Best Picture Winners

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) was formed in the 1920s at the behest of Louis B. Mayer, the controversial leader of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). He was searching for a way to improve studio relations with union organizers. The idea behind the “Academy” was to create a joint association to unite all members of the Hollywood film industry -actors, directors, writers, technicians, and producers. His goal was to establish an elite club that would bring together industry representatives to celebrate the film industry’s accomplishments.

The first banquet came together in 1927 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles. The first honorary membership into the new academy was bestowed upon Thomas Edison. Douglas Fairbanks was elected as the first President of the Academy. The first meritocratic awards were presented at a ceremony for the Academy in 1927-1928. Each year, the awards ceremony is held sometime between January and February, though unfortunately the ceremony has become something of an overly indulgent spectacle in recent years.

The “Best Picture” Award is the crown jewel of the Academy Awards. During the first year there were essentially two “Best Picture” awards – one for “Outstanding Picture” and one for “Unique and Artistic Picture.” The latter was forever dropped, and throughout the 1930s the title of the award was changed to “Outstanding Production” then to “Outstanding Motion Picture” then to “Best Motion Picture,” and finally to “Best Picture” -the title we hold today. The following is my list of the Best Picture winners, with my progress tracked:


Wings_posterWings (1927)
Release Date: August 12, 1927
Director: William A. Wellman
Studio: Paramount Pictures (The Famous Players-Lasky)
Wings is the first winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture. The film stars Clara Bow and a young Gary Cooper. It tells the story of two young adversaries who both are sent to fight in World War I, while both are in love with the same girl back home. It is a terrific film filled with death-defying aerial stunts.

Runners Up: The Racket, 7th Heaven

sunrise*Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) *Winner of Best Unique and Artistic Picture (only awarded in 1927/1928)
Release Date: September 23, 1927
Director: F.W. Murnau
Studio: Fox Film Corporation
Sunrise is yet another silent masterpiece from F.W. Murnau. It won an award at the first Academy Awards ceremony for “Best Unique and Artistic Picture,” an award that has only been given once (the “Best Picture” award has been credited to Wings for the year 1927-1928). Sunrise paints a beautiful picture of an unhappy married couple in a rural European community. The unnamed husband is tempted by a loose woman, and he fails in an attempt to kill his wife so they both flee to the city where he begs for forgiveness. In the end, and they reconcile and return home. He kills the other woman just as the sun rises.

Runners Up: Chang, The Crowd


broadwayThe Broadway Melody (1929)
Release Date: February 1, 1929
Director: Harry Beaumont
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
The Broadway Melody
won the second award for Best Picture and it was also the first “talkie” to win the award. The film tells the story of two poor sisters who travel to New York City looking for a career on Broadway. One sister becomes a great success. The film trails their parallel stories, jealousies, and ultimate redemption.

Runners Up: Alibi, Hollywood Revue, In Old Arizona, The Patriot


All_Quiet_on_the_Western_Front_(1930_film)_posterAll Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Release Date: April 21, 1930
Director: Lewis Milestone
Studio: Universal Pictures
Based on Erich Maria Remarque’s popular 1929 novel, All Quiet on the Western Front is an incredible anti-war movie. It begins in an optimistic German town as young boys are sent off to war, but they soon discover the horrors of the trenches, and Paul, the protagonist, tries to return home but realizes he cannot return to his former life. Instead, he returns to the trenches where he is killed by a French sniper. A butterfly gently lands on his hand as the film closes. We see rows of silently marching soldiers -many of them young boys- at the end of the movie. All Quiet on the Western Front won Best Picture for the 1929-1930 time period. It is one of the greatest war films of all time.

Runners Up: The Big House, Disraeli, The Divorcee, The Love Parade


Cimarron_(1931_film)_posterCimarron (1931)
Release Date: January 26, 1931
Director: Wesley Ruggles
Studio: RKO
Somehow, Cimarron won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1931. The screenplay is based on Edna Ferber’s popular novel about a young couple during the Oklahoma land rush who start a muckraking newspaper. Edna Ferber is, of course, the popular American author who won the Pulitzer for her novel, So Big. Cimarron is surely one of the worst films to ever win Best Picture.

Runners Up: East Lynne, The Front Page, Skippy, Trader Horn


GrandHotelFilmPosterGrand Hotel (1932)
Release Date: April 12, 1932
Director: Edmund Goulding
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Winner of Best Picture, Grand Hotel boasts an all-star cast including Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, and Lionel Barrymore. The film follows the intertwined and overlapping stories of a variety of characters residing in the “Grand Hotel” in Berlin.

Runners Up: Arrowsmith, Bad Girl, The Champ, Five Star Final, One Hour With You, Shanghai Express, The Smiling Lieutenant


Cavalcade_film_posterCavalcade (1933)
Release Date: April 15, 1933
Director: Frank Lloyd
Studio: Fox Film Productions
is a biopic about a British family living in post-Victorian England as they face various trials, especially the Boer Wars. Cavalcade is a good film, albeit long and somewhat dreary. It is a curious choice as the winner of Best Picture for the 1932-1933 time period.

Runners Up: 42nd Street, A Farewell To Arms, I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang, Lady For A Day, Little Women, The Private Life of Henry VIII, She Done Him Wrong, Smilin’ Through, State Fair


It-happened-one-night-posterIt Happened One Night (1934)
Release Date: February 22, 1934
Director: Frank Capra
Studio: Columbia
Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert star in this classic film about an heiress who tries to elope with her lover, despite her father’s misgivings. Along the way, she encounters a former newspaper writer and they go on an adventure together before eventually falling in love. It is a simple and charming comedy-romance film.

Runners Up: The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Cleopatra, Flirtation Walk, The Gay Divorcee, Here Comes the Navy, The House of Rothschild, Imitation of Life, One Night of Love, The Thin Man, Viva Villa!, The White Parade


mutinyMutiny on the Bounty (1935)
Release Date: November 8, 1935
Director: Frank Lloyd
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Winner of Best Picture, Mutiny on the Bounty tells the swashbuckling tale of a mutiny aboard a British royal navy vessel during the late 18th century. It is a retelling of true events, with Charles Laughton playing the tyrannical Captain Bligh of the H.M.S. Bounty, and Clark Gable, playing his mutinous counterpart. With Mutiny on the Bounty Clark Gable starred in back-to-back Best Picture winners 1934-1935.

Runners Up: Alice Adams, Broadway Melody of 1936, Captain Blood, David Copperfield, The Informer, The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Les Misérables, Naughty Marietta, Ruggles of Red Gap, Top Hat


great zigfieldThe Great Ziegfeld (1936)
Release Date: March 22, 1936
Director: Hunt Stromberg
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Starring Myrna Loy and William Powell in one of their 14 films together, The Great Ziegfield represents the height of Golden Age Hollywood luxury. It is a three hour musical about Flo Ziegfield and his popular Broadway dancers.

Runners Up: Anthony Adverse, Dodsworth, Libeled Lady, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Romeo and Juliet, San Francisco, The Story of Louis Pasteur, A Tale of Two Cities, Three Smart Girls


life of emile zolaThe Life of Emile Zola (1937)
Release Date: August 11, 1937
Director: William Dieterle
Studio: Warner Bros.
The Life of Emile Zola
is the remarkable, yet dry and lengthy biographical film about Émile Zola, the great French writer and critic. Paul Muni, of Scarface (1932) and The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936) fame, delivers a terrific performance as the lead. However, otherwise the film is mostly forgettable.

Runners Up: The Awful Truth, Captains Courageous, Dead End, The Good Earth, In Old Chicago, Lost Horizon, One Hundred Men and a Girl, Stage Door, A Star Is Born


You_Can't_Take_It_with_You_1938_PosterYou Can’t Take It With You (1938)
Release Date: August 23, 1938
Director: Frank Capra
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Frank Capra was the king of the Academy Awards in the 1930s – winning Best Director for his films It Happened One Night in 1934, and Mr. Deeds Goes To Town in 1936, and then Best Picture You Can’t Take It With You in 1938. You Can’t Take It With You is a delightfully charming comedy film starring Lionel Barrymore, Jean Arthur, and Jimmy Stewart. It tells the story of a blossoming romance between a stuffy businessman’s son, and his lover, the daughter of an eccentric but altruistic retiree. Set against the backdrop of a pending real estate deal, chaos ensues when the two worlds collide,

Runners Up: The Adventures of Robin Hood, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Boys Town, The Citadel, Four Daughters, Grand Illusion, Jezebel, Pygmalion, Test Pilot


gone w wind
Gone With The Wind (1939)
Release Date: December 15, 1939
Director: Victor Fleming
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Gone with the Wind
is a tale of nostalgia for a time that has literally “gone with the wind.” The film, now controversial in our day, is the biggest epic blockbuster of all time. It swept the Academy Awards in 1939, a year known for quite possibly being the greatest year in Hollywood history. Starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, the film offers a massively tragic tale of romance, war, and the decline of a once prominent Southern Plantation family.

Runners Up: Dark Victory, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Love Affair, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz, Wuthering Heights


Rebecca_(1939_poster)Rebecca (1940)
Release Date: March 21, 1940
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Studio: United Artists
Hitchcock’s brilliant Oscar-winning film was based on Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel of the same name. Rebecca is filmed as a hazy, atmospheric, and ominous mystery story about a traumatized young woman (Joan Fontaine), and the psychological ghosts that haunt her new life as she marries a wealthy aristocratic widower, Mr. Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier). She moves to his coastal English estate only to find that the memory of his late wife, Rebecca, still haunts his life.

Runners Up: All This, and Heaven Too, Foreign Correspondent, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Dictator, Kitty Foyle, The Letter, The Long Voyage Home, Our Town, The Philadelphia Story


how greenHow Green Was My Valley (1941)
Release Date: October 28, 1941
Director: John Ford
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Based on the popular 1939 novel of the same name, How Green Was My Valley is the beautiful and nostalgic story of the Morgans, a hardworking and humble Welsh family in a coal mining town during the late 19th century. The story is episodic and takes us through the innocent early days of the town, until changes at the coal mine force a decline in the town as well as the Morgan family. How Green Was My Valley rather infamously beat out Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon for Best Picture in 1941.

Runners Up: Blossoms in the Dust, Citizen Kane, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Hold Back the Dawn, The Little Foxes, The Maltese Falcon, One Foot in Heaven, Sergeant York, Suspicion


mrs miniver 1942 Mrs. Minivar (1942)
Release Date: June 4, 1942
Director: William Wyler
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Mrs. Miniver is often remembered as a remarkable Allied propaganda movie released during World War II (in fact, Goebbels once praised its propagandist appeal in the ways it incites hatred toward Germany). Mrs. Miniver was a critical success, and it has had a particularly lasting legacy in England. It won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Mrs. Miniver is a domestic, upper middle-class English drama that follows the trials of one family during the advent of World War II.

Runners Up: The Invaders, Kings Row, The Magnificent Ambersons, The Pied Piper, The Pride of the Yankees, Random Harvest, The Talk of the Town, Wake Island, Yankee Doodle Dandy


CasablancaPoster-GoldCasablanca (1942)
Release Date: November 26, 1942
Director: Michael Curtiz
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
is one of the greatest films of all time. It has sometimes been called one of the great American propaganda films of the 20th century. Starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Peter Lorre and others, Casablanca depicts the impossibility of neutrality during the Second World War. Rick Blaine, the owner of a bar in Casablanca, acquires transit papers to escape Morocco when suddenly his long-lost love, Ilsa Lund, unexpectedly arrives in his bar one night with her revolutionary husband. She requests the transit papers from Rick to escape, and Rick must choose between saving himself, or his one-time lover. Casablanca is an incredible film about love, war, and heroism.

Runners Up: For Whom the Bell Tolls, Heaven Can Wait, The Human Comedy, In Which We Serve, Madame Curie, The More the Merrier, The Ox-Bow Incident, The Song of Bernadette, Watch on the Rhine


Going My Way (1944)

Runners Up: Double Indemnity, Gaslight, Since You Went Away, Wilson


The Lost Weekend (1945)

Runners Up: Anchors Aweigh, The Bells of St. Mary’s, Mildred Pierce, Spellbound


The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

Runners Up: Henry V, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Razor’s Edge, The Yearling


Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)

Runners Up: The Bishop’s Wife, Crossfire, Great Expectations, Miracle on 34th Street


Hamlet (1948)

Runners Up: Johnny Belinda, The Red Shoes, The Snake Pit, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre


all-the-kings-menAll the King’s Men (1949)
Release Date: November 8, 1949
Director: Robert Rossen
Studio: Columbia Pictures
All The King’s Men
 is an enjoyable noir-esque interpretation of Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. The plot fades in and out of a variety of scenes that tell the rise of Willie Stark, the bombastic populist politician who wins over the voters of Louisiana to become Governor only to fall in spectacular fashion.

Runners Up: Battleground, The Heiress, A Letter to Three Wives, Twelve O’Clock High


All About Eve (1950)

Runners Up: Born Yesterday, Father of the Bride, King Solomon’s Mines, Sunset Boulevard


An American in Paris (1951)

Runners Up: Decision Before Dawn, A Place in the Sun, Quo Vadis, A Streetcar Named Desire


greatest-show-on-earth The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
Release Date: January 10, 1952
Director: Cecil B. DeMille
Studio: Paramount Pictures
The Greatest Show on Earth is widely regarded as one of the worst Best Picture winners of all-time. It is a mostly dull, milquetoast technicolor movie that was a suspiciously odd choice to have won Best Picture in 1952 especially when considering the competition which included films like High Noon and The Quiet Man. It follows The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus as it travels around the country for the better part of a year. However, even with an all-star cast of Charlton Heston, Jimmy Stewart, Cornel Wilde, Dorothy Lamour, Betty Hutton, and Gloria Grahame, this film does not stand up to scrutiny.

Runners Up: High Noon, Ivanhoe, Moulin Rouge, The Quiet Man


From Here to Eternity (1953)

Runners Up: Julius Caesar, The Robe, Roman Holiday, Shane


On The Waterfront (1954)

Runners Up: The Caine Mutiny, The Country Girl, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Three Coins in the Fountain


Marty (1955)

Runners Up: Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, Mister Roberts, Picnic, The Rose Tattoo


Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

Runners Up: Friendly Persuasion, Giant, The King and I, The Ten Commandments


bridge-on-the-river-kwaiThe Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Release Date: October 2, 1957
Director: David Lean
Studio: Columbia Pictures
The Bridge on the River Kwai is a classic film about a group of British and American POWs in a Japanese intermittent in Burma during World War II. The central tensions revolves around various several perspectives on building a bridge over the Kwai River. It explores questions of loyalty, duty, and honor. It won Best Picture, Best Director (David Lean), and Best Actor (Alec Guinness).

Runners Up: 12 Angry Men, Peyton Place, Sayonara, Witness for the Prosecution


Gigi (1958)

Runners Up: Auntie Mame, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Defiant Ones, Separate Tables


Ben-Hur (1959)

Runners Up: Anatomy of a Murder, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Nun’s Story, Room at the Top


apartment-1The Apartment (1960)
Release Date; June 30, 1960
Director: Billy Wilder
Studio: United Artists
The Apartment is a surprisingly racy movie for a Best Picture winner in the year 1960. It was directed by Billy Wilder, a Hollywood legend whose later fame would include Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot and many others. Jack Lemmon plays a mid-level insurance clerk who offers his apartment to executives at his company for secret romantic liaisons.

Runners Up: The Alamo, Elmer Gantry, Sons and Lovers, The Sundowners


West Side Story (1961)

Runners Up: Fanny, The Guns of Navarone, The Hustler, Judgment at Nuremberg


Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Runners Up: The Longest Day, The Music Man, Mutiny on the Bounty, To Kill a Mockingbird


Tom Jones (1963)

Runners Up: America America, Cleopatra, How the West Was Won, Lilies of the Field


my-fair-lady My Fair Lady (1964)
Release Date: October 21, 1964
Director: George Cukor
Studio: Warner Bros
Based on the stage adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (1913), which was itself based on a story in Ovid, My Fair Lady takes place during the turn of the century Edwardian London. It is a light, whimsical musical –now an instantly recognizable classic– about a phonetics professor named Henry Higgins or ‘enry ‘iggins (Rex Harrison) who makes a wager that he can teach a poor Cockney girl selling flowers named Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) to become a presentable lady in high society. Upon release My Fair Lady was a massive critical and commercial success, winning eight Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director (George Cukor, his only award), and Best Actor (Rex Harrison), though Audrey Hepburn’s name was notably absent from the litany of awards.

Runners Up: Becket, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Mary Poppins, Zorba the Greek


the sound of music 1The Sound Of Music (1965)
Release Date: March 2, 1965
Director: Robert Wise
Studio: 20th Century Fox
The Sound of Music
is the cinematic musical masterpiece par excellence. It is an undeniable, towering film; one of my favorites of all time. Sentimental, gripping, sunny, hopeful, visually stunning, and rife with catchy, beautiful music TheSound of Music is a wonderful Rodgers and Hammerstein picture featuring Dame Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.

Runners Up: Darling, Doctor Zhivago, Ship of Fools, A Thousand Clowns


A Man For All Seasons (1966)

Runners Up: Alfie, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, The Sand Pebbles, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?


In the Heat of the Night (1967)

Runners Up: Bonnie and Clyde, Doctor Dolittle, The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner


Oliver! (1968)

Runners Up: Funny Girl, The Lion in Winter, Rachel, Rachel, Romeo and Juliet


Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Runners Up: Anne of the Thousand Days, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Hello, Dolly!, Z


pattonPatton (1970)
Release Date: February 5, 1970
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Released at the height of an unpopular war in Vietnam, Patton is a powerful cinematic contemplation of the incredible, albeit controversial, legacy of General George S. Patton. George C. Scott delivers one of the great performances in all of Hollywood history as General George S. Patton, “old blood and guts,” the gruff, recalcitrant, disciplined, well-read, profane yet virtuous Allied leader as we follow him from Tunisia, to Britain, to France and Germany, and finally into old age.

Runners Up: Airport, Five Easy Pieces, Love Story, MASH


The French Connection (1971)

Runners Up: A Clockwork Orange, Fiddler on the Roof, The Last Picture Show, Nicholas and Alexandra


The Godfather (1972)
Release Date: March 14, 1972
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Studio: Paramount Pictures
The Godfather is simply a perfect movie -beautifully shot, with an impeccable script devised by Director Francis Ford Coppola and original novelist Mario Puzo, a transcendent score by Nino Rota, excellent acting from an all-star cast including Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton and many others. The Godfather is the mafia movie par excellence.

Runners Up: Cabaret, Deliverance, The Emigrants, Sounder


the-sting The Sting (1973)
Release Date: December 25, 1973
Director: George Roy Hill
Studio: Universal Pictures
After Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in 1969 Director George Roy Hill, Robert Redford, and Paul Newman teamed up again, this time for a faux 1930s gangster film about an elaborate sting operation in Chicago. It is a delightfully playful film filled with old timey ragtime music and the “big con.”

Runners Up: American Graffiti, Cries and Whispers, The Exorcist, A Touch of Class


The Godfather Part II (1974)
Release Date: December 12, 1974
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Studio: Paramount Pictures
The beauty of The Godfather Part II lies in it being both a sequel –perhaps the greatest sequel in cinematic history– and yet also a prequel. The two narratives, sequel and prequel, are beautifully interwoven in a way that forces the audience to contemplate the distinct lives between the old generation of Vito Corleone and his rise from Sicilian orphan to American mafia Don, and the new generation of Michael Corleone whose reign as mafia Don is plagued by political infighting, legal crackdowns, and familial collapse. Once again it features an incredible cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, John Cazale, and many others.

Runners Up: Chinatown, The Conversation, Lenny, The Towering Inferno


One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Release Date: November 19, 1975
Director: Miloš Forman
Studio: United Artists
Based on the 1962 novel of the same name by counterculture Beat-adjacent writer Ken Kesey, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is an amazing film adaptation of a challenging novel. In a certain sense One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is the contemplation of a willful authoritarian regime. It is a film showcasing the dichotomy between the sanitized, lifeless world of pure order, and a chaotic but colorful world of pure freedom. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest celebrates the 1960s ideal of escapism from the confining bounds of dictatorial control. Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) is a freewheeling harbinger of chaos who is committed to a mental hospital ruled by the indomitable Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher).

Runners Up: Barry Lyndon, Dog Day Afternoon, Jaws, Nashville


Rocky_posterRocky (1976)
Release Date: November 21, 1976
Director: John G. Avildsen
Studio: United Artists
Rocky began as a low budget movie, based on an idea by Sylvester Stallone. He wrote the script in three and half days after watching a Muhammad Ali fight. Much like the story of Rocky, the film itself had a unique rise from obscurity to become one of the most recognizable sports films of all time. Sylvester Stallone plays the down-on-his-luck, working class “Italian Stallion” from the streets of Philadelphia who is given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fight the heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers). Somehow, this film won Best Picture. The plot of the whole film is one long tired cliché, the dialogue is odd and difficult to understand. Sadly, Rocky is a greatly over-rated film. 

Runners Up: All the President’s Men, Bound for Glory, Network, Taxi Driver



Annie Hall (1977)
Release Date: March 27, 1977
Director: Woody Allen
Studio: United Artists
Annie Hall is Woody Allen’s magnum opus. It tells the story of the neurotic yet charming Alvy Singer (Woody Allen). He is a somewhat successful stage comedian who develops a romantic relationship with Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). The film is brilliantly told through a series of flashbacks and rule-breaking gags that make Annie Hall a wonderful film.

Runners Up: The Goodbye Girl, Julia, Star Wars, The Turning Point


the-deer-hunter The Deer Hunter (1978)
Release Date: December 8, 1978
Director: Michael Cimino
Studio: Universal Pictures
By all accounts The Deer Hunter is the best movie Michael Cimino ever made. It won him an avalanche of awards and critical praise, including Best Picture and Best Director from the Academy Awards. The Deer Hunter takes place over the span of three years in the life of three young men from Pennsylvania as they are sent away to the Vietnam War and it tragically changes their lives. The Deer Hunter features an all-star cast: Robert De Niro, John Savage, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, and John Cazale.

Runners Up: Coming Home, Heaven Can Wait, Midnight Express, An Unmarried Woman


Kramer vs. Kramer (1978)

Runners Up: All That Jazz, Apocalypse Now, Breaking Away, Norma Rae


Ordinary People (1980)

Runners Up: Coal Miner’s Daughter, The Elephant Man, Raging Bull, Tess


Chariots of Fire (1981)

Runners Up: Atlantic City, On Golden Pond, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Reds


Gandhi (1982)

Runners Up: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Missing, Tootsie, The Verdict


Terms of Endearment (1983)

Runners Up: The Big Chill, The Dresser, The Right Stuff, Tender Mercies


Amadeusmov Amadeus (1984)
Release Date: September 6, 1984
Director: Miloš Forman
Studio: Saul Zaentz/Orion Pictures
Amadeus has been a long-time favorite. The film was adapted from the stage play of the same name. The film tells the story of a fictional conspiracy theory in which an envious Italian composer named Antonio Salieri tries to end the life and career of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a brilliant young composer who has taken Vienna by storm.

Runners Up: The Killing Fields, A Passage to India, Places in the Heart, A Soldier’s Story


out-of-africaOut of Africa (1985)
Release Date: December 18, 1985
Director: Sydney Pollack
Studio: Universal Pictures
Loosely based on Isak Dinesen’s 1937 autobiography of the same name as well as her 1960 book Shadows on the Grass, the film Out of Africa takes us through the remarkable life of Denisen in Africa (her real name was Karen Christenze von Blixen-Finecke). Meryl Streep and Robert Redford deliver some great performances, and the wide-sweeping cinematography is gripping alongside a great score by John Barry, but ultimately Out of Africa is a long, meandering movie that I am happy to move past.

Runners Up: The Color Purple, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Prizzi’s Honor, Witness


platoonPlatoon (1986)
Release Date: December 19, 1986
Director: Oliver Stone
Studio: Orion Pictures/Hemdale Film Corporation
Often compared to Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and Kubrick’s Full Metal JacketPlatoon is based on Director Oliver Stone’s personal experiences in Vietnam. Platoon is a film that explores the nature of courage. How does a soldier act courageously in an unjust war? What is courage in the midst of horrendous savagery? We (the audience) experience the Vietnam War through the eyes of Chris Taylor (played by Charlie Sheen), a wide-eyed and young infantryman assigned to a platoon stationed near the Cambodian border. Throughout the film we experience an inner struggle between the platoon’s leaders: Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger), a battle-hardened but cynical and scar-faced leader; and Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe), a romantic moralist who is a bit of a wild card.

Runners Up: Children of a Lesser God, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Mission, A Room with a View


The Last Emperor (1987)

Runners Up: Broadcast News, Fatal Attraction, Hope and Glory, Moonstruck


rain-man Rain Man (1988)
Release Date: December 16, 1988
Director: Barry Levinson
Studio: United Artists/MGM
Rain Man is a bittersweet comedy/drama that occurs mainly on the open road. It is about the troubled relationship between two brothers, Raymond Babbitt (Dustin Hoffman) a high-functioning autistic savant who lives at the Wallbrook Mental Institution and whose life is timed by a rigid series of schedules in order to maintain psychological stability; and a slick Los Angeles hotshot named Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) who is only interested in money. Dustin Hoffman delivers an incredible performance in what was no doubt a challenging role. For his performance he won a well-deserved Oscar for Best Actor. Outside Hoffman’s performance, Rain Man is a mostly bland, middle-of-the-road Best Picture winner.

Runners Up: The Accidental Tourist, Dangerous Liaisons, Mississippi Burning, Working Girl


Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

Runners Up: Born on the Fourth of July, Dead Poets Society, Field of Dreams, My Left Foot


dances-with-wolvesBest Picture (1990): Dances With Wolves (1990)
Release Date: October 19, 1990
Director: Kevin Costner
Studio: Orion Pictures
Based on a historical fiction novel of the same name by Michael Blake, Dances With Wolves was Kevin Costner’s directorial debut and he stars as a Civil War hero who is sent out to the frontier where he becomes enmeshed in a Lakota Sioux tribe while their way of life faces extinction. It was a Best Picture winner, and Kevin Costner won Best Director, along with a cavalcade of other awards.

Runners Up: Awakenings, Ghost, The Godfather Part III, Goodfellas


The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Runners Up: Beauty and the Beast, Bugsy, JFK, The Prince of Tides


Unforgiven (1992)

Runners Up: The Crying Game, A Few Good Men, Howards End, Scent of a Woman


Schindler's_List_movie Schindler’s List (1993)
Release Date: November 30, 1993
Director: Steven Spielberg
Studio: Universal Pictures
Schindler’s List is a beautiful but harrowing and sobering holocaust film shot almost entirely in black and white. The story is based on the true account of Oskar Schindler, a factory businessman and member of the Nazi party who wound up saving over a thousand Polish Jews during the Holocaust. Schindler is played by Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes plays the somewhat unbelievably brutal and sadistic Nazi S.S. Officer, Amon Göth, and Ben Kingsley plays Schindler’s friend and accountant, Itzhak Stern.

Runners Up: The Fugitive, In the Name of the Father, The Piano, The Remains of the Day


Forrest Gump (1994)

Runners Up: Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption


Braveheart (1995)

Runners Up: Apollo 13, Babe, The Postman (Il Postino), Sense and Sensibility


The English Patient (1996)

Runners Up: Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Secrets & Lies, Shine


Titanic (1997)

Runners Up: As Good as It Gets, The Full Monty, Good Will Hunting, L.A. Confidential


Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Runners Up: Elizabeth, Life Is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line


American_Beauty_1999_film_poster American Beauty (1999)
Release Date: September 8, 1999
Director: Sam Mendes
Studio: DreamWorks Pictures
Kevin Spacey plays a suburban husband who has something of a midlife crisis while his career-obsessed realtor wife grows dissatisfied, and his awkward daughter cannot stand him. The film is a jaded portrayal of middle-class America.

Runners Up: The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Insider, The Sixth Sense


gladiator Gladiator (2000)
Release Date: May 1, 2000
Director: Ridley Scott
Studio: Universal/DreamWorks
Gladiator is the modern warrior-revenge epic film. Russell Crowe stars in his finest performance as the Spaniard-Roman general, Maximus Decimus Meridius, alongside Joaquin Phoenix who plays the pale and greedy son of Marcus Aurelius, Commodus. The film leads us through the disgrace of Commodus as he is sold into slavery and becomes a gladiator where he wins the favor of the Roman public.

Runners Up: Chocolat, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Erin Brockovich, Traffic


A_Beautiful_Mind_Poster A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Release Date: December 13, 2001
Director: Ron Howard
Studio: Universal/DreamWorks
The film tells the story of the genius, John Nash (Russell Crowe), as he rises from Princeton University in the 1940s developing unique mathematical theories of governance, to his work at MIT and eventually becoming a code cracker at the Pentagon. The parallel story in the film is about Nash’s particular struggle with mental illness.

Runners Up: Gosford Park, In the Bedroom, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Moulin Rouge!


Chicago (2002)

Runners Up: Gangs of New York, The Hours, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Pianist


the_return_of_the_king_2003The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Release Date: December 1, 2003
Director: Peter Jackson
Studio: New Line Cinema
Each film in The Lord of the Rings series was an Academy Award winner, however Return of the King won all eleven Academy Awards for which it was nominated (joining only two other films in history to win eleven Academy Awards: Ben-Hur and Titanic). Return of the King is a beautiful end to an incredible cinematic journey.

Runners Up: Lost in Translation, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Mystic River, Seabiscuit


Million_Dollar_Baby_poster Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Release Date: December 15, 2004
Director: Clint Eastwood
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
The story for Million Dollar Baby is somewhat predictable (with a tragic twist at the end) about a rising female boxer named Maggie Fitzgerald (played by Hillary Swank) as she secures an aging coach (played by Clint Eastwood). It is narrated by Morgan Freeman.

Runners Up: The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Ray, Sideways


Crash (2005)

Runners Up: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night, and Good Luck, Munich


the-departedThe Departed (2006)
Release Date: September 26, 2006
Director: Martin Scorsese
Studio: Warner Bros.
Based on a reimagining of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs, The Departed brings together an all-star cast to deliver one of the best films of the 2000s. Martin Scorsese on board along with a soup of A-List Hollywood talent (Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, Jack Nicholson, Vera Farmiga, Martin Sheen, and many others), The Departed delivers a compelling, intellectually engaging movie that explores deep themes of identity, belonging, upward mobility, and hope. Two men pose as informants -one in the Irish mob, the other in the Boston police department. Their task is to discover one another before the jog is up.

Runners Up: Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen


No Country for Old Men (2007)

Runners Up: Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood


Slumdog_Millionaire_poster Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Release Date: August 30, 2008
Director: Danny Boyle
Studio: Pathé
Slumdog Millionaire is the explosive introduction of modern Indian culture and Bollywood-styled films onto the international cinematic stage. It tells the story of Jamal, played by Dev Patel, a kid from the slums of India as he becomes a contestant on India’s version of the popular television game show, “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?” He successfully answers every questions correctly, as they all correspond ironically to various moments throughout his life.

Runners Up: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader


The Hurt Locker (2009)

Runners Up: Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air


The_King's_Speech_poster The King’s Speech (2010)
Release Date: September 6, 2010
Director: Tom Hooper
Studio: Momentum Pictures
The film tells the story of the soon-to-be King George VI or “Bertie” (Colin Firth) prior to his kingship, as he struggles with a speech impediment -namely stuttering. He goes to visit Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) who plays classical music for him through headphones, while he successfully completes Hamlet’s famous soliloquy. Despite some minor historical inaccuracies, The King’s Speech is a personal favorite film from the 2010s.

Runners Up: 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone


The_Artist_Poster The Artist (2011)
Release Date: May 5, 2011
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Studio: Warner Bros.
The Artist is a French, modern silent film. It takes place in the late 1920s as an aging silent film star in Hollywood loses his appeal during the advent of “talkies,” while a rising young star (his lover) gains popularity. The story was written as a love letter to the cinematic art, drawing on inspiration from Hitchcock, Lang, Lubistch, Murnau, and Wilder. The film is at once fun and silly, as well as tragic and beautiful. We only hear sound about halfway through the film when the main character cannot speak, but he hears his glass set down on the table, and he appears confused. The scene is extraordinary. It is a remarkable film, though it has been criticized as being “oscar-bait” and is bit self-indulgent and melodramatic.

Runners Up: The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse


Argo2012PosterArgo (2012)
Release Date: August 31, 2012
Director: Ben Affleck
Studio: Warner Bros.
Argo is the unique and amusing thriller film based on the story of Tony Mendez, a CIA operative during the 1980s. The story of the film is based on a true story of CIA operatives infiltrating Iran during the hostage crisis in the late 1980s as they go undercover as film-makers for a science fiction movie called “Argo” which they claim to be shooting in Tehran. It is an entertaining film, yet somehow it won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Runners Up: Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty


12 Years a Slave (2013)

Runners Up: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street


Birdman_poster Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)
Release Date: August 27, 2014
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Birdman is a modern surrealist, experimental, and deeply psychological exploration into the mind of a washed up actor in New York City. The film is edited to appear as if shot in a single shot, to give it a blurred, dream-like quality. I did not care for this film, not being a fan of the surrealist style.

Runners Up: American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash


spotlight Spotlight (2015)
Release Date: September 3, 2015
Director: Tom McCarthy
Studio: Various
Spotlight is the true story of the Boston Globe reporters who uncovered the devastating scandal involving numerous Catholic priests who were abusing children for many decades. Hearkening back to the gritty journalistic style of All The President’s MenSpotlight delivers a compelling film. It features an all-star cast of Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, and Liev Schreiber).

Runners Up: The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, The Martian, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Room


Moonlight_(2016_film)Moonlight (2016)
Release Date: September 2, 2016
Director: Barry Jenkins
Studio: Plan B/A24
Moonlight is a warped bildungsroman film told in three separate parts about a young black boy and his extraordinary struggles through adolescence and adulthood.

Runners Up: Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea


The Shape of Water (2017)

Runners Up: Call Me by Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


Green Book (2018)

Runners Up: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Roma, A Star Is Born, Vice


Parasite (2019)

Runners Up: 1917, Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood


Nomadland (2020)

Runners Up: The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, Mank, Minari, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal, The Trial of the Chicago 7