Shortest Oscar-Winning Role is Only 5 Minutes; 46 Years Later, the Record Still Stands

Shortest Oscar-Winning Role is Only 5 Minutes; 46 Years Later, the Record Still Stands
Image credit: Legion-Media

There are no small parts, only small actors.


  • 1976's Network remains one of the most admired movies ever made.
  • Actress Beatrice Straight walked away with a Supporting Actress award.
  • She only had 5 minutes and 2 seconds of screentime.
  • Only one actor has even come close to the record, and he was in the same movie.

Paddy Chayefsky wrote the screenplay for Network, a movie still admired by cinephiles and considered one of the greatest screenplays of all time.

Network was directed by Sidney Lumet and nominated for eight Oscars. Actress Beatrice Straight took home a Best Supporting Actor award for her role as betrayed housewife Louise Schumacher. She set the record for shortest amount of screentime for an Oscar's acting win: Straight only appeared onscreen for 5 minutes and 2 seconds.

Network was released almost fifty years ago. The record has never come close to being broken.

What's It About?

Longtime news anchor Howard Beale learns that he's going to be forced into retirement due to flagging ratings. When he threatens to commit suicide on the air, he is pulled from the broadcast and threatened with immediate firing.

Howard's friend Max Schumacher is the president of the News Division. Max intervenes on Howard's behalf, insisting that his friend deserves a dignified farewell. However, Howard goes back on the air and immediately launches into an angry diatribe about the news being 'bullshit'.

Shortest Oscar-Winning Role is Only 5 Minutes; 46 Years Later, the Record Still Stands - image 1

Howard's rant causes a ratings spike, and instead of pulling Howard off of the air for his erratic behavior and declining mental health, the network leans into it and commodifies Howard's new populist persona. This plan is headed by Diana Christensen, the ruthlessly ambitious new chief of programming. Soon, Diana and Max are having an affair.

No Small Parts

Beatrice Straight plays Max's wife Louise. She appears in only three scenes over the course of the movie, and it's easy to mistake her for a minor, background character. Louise goes virtually unnoticed by everyone – including the audience – until her husband announces that he's leaving their 25 year marriage.

Straight gives an impassioned monologue that veers quickly from disdain to ridicule to deep anger. By the end, she's actually empathizing with her husband, who she anticipates will have his heart broken by this younger woman.

It's a tour de force performance that covers almost the entire arc of grief in a mere 4 minutes and 47 seconds. And yes, you've done that math right – that means Straight was only in the rest of the movie for about 15 seconds. She essentially won an Academy Award for a single scene.

Short Performances, Big Impacts

While nobody has managed to beat Straight's record, there have been a handful of other actors who have won Oscars on the strength of very little screen time. At around 8 minutes, Judi Dench's time in Shakespeare in Love (1998) comes close. She makes a big impression as Queen Elizabeth I in that historical drama.

Famously, Anthony Hopkins won his Oscar for only 16 minutes of screentime as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs (1991). That's only one minute longer than Anne Hathaway, who bagged an Oscar for her performance in Les Miserables (2012).

Only one actor has gotten within striking distance of beating Straight's 5-minute record. That would be Ned Beatty, who in 1976 won a Best Supporting Actor Award for his 6 minutes in… Network.

That's right, Beatty was also in Network, and also won for a tiny amount of screentime! We bet he's wishing he could have had about 58 seconds less… then maybe he would have been the one holding a 50-year-old Hollywood record.