The Best of the Best Picture Oscar Winners, Part 3

AcademyAwards03This year marks the 86th anniversary of the Academy Awards, an annual celebration of the best in motion pictures selected by more than 6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Conceived by legendary studio magnate Louis B. Mayer as a mediator for labor disputes, the Academy started with a modest membership of 36 and has since become one of the most important organizations with one of the most prestigious and sought-after prizes anywhere in the world.

An Academy Award can mean a better career. It can lead to more lucrative offers. It can add millions to a film’s box office. There is no other film award that can compare in terms of its global importance and familiarity.

Over the last 85 selections of the best films of each year, the Academy has made landmark choices and questionable ones. For each brilliant choice, there’s an equally polarizing one. Even when terrific movies lose out to more important films (think 1941’s How Green Was My Valley winning over Citizen Kane), the Academy finds admirers and detractors with relative ease.

In celebration of the 85 prior years of Oscar winners, the Online Film Critics Society has decided to rank all past winners from worst to best. There have been 86 films that have received a Best Picture prize from the Academy. This includes the one-year split of the prize between Best Production for 1927/28 which went to the box office success Wings and Unique and Artistic Picture which went to the more stylish Sunrise, a Song of Two Humans. Although the Academy typically leaves Sunrise off its list of the group’s Best Picture winners, we have decided to include it for ranking purposes.

Starting today and posting each day this week, we will start at the bottom and work our way to the top of the list of film’s considered by the voting members of the OFCS as the Best of the Academy’s Best Picture winners. Then, on the Monday following the Oscars, we will announce where this year’s Best Picture winner will fall into our list of the Best Best Pictures. (Introduction written by Wesley “The Oscar Guy” Lovell)

The middle chapter of our Best Picture poll gives our list of films ranked from 50 through 36.

50. Gandhi (1952)55th

Synopsis: A look into the life of Mohandas K. Gandhi whose non-violent protests against the British government helped lead to the independence of the nation of India.
Trivia: Gandhi beat out E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial for Best Picture this year. Its director, Richard Attenborough, would later take a supporting role in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. That film was released the same year that Ben Kingsley, who won the Oscar for his portrayal Gandhi, starred in Spielberg’s Oscar-winning film Schindler’s List, which brought Spielberg his first Oscar.
Films It Beat:
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
The Verdict

49. The Artist (2011)84th

Synopsis: A rising star surpasses her idol as she makes the successful transition to the talkies while her idol maintains a death grip on his fading days as a silent screen star.
Trivia: This became the first silent film since Wings to win Best Picture at the Oscars even though its sound effects and original score were recorded on film.
Films It Beat:
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse

48. A Man for All Seasons (1966)39th

Synopsis: Sir Thomas More takes on King Henry VIII as he seeks to obtain a divorce and remarry under heavily-Roman Catholic England.
Trivia: It was the first of only two Best Picture winners based on play that won the Tony Award for Best Play. The second was Amadeus 18 years later.
Films It Beat:
The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming
The Sand Pebbles
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

47. You Can’t Take It With You (1938)19th

Synopsis: The son of a wealthy family falls in love with the young woman from an eccentric family, setting up a comedy of errors as the bizarre behavior of the lower class family chafes the respectability of the upper class.
Trivia: Became the first of only two Best Picture winners to be based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning play. The other film was Driving Miss Daisy, which won 51 years later.
Films It Beat:
The Adventures of Robin Hood
Alexander’s Ragtime Band
Boys Town
The Citadel
Four Daughters
Grand Illusion
Test Pilot

46. The Last Emperor (1987)60th

Synopsis: This is the story of the young boy who becomes Emperor of China shortly before dramatic world events that would bring down the monarchy and his emergence into adulthood in a changed world.
Trivia: It was the first film rated PG-13 under the MPAA’s new classification system, introduced in 1984, to win the Oscar for Best Picture.
Films It Beat:
Broadcast News
Fatal Attraction
Hope and Glory

45. Ben-Hur (1959)32nd

Synopsis: A Jewish prince, betrayed by his Roman friend, is sent into slavery and spends years fighting his way back to Rome in order to seek revenge against his former friend.
Trivia: For 38 years, remained the most awarded film in Oscar history, earning eleven total Oscars.
Films It Beat:
Anatomy of a Murder
The Diary of Anne Frank
The Nun’s Story
Room at the Top

44. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)52nd

Synopsis: A recently-divorced father must learn to live with his young son while fighting for custody with his ex-wife.
Trivia: Kramer vs. Kramer star Justin Henry, nominated for Best Supporting Actor, remains the youngest actor ever nominated for a competitive Academy Award in any acting category.
Films It Beat:
All That Jazz
Apocalypse Now
Breaking Away
Norma Rae

43. Marty (1955)28th

Synopsis: A middle-edged butcher has given up on finding love, but finds the woman of his dream at a local dance.
Trivia: It is the shortest film ever to win Best Picture. It is also the first film based on a television program to win Best Picture.
Films It Beat:
Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing
Mister Roberts
The Rose Tattoo

42. Rocky (1976)49th

Synopsis: A small-time boxer has the chance of a lifetime to fight a heavy-weight champion and embarks on a hefty training regimen in the hopes of being able to compete.
Trivia: It was the first sports film in the history of the Academy Awards to win Best Picture.
Films It Beat:
All the President’s Men
Bound for Glory
Taxi Driver

41. All the King’s Men (1949)22nd

Synopsis: A corrupt, small town politician rises through the ranks of state politics allowing power and its associated distractions go to his head.
Trivia: It was the second, and final, film to win Best Picture based on a Pultizer Prize-winning novel. Gone With the Wind is the only other such winner.
Films It Beat:
The Heiress
A Letter to Three Wives
Twelve O’Clock High

40. From Here to Eternity (1953)

Synopsis: As a Naval captain suffers punishment for refusing to box for his unit’s team, his wife falls in love with his second-in-command in the days leading up to the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Trivia: One of a small handful of films to earn Oscar nominations in all four acting categories. It also became only the second film in Oscar history to win eight or more Academy Awards.
Films It Beat:
Julius Caesar
The Robe
Roman Holiday

39. An American in Paris (1951)24th

Synopsis: Three friends search for work in the city of Paris while two of them fall in love with the same woman.
Trivia: Star Gene Kelly was not nominated for Best Actor for his role in this film, but did receive his only Oscar the same year. The honorary Oscar was given “In appreciation of his versatility as an actor, singer, director and dancer, and specifically for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film.”
Films It Beat:
Decision before Dawn
A Place in the Sun
Quo Vadis
A Streetcar Named Desire

38. West Side Story (1961)34th

Synopsis: A young couple face the realities of gang life in New York City as their rival gangs fight for territory leading them to hide their relationship from those around them.
Trivia: It was the first film with two credited directors to win the Oscar for Best Director.
Films It Beat:
The Guns of Navarone
The Hustler
Judgment at Nuremberg

37. In the Heat of the Night (1967)40th

Synopsis: An African American police detective is sent to investigate a murder in a racially-charged southern town.
Trivia: The first of only three films to feature a black actor in a co-leading role to win Best Picture. The other two are Driving Miss Daisy 22 years later, and Unforgiven, three years after that.
Films It Beat:
Bonnie and Clyde
Doctor Dolittle
The Graduate
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

36. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)76th

Synopsis: The final chapter in the saga of small band of adventurers who trek across the vast realm of Middle Earth in order to destroy a powerful artifact in the fires of a violent volcano.
Trivia: It became the first fantasy film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. It was also the most honored film in history to take home Oscars for all of its nominations, eleven; and it was the first third chapter in a trilogy to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Films It Beat:
Lost in Translation
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Mystic River

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