tears, smiles, or breathless enthusiasm while hurrying to thank the Academy, colleagues, and loved ones before being are cut off by the teleprompter.

Throughout the history of the Academy Awards, there’s one filmmaker who’s been show more gratitude by award winners than nearly anyone else.

Quartz has analyzed Oscar speeches dating back to 1966 and we found that director Steven Spielberg, who has won three Oscars himself—two for best director—has been thanked or praised in 43 different Academy Awards acceptance speeches. That’s more gratitude than even God has received. And no other major filmmaker has come close to reaching that many mentions.

A note on methodology: Quartz counted literal thanks and tributes, such as “Thank God” or “Lord God, I praise you.” The tally for the Almighty did not include expressions like “Oh God,” “Oh my God,” “God bless,” “God knows,” “God willing,” or ”God rest his soul,” and also ignored statements like “Thank God it took so long.”

Each mention was counted once per individual Oscar’s speech. So multiple mentions in a single speech, like Denzel Washington’s “Oh, God is good. God is great. God is great” were counted once. And tributes from multiple winners who shared a single award were counted individually.

“The output is staggering,” film critic Molly Haskell said of Spielberg’s achievement in her biography Steven Spielberg: A Life in Films, citing a 2014 statistic from NBC News that said Spielberg had been mentioned 42 times to God’s 19. (This presumably only included mentions of “Thank God.”) 

“His fingerprints are everywhere, as producer as well as director, in video games and television as well as feature films,” she added. “In his, forty-two years of making movies—fifty-two if you count his childhood efforts—the wunderkind has given more pleasure to more people than any other filmmaker in history.”

The breadth of Spielberg’s work is evident in the Academy Awards acceptance speeches, too. He’s been noted for his contributions, directly or indirectly, to a range of works including Jaws, the Indiana Jones series, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, and Bridge of Spies, as well as for his influence on talent from Ben Affleck to Octavia Spencer.

Outside of the Oscars, Spielberg’s work is also touching a new generation, with a tribute to his Eighties oeuvre finding new fans with Netflix’s Stranger Things. Will anyone thank Spielberg tonight?