best picture

Forgotten Best Pictures: 6 Oscar-Winning Films You’ve Never Heard Of

How many films can you name that won the Academy Award for Best Picture? Probably quite a few, if you think hard enough, but could you name most of them? Or even half of them?

Among the ninety films that won the Best Picture Oscar, many have been forgotten by modern movie audiences, even if being the toast of Hollywood for one glorious night, or even several years after before fading from cultural memory. Here’s just a few:

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

Directed by F.W. Murnau, this movie won Best Unique and Artistic Picture at the first ever Academy Awards in 1929 (Wings won for Outstanding Picture; both categories were replaced by the modern Best Picture category.) It also helped Janet Gaynor, who later played the lead in A Star is Born (1937), win the first ever Best Actress Oscar. If you’re curious to see cinema history, the film is available to watch on YouTube in its entirety.

Cimarron (1931)

Starring Academy Award-nominees Richard Dix and Irene Dunne, this pre-code western was RKO studios most expensive project up to that date. In addition to Best Picture, the film took home two more Oscars: Best Adapted Screenplay (for Howard Estabrook who later adapted David Copperfield in 1935) and Best Art Direction (for Max Rée who later worked on John Ford’s Stagecoach.)

Grand Hotel (1932)

Adapted from a Broadway play by by William A. Drake, this lavish romantic drama was Hollywood’s biggest film of the year and one of the first production to bring together an ensemble of several A-list actors — in this case, Greta Garbo, Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore, and Joan Crawford! It was remade twice in the first two decades after its release, and screenwriting juggernaut William Goldman tried unsuccessfully to adapt it in the 1970s. To date, it is the only film to have won the Academy Award for Best Picture without being nominated in any other category.

Cavalcade (1934)

In addition to Best Picture, Cavalcade won Best Director for Frank Lloyd and Best Art Direction for William S. Darling at the Academy Awards. Diana Wynyard was nominated for Best Actress but lost out to up-and-coming star Katherine Hepburn. The epic drama depicted the life and times of English citizens in the first quarter of the 20th century as the world transitioned into a more modern society. In 2002, Cavalcade was preserved by the Academy Film Archive.

The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

The second biopic to win Best Picture was The Life of Emile Zola, the 19th-century French novelist who penned J’Accuse in response to the imprisonment of Captain Alfred Dreyfus. The film received ten Academy Award nominations, winning Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor for Joseph Schildkraut, who portrayed Dreyfus. The lead role of Zola was played by Paul Muni, who had already won the Oscar for playing Louis Pasteur a year prior.

The Lost Weekend (1945)

The Lost Weekend is probably not the first film that comes to mind when people think of Hollywood legend Billy Wilder. Nonetheless, the film was nominated for seven Oscars and won four: Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director and Best Screenplay for Wilder, who shared the latter with co-writer Charles Brackett. These were the first two Academy Awards Wilder won, but not his last. The film noir also shared the Grand Prix at the first Cannes Film Festival.

2019 Academy Awards: The Best Picture Nominees

2019 Best Picture nominees
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced the nominees for the 91st annual Academy Awards, to be given out during ABC’s televised ceremony on Sunday, February 24. The Oscars will cap off a months-long awards season featuring industry veterans, newcomers, and as always, endless debates about who deserves to go home with the golden statue.

The final award of the night, Best Motion Picture of the Year, is handed out to the eligible producers of the film. Since 2009, the number of nominations has increased from five to a maximum of ten, based on a more complicated voting system that uses a modified preferential ranking process.

New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a closer look at this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Picture:

Black Panther

Black Panther is the first superhero film to receive a Best Picture nomination and is notable for its themes of race and diverse cast and role models for children of color used to typically seeing white male heroes in Hollywood blockbusters. It was directed and co-written by Ryan Coogler, while the sole producer eligible for the Best Picture Oscar is Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios and mastermind of the groundbreaking Marvel Cinematic Universe. Black Panther is up for seven Academy Awards total.

BlacKkKlansman

BlacKkKlansman is the latest film from Spike Lee and earned him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Directing. Based on true events, the film tells the story of an African American detective who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. Lee is also one of the five producers eligible for the Best Picture Oscar, including Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Raymond Mansfield, and Jordan Peele, who won a Best Screenplay Oscar last year for 2018 Best Picture nominee Get Out. BlacKkKlansman is up for six Academy Awards total.

Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody is the latest Hollywood musical biopic to gain a groundswell of awards season buzz, focusing on legendary rock group Queen, with Rami Malek giving an Oscar-nominated turn as iconic frontman Freddie Mercury. The sole producer eligible for Best Picture is Graham King, who previously won the award for Martin Scorsese’s 2006 film, The Departed, and was nominated in the category for two additional Scorsese films, Hugo and The Aviator. Bohemian Rhapsody is up for five Academy Awards total.

The Favourite

The Favourite is the latest critically-acclaimed art house film from Greek writer and director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer). The period dramedy depicts the rivalry between two cousins vying for the favor of 18th century British Queen Anne. Lanthimos is one of four producers eligible for the Academy Award, along with Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, and Lee Magiday. This is the first Oscar nomination for Dempsey and Magiday, while Guiney was previously nominated in the category for Room in 2015. The Favourite is up for ten Academy Awards total.

Green Book

Green Book is a dramedy set in the 1950s Deep South, based on a real life concert tour of African American pianist Don Shirley and his white driver and bodyguard, Tony Vallelonga. Five producers are eligible in the category, including director and co-writer Peter Farrelly, who made a name with his brother for slapstick comedies like Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary. He shares the nomination with Jim Burke, Charles B. Wessler, Brian Hayes Currie, and Vallelonga’s son, Nick Vallelonga, who is also co-nominated for Best Original Screenplay. Green Book is up for five Academy Awards total.

Roma

Roma is a deeply personal, semi-autobiographical film by Alfonso Cuarón set in Mexico City in the early 1970s and shot beautifully in black-and-white. In addition to sharing the Best Picture nomination with Gabriela Rodriguez, Cuarón also wrote, shot, and directed the film, for which he received additional Oscar nods. This is the first nomination for Rodriguez, and the first nomination in the category ever for a Latinx woman. Along with the The Favourite, Roma has the most Academy Award nominations this year, with a total of ten.

A Star is Born

A Star is Born is the third remake of the original 1937 film, updated by director and star Bradley Cooper after years of development hell with several filmmakers attached. Cooper shares the Best Picture nod with Bill Gerber and Lynette Howell Taylor. This is Cooper’s second nomination in the category (the first was for American Sniper) and seventh overall; it’s the first nomination for both Gerber and Taylor. A Star is Born is up for eight Academy Awards total.

Vice

Vice is a dramedy biopic of former Vice President Dick Cheney, starring Christian Bale in heavy, lifelike prosthetics. The film is writer and director Adam McKay’s follow-up to The Big Short, which similarly took a quasi-comedic look at the lead-up to the 2008 Great Recession, and which earned him an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. McKay is eligible for Best Picture along with Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, and Kevin J. Messick. Gardner has been nominated for Best Picture six times in the last seven years, winning twice, for 12 Years a Slave and Moonlight; Kleiner has been nominated five times, sharing both Oscars with Gardner. This is the first nomination for Messick. Vice is up for eight Academy Awards total.

Check out the New York Film Academy Blog after this year’s ceremony for a full list of the 2019 Oscar winners and losers!

What Are Best Picture Winning Producers Working on Now?

In the field of producing, the highest honor Hollywood can bestow is the Academy Award for Best Picture. When the final Oscar of the night is given out, it isn’t to the director or the writer of the nominated film—it’s to the primary producers. With the added prestige of the golden statue, producers have a little more clout when it comes to their future projects. Here’s what some of the most recent Best Picture winning producers are currently working on.

1. 12 Years a Slave

Last year’s Best Picture winner was the gripping true-life drama 12 Years a Slave. Director Steve McQueen co-produced the film, and is following up his win with Codes of Conduct—an HBO pilot he’s also writing—starring an unknown actor as a young black man making his way through Manhattan’s wealthy elite.

Brad Pitt, whose Plan B Entertainment produced the film, also picked up an Oscar for his effort, and is currently working on a Lewis & Clark miniseries, as well as a sequel to World War Z. His newest film as a producer, the Martin Luther King, Jr. drama Selma, comes out this Christmas.

2. Argo

Argo picked up Best Picture Oscars for George Clooney and Grant Heslov, who have been producing together since their first film, Good Night, and Good Luck. Their production company, Smokehouse Pictures, has two films currently in the pipeline—Our Brand is Crisis, a David Gordon Green directed adaptation of a documentary about political campaigns in South America starring Sandra Bullock, and Money Monster, a thriller with Clooney attached as the lead and Jodie Foster as its director.

Director Ben Affleck also produced the film, and is working on Live By Night, a prohibition era organized crime drama he plans to write, direct, and star in as well. He also took a break from producing to film Batman v. Superman as the titular Dark Knight.

3. The Artist

Thomas Langmann was the sole winning producer of the black and white silent Best Picture, The Artist. His next production is One Wild Moment, a French remake of a 1970s drama, starring Vincent Cassel.

4. The King’s Speech

Iain Canning and Emile Sherman, producing partners of The King’s Speech, are hoping to strike gold again with famous characters from the past. Their next films will be a new version of Macbeth with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard as the Shakespearean couple, and Mr. Holmes, starring Ian McKellen as an elderly, retired Sherlock Holmes. They’re also hedging their bets with a real life legend, producing Life, a period film starring Dale DeHaan as James Dean.

5. The Hurt Locker

Mark Boal was famously banned from the ceremony where he won his Best Picture Oscar for breaking campaigning rules. His next project is a film adaptation of the wildly popular adventure video game, Uncharted.

Nicolas Chartier, one of The Hurt Locker’s other winners, is producing A Tale of Love and Darkness, Natalie Portman’s directorial debut. Co-producer Greg Shapiro’s next project is Child 44, an adaptation of the best-selling crime novel with an all-star cast and blockbuster potential.

6. Slumdog Millionaire

Christian Colson is hoping to following up his Best Picture win with another prestige picture—a biopic of Steve Jobs. His chances are good, considering Slumdog director Danny Boyle is helming the film with a script by Aaron Sorkin and with Michael Fassbender currently set to star as the Apple founder.

7. No Country for Old Men

Superproducer Scott Rudin picked up an Oscar for No Country for Old Men and has two huge projects very loosely in the works. One is Sinatra, Martin Scorsese’s long-gestating Frank Sinatra biopic. The other is a film adaptation of smash hit musical The Book of Mormon.

No Country’s directors, the Coen Brothers, are producing their next film—Hail, Caesar!—which in itself sounds like a parody of a Coen Brothers movie: a period film about the studio system in the Golden Age of Hollywood.

8. The Departed

Graham King, who won his award for Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, is going in an entirely different route with his next project. The Fifth Wave, his current production, is an epic alien invasion science fiction film starring Chloe Grace Moretz. He’s also got a potential reboot of video game adaptation Tomb Raider in the works.

9. Crash

Crash co-producer Cathy Schulman has another potential hit currently in production. Dark Places is a thriller adapted from a novel by Gillian Flynn, who made waves this year with her screenplay adaptation of another of her novels—Gone Girl.

10. Million Dollar Baby

Albert S. Ruddy won his Best Picture Oscar over a decade ago, but he is still a busy producer. His current project is The Vatican Tapes, an exorcist horror film, and American Pastoral, a drama with a stellar cast including Dakota Fanning, Ewan McGregor and Jennifer Connolly.

Million Dollar Baby’s director, Clint Eastwood, also picked up an award for producing. The latest film with Eastwood as a producer is the hotly anticipated American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper. We won’t have to wait long for this memoir of a Navy SEAL—American Sniper comes out this Christmas.