The Best of the Best Picture Oscar Winners, Part 4

AcademyAwards05This 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)

In our penultimate ranking, we take on the films on our list from 35 through 21.

35. Grand Hotel (1931/32)5th

Synopsis: A disparate group of people meet in a Berlin hotel where their unusual lives collide in the most unsuspected ways.
Trivia: It was the first and only Best Picture winner in Oscar history to win the award on its only nomination. It is also the only Best Picture winner in history to win only one Oscar.
Films It Beat:
Bad Girl
The Champ
Five Star Final
One Hour with You
Shanghai Express
The Smiling Lieutenant

34. Hamlet (1948)21st

Synopsis: A Danish prince struggles with the decision of whether to kill his uncle in revenge for his father’s murder.
Trivia: This was the first non-American film to win Best Picture, the 21st film ever to win.
Films It Beat:
Johnny Belinda
The Red Shoes
The Snake Pit
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

33. Patton (1970)43rd

Synopsis: A brief glimpse into the illustrious career of controversial General George S. Patton as he takes his expertise the battlefields of World War II.
Trivia: Star George C. Scott became the first actor in Oscar history to refuse the Oscar he had won. Everyone knew how he felt about the “meat parade” of award competitions and had declared early that he would be staying home Oscar night even if he should win.
Films It Beat:
Five Easy Pieces
Love Story

32. The Departed (2006)79th

Synopsis: A mole in the police department works to find out who the infiltrator in his mob organization is while the infiltrator is attempting to discover who the mole is.
Trivia: It is the only remake of a foreign film to win the Oscar for Best Picture.
Films It Beat:
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

31. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)8th

Synopsis: The malicious captain of a trading vessel sailing for Tahiti, leading his crew to mount a mutiny.
Trivia: Mutiny on the Bounty is the only Best Picture winner in Oscar history to receive three nominations in the Best Actor category. All three nominees lost to the fourth and final nominee, Victor McLaglen for The Informer.
Films It Beat:
Alice Adams
Broadway Melody of 1936
Captain Blood
David Copperfield
The Informer
Les Miserables
The Lives of a Bengal Lancer
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Naughty Marietta
Ruggles of Red Gap
Top Hat

30. Wings (1927/28)1st

Synopsis: Two fighter pilots in World War I come together during the war despite their love for the same woman.
Trivia: In addition to being the first Best Picture winner ever, the film was the only silent film to win Best Picture until The Artist became the second 81 years later, and was the first of four films to win Best Picture without being nominated for Best Director.
Films It Beat:
The Racket
7th Heaven

29. The Sting (1973)46th

Synopsis: A big scheme against a criminal banker gives a young con man an opportunity to exact revenge for his murdered partner.
Trivia: This was the first Best Picture Oscar win for Universal Studios in more than 40 years. It’s previous win was for All Quiet on the Western Front.
Films It Beat:
American Graffiti
Cries and Whispers
The Exorcist
A Touch of Class

28. How Green Was My Valley (1941)14th

Synopsis: A Welsh mining village at the turn of the century is the backdrop for a familial saga in which a family of miners struggles to provide new opportunities for their youngest child.
Trivia: This film generated John Ford’s record-setting third Oscar, his first two were for The Informer in 1935 and The Grapes of Wrath the year before this film. He is the only director in Oscar history to win four trophies for directing, his fourth coming for The Quiet Man eleven years later.
Films It Beat:
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

27. Platoon (1986)59th

Synopsis: The horrors of the war in Vietnam are shown through the eyes of one of its young recruits who begins in basic training and is eventually sent to the jungles of Vietnam.
Trivia: This was the first film to win the Best Picture Oscar after winning the Best Film prize from the Spirit Awards. It would be 15 years before another Spirit Award-winning Best Film would take home the Best Picture Oscar.
Films It Beat:
Children of a Lesser God
Hannah and Her Sisters
The Mission
A Room with a View

26. The Hurt Locker (2009)82nd

Synopsis: An bomb squad expert gets a thrill from defusing bombs during the Iraq War, frequently putting his teammates at risk.
Trivia: Apart from being the first and only film set in the Iraq War to win Best Picture, it was also the first film directed by a woman to win the prize and resulted in the same first for a woman in the Best Director category.
Films It Beat:
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
Inglourious Basterds
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
A Serious Man
Up in the Air

25. The Lost Weekend (1945)18th

Synopsis: A chronic alcoholic crumbles as he embarks on a four-day drinking binge.
Trivia: It was the first film to win the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival to also win the Academy Award for Best Picture. It was the last film to win the Grand Prix before the prize was renamed the Palme d’Or, the name it is currently presented as.
Films It Beat:
Anchors Aweigh
The Bells of St. Mary’s
Mildred Pierce

24. The Deer Hunter (1978)51st

Synopsis: The war in Vietnam hits a small industrial town hard as its young men are sent off to war to be forever changed by the horrors they see and participate in there.
Trivia: This was the first film about the war in Vietnam to win Best Picture. It also brought Meryl Streep her first of a record-setting 18 Oscar nominations for acting, it was one of only three in the Supporting Actress category.
Films It Beat:
Coming Home
Heaven Can Wait
Midnight Express
An Unmarried Woman

23. Gone With the Wind (1939)12th

Synopsis: A conniving, haughty Southern Belle begins an affair with a blockade runner during the American Civil War while having to come to terms with the crumbling nation around her.
Trivia: Gone With the Wind holds numerous records in relation to Oscar. Among them, this was the first color film to win Best Picture; it was the first to generate a nomination and a win for a black actress (Hattie McDaniel won Best Supporting Actress); it is still the longest film ever to win Best Picture, clocking in at two minutes shy of four hours; and for nearly 40 years, it was the highest grossing Best Picture winner of all-time (adjusted for inflation, it remains at the top of the list).
Films It Beat:
Dark Victory
Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Love Affair
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Of Mice and Men
The Wizard of Oz
Wuthering Heights

22. Midnight Cowboy (1969)42nd

Synopsis: A male prostitute struggles to survive in New York City alongside a headstrong, but sickly friend he meets upon arriving in the city.
Trivia: It was the first of only two X-rated films ever nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars (the other was Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange). It would become the only such rated film to win the award for Best Picture. Both films were later re-classified to the R-rating. Since then, no film that received a more restrictive rating than R (X and later NC-17) has been nominated for any Academy Award.
Films It Beat:
Anne of the Thousand Days
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Hello, Dolly!

21. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)19th

Synopsis: Returning home after war has never been easy, but three soldiers coming back to a small American town discover just how different their lives will be from that point on.
Trivia: Best Supporting Actor winner Harold Russell also received an Oscar for the inspiration of his role in this film becoming the only actor in Oscar history to receive two Oscars for the same performance.
Films It Beat:
Henry V
It’s a Wonderful Life
The Razor’s Edge
The Yearling

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