Peele is just the fourth person of colour to be nominated in that category. Suzanne de Passe was the first (for Lady Sings the Blues in 1972), followed by Spike Lee in 1989 (for Do The Right Thing), and John Singleton in 1991, for Boyz n the Hood.
The crowd inside the Dolby Theatre, clearly aware of the significance of Peele's win, gave one of the most enthusiastic reactions of the night as Peele, clearly emotional, went up to accept his award.
“This means so much to me," he said. "I stopped writing this movie about twenty times because I thought it wasn't going to work. I thought it was impossible. I thought no one would ever make this movie. But I kept coming back to it because I knew that if people let me make this movie then people would heart, and see it. I want to dedicate this to everyone who raised my voice, and let me make this movie."
As expected, Twitter also went wild in its praise, with celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and Zendaya chiming in alongside fans:
As the first Black nominee for the Oscars Big Three (This Is Us joke not intended — it just means Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay), Peele's place in history was already guaranteed. Still, the importance of this moment cannot be overstated.
Get Out is a searing piece of social commentary made for $4.5 million by a Black writer-director with no prior experience, and grossed $176,040,665 domestically. It's a movie that took an often overlooked genre, horror, and turned it into something urgent, interesting, and above all, immensely entertaining.
Only 12 people of colour were nominated at the Oscars this year, and while that is an improvement on past years, it's far from perfect. But the fact that the Academy is finally starting to reward original films that elevate Black voices and performances — a trend that started with Moonlight's win for Best Picture in 2017 — sends the message that perhaps things are starting to change.
That message was reflected in Peele's speech. After thanking his wife, comedian Chelsea Peretti the award-winner gave a shout-out to his mother, Lucinda Williams, "who taught me to love even in the face of hate."
Watch the full speech below:
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