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Ranked: Every Oscar Best Picture Winner from Worst to Best

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Auditing the one category that contains both The Godfather and Crash.

There have been eighty-two films to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, ranging from 1928’s Wings to last year’s The Hurt Locker. Some have been worthy of the film industry’s highest honor; others, not so much. Below are all the winners, ranked from least deserving to most.


82. Crash (2005)

One of the weakest years for movies in recent history also gives us the worst film to ever win Best Picture. When Brendan Fraser and Ludacris steal the show, you know there’s a problem.

Up Against: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich
Should Have Lost to: Munich


81. Cimarron (1931)

Very racist and very bad. The award should have gone to Skippy, the only Best Picture-nominee based on a comic book.

Up Against: East Lynne, The Front Page, Skippy, Trader Horn
Should Have Lost to: Skippy


80. Dances with Wolves (1990)

A terrible film, especially when you put it right next to Goodfellas. In light of Waterworld, The Postman, et. al., Dances with Wolves now looks like the first in a long line of Kevin Costner vanity projects. It’s about as subtle as a buffalo.

Up Against: Awakenings, Ghost, The Godfather Pt. III, Goodfellas
Should Have Lost to: Goodfellas


79. Chicago (2002)

The only good thing about Rob Marshall directing the next Pirates of the Caribbean film is that he won’t be able to screw up a classic musical. Only he could take the fun and sex out of Chicago.

Up Against: Gangs of New York, The Hours, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Pianist
Should Have Lost to: The Pianist


78. Ordinary People (1980)

I guess this ordinary film beating out Raging Bull and The Elephant Man is one of those you-had-to-be-there moments, because thirty years later, I don’t get it.

Up Against: Coal Miner’s Daughter, The Elephant Man, Raging Bull, Tess
Should Have Lost to: Raging Bull


77. Around the World in Eighty Days (1956)

It’s a fun film — certainly better than the 2004 remake starring Jackie Chan — but fun doesn’t necessarily mean best. (If it did, Starship Troopers would have won Best Picture in 1997.)

Up Against: Friendly Persuasion, Giant, The King and I, The Ten Commandments
Should Have Lost to: The Ten Commandments


76. The Broadway Melody (1929)

An awkward year for Hollywood. None of the Best Picture nominees are very memorable (a full copy of The Patriot doesn’t even exist), largely because the movie industry was switching from silent to sound. As for why Broadway Melody won: well, something’s gotta take the prize.

Up Against: Alibi, The Hollywood Revue of 1929, In Old Arizona, The Patriot
Should Have Lost to: In Old Arizona


75. Going My Way (1944)

Bing Crosby was unstoppable in the 1940s. He sold millions of records and his movies were big hits. But Going My Way isn’t one of his best; it’s too sweet to be anything more than heartwarming, and definitely not Oscar-worthy.

Up Against: Double Indemnity, Gaslight, Since You Went Away, Wilson
Should Have Lost to: Double Indemnity


74. Braveheart (1995)

If the Academy could have one do-over, they’d probably choose Apollo 13 or Babe over Braveheart, due to star Mel Gibson’s recent, um, troubles. They should have gotten it right in the first place.

Up Against: Apollo 13, Babe, Il Postino, Sense and Sensibility
Should Have Lost to: Apollo 13


73. Cavalcade (1933)

It was ambitious for its time, with a story that takes place over thirty-four years, so the Academy couldn’t help but give it an award. But it’s obvious that Cavalcade tried to do much, and ended up with too little in the quality department.

Up Against: 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
Should Have Lost to: 42nd Street

72. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

The only reason Greatest beat the far superior High Noon was because of High Noon‘s producer/screenwriter, Carl Foreman, who was blacklisted at the time. Another proud moment in the history of the Oscars.

Up Against: High Noon, Ivanhoe, Moulin Rouge, The Quiet Man
Should Have Lost to: High Noon


71. Shakespeare in Love (1998)

It’s a shame that one of the very few lighthearted films to beat out its much weightier competitors was Shakespeare, winning over Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line. It’s a cute movie, but that’s about it.

Up Against: Elizabeth, Life Is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line
Should Have Lost to: Saving Private Ryan


70. Chariots of Fire (1981)

It’s a movie about running… and exactly as exciting as you’d think it’d be.

Up Against: Atlantic City, On Golden Pond, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Reds
Should Have Lost to: Raiders of the Lost Ark


69. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

1989: the year the entire Academy felt guilty about racism.

Up Against: Born on the Fourth of July, Dead Poets Society, Field of Dreams, My Left Foot
Should Have Lost to: My Left Foot


68. The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

Most musicals are way too long, but Ziegfeld is in a league of its own for overstaying a welcome. The film’s over three-hours long, which still isn’t enough to make us care about Florenz Ziegfeld, a fascinating real-life personality.

Up Against: 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
Should Have Lost to: A Tale of Two Cities


67. The English Patient (1996)

During a screening of The English Patient, Seinfeld‘s Elaine Benes screams, “Quit telling your stupid story about the stupid desert, and just die already! Die!” I agree.

Up Against: Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Secrets & Lies, Shine
Should Have Lost to: Fargo


66. Gladiator (2000)

The lesser of Russell Crowe’s back-to-back Best Picture winning films, Gladiator is surprisingly boring for a film about people trying to kill other people. The best thing about it is The Sopranos episode where Ralphie starts screaming, “I have come to reclaim Rome for my people!”

Up Against: Chocolat, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Erin Brockovich, Traffic
Should Have Lost to: Traffic


65. Gigi (1958)

All pomp and no plot, Gigi was only made into a musical to capitalize on the success of My Fair Lady, then a massive Broadway hit. Where My Fair Lady had interesting characters, catchy numbers, and a story arc, Gigi had none.

Up Against: Auntie Mame, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Defiant Ones, Separate Tables
Should Have Lost to: The Defiant Ones


64. Forrest Gump (1994)

Too silly to be taken seriously. Any main character described as having “childlike innocence,” which is how producer Wendy Finerman described Forrest, does not deserve an Oscar — especially over Pulp Fiction.

Up Against: Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption
Should Have Lost to: Pulp Fiction

63. Out of Africa (1985)

As viewers learned in 2010 with The Tourist, two mega-famous movie stars coming together does not necessarily make a good movie. Out of Africa takes forever to get anywhere, and even when it eventually does, we’ve stopped caring.

Up Against: The Color Purple, Kiss of the Spider Women, Prizzi’s Honor, Witness
Should Have Lost to: Kiss of the Spider Woman


62. An American in Paris (1951)

The Academy must have been distracted with how bright this movie was. I can’t fathom another reason why it beat A Streetcar Named Desire.

Up Against: Decision Before Dawn, A Place in the Sun, Quo Vadis, A Streetcar Named Desire
Should Have Lost to: A Streetcar Named Desire


61. Ben-Hur (1959)

No one could chew a scene quite like Charlton Heston, and Ben-Hur is his finest overacting accomplishment.

Up Against: Anatomy of a Murder, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Nun’s Story, Room at the Top
Should Have Lost to: Anatomy of a Murder


60. The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

Yet another film from the 1930s whose pacing is tough to take in 2011.

Up Against: 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
Should Have Lost to: A Star Is Born


59. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

In 1979, Kramer vs. Kramer felt revolutionary, in that it showed a divorce from the equal perspectives of both mother and father. In retrospect, Apocalypse Now, a movie about a war that had ended four years prior, feels fresher.

Up Against: All That Jazz, Apocalypse Now, Breaking Away, Norma Rae
Should Have Lost to: Apocalypse Now


58. Titanic (1997)

It all seemed a lot more impressive in 1997. Maybe James Cameron can spruce up the special effects when Titanic‘s re-released in 2012?

Up Against: As Good As It Gets, The Full Monty, Good Will Hunting, L.A. Confidential
Should Have Lost to: L.A. Confidential


57. Rain Man (1988)

This would have been a much better film if Bill Murray had played Rain Man, with Dustin Hoffman taking on Tom Cruise’s role, as was originally suggested. Alas, it was not to be, and we instead we get a film that you might crying during, but instantly feel guilty about it.

Up Against: The Accidental Tourist, Dangerous Liaisons, Mississippi Burning, Working Girl
Should Have Lost to: Dangerous Liaisons


56. Tom Jones (1963)

Albert Finney gives one of the funniest performances in any film nominated for Best Picture. But that’s like saying Bob Dylan’s one of the greatest musicians from Duluth, Minnesota; there aren’t many other options. How the West Was Won should have, well, won.

Up Against: America, America, Cleopatra, How the West Was Won, Lilies of the Field
Should Have Lost to: How the West Was Won


55. The Last Emperor (1987)

While it’s not a bad film per se, The Last Emperor‘s Best Picture win is why people make fun of the Oscars. It was an historical epic that said very little of relevance to its own time.

Up Against: Broadcast News, Fatal Attraction, Hope and Glory, Moonstruck
Should Have Lost to: Broadcast News

54. The Lost Weekend (1945)

One of only two films to win both Best Picture and top prize at the Cannes Film Festival (the other being Marty). The Lost Weekend was a powerful “message” movie for its time, but Billy Wilder made much better pictures; its major legacy is that it was the first film to use the “drunk walking by neon signs” motif.

Up Against: Anchors Aweigh, The Bells of St. Mary’s, Mildred Pierce, Spellbound
Should Have Lost to: N/A


53. Grand Hotel (1932)

The first (and to this date, only) movie to have won Best Picture without a nomination in any other category, which is odd considering the film’s all-star cast of Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, and John Barrymore. It’s been called the original Ocean’s Eleven, and yeah, that sounds about right.

Up Against: Arrowsmith, Bad Girl, The Champ, Five Star Final, One Hour with You, Shanghai Express, The Smiling Lieutenant
Should Have Lost to: Shanghai Express


52. Terms of Endearment (1983)

A good movie, but honestly not all that different from How Do You Know, which bombed in 2010. James L. Brooks would give anything for it to be the 1980s again. Be glad it’s not.

Up Against: The Big Chill, The Dresser, The Right Stuff, Tender Mercies
Should Have Lost to: The Big Chill


51. Mrs. Miniver (1942)

Despite winning Best Picture, it’s a pretty anonymous film. When was the last time you ever heard someone say, “Let’s watch Mrs. Miniver!” One factoid of note: star Greer Garson’s speech ran so long (over five minutes) that the Academy added the forty-five-second limit shortly thereafter.

Up Against: 49th Parallel, Kings Row, The Magnificent Ambersons, The Pied Piper, The Pride of the Yankees, Random Harvest, Talk of the Town, Wake Island, Yankee Doodle Dandy
Should Have Lost to: The Magnificent Ambersons


50. American Beauty (1999)

In high school, you thought this was the deepest film ever. But American Beauty‘s cliched suburban anomie hasn’t aged very well. Alan Ball’s work improved with Six Feet Under and True Blood.

Up Against: The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Insider, The Sixth Sense
Should Have Lost to: The Insider


49. Midnight Cowboy (1969)

The best thing about Midnight Cowboy: the Muppets’ Rizzo, named after Dustin Hoffman’s street rat.

Up Against: Anne of the Thousand Days, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Hello Dolly!, Z
Should Have Lost to: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid


48. How Green Was My Valley (1941)

Right in the middle of list because while it’s a good movie, it somehow beat out maybe the world’s greatest movie, Citizen Kane, as well as the film-noir classic, The Maltese Falcon, both of which are far superior.

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


47. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

This film’s anti-war message was so compelling that the Nazis banned it from being shown in Germany in the 1930s. If it hadn’t been any good, Hitler wouldn’t have bothered trying to censor it.

Up Against: The Big House, Disraeli, The Divorcee, The Love Parade
Should Have Lost to: N/A


46. Wings (1928)

Remarkably, Wings holds up pretty well for an eighty-year-old film. The scenes between the male and female leads tend to go on too long, sure, but the “dogfight” scenes more than make it up for it.

Up Against: The Racket, Seventh Heaven
Should Have Lost to: N/A

45. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

A realistic portrait of what it was like for World War II soldiers to return home. Many films have tried to top it but few, if any, have.

Up Against: Henry V, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Razor’s Edge, The Yearling
Should Have Lost to: N/A


44. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

The Lord of the Rings series proved big-budget fantasy films could be popular with both critics and audiences alike, and Return of the King is the best of the trilogy. A win not only for Peter Jackson and Co., but also for nerds everywhere.

Up Against: Lost in Translation, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Mystic River, Seabiscuit
Should Have Lost to: N/A


43. A Beautiful Mind (2001)

This film’s inaccurate presentation of John Nash’s life is tough to look past, but not as tough as knowing yet another Robert Altman film was denied an Oscar. Meanwhile, mental-health advocates were outraged by A Beautiful Mind‘s take on mental illness.

Up Against: Gosford Park, In the Bedroom, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Moulin Rouge!
Should Have Lost to: Gosford Park



42. Oliver! (1968)

Wedged between culture-defining films In the Heat of the Night and Midnight Cowboy, Oliver! was a welcome throwback to the musicals of old. Despite the film’s G-rating, Oliver Reed’s Bill Sikes is rather terrifying.

Up Against: Funny Girl, The Lion in Winter, Rachel, Rachel, Romeo and Juliet
Should Have Lost to: N/A


41. Gentlemen’s Agreement (1947)

The movie was very controversial when it was released, due to its plot about a journalist (Gregory Peck) going undercover as a Jew to research anti-Semitism. That’s probably why it won  — it’s more “important” than great.
Up Against: The Bishop’s Wife, Crossfire, Great Expectations, Miracle on 34th Street
Should Have Lost to: Great Expectations


40. Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Major plot twists can often be distracting and unnecessary, but Million Dollar Baby‘s is pretty effective.

Up Against: The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Ray, Sideways
Should Have Lost to: N/A


39. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Thanks to Danny Boyle’s unique directing style, Slumdog is a dazzling-looking film and nothing short of a modern-day fairy tale.

Up Against: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader
Should Have Lost to: N/A


38. The Departed (2006)

Can you believe this was the first Martin Scorsese film to win Best Picture? That’s more or less the reason why the Academy chose The Departed, despite Marty having at least five superior films. It was also a weak year for film in general.

Up Against: Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen
Should Have Lost to: N/A


37. A Man for All Seasons (1966)

A little too sincere for its own good, Man is not very exciting at this point. Only Orson Welles as a Cardinal keeps you awake, and he dies halfway through the film.

Up Against: Alfie, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, The Sand Pebbles, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Should Have Lost to: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

36. Marty (1955)

Of Best Picture nominees named after their protagonists, Annie Hall and Gandhi might be better, but you’ve actually met people like Ernest Borgnine’s Marty.

Up Against: Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, Mister Roberts, Picnic, Rose Tattoo
Should Have Lost to: N/A


35. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

The only film in Oscar to win Best Picture and only Best Picture (it lost in the other seven categories it was nominated in). I’m not exactly sure what that means.

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


34. Hamlet (1948)

Olivier’s Hamlet was the gold standard of Shakespeare films for a long time, although The Treasure of the Sierra Madre has aged a lot better.

Up Against: Johnny Belinda, The Red Shoes, The Snake Pit, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Should Have Lost to: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre


33. Amadeus (1984)

Choosing entertainment over truth, this biopic of Mozart and Salieri is undeniably powerful — but it’s tough to look past all the historical inaccuracies. I’m also pretty sure that it’s the only Best Picture winner to inspire a Fall Out Boy song.

Up Against: The Killing Fields, A Passage to India, Places in the Heart, A Soldier’s Story
Should Have Lost to: N/A


32. Unforgiven (1992)

Clint Eastwood dedicated this movie to Sergio Leone, director of A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, all of which starred Eastwood. While Unforgiven isn’t as good as those, Leone still would have been proud.

Up Against: The Crying Game, A Few Good Men, Howards End, Scent of a Woman
Should Have Lost to: N/A


31. You Can’t Take It With You (1938)

It’s a Frank Capra film, so you know it’s going to be uplifting. But unlike Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and It’s a Wonderful Life, and thanks to a just-right performance from Jimmy Stewart, it’s not too schmaltzy.

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


30 .  The Sound of Music (1965)

Critic Pauline Kael was fired from her job at McCall’s magazine because of her review of The Sound of Music, in which she called the film a “sugar-coated lie people seem to want to eat.” She might actually have had a point. That said, it’s a beloved classic full of unforgettable songs.

Up Against: Darling, Doctor Zhivago, Ship of Fools, A Thousand Clowns
Should Have Lost to: Doctor Zhivago


29. No Country for Old Men (2007)

No Country for Old Men is a very good movie, but is it better than There Will Be Blood? Think of it this way: people are still saying “I drink your milkshake!” No one’s quoting Anton Chigurh anymore.

Up Against: Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood
Should Have Lost to: There Will Be Blood


28. West Side Story (1961)

Bernstein and Sondheim’s songs are so good (especially “Tonight” and “Gee, Officer Krupke”) that the uninspiring acting can be forgiven.

Up Against: Fanny, The Guns of Navarone, The Hustler, Judgment at Nuremberg
Should Have Lost to: N/A

27. Gone with the Wind (1939)

Nominated in thirteen out of seventeen then-existing categories, the first film to receive five awards at the Oscars, the highest grossing movie of all-time when adjusted for inflation… the list of Gone with the Wind‘s accomplishments goes on and on.

Up Against: Dark Victory, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Love Affair, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz, Wuthering Heights
Should Have Lost to: N/A


26. All the King’s Men (1949)

This classic adaptation is nearly as good as Robert Penn Warren’s acclaimed novel, and leagues better than Sean Penn’s 2006 version.

Up Against: Battleground, The Heiress, A Letter to Three Wives, Twelve O’Clock High
Should Have Lost to: N/A


25. Gandhi (1982)

When I picture Gandhi, I picture Ben Kingsley as Gandhi. If that’s not a sign of a successful performance, I don’t know what is.

Up Against: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Missing, Tootsie, The Verdict
Should Have Lost to: N/A


24. The Sting (1973)

So witty and cool that the film even made ragtime music briefly popular again.

Up Against: American Graffiti, Cries and Whispers, The Exorcist, A Touch of Class
Should Have Lost to: N/A


23. The Hurt Locker (2009)

An incredibly tense portrayal of what it means to be a U.S. soldier in the Iraq War. And to think, people actually thought Avatar deserved to win!

Up Against: Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air
Should Have Lost to: N/A


22. Platoon (1986)

It’s kind of amazing that the egos of Oliver Stone and Charlie Sheen were able to co-exist, but to their credit, they made a great film, boosted by Stone’s personal experiences serving in Vietnam.

Up Against: Children of a Lesser God, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Mission, A Room with the View
Should Have Lost to: N/A


21. From Here to Eternity (1953)

The famous beach scene gets all the attention, but the real stars are Frank Sinatra, proving he was a real actor, and Ernest Borgnine as Fatso Judson.

Up Against: Julius Caesar, The Robe, Roman Holiday, Shane
Should Have Lost to: N/A

20. In the Heat of the Night (1967)

An unflinching look at how racism affects a small town in Mississippi, Sidney Poitier offers up one of cinema’s greatest quotes: “They call me Mister Tibbs!” You can hear the anger in his voice just by reading the line.

Up Against: Bonnie and Clyde, Doctor Dolittle, The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Should Have Lost to: N/A


19. It Happened One Night (1934)

It’s the earliest Best Picture winner that people still watch on a regular basis. Clark Gable’s bare-chested performance supposedly did severe damage to the undershirt industry.

Up Against: 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
Should Have Lost to: N/A

18. The Apartment (1960)

The last black-and-white film to win Best Picture is even greater than the better-known Billy Wilder/Jack Lemmon collaboration Some Like It Hot.

Up Against: The Alamo, Elmer Gantry, Suns and Lovers, The Sundowners
Should Have Lost to: N/A


17. My Fair Lady (1964)

While it’s a shame none of Stanley Kubrick’s films won Best Picture, the Academy at least gave the award to the greatest cinematic musical of all time.

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


16. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

In terms of famous villains, between Darth Vader and Heath Ledger’s Joker, there was Hannibal Lecter, who continues to terrify because he seems so real.

Up Against: Beauty and the Beast, Bugsy, JFK, The Price of Tides
Should Have Lost to: N/A


15. Annie Hall (1977)

With all due respect to the unintentional comedy of Dances with Wolves, Woody Allen’s masterpiece is the funniest film to win Best Picture.

Up Against: The Goodbye Girl, Julia, Star Wars, The Turning Point
Should Have Lost to: N/A


14. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Where most World War II films try to pack in as much content as possible, River Kwai focuses on a single project — building a bridge — and still becomes one of the genre’s finest movies. How? The talents of Alec Guinness and director David Lean.

Up Against: Peyton Place, Sayonara, 12 Angry Men, Witness for the Prosecution
Should Have Lost to: N/A


13. Rebecca (1940)

The strongest film in an incredibly strong year, Rebecca has two stars: actor Laurence Olivier and director Alfred Hitchcock. Although from very different backgrounds, both brought something unique to this film, making a unique gothic masterpiece.

Up Against: 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
Should Have Lost to: N/A


12. All About Eve (1950)

Before it was fashionable to do so, All About Eve was mocking the entertainment business. Celebrities should think twice before hiring fans as their assistants.

Up Against: Born Yesterday, Father of the Bride, King Solomon’s Mines, Sunset Boulevard
Should Have Lost to: N/A


11. Rocky (1976)

It’s a great movie, with a (surprisingly, in light of its cartoonish sequels) downbeat ’70s tone, and every boxing film since has tried to copy its formula, but I can’t help feel bitter that it beat Taxi Driver.

Up Against: All the President’s Men, Bound for Glory, Network, Taxi Driver
Should Have Lost to: Taxi Driver


10. The French Connection (1971)

Before starring in garbage like Runaway Jury and Welcome to Mooseport, Gene Hackman was a badass, and never did he break more rules or act more violent than in The French Connection, the first R-rated film to win Best Picture.

Up Against: A Clockwork Orange, Fiddler on the Roof, The Last Picture Show, Nicholas and Alexandra
Should Have Lost to: N/A

9. Patton (1970)

Just because this was Richard Nixon’s favorite film doesn’t mean any less respect should be paid to George C. Scott’s performance as General Patton. One of the most commanding performances of all-time.

Up Against: Airport, Five Easy Pieces, Love Story, MASH
Should Have Lost to: N/A


8. Schindler’s List (1993)

Although the idea of the Holocaust as Academy bait has become a joke (see: The Reader), remember a time when Holocaust films weren’t atrocious. Steven Spielberg somehow made a film about horrifying crimes that a) had mass appeal and b) wasn’t a travesty.

Up Against: The Fugitive, In the Name of the Father, The Piano, The Remains of the Day
Should Have Lost to: N/A


7. The Deer Hunter (1978)

If the whole film had taken place in Vietnam, it would have ranked even higher. The scenes in Pennsylvania knock it down. Still, the Russian-roulette scene is one of the tensest ever filmed, and the cast is almost unbeatable.

Up Against: Coming Home, Heaven Can Wait, Midnight Express, An Unmarried Woman
Should Have Lost to: N/A


6. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

The nearly four-hour running time might seem daunting, but it’s totally worth it. You’ll never think of Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi again.

Up Against: The Longest Day, The Music Man, Mutiny on the Bounty, To Kill a Mockingbird
Should Have Lost to: N/A


5. On the Waterfront (1954)

The first of two Marlon Brando films in the top five, proving once and for all that he was a pretty good actor (except in The Island of Dr. Moreau).

Up Against: The Canine Mutiny, The Country Girl, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Three Coins in the Fountain
Should Have Lost to: N/A


4. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

I’m not sure which is more impressive: how much better the movie is than the book, or how good Jack Nicholson is as Randall McMurphy.

Up Against: Barry Lyndon, Dog Day Afternoon, Jaws, Nashville
Should Have Lost to: N/A (hell of a year though, huh?


3. The Godfather (1972)

If you disagree with this selection, you clearly either a) haven’t watched this movie, or b) haven’t watched any movies. Coppola’s epic remains a milestone in film history, transforming a trashy pulp novel into a masterpiece.

Up Against: Cabaret, Deliverance, The Emigrants, Sounder
Should Have Lost to: N/A


2. Casablanca (1943)

Old-fashioned? No doubt. Sentimental? Sure. But try to watch Casablanca and not fall for it all over again. It’s absolutely the greatest old-school Hollywood crowd-pleaser ever.

Up Against: 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
Should Have Lost to: N/A


1. The Godfather: Part II (1974)

How often is a sequel even close to as good as the original, let alone better? Especially when the original is already considered one of the greatest films ever made? Adding Robert De Niro to a cast that already included Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, and John Cazale, Francis Ford Coppola somehow managed to trump even his own considerable Part I for scope and resonance. Between Chinatown and Godfather II, was 1974 a great year for movies — or the greatest year for movies?

Up Against: Chinatown, The Conversation, Lenny, The Towering Inferno
Should Have Lost to: N/A

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This piece originally ran in 2011

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