Oscars: All 89 Best Picture Winners Ranked

10) On the Waterfront (1954)

Oscars

In A Nutshell
Depicting a section of union corruption in New Jersey, this was Marlon Brando’s first Best Actor win at the fourth consecutive nomination. Also inspiration for Quentin Tarantino to have Lawrence Tierney grunt “Let’s go to work” in Reservoir Dogs.
Could Have Been
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Not Even Nominated
A Star is Born; Rear Window; Sabrina

9) Gone with the Wind (1939)

Oscars

In A Nutshell
During the American Civil War, Scarlett O’Hara puts herself through all manner of emotional anguish over the years. The apparent love for Ashley, the false marriage to Charles, and of course the turbulent relationship with Rhett Butler. Gigantic, unforgettable, and frankly we do give a damn.
Could Have Been
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; The Wizard of Oz
Not Even Nominated:
The Lady Vanishes; The Hunchback of Notre Dame; The Rules of the Game

8) Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Oscars

In A Nutshell
Say hello to Peter O’Toole, his first of eight Best Actor nominations without a competitive win. David Lean’s genre-defining epic was vast to say the least. The competition that year had little chance. Renowned for its expansive cinematography, and that soul-stirring Maurice Jarre score.
Could Have Been
To Kill a Mockingbird
Not Even Nominated
Viridiana; Jules et Jim; The Miracle Worker; Divorce Italian Style; What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

7) No Country for Old Men (2007)

Oscars

In A Nutshell
Borders crossed galore. The Coen Brothers fed us so much of their gritty usually ingredients we’ve loved so long. And they finally win Best Picture and Best Director. Javier Bardem also won for Best Supporting Hairpiece.
Could Have Been
There Will Be Blood
Not Even Nominated
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; Ratatouille; La Vie en Rose

6) Schindler’s List (1993)

Oscars

In A Nutshell
Liam Neeson has an influx of job openings at his factory during World War II. Offers them to the Jewish community. He watches over his project, to see it has a certain panache. They do all the work. Turns out to save quite a lot of lives.
Could Have Been
The Piano
Not Even Nominated
Three Colors: Blue; The Age of Innocence; Philadelphia; Jurassic Park; Farewell My Concubine; Short Cuts; Sleepless in Seattle; What’s Love Got to Do with It; Naked

5) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Oscars

In A Nutshell
Milos Forman’s psychiatric masterpiece dominated the Academy Awards that year in what was undoubtedly one of the very best Picture five in Oscars’ history. Seamlessly drifting between candid comedy and moving drama, the film is a testament to Forman’s directing of actors and sensitive subject matter. Jack Nicholson wasn’t bad either.
Could Have Been
Barry Lyndon; Jaws
Not Even Nominated
Amarcord; Shampoo; The Rocky Horror Picture Show

4) The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Oscars

In A Nutshell
The last motion picture to win the big five with the Academy, makes something of a surprisingly high entry to the list. That says a lot about not only the voting demograpic, but also the popularity of such a win. Graphic, horrifying, disturbing, all the while brilliantly handled by the late Jonathan Demme. And an enduring, immeasurable bond between Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins.
Could Have Been
Bugsy; JFK
Not Even Nominated
Europa, Europa; Boyz n the Hood; Thelma & Louise; Terminator 2: Judgment Day; The Fisher King; Barton Fink

3) Casablanca (1943)

Oscars

In A Nutshell
Both leads went on to do great things, but still we must remember this. The imperishable love story was also iconic in influencing future filmmakers, has dialogue still quotable, a gripping story, I mean, I could go on. As time goes by, Casablanca doesn’t really age at all.
Could Have Been
The Song of Bernadette
Not Even Nominated
Cat People; I Walked with a Zombie; Obsession; Shadow of a Doubt

2) The Godfather Part II (1974)

Oscars

In A Nutshell
Widely regarded one of the finest sequels of all time, a bold opinion given the gravitas of the 1972 film. Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo expand the masterful saga, somehow keeping the original tone and impact. Coppola won Best Director this time. And Robert De Niro, who once read for Sonny, won Supporting Actor – a second Oscar win for character Vito Corleone.
Could Have Been
Chinatown
Not Even Nominated
Day for Night; A Woman Under the Influence; Murder on the Orient Express

1) The Godfather (1972)

Oscars

In A Nutshell
Defeating its sequel by just a few votes, is Francis Ford Coppola’s mafia masterpiece opener. Or, if you will, a wholesome family drama. Taking Best Picture, The Godfather pipped to the post the film with eight Academy Awards on the night – the most Oscars of any film in history without the Best Picture prize. So that tells you something about the stature.
Could Have Been
Cabaret
Not Even Nominated
Images; Sleuth; The Poseidon Adventure; Lady Sings the Blues; The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

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16 thoughts on “Oscars: All 89 Best Picture Winners Ranked

  1. I see what you did with #52 and #51. But…can epic filmmaking really be brought back twice in six years? I think you’re just testing us to see if we’re paying attention.

  2. I don’t understand your caption for Chicago (2002):
    “Some exquisitely executed set-pieces don’t really make this familiar musical a big screen classic. On the verge of war, were America looking for some razzle-dazzle relief a la post World War II?”
    Was America on the verge of war in 1931, when Chicago is set? What makes you say there was “famous razzle-dazzle relief” around 1946? Having studied the period, I don’t see it. Or did you mean World War I? That would make a certain sense, that’s when women went from dresses to skirts, start of radio and magazines, Great Gatsby stuff. But then it would be weird to ask if 1931 was trying for that, when 1931 was in many ways a continuation of that (to some degree, Cabaret is about that).
    Confused.

    1. It’s a basic and casual reference to the flourish of musicals in Hollywood after the second world war. Not just the reflection on Oscar nominations and winners, but cinema in general. Almost like the world needed cheering up or distracting. Which we did. And not that many of those musicals were uplifting. The Chicago win may in some part be on a similar vein, post-9/11 and the resulting fiasco.

    1. Yeah very high. It’s on the back of the recent win. If we did this in 5 years, 2 years, it’d be lower.

      Or are you complaining it should be higher? 😁

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