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Who was nominated for The Color Purple?

The Color Purple is a 1985 American coming-of-age period drama film directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Menno Meyjes. It is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1982 novel of the same name by Alice Walker. The film tells the story of a young African-American woman named Celie Harris and shows the problems faced by African-American women during the early 1900s in the southern United States. The Color Purple was nominated for multiple awards, including 11 Academy Award nominations.

Academy Award Nominations

The Color Purple received 11 Academy Award nominations at the 58th Academy Awards in 1986:

Category Nominee
Best Picture Quincy Jones, Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Gerald O’Dell
Best Actress Whoopi Goldberg
Best Supporting Actress Margaret Avery
Best Writing (Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium) Menno Meyjes
Best Cinematography Allen Daviau
Best Art Direction Bo Welch, Linda DeScenna
Best Costume Design Aggie Guerard Rodgers
Best Makeup Ken Chase
Best Original Score Quincy Jones, Rod Temperton, Lionel Richie, Jeremy Lubbock, Andraé Crouch, Sandra Crouch, Chris Boardman, Jorge Calandrelli, Joel Rosenbaum, Fred Steiner, Jack Hayes, Jerry Hey and Randy Kerber
Best Sound Donald O. Mitchell, Michael Minkler, Gerry Humphreys and Chris Newman

As shown in the table, The Color Purple received nominations in many major categories at the Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress for Whoopi Goldberg, and Best Supporting Actress for Margaret Avery. However, the film ended up not winning any of the awards it was nominated for.

Other Major Award Nominations

In addition to its Oscar nominations, The Color Purple received nominations for several other notable awards:

  • Golden Globe Awards
    • Best Motion Picture – Drama
    • Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama – Whoopi Goldberg
    • Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture – Margaret Avery
  • BAFTA Awards
    • Best Actress in a Leading Role – Whoopi Goldberg
    • Best Adapted Screenplay – Menno Meyjes
    • Best Costume Design – Aggie Guerard Rodgers
    • Best Makeup and Hair – Ken Chase
  • AACTA International Award
    • Best Actress – Whoopi Goldberg
  • Saturn Awards
    • Best Fantasy Film
    • Best Actress – Whoopi Goldberg

While the film received recognition through these nominations, it did not receive any wins from the major awards circuit outside of the Oscar nominations.

Critical Reception

Despite its award nominations, The Color Purple received mixed reviews from critics upon its release in 1985. Here is a summary of some of the critical responses:

  • Roger Ebert gave it 4/4 stars, calling it “the year’s best film.” He praised Whoopi Goldberg’s performance as well as Spielberg’s directing.
  • Gene Siskel also gave the film a positive review, writing that it was a “compelling, uplifting, hard-won sermon of a movie.”
  • However, other critics felt the film was too commercialized and sanitized from the source novel. Pauline Kael called it “tepid and carefully engineered.”
  • On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 78% approval rating based on 45 reviews, with an average rating of 6.5/10. The critics consensus states: “Though its ending succumbs to sentimental goop, The Color Purple remains a powerful look at troubled lives in the age of Jim Crow.”

While not universally acclaimed by critics, the film clearly made an impact as evidenced by its multiple high-profile award nominations. The performance by Whoopi Goldberg in her major film debut was widely praised even among critics who disliked other aspects of the film.

Legacy and Impact

Though unsuccessful in winning any of the major awards it was nominated for, The Color Purple still left a lasting legacy:

  • Whoopi Goldberg became a major star and earned her first Oscar nomination, paving the way for more leading roles for African-American women in Hollywood films.
  • Steven Spielberg decided to take on more serious dramatic projects after this film, rather than just blockbuster entertainment movies.
  • It brought mainstream attention and critical acclaim to Alice Walker’s novel, which had highlighted important issues about race, gender, domestic violence and abuse.
  • The film brought discussions about those issues to wider audiences. Academics have studied its impact on African-American culture and representations of black women in film.
  • The musical adaptation of the novel and film debuted on Broadway in 2005, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical Revival.
  • It is viewed today as one of the seminal African-American films of the 1980s and an important part of Spielberg’s filmography.

Despite its lack of major awards, The Color Purple continues to be regarded as a landmark film that had a lasting influence on African-American cinema, culture, and visibility in Hollywood.


Though failing to win any of the Academy Awards it was nominated for, The Color Purple garnered a great deal of visibility and recognition through its 11 Oscar nominations, as well as nominations from the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and other groups. Its nominations highlighted Whoopi Goldberg’s acting talents, Spielberg’s direction, and Walker’s important source material. Despite mixed critical reviews, the film left a strong cultural imprint and brought African-American stories and voices to mainstream Hollywood filmmaking. The Color Purple is remembered not for its wins, but for its impact on representation in cinema, its critical acclaim, and its status as a touchstone film of its era.