Ray Bradbury was, among many other things, a celebrated screenwriter. He wrote the screenplay for John Huston’s 1956 adaptation of Moby Dick, as well as teleplays for some 59 episodes of The Ray Bradbury Theater, to name just some of his credits. And in 1992, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) inaugurated the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation in his honor.
Presented at the same time as the SFWA’s Nebula Awards, the Ray Bradbury Award was not initially considered a Nebula. It was chosen not by a vote from members of the SFWA, as the Nebulas are, but by the organization’s president. In that format, it was presented in 1992, 1999, 2001, and 2009. At the same time, there was also a Nebula Award for Best Script, which was given out in the ‘70s and brought back in the 2000s.
After 2009, the two were rolled into one. The Nebula Award for Best Script was discontinued, while the Ray Bradbury Award changed its format. It was then voted on by the SFWA membership just like any other Nebula Award, though it still wasn’t technically considered a Nebula until 2019.
The award is limited to dramatic works such as radio plays, television episodes, and movies. Entire seasons of television are not normally eligible, though individual episodes may be, as well as mini-series that do not exceed a certain length. However, with changes in how television series are released in the age of streaming, this rule has been relaxed in recent years, and in 2022 the Marvel show WandaVision won the award for its first season.
During the time that the Ray Bradbury Award has been in existence, the majority of the wins (and nominations) have gone to movies. Here are 10 of the best Ray Bradbury Award-winning movies that have taken home the honor over the years….
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
The very first Ray Bradbury Award was handed out in 1992 and went to the sequel to James Cameron’s Terminator.
In fact, another award wouldn’t be given out for seven years, making Terminator 2 really stand out from the crowd of Ray Bradbury honorees. It is also the only one of the four Bradbury Awards handed out by SFWA presidents (before the award switched to being voted on by the organization’s membership) that went to a feature film.
The other three were given to the TV show Babylon 5, National Public Radio’s audio drama series 2000X, and the entire filmography of Joss Whedon.
2010 was the first year that the Ray Bradbury Award was voted on by the membership of the SFWA, and the competition was fierce. Among the nominees were Academy Award Best Picture nominee Avatar, as well as fan favorites like Coraline, Moon, and Pixar’s Up.
However, the winner was Neill Blomkamp’s sci-fi hriller District 9, starring Sharlto Copley and featuring stunning special effects by Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop.
For the second year of SFWA voting, the Ray Bradbury Award went to Christopher Nolan’s dream-hopping Inception, which also took home four Oscars (and nominations for four more, including Best Picture).
As far as Bradbury Award competition goes, the year was notable for most of the nominees being animated films, including Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon, and Despicable Me. In fact, Inception’s only live-action competitors were Scott Pilgrim and an episode of Doctor Who—which would actually win the award the following year!
Beasts of the Southern Wild
When it was released in 2012, Beasts of the Southern Wild made history for, among other things, nabbing an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis, making her the youngest actress ever to be nominated for the award.
The film tells the story of a small fishing community in Louisiana’s Terrebonne Parish which is threatened by global climate change and by prehistoric beasts called aurochs. It also received nods for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay—as well as taking home the Ray Bradbury Award that year.
Known for being absolutely stunning, among other things, Alfonso Cuarón’s flick about stranded astronauts played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney managed to nab a whopping seven Academy Awards, including Best Director. It was nominated for Best Picture, but lost to 12 Years a Slave.
Gravity's competition for the Bradbury was less stiff, though it did still beat out Pacific Rim, the Hunger Games sequel, Spike Lee’s Her, and others.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy was the first Marvel property to win a Ray Bradbury Award, though the studio boasts the most nominations of anyone, and several others had already been in the running before this.
In fact, one of Guardians’ competitors was another Marvel property, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Guardians managed to edge it out in the voting, however, along with other major films in competition, including Christopher Nolan’s space flick Interstellar and Best Picture winner Birdman, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Mad Max: Fury Road
George Miller’s triumphant return to the Mad Max universe after some 30 years took the world by storm, so it’s probably no wonder that it also won the Ray Bradbury Award, edging out a Pixar film, Ridley Scott’s The Martian, and even the first chapter of the new Star Wars saga. How many movies about driving across the desert can boast that?
It also won six Academy Awards—the most of any film that year—and was nominated for both Best Picture and Best Director, though it lost both, to Spotlight and The Revenant respectively.
With a plot involving linguistics, a story adapted from Ted Chiang’s 1998 short “Story of Your Life,” and no fewer than eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival seemed a sure-fire Ray Bradbury Award winner.
But it still had to beat out competition from Marvel, Star Wars, and more to nab the prize—which it ultimately did. The film also snagged the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form).
The year that Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water took home the Academy Award for Best Picture, Get Out beat it out for the Ray Bradbury Award. And it’s not really surprising.
Jordan Peele’s feature debut made him an instant household name and cemented his place as a horror auteur with just one film, not to mention winning Oscar gold for Best Original Screenplay and making countless “best of the year” lists. It was voted the Ray Bradbury Award winner against such competition as Logan, The Shape of Water, Wonder Woman, and others.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Into the Spider-Verse has the distinction of being the only animated movie to ever win the award, though many have been nominated. The year it won it beat out such releases as A Quiet Place, Marvel’s Black Panther, Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer, and Boots Riley’s satiric Sorry to Bother You.