In the history of the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the Oscars, 91 films were bestowed the honor of “Best Picture” by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). In honor of the upcoming Oscars, we compiled a complete winners list of every and all 91 films that won Best Picture. We will start with a silent war film, “Wings” (1928), which is the first Best Picture winner and ending with last year’s winner “Green Book” (2019).
This category originated as the Academy Award for Outstanding Picture in the late 1920s.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the category changed its name to the Academy Award for Outstanding Production. During World War II, it changed to Outstanding Motion Picture before it changed to Best Motion Picture.
The Academy finally settled on “Best Picture” in 1962. It has not changed since.
Early Oscars: Best Picture Winners Pre-1939
1929 The Broadway Melody
1930 All Quiet on the Western Front
1932 Grand Hotel
1934 It Happened One Night
1935 Mutiny on the Bounty
1936 The Great Ziegfeld
1937 The Life of Emile Zola
1938 You Can’t Take It with You
1939 Gone with the Wind
The 1930s are often referred to as the “Golden Age” of Hollywood. Some of the Best Picture winners reflect that era, including “The Grand Hotel” featuring Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, and Joan Crawford.
In 1935, “Mutiny on the Bounty” won for Best Picture and it became the first time the golden statuettes were known as Oscars.
The era ends with one of the most popular films of all time, “Gone with the Wind” (1939).
World War II Era
During World War II, many stars enlisted in the military. The US Government started the Office of War Information (OWI), which became the propaganda arm of the military. Many Hollywood directors participated in ads, documentaries, and short films for the War Department.
Oscars: Best Picture Winners WWII Era
1941 How Green Was My Valley
1942 Mrs. Miniver
1944 Going My Way
1945 The Lost Weekend
1946 The Best Years of Our Lives
1947 Gentleman’s Agreement
1949 All the King’s Men
The era also produced many war-themed films, including the classic “Casablanca” (1943). When the war ended, Hollywood films saw a resurgence in the box office in the second half of the 1940s.
Epics and the End of the Golden Age
With the introduction of television, Hollywood’s Golden Age would eventually come to an end. Before that happened, the early 1950s marked the peak of Hollywood. By the start of the 1950s, America had less than 100 commercial television stations. By the start of the 1960s, the number reached almost 400.
Oscars: Best Picture Winners 1950s
1950 All About Eve
1951 An American in Paris
1952 The Greatest Show on Earth
1953 From Here to Eternity
1954 On the Waterfront
1956 Around the World in 80 Days
1957 The Bridge on the River Kwai
In the 1950s, Hollywood produced several epics. “The Greatest Show on Earth” (1952), directed by Cecil B. DeMille won Best Picture. The 1950s ended with “Ben-Hur” and the infamous chariot race winning Best Picture in 1959.
The New Wave
Influenced by European directors and reflecting the changing times, the 1960s ushered in a new wave of filmmakers, filmmaking, and storytelling. The movies got darker and grittier, while individual artists pushed the edges of their creativity.
Oscars: Best Picture Winners 1960s
1960 The Apartment
1961 West Side Story
1962 Lawrence of Arabia
1963 Tom Jones
1964 My Fair Lady
1965 The Sound of Music
1966 A Man for All Seasons
1967 In the Heat of the Night
1969 Midnight Cowboy
Just take a look at the films that won Best Picture in 1960 and 1969 to see a stark contrast. “The Apartment” won in 1960. Billy Wilder’s comedy starred Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. “Midnight Cowboy” won in 1969, which is a buddy film about a pair of low-life hustlers in New York City.
Auteurs, Post-Watergate, Post-Vietnam
Many films buffs call the 1970s the true Golden Age of Hollywood as filmmakers and screenwriters deviated from traditional storytelling narratives.
Hollywood studios took a huge financial risk on many young directors hell-bent on telling their stories without studio intervention.
Oscars List: Best Picture Winner 1970s
1971 The French Connection
1972 The Godfather
1973 The Sting
1974 The Godfather, Part II
1975 One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest
1977 Annie Hall
1978 The Deer Hunter
1979 Kramer vs. Kramer
Francis Ford Coppola won a pair of Oscars for Best Picture with “The Godfather” and it’s sequel, “The Godfather II” two years later. Woody Allen secured Best Picture for his neurotic relationship flick “Annie Hall” (1977).
While Hollywood ramped up pro-war propaganda during World War II, social consciousness and psychedelia drove the next wave of storytelling. During the later stages of the Vietnam War, major studios released numerous anti-war films. “The Deer Hunter” won Best Picture in 1978 and put several actors on the map, including Meryl Streep and Christopher Walken.
Rise of the Blockbuster
The 1980s were a decade overtaken by selfishness and greed. Oh, and oodles of cocaine. Hollywood films often hold a mirror up to society, while a segment continues to tug the other way. The ethos of the 1960s and 1970s spilled over into the 1980s, and many personal stories like Oliver Stone’s anti-war film, “Platoon” (1986).
Oscars List: Best Picture Winners 1980s
1980 Ordinary People
1981 Chariots of Fire
1983 Terms of Endearment
1985 Out of Africa
1987 The Last Emperor
1988 Rain Man
1989 Driving Miss Daisy
The 1980s saw the rise of the blockbuster. Corporations gobbled up film companies and instead of telling new stories, sequels became more profitable for the bottom line. At the same time, historical figures such as Mozart and Gahndi were given the big-screen treatment.
End of the 21st Century: American Beauty
Despite Hollywood’s ability to earn billions of dollars while providing lo-fi entertainment, plenty of storytellers continued to revolutionize the film industry.
As the 20th century came to a close, classic westerns like “Dance with Wolves” (1990) and “Unforgiven” (1992) scored Best Picture wins.
Blood and guts sells tickets. War films and anti-war films such as “Braveheart” (1995) and “Schindler’s List” (1993) secured Best Picture victories in the mid-1990s.
Oscars List: Best Picture Winner 1990s
1990 Dances with Wolves
1991 Silence of the Lambs
1993 Schindler’s List
1994 Forrest Gump
1996 The English Patient
1998 Shakespeare in Love
1999 American Beauty
Love stories, both rom-coms and sullen tales of heartache, have always been at the core of Hollywood cinema. Romantic Best Picture winners in the 1990s included “The English Patient” (1996), “Titanic” (1997), and “Shakespeare in Love” (1998).
The 1990s ended with a bang and “American Beauty” (1999), directed by Sam Mendes.
Technology and innovation exponentially increased at the end of the 1990s. Filmmakers utilized CGI special effects more than ever to help tell stories that were previously impossible tell due to technical constraints.
Winners in the 2000s reflected the blend of both traditional storytelling and state-of-the-art effects. That patch of hi-tech films included “Gladiator” (2000) and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003).
Oscars List: Best Picture Winners 2000s
2001 A Beautiful Mind
2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
2004 Million Dollar Baby
2007 No Country for Old Men
2008 Slumdog Millionaire
2009 The Hurt Locker
The first decade of the 21st Century ended with Kathryn Bigelow’s Iraq War film, “The Hurt Locker” (2009) securing Best Picture.
Digital and VOD
The 2010s began with DVDs becoming obsolete, and major studios focusing on comic books films and tent-pole films. The decade ended with streaming services like Netflix cutting into box office receipts.
Oscars List: Best Picture Winners 2010s
2010 The King’s Speech
2011 The Artist
2013 12 Years a Slave
2017 The Shape of Water
2018 Green Book
2019 ??? TBD ???
Many non-traditional stories were being told for the first time by female and minority directors and screenwriters. Films such as “Birdman” (2014), “Moonlight” (2016), and “The Shape of Water” (2017) stood out. American race issues were explored on the big screen with Best Picture winners “12 Years a Slave” (2013) and “Green Book” (2018).
Digital Roaring 20s: Streaming-Age Oscars
As the 2010s end and the 2020s begin, Hollywood welcomes the streaming age … whether they like it or not. It’s a fun and efficient way to binge your favorite shows, but watching an epic film like “1917” on your iPad while in bed doesn’t have the same emotional impact as watching it on the big screen in a darkened theater.
Cinema might be a dying art form, but in the streaming era, films of all sizes and eras are readily accessible to a global audience at the swipe of a button, especially indie films and documentaries.
2020 Oscars: Best Picture Nominees
Ford v Ferrari
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Nine films earned a nod this year, including Korean film “Parasite” by Bong Joon-Ho. Legendary directors like Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino also have ponies in the Best Picture race this year.
Sam Mendes won an Oscar for “American Beauty” nearly 20 years ago. His World War I film, “1917,” has the chance to win Best Picture this year, and Mendes has a shot at his second directing Oscar.
Before you finish your Oscars pool or place a wager on the Oscars, take a look at OG’s special 2020 Oscars Betting page that’s dedicated to Tips and Stats.
We compiled a complete list of 2020 Oscars nominations. We also have odds updates for Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Film, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Original and Adapted Screenplay.