Top 84 Best Picture Winners Ever

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The 85th Annual Academy Awards ceremony is coming your way on Feb. 24. Since starting the tradition in 1929, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has only missed one year (1933), due to scheduling irregularities. In all, 84 Best Picture winners have been crowned thus far, but who are the best of the best? Life’d now gives you our take on the Top 84 Best Picture Winners Ever.

NOTE: On the “Budget” portion, there are two numbers. The ones in parentheses () indicate what the film would have cost in today’s dollars.

84. Cimarron (1931 − 4th Best Picture Winner)

Plot: A newspaper guy and his spouse settle in an Oklahoma boom town in the late 1800s.

Why It’s Great: The first western Best Picture Winner, and the only one until Dances with Wolves (1990). Not sure we’d want to watch this because it’s great or more for its historical significance. Wesley Ruggle’s film features Hollywood’s best of the day in the form of Irene Dunne and Richard Dix, but there is nothing here to live up to previous winners Wings and All Quiet on the Western Front. Other noms this year included Skippy, The Front Page, Trader Horn and East Lynne.

Oscar Wins: 3

Budget: $1.433 million ($20.9 million)

IMDB User Rating: 6.0


83. Cavalcade (1933 − 6th Best Picture Winner)
Plot: Epic drama follows an English elite couple through three decades of life against the backdrop of real-world events.
Why It’s Great: While some of the acting comes across as over-the-top by today’s standards, the film is interesting as a lens for how people of the time viewed at culturally and historically significant events like the Titanic sinking and the passing of Queen Victoria. Cavalcade beat 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 and State Fair for the win.

Oscar Wins: 3

Budget: $1.18 million ($20.225 million)

IMDB User Rating: 6.3


82. The Broadway Melody (1929 − 2nd Best Picture Winner)

Plot: Love triangle set on Broadway involving Eddie Kerns and the vaudevillian transplants he pursues.
Why It’s Great: Considered the first feature-length musical, The Broadway Melody today suffers from weak characterizations, heavy melodrama and cliche after cliche. It’s fun to watch for the historical value, but that doesn’t make it great. Nevertheless, it was a commercial success at the time, and it managed to beat Alibi, In Old Arizona, Hollywood Revue and The Patriot for its sole Academy Award.

Oscar Wins: 1

Budget: $379,000 ($4.917 million)

IMDB User Rating: 6.4


81. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952 − 25th Best Picture Winner)

Plot: A dramatized behind-the-scenes look at Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Why It’s Great: It is an interesting glimpse into what truly was, for its time, the “greatest show on earth.” Still, when looking at the competition, we’re left scratching our heads at the Academy’s decision to pick this over High Noon, which won twice the amount of awards, or The Quiet Man. Along with these two slighted films, Ivanhoe and Moulin Rouge were in the running.

Oscar Wins: 2

Budget: $4 million ($33.429 million)

IMDB User Rating: 6.7


80. Around the World in 80 Days (1956 − 29th Best Picture Winner)

Plot: Phileas Fogg bets some of his chums a heinous amount of money he can travel around the entire globe in 80 days via hot-air balloon.
Why It’s Great: An obscenely talented cast from the top to the bottom made this one a must-see in 1956. While ATWI80D is worth a look, it’s hard to fathom what the Academy was thinking here in ignoring nominees Giant and The Ten Commandments and not even recognizing The Searchers with a single nomination of any kind. Other Best Pic noms included Friendly Persuasion and The King and I.

Oscar Wins: 5

Budget: $6 million ($48.962 million)

IMDB User Rating: 6.8


79. Tom Jones (1963 − 36th Best Picture Winner)

Plot: A bastard child with an affinity for the ladies falls in love with one, who reciprocates but is unable to act upon it because of her family’s disapproval.

Why It’s Great: Great? Not sure about that, but it’s interesting. Characters often tear down the fourth wall and speak directly to the audience, and some of it was quite funny at the time but hasn’t aged particularly well. Additional nominees this year included America, America, Cleopatra, How the West Was Won and Lilies of the Field.

Oscar Wins: 2

Budget: $1 million ($25.901 million)

IMDB User Rating: 6.9


78. The Great Ziegfeld (9th Best Picture Winner)

Plot: The life of Flo Ziegfeld as bastardized by Hollywood.

Why It’s Great: While there is much to like about The Great Ziegfeld, one of the early Best Picture winners, there are also several liberties taken with the life of the man behind the Ziegfeld Follies. Today it makes for a better historical record of Depression-era filmmaking than great storytelling. Others up for the award were 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 and Three Smart Girls.

Oscar Wins: 3

Budget: Data unavailable

IMDB User Rating: 6.9


77. Gigi (1958 − 31st Best Picture Winner)

Plot: A man and woman try to “just be friends” in this musical that was When Harry Met Sally before Harry met Sally.

Why It’s Great: Hollywood was in love with Gigi at the 1959 awards show, and it showed in an astounding nine wins including Best Picture. The losing films: Auntie Mame, The Defiant Ones, Separate Tables and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Oscar Wins: 9

Budget: $3.319 million ($25.456 million)

IMDB User Rating: 6.9


76. Platoon (1986 − 59th Best Picture Winner)

Plot: A young soldier in the Vietnam War finds his real enemy comes from within his own platoon.
Why It’s Great: It beat out Children of a Lesser God, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Mission and A Room with a View, but calling Platoon a “Best Picture” and “The Greatest War Movie Ever Made” reveals pedestrian taste at best. There have been lots of superior war films made that didn’t earn half this thing’s accolades, and one Vietnam War film that makes it seem almost juvenile. (I’m talking about Full Metal Jacket, of course.) Oh well, you can’t get them all, Academy.

Oscar Wins: 4

Budget: $6 million ($12.111 million)

IMDB User Rating: 8.2


75. Chicago (2002 − 75th Best Picture Winner)

Plot: Velma and Roxie are two killer ladies who cross paths in this musical set against the backdrop of 1924 Chicago.
Why It’s Great: Director Rob Marshall’s cast sizzles. There’s not a bad song in the bunch. And, for us, the setting and art direction offer exactly what motion pictures are supposed to: grade-A escapism of the highest order. Chicago mixed it up with Gangs of New York, The Hours, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Pianist for the win.

Oscar Wins: 6

Budget: $45 million ($55.781 million)

IMDB User Rating: 7.1


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