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Top 20 Favourite Best Picture Winners

I love making lists of stuff. Films, TV shows, books, songs... anything. So, in anticipation to the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony, I thought it would be fun to make a list of my favourite Best Picture winners. I did a similar thing back in 2017, but I've watched a few more winnings films since then, so this is an updated version of my top 20 favourite Best Picture winners. Please bear in mind that I haven't seen every single film that has won Best Picture, so my choices are based on the ones that I have in fact seen so far.

20. Rain Man (1988)

Directed by Barry Levinson, Rain Man is the story of a selfish young wheeler-dealer named Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise), who discovers that his estranged father has died and bequeathed all of his multimillion dollar estate to his other son, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), an autistic savant, of whose existence Charlie was completely unaware. 

Besides winning for Best Picture, Rain Man also received Oscars for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Hoffman.


19. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Directed by Robert Benton, Kramer vs. Kramer tells the story of a couple's divorce and its impact on their young son. The film stars Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep and Justin Henry.

Kramer vs. Kramer also won Oscars for Best Director, Best Actor for Hoffman, Best Supporting Actress for Streep and Best Adapted Screenplay.


18. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

Directed by Miloš Forman, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest stars Jack Nicholson as Randle McMurphy, who is sentenced to prison for assault and statutory rape of a 15-year-old girl. He pleads insanity and is sent to a mental institution, where he rebels against the oppressive Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) and rallies up the scared patients.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest also received Oscars for Best Director, Best Actor for Nicholson, Best Actress for Fletcher and Best Adapted Screenplay.


17. Casablanca (1942)

Directed by Michael Curtiz, Casablanca follows an American expatriate who must choose between his love for a woman and helping her and her husband, a Czech Resistance leader, escape to neutral Portugal to continue his fight against the Germans. The films stars Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid and Claude Rains.

Besides Best Picture, Casablanca also won Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

16. The Godfather Part II (1974)

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather Part II presents two parallels narratives: the story of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), the new Don of the Corleone family, protecting the family business after an attempt on his life; and the journey of his father, Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro), from his childhood in Sicily to the founding of his family enterprise in New York City.

The Godfather Part II also won Oscars for Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for De Niro, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction and Best Original Dramatic Score.

15. The English Patient (1996)

Directed by Anthony Minghella, The English Patient is set in the last months of World War II, as a young French-Canadian nurse (Juliette Binoche) cares for a badly-burned plane crash victim (Ralph Fiennes) in an abandoned villa in northern Italy. The man narrates his story through a series of flashbacks, revealing his true identity and his passionate love affair with a married woman (Kristin Scott Thomas) just before the war broke out.

The English Patient also won Oscars for Best Director, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Binoche, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Original Dramatic Score and Best Sound.

14. Marty (1955)

Directed by Delbert Mann, Marty tells the story of a 34-year-old socially awkward butcher from the Bronx. He has reluctantly resigned himself to bachelorhood, until he meets and falls in love with a lonely chemistry teacher. The films stars Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair.

Besides winning Best Picture, Marty also won Oscars for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor for Borgnine.

13. Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Directed by John Schlesinger, Midnight Cowboy tells the story of a naïve sex worker (John Voight) who moves from Texas to New York City to seek personal fortune and ends up forming an unlikely friendship with an ailing con man with a limp (Dustin Hoffman).

Midnight Cowboy also won Oscars for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

12. Rocky (1976)

Directed by John G. Avildsen, Rocky follows a small-time boxer from the slums of Philadelphia who gets the chance to fight a heavyweight champion. The film stars Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Burgess Meredith and Carl Weathers.

Besides Best Picture, Rocky also received Oscars for Best Director and Best Film Editing.

11. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Directed by Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King continues the plot of its predecessor, showing Frodo and Sam making their final way to Mordor to destroy the One Ring, while Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and the rest are joining forces together in the fight against Sauron. The film features a large ensemble, which includes Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom and Sean Astin.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won all eleven Oscars for which it was nominated. It holds the record for the highest clean sweep at the Academy Awards.


Directed by William Wyler, The Best Years of Our Lives follows three American servicemen as they try to adjust back to civilian life after coming back home after World War II. The film stars Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Harold Russell, Myrna Loy and Teresa Wright.

The Best Years of Our Lives also won Oscars for Best Director, Best Actor for March, Best Supporting Actor for Russell, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture. In addition, it received two honorary Oscars.

9. Green Book (2018)

Directed by Peter Farrelly, Green Book is based on the real-life friendship of African-American pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and his Italian-American driver and bodyguard, Frank «Tony Lip» Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), as they go on a tour of the Deep South in 1962.

Besides winning for Best Picture, Green Book also received Oscars for Best Original Screenplay or Best Supporting Actor for Ali.

8. Parasite (2019)

Directed by Bong Joon-ho, Parasite tells the story of four members of a destitute family from the slums of Seoul who scheme to become employed by a wealthy family and infiltrate their household by posing as unrelated, highly-qualified individuals. The film stars Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik and Park So-dam.

In addition to Best Picture, Parasite won Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film.

7. The Last Emperor (1987)

Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, The Last Emperor is based on the life of Puyi, the last Emperor of China, from his ascent to the throne as a child in 1908 to his imprisonment and political rehabilitation by the Communist Party of China in the 1950s. The film stars John Lone, Joan Chen, Peter O'Toole and Ying Ruocheng.

The Last Emperor won all nine Academy Awards for which it was nominated, including not only Best Picture, but also Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

6. Titanic (1997)

Directed by James Cameron, Titanic stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as young members of two very different social classes who meet and fall in love abroad the HMS Titanic during her ill-fated maiden voyage in April 1912.

Titanic won 11 Academy Awards. Besides Best Picture, these included Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Original Song.

5. Schindler's List (1993)

Directed By Steven Spielberg, Schindler's List tells the story of Oskar Schindler's (Liam Neeson), a German industrialist who, together with his wife (Caroline Goodall) and his accountant (Ben Kingsley), saved over one thousand Polish-Jewish refugees from the Holocaust by employing them in his factories during World War.

Schindler's List also won Oscars for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction.

4. Ordinary People (1980)

Directed by Robert Redford, Ordinary People follows the disintegration of an upper-middle class family following the accidental death of one of their two sons and the attempted suicide of the other. The film stars Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore and Timothy Hutton.

Ordinary People also received Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Hutton.

3. Forrest Gump (1994)

Directed by Robert Zemeckis, Forrest Gump depicts the life story of the title character, a slow-witted but kind-hearted man from Alabama who witnesses and unwittingly influences some of the most important historical events of the 20th century United States. The film stars Tom Hanks, Sally Field, Robin Wright and Gary Sinise.

Forrest Gump also won Oscar for Best Director, Best Actor for Hanks, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Best Visual Effects.


Directed by Frank Capra, It Happened One Night follows a renegade newspaper reporter (Clark Gable) and a spoiled runaway heiress (Claudette Colbert) who meet on a bus heading for New York, and end up stuck with each other when they are left behind at one of the stops.

It Happened One Night won all five of the Oscars for which it was nominated: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor for Gable and Best Actress for Colbert. It was the first film win the «Big Five» Academy Awards.

1. Dances with Wolves (1990) 

Starring and directed by Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves tells the story of a Union Army lieutenant who travels to the American Frontier to find a remote military post and ends up developing a friendship with a tribe of Lakota Indians.

Dances with Wolves also received Oscars for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography and Best Sound. 

And that's it. These are, as of now, my top 20 favourite Best Picture winners. Dances with Wolves may not be the most obvious choice for number one, but it is genuinely my favourite of all the Best Picture winners I've seen so far. First of all, I was mesmerized by the cinematography and the gorgeous landscapes of South Dakota. Also, everyone in the cast delivered outstanding performances, and Kevin Costner did a wonderful job in the director's chair. The film is three hours long, but I was so enthralled by the story that I forgot I was even watching a film. All in all, Dances with Wolves is a very simple story, but it captivates you from beginning to end.


  1. this is nice. i am making an article about Hollywood (particularly the golden age) to answer questions from my followers in Quora. after browsing through this blog, i think i am going to add the link for this blog so my readers can also browse and find more interesting stuff about the golden days. for this particular list, i have to say thank you for adding Titanic to Top 10. over the years i have seen too many "critics" decided to put it near the bottom or even in lists of "worse Oscar winners"-without proper arguments other than mere dislike or to look cool. looking back at the ceremony, i couldn't think of a more fitting choice for Best Picture of 1998.


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