All 85 Best Picture Oscar Winners Ranked
Some movies are The Godfather, and some are Crash. The comments section is open for yelling!
85. Gigi (1958)
Directed by: Vincente Minnelli Written by: Alan Jay LernerThe other Oscars it won: Minnelli (Best Director); Lerner (Best Adapted Screenplay); Joseph Ruttenberg (Best Cinematography – Color); William A. Horning, E. Preston Ames, Henry Grace, and F. Keogh Gleason (Best Art Direction); Cecil Beaton (Best Costume Design); Adrienne Fazan (Best Film Editing); André Previn (Best Score – Musical); Frederick Loewe and Lerner (Best Original Song)What it beat for Best Picture: Auntie Mame, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Defiant Ones, Separate Tables
Yes, the creepiest, most pedophiliac movie ever to win Best Picture is this list’s worst. How to define “worst” in this context, especially when judging Gigi — a movie musical some people love now, and certainly many people loved in 1958 — against films that were barely movies as we currently recognize them? This list is, of course, totally subjective: I factored in my personal feelings about each movie, along with how well it has held up, how influential it is, and what it was up against. And then there’s the ineffability of common wisdom, which I also have taken into account. No matter how I feel about Annie Hall or about Schindler’s List, for example, I know I’m in a minority view in my dislike — and that matters. Not with Gigi, though, in which Leslie Caron plays a Parisian girl being trained to be a courtesan who ends up in a push-and-pull relationship with the much older Gaston (Louis Jordan). This is the movie that gave us that disturbing cultural artifact, the song “Thank Heaven For Little Girls.” If you want disturbing psychosexual movies from 1958, let’s agree that Vertigo, which was nominated only for Best Art Direction and Best Sound, is preferable. To reiterate: Gigi is the worst.
84. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
Paramount Pictures / Everett Collection
Directed by: Cecil B. DeMilleWritten by: Fredric M. Frank, Barré Lyndon, Theodore St. John, and Frank CavettThe other Oscars it won: Frank, St. John, and Cavett (Best Story)What it beat for Best Picture: High Noon, Ivanhoe, Moulin Rouge, The Quiet Man
Produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille on a huge scale, this movie is often cited as one of the worst movies ever to win Best Picture. I say it is second worst. Jimmy Stewart as Buttons the clown is a complete travesty for sure. Note that Singin’ in the Rain, a classic that also came out in 1952, wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture.
83. Crash (2005)
Directed by: Paul HaggisWritten by: Paul Haggis and Bobby MorescoThe other Oscars it won: Haggis and Moresco (Best Original Screenplay); Hughes Winborne (Best Film Editing)What it beat for Best Picture: Brokeback Mountain; Capote; Good Night, and Good Luck; Munich
It’s one outrage that the superior, devastating tragedy Brokeback Mountain lost the Best Picture prize; it’s another that Crash won instead. These are two separate terrible things that happened, and the fact that these movies are forever associated taints the beauty of Brokeback Mountain. Crash wields its message with a mallet’s touch — every nominated movie was better (and I don’t like Munich much).
82. Wings (1927)
Directed by: William A. WellmanWritten by: Hope Loring and Louis D. LightonThe other Oscars it won: Roy Pomeroy (Engineering Effects)What it beat for Best Picture: 7th Heaven, The Racket
Where to put Wings, the first movie ever to win Best Picture at the first-ever Academy Awards (which were not yet called “Oscars”)? It’s a silent film, and, until The Artist, was the only one ever to have won in the top category. And, as with some of these early winners, it’s more important to film history than it is enjoyable to watch now. I mean… it’s long! Almost two-and-a-half hours long. Still, I’d rather watch this story about two friends who become pilots in World War I, featuring Clara Bow and a young Gary Cooper, than, say, Crash ever again. (Fun fact: The first Academy Awards took place on May 16, 1929. It was almost two years after Wings was released. But the first ceremony honored films released in 1927 and 1928.)
81. The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
Directed by: Robert Z. LeonardWritten by: William Anthony McGuireThe other Oscars it won: Luise Rainer (Best Actress); Seymour Felix (Best Dance Direction)What it beat for Best Picture: 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
Ridiculously long (almost three hours), especially for a musical — according to the Variety review from 1936, it was “the record holder to date for length of a picture in this country.” And the music and dancing are forgettable, unfortunately. Though there is a bit of fun in this one, especially from William Powell as Flo Ziegfeld and actors playing themselves (most notably Fanny Brice and Ray Bolger), there is also… blackface. No.
80. Cimarron (1931)
RKO Radio Pictures
Directed by: Wesley RugglesWritten by: Howard EstabrookThe other Oscars it won: Estabrook (Best Adapted Screenplay); Max Rée (Best Art Direction) What it beat for Best Picture: East Lynne, The Front Page, Skippy, Trader Horn
I repeat: these early winners — it’s hard. Cimarron is interesting because it was a big-budget movie filmed during the Depression. (It cost more than $1.4 million to make, which indie films can still make work in 2014.) It’s an ambitious Western, based on an Edna Ferber novel, and has a strong female lead (Irene Dunne). Tracy Letts nerds will also be interested in knowing that it takes place in Osage, Okla. during its late-19th century boom. But it’s not a walk in the park to see now. And there are some terrible racial/anti-Semitic stereotypes that are of the movie’s time, but a bummer that highlights Cimarron’s datedness.
79. The Broadway Melody (1929)
Directed by: Harry BeaumontWritten by: Sarah Y. Mason, Norman Houston, and James GleasonThe other Oscars it won: NoneWhat it beat for Best Picture: Alibi, In Old Arizona, The Hollywood Revue of 1929, The Patriot
The second movie to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, the first modern movie musical, legendary producer Irving Thalberg’s first Oscar, and MGM’s first musical ever, is, sadly, not good by today’s standards. Still: respect.
78. Cavalcade (1933)
SNAP / Rex/REX USA
Directed by: Frank LloydWritten by: Reginald Berkeley and Sonya LevienThe other Oscars it won: Lloyd (Best Director); William S. Darling (Best Art Direction)What it beat for Best Picture: A Farewell to Arms, 42nd Street, 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
Cavalcade, which takes audiences through years of world events from the late 19th century until 1930 (the Boer War, the Titanic) through the eyes of an English family, was based on a Noel Coward play. The film was popular when it was released but has faded from people’s memories. It is watchable-ish now. There are a number of movies it beat for Best Picture, as you can see, that are more popular today. (The 1933 Marx Brother’s Duck Soup wasn’t nominated at the time, having been considered a disappointment.)
77. The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
Directed by: William DieterleWritten by: Norman Reilly Raine, Heinz Herald, and Geza HerczegThe other Oscars it won: Raine, Herald, and Herczeg (Best Screenplay); Joseph Schildkraut (Best Supporting Actor)What it beat for Best Picture: 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
A tedious slog through Emile Zola’s adult life until the movie gets to the Dreyfus Affair, which brings the film some focus. No mention of anti-Semitism, though. As the scholar Ben Urwand detailed in a 2013 book, The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler, it was Jack Warner of Warner Bros. himself who ordered the word “Jew” be excised from the screenplay.
76. The Lost Weekend (1945)
Directed by: Billy WilderWritten by: Charles Brackett and Billy WilderThe other Oscars it won: Wilder (Best Director); Brackett and Wilder (Best Adapted Screenplay); Ray Milland (Best Actor)What it beat for Best Picture: Anchors Aweigh, The Bells of St. Mary’s, Mildred Pierce, Spellbound
This movie presents a dilemma: How do you judge something in 2014 that has aged so poorly, but was provocative and brave at the time? Billy Wilder’s movie about an out-of-control alcoholic (Ray Milland) is an over-the-top melodrama, and, at this point, unintentionally campy. It’s certainly significant, though, both in the history of film and to see how people viewed addiction 70 years ago. Still, you will laugh watching it.
75. Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)
20th Century Fox
Directed by: Elia KazanWritten by: Moss HartThe other Oscars it won: Kazan (Best Director); Celeste Holm (Best Supporting Actress)What it beat for Best Picture: The Bishop’s Wife, Crossfire, Great Expectations, Miracle on 34th Street
To the modern viewer, Gentleman’s Agreement goes into the same bucket as The Lost Weekend: It’s an issue movie that was a step forward then. In the case of Gentleman’s Agreement, Gregory Peck plays a journalist who masquerades as a Jew in order to experience and write about anti-Semitism. Yet, as with The Life of Emile Zola, the movie is almost comically tame when confronting controversy directly — and does not mention Hitler or the Holocaust. It’s almost worth watching, if you haven’t yet, to see how bizarre that is.
74. Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
Moviestore Collection / Rex / Rex USA
Directed by: Michael AndersonWritten by: James Poe, John Farrow, and S.J. PerelmanThe other Oscars it won: Poe, Farrow, and Perelman (Best Adapted Screenplay); Lionel Lindon (Best Cinematography – Color); Gene Ruggiero and Paul Weatherwax (Best Film Editing); Victor Young (Best Score – Dramatic or Comedy) What it beat for Best Picture: Friendly Persuasion, Giant, The King and I, The Ten Commandments
This damn movie is three hours long. It also features horrifyingly cringe-inducing ethnic stereotypes from, you know, around the world. But if you are in bed sick with the flu, and this movie is on, you can have fun looking for the crazy cameos, which include Marlene Dietrich and Frank Sinatra, as you slip in and out of consciousness. And in that respect, the movie represents the wrangling achievements of Mike Todd, the producer (of Elizabeth Taylor husband fame). The 1957 Oscars is also notable for two dubious reasons: John Ford’s The Searchers was nominated for zero awards, and the Hollywood blacklist hung over the screenwriting categories. (Both Dalton Trumbo and Michael Wilson, blacklisted writers, were nominated, and could not receive credit.)
73. Dances With Wolves (1990)
Directed by: Kevin CostnerWritten by: Michael BlakeThe other Oscars it won: Costner (Best Director); Blake (Best Adapted Screenplay); Dean Semler (Best Cinematography); Neil Travis (Best Film Editing); John Barry (Best Original Score); Jeffrey Perkins, Bill W. Benton, Greg Watkins, and Russell Williams II (Best Sound)What it beat for Best Picture: Awakenings, Ghost, The Godfather Part III, Goodfellas
Look at those weird nominees for Best Picture: What an awful year! But most important, oh my god, Dances With Wolves beat Goodfellas. Nightmare. It may be hard to remember when Kevin Costner was the biggest star in the United States, but that was the case. And Dances With Wolves, a white-person fantasy about bonding with Native Americans, was his apex: He produced, starred in, and directed (his first time) this film. Time hasn’t been kind to Dances With Wolves — rightly.
72. Out of Africa (1985)
Universal Pictures /Moviestore Collection / Rex / Rex USA
Directed by: Sydney PollackWritten by: Kurt LuedtkeThe other Oscars it won: Pollack (Best Director); Luedtke (Best Adapted Screenplay); David Watkin (Best Cinematography); Stephen Grimes and Josie MacAvin (Best Art Direction); John Barry (Best Original Score); Chris Jenkins, Gary Alexander, Larry Stensvold, and Peter Handford (Best Sound)What it beat for Best Picture: The Color Purple, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Prizzi’s Honor, Witness
Have you watched Out of Africa recently? Even when I first saw it, I remember thinking, Is it possible that Robert Redford is actively bad in this movie? Yes. Yes, he is. This film looks ravishing, and its wins for Best Cinematography and Art Direction are more than deserved. Meryl Streep works her ass off here too. But my god, is it boring. I prefer every other nominated movie over Out of Africa, but Ran, the Akira Kurosawa movie that wasn’t in the Best Picture category, was the actual best of the year, I think.
71. The English Patient (1996)
Directed by: Anthony MinghellaWritten by: Anthony MinghellaThe other Oscars it won: Minghella (Best Director); Juliette Binoche (Best Supporting Actress); John Seale (Best Cinematography); Stuart Craig and Stephenie McMillan (Best Art Direction); Ann Roth (Best Costume Design); Walter Murch (Best Film Editing); Gabriel Yared (Best Original Score – Dramatic); Murch, Mark Berger, David Parker, and Chris Newman (Best Sound)What it beat for Best Picture: Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Secrets & Lies, Shine
There will be those who fault me for ranking this movie so low. And there are things I do love about The English Patient — mostly, Ralph Fiennes’ and Kristin Scott Thomas’ performances. But I’m putting it in proximity to Out of Africa because I associate them in bloat and indulgence. What should have won this year? The First Wives Club, clearly! Just kidding. (No, I am not.) But of the movies nominated, I favor Secrets & Lies. And Fargo. Maybe even Jerry Maguire!
70. Grand Hotel (1932)
MGM / Moviestore Collection / Rex/ REXUSA
Directed by: Edmund GouldingWritten by: William A. Drake and Béla BalázsThe other Oscars it won: Not even nominatedWhat it beat for Best Picture: Arrowsmith, Bad Girl, The Champ, Five Star Final, One Hour With You, Shanghai Express, The Smiling Lieutenant
Still fascinating to watch because of the stars in it (Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, and Lionel Barrymore), and more of a movie the way we currently think of them than any of the other early winners. If this movie had been made 15 or 20 years later, it would have been soapy; instead, it bores. One bit of trivia: This is the only Best Picture winner ever not to receive any other nominations.
69. Gladiator (2000)
Directed by: Ridley ScottWritten by: David Franzoni, John Logan, and William NicholsonThe other Oscars it won: Russell Crowe (Best Actor); Janty Yates (Best Costume Design); Scott Millan, Bob Beemer, and Ken Weston (Best Sound); John Nelson, Neil Corbould, Tim Burke, and Rob Harvey (Best Visual Effects)What it beat for Best Picture: Chocolat; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Erin Brockovich; Traffic
How did this happen?
68. Mrs. Miniver (1942)
MGM / SNAP / Rex / REX USA
Directed by: William WylerWritten by: Arthur Wimperis, George Froeschel, James Hilton, and Claudine WestThe other Oscars it won: Wyler (Best Director); Wimperis, Froeschel, Hilton, and West (Best Screenplay); Greer Garson (Best Actress); Teresa Wright (Best Supporting Actress); Joseph Ruttenberg (Best Cinematography – Black and White)What it beat for Best Picture: 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
The story of Mrs. Miniver served as almost literal propaganda to bolster British spirits during World War II. So it’s hard to judge the movie now on the usual merits. Greer Garson is great, though.
67. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
Directed by: Bruce BeresfordWritten by: Alfred UhryThe other Oscars it won: Uhry (Best Adapted Screenplay); Jessica Tandy (Best Actress); Manlio Rocchetti, Lynn Barber, and Kevin Haney (Best Makeup) What it beat for Best Picture: Born on the Fourth of July, Dead Poets Society, Field of Dreams, My Left Foot
There are, naturally, exceptions to what I’m about to assert: But the ’80s were a total mess, movie-wise. And Oscars-wise. Driving Miss Daisy is an example of a film of the time that was well-reviewed (check out Roger Ebert’s loving words for it here) and had wonderful performances (both Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman were great, of course). But its racial politics do not work anymore, and this movie is not “Best.” (Before you say that the Oscars rarely are the “Best,” and look at this whole list, and what do I expect? Yes, I agree. But let’s just agree to hold the Academy to the standards of the best movies on this list, or else why take the Academy Awards seriously at all? Onward!)
66. Gandhi (1982)
Columbia Pictures/ Moviestore Collection / Rex / REX USA
Directed by: Richard AttenboroughWritten by: John BrileyThe other Oscars it won: Attenborough (Best Director); Briley (Best Original Screenplay); Ben Kingsley (Best Actor); Billy Williams and Ronnie Taylor (Best Cinematography); Stuart Craig, Bob Laing, and Michael Seirton (Best Art Direction); John Mollo, and Bhanu Athaiya (Best Costume Design); John Bloom (Best Film Editing)What it beat for Best Picture: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Missing, Tootsie, The Verdict
While there are things to admire about Gandhi — Ben Kingsley’s performance, Richard Attenborough’s ambitious scope — the movie is preachy and tedious. And not only did it beat E.T., but Tootsie is now considered a classic comedy. It’s also worth mentioning that Blade Runner, a movie much more admired now than when it was released, also premiered in 1982 (and it got two technical nominations).
65. Amadeus (1984)
Directed by: Miloš FormanWritten by: Peter ShafferThe other Oscars it won: Forman (Best Director); Shaffer (Best Adapted Screenplay); F. Murray Abraham (Best Actor); Patrizia von Brandenstein and Karel Černý (Best Art Direction); Theodor Pistek (Best Costume Design); Paul LeBlanc and Dick Smith (Best Makeup); Mark Berger, Tom Scott, Todd Boekelheide, and Chris Newman (Best Sound)What it beat for Best Picture: The Killing Fields, A Passage to India, Places in the Heart, A Soldier’s Story
We’re not even close to being done with these tiresome period movies from the ’80s. Look at the nominations at the 1985 Oscars: Not a single one was set in the present. Amadeus did give us the resonant Salieri vs. Mozart dynamic, pitting the overly serious workman against the irritating genius — I’m feeling more like Salieri with every entry!
64. The Last Emperor (1987)
Moviestore Collection / Rex / REX USA
Directed by: Bernardo BertolucciWritten by: Bernardo Bertolucci and Mark PeploeThe other Oscars it won: Bertolucci (Best Director); Bertolucci and Peploe (Best Adapted Screenplay); Vittorio Storaro (Best Cinematography); Ferdinando Scarfiotti, Bruno Cesari, and Osvaldo Desideri (Best Art Direction); James Acheson (Best Costume Design); Gabriella Cristiani (Best Film Editing); Ryûichi Sakamoto, David Byrne, and Cong Su (Best Original Score); Bill Rowe and Ivan Sharrock (Best Sound)What it beat for Best Picture: Broadcast News, Fatal Attraction, Hope and Glory, Moonstruck
There was an actual law on the books during the 1980s that every movie that won the Best Picture Oscar had to be 26 hours long. The Last Emperor was 26 hours long; Broadcast News was not. (Did you know that Harry and the Hendersons won an Academy Award? Rick Baker won this year for Best Makeup. Belated congratulations, Rick Baker!)
63. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Directed by: Ron HowardWritten by: Akiva GoldsmanThe other Oscars it won: Howard (Best Director); Goldsman (Best Adapted Screenplay); Jennifer Connelly (Best Supporting Actress)What it beat for Best Picture: Gosford Park, In the Bedroom, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Moulin Rouge
The year 2001 saw the releases of a number of movies I prefer over A Beautiful Mind — including the first Lord of the Rings and Gosford Park, which were nominated, and Memento, which was not. But one notable thing about this year was what A Beautiful Mind went through during Oscar season, which included lots of stories about John Nash, the real man whom Russell Crowe played in the movie. There were pieces about him being an anti-Semite and bisexual, all of which were likely disseminated to diminish the movie’s chances of winning. (Read this New York Times story if you’re interested in knowing more.) Clearly, it didn’t work.
62. Forrest Gump (1994)
Directed by: Robert ZemeckisWritten by: Eric RothThe other Oscars it won: Zemeckis (Best Director); Roth (Best Adapted Screenplay); Tom Hanks (Best Actor); Arthur Schmidt (Best Film Editing); Ken Ralston, George Murphy, Stephen Rosenbaum, and Allen Hall (Best Visual Effects)What it beat for Best Picture: Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption
While there are plenty of movies I dislike more than Forrest Gump, I can’t think of many that I found to be as culturally damaging. And not because the whole country was saying things like, “Stupid is as stupid does” for a few years. (Which was awful.) But because telling the story of American upheaval during Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement through the perspective of a Southern white man with an IQ of 75, Forrest Gump managed to distill the most important, meaningful, brave, countercultural things that happened in the second half of the 20th century into some fast-food-like McRevolution, packaged and sold so that everyone (even Forrest!) could understand. And when I start thinking about the Jenny character (played by Robin Wright), the promiscuous, drug-addicted hippie who contracts an illness the movie chooses not to name as AIDS for some reason, I freak out. It’s hard to play a character as exaggerated as Forrest, and while someone like Dustin Hoffman pulls it off in Rain Man, Tom Hanks — who is often nuanced — falls into immediate caricature. So why is Forrest Gump not ranked even lower, then? Because it provoked fruitful conversations, no matter how maddening it is — and that is a gift movies packed with ideas give us, even if I find those ideas repellent. Beating Pulp Fiction, though? I mean, of course it did. But come on. (And I’m sure partisans of The Shawshank Redemption have some things to say about the 1995 Oscars as well.)
61. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
Moviestore Collection / Rex / REX USA
Directed by: Frank LloydWritten by: Jules Furthman, Talbot Jennings, and Carey Wilson The other Oscars it won: NoneWhat it beat for Best Picture: Alice Adams, Broadway Melody of 1936, Captain Blood, David Copperfield, The Informer, Les Misérables, The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Naughty Marietta, Ruggles of Red Gap, Top Hat
This two-hour-plus movie from 1935 isn’t the easiest to watch in 2014, but it’s worth it for Charles Laughton’s scenery chewing as Captain Bligh. Also, apparently Laughton and co-star Clark Gable hated each other and Laughton would do imitations of Joan Crawford on the set? Amazing.
60. Going My Way (1944)
Paramount Pictures /SNAP / Rex/ REX USA
Directed by: Leo McCareyWritten by: Frank Butler and Frank Cavett; Story by Leo McCareyThe other Oscars it won: McCarey (Best Director); McCarey (Best Original Story); Butler and Cavett (Best Screenplay); Bing Crosby (Best Actor); Barry Fitzgerald (Best Supporting Actor); James Van Heusen and Johnny Burke (Best Original Song)What it beat for Best Picture: Double Indemnity, Gaslight, Since You Went Away, Wilson
It was a huge hit at the time, and the peak of Bing Crosby’s career. Yet the amiable Going My Way has been largely swept from Oscar history. Strangely, the sequel, 1945’s The Bells of St. Mary’s, in which Crosby returns as Father O’Malley, might be a more familiar title.
59. Hamlet (1948)
Moviestore / Rex / REX USA
Directed by: Laurence OlivierWritten by: Laurence OlivierThe other Oscars it won: Olivier (Best Actor); Roger K. Furse and Carmen Dillon (Best Art Direction – Black and White); Furse (Best Costume Design – Black and White)What it beat for Best Picture: Johnny Belinda, The Red Shoes, The Snake Pit, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
While it’s certainly worth watching Laurence Olivier’s interpretation of Hamlet, there are no great filmed versions of Shakespeare’s best play. This truncated script does not change my mind.
58. West Side Story (1961)
SNAP / Rex/REX USA
Directed by: Robert Wise and Jerome RobbinsWritten by: Ernest LehmanThe other Oscars it won: Wise and Robbins (Best Director); George Chakiris (Best Supporting Actor); Rita Moreno (Best Supporting Actress); Daniel L. Fapp (Best Cinematography – Color); Boris Leven and Victor A. Gangelin (Best Art Direction – Color); Irene Sharaff (Best Costume Design – Color); Thomas Stanford (Best Film Editing); Saul Chaplin, Johnny Green, Sid Ramin, and Irwin Kostal (Best Score – Musical); Fred Hynes, Todd-AO Sound Department, Gordon E. Sawyer, Samuel Goldwyn Studio Sound Department (Best Sound)What it beat for Best Picture: Fanny, The Guns of Navarone, The Hustler, Judgment at Nuremberg
When I imagine people yelling at me in the comments section of this list, I feel that West Side Story might be among the yelliest. Rita Moreno is exciting, and steals the movie. The dancing is unparalleled. And the music is — well, it’s the magical music from West Side Story! But Natalie Wood is terrible, so is Richard Beymer, and this movie is not the way you might remember it in your mind. Also, Judgment at Nuremberg is one of my favorites.
57. Tom Jones (1963)
Woodfall Film Productions
Directed by: Tony RichardsonWritten by: John OsborneThe other Oscars it won: Richardson (Best Director); Osborne (Best Adapted Screenplay); John Addison (Best Substantially Original Score)What it beat for Best Picture: America, America, Cleopatra, How the West Was Won, Lilies of the Field
Have you seen Tom Jones? Have you heard of Tom Jones? It’s an odd movie, and one of the few comedies on this list. Tony Richardson’s stylish and anachronistic direction of Henry Fielding’s 18th century novel makes this movie light fun. (For those keeping track, Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 was also released in 1963.)
56. An American in Paris (1951)
Directed by: Vincente MinnelliWritten by: Alan Jay LernerThe other Oscars it won: Lerner (Best Screenplay); Alfred Gilks and John Alton (Best Cinematography – Color); Cedric Gibbons, Preston Ames, Edwin B. Willis, and Keogh Gleason (Best Art Direction – Color); Orry-Kelly, Walter Plunkett, and Irene Sharaff (Best Costume Design – Color); Johnny Green and Saul Chaplin (Best Score — Musical)What it beat for Best Picture: Decision Before Dawn, A Place in the Sun, Quo Vadis, A Streetcar Named Desire
The music, by George and Ira Gershwin, is, of course, still wonderful. Any time Gene Kelly is dancing on screen, all is right with the world. And the movie’s famous closing, an 18-minute musical number, is impressive and daring. Yet there’s something sour about An American in Paris — perhaps Kelly’s character didn’t always seem like such a jerk, but he does to modern eyes. It was a shock at the time that this movie won Best Picture, given that it was up against A Place in the Sun and A Streetcar Named Desire. Those movies have aged better than this one has, and so has the similar Kelly classic Singin’ in the Rain, which came out a year later.
55. How Green Was My Valley (1941)
Moviestore Collection / Rex/ REX USA
Directed by: John FordWritten by: Philip DunneThe other Oscars it won: Ford (Best Director); Donald Crisp (Best Supporting Actor); Atrhur C. Miller (Best Cinematography – Black and White); Richard Day, Nathan Juran, and Thomas Little (Best Art Direction – Black and White)What it beat for Best Picture: 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
Because How Green Was My Valley beat Citizen Kane at the 1942 Oscars, it is often called one of the worst Best Pictures of all-time. The anger is understandable — and The Maltese Falcon is also a better movie than How Green Was My Valley. But it was directed by John Ford. And features little Roddy McDowell! As a result, scientists have proven that How Green Was My Valley is, in fact, the 30th worst Best Picture of all-time. (I am the “scientists” in this instance using methods that I will reveal in a study to be made public at a future date.)
54. You Can’t Take It With You (1938)
Moviestore Collection / Rex/ REX USA
Directed by: Frank CapraWritten by: Robert RiskinThe other Oscars it won: Capra (Best Director)What it beat for Best Picture: The Adventures of Robin Hood, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Boys Town, The Citadel, Four Daughters, Grand Illusion, Jezebel, Pygmalion, Test Pilot
This enjoyable, slight Frank Capra movie is often forgotten. Especially when compared with Capra’s more famous titles (one of which is also on this list).
53. Oliver! (1968)
Directed by: Carol ReedWritten by: Vernon HarrisThe other Oscars it won: Reed (Best Director); John Box, Terence Marsh, Vernon Dixon, Ken Muggleston (Best Art Direction); John Green (Best Score); Shepperton Studio Sound Department (Best Sound); Onna White (Honorary Award)What it beat for Best Picture: Funny Girl; The Lion in Winter; Rachel, Rachel; Romeo and Juliet
I’m a huge fan of the music from Oliver!, and even as I type this I have managed to get “Where Is Love?” stuck in my head. But 2001: A Space Odyssey changed film as we know it, and it was not nominated. Rosemary’s Baby was also not nominated, yet we can probably all agree it’s a more important movie than Oliver!.
52. A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Moviestore Collection / Rex/REX USA