Oscar Best Picture winner from the year you were born
The Academy Awards turn 92 this year, making the show just three years older than Clint Eastwood (if you can believe it). Like Eastwood, the prestigious awards ceremony has seen it all by now. Over decades, the Oscar has been handed out to an X-rated movie (“Midnight Cowboy”), three actors who didn’t speak a word throughout their respective films, and once to a man actually named Oscar (Hammerstein II, that is). Oh, and did we mention the time a naked man ran across the stage flashing a peace sign?
This year’s ceremony should be a memorable one. We’re predicting a healthy amount of jokes around Hollywood scandals and more than a few political jabs. Meanwhile, the Best Picture Award is completely up in the air. Will Martin Scorsese’s Netflix release “The Irishman” walk away with best in the show? Or will a movie like Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” or Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” pull off a surprise upset? There's only one true way to find out...
Odds are, you weren’t watching the Oscars the year you were born. And if you were, there’s a pretty solid chance you don’t remember it. Hence, you might be curious what film took home the top prize—Best Picture—that same year. Well, Stacker’s here to satiate your curiosity. We’ve compiled the list of Best Picture winners going all the way back to the first ceremony. Call it a trip down memory lane and a great way to catch up on some bona fide classics at the same time. Also, please be aware that the date listed for each entry is the year the film was released, meaning the movie wasn’t actually awarded Best Picture until the following year (or in some early instances, the year after that).
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Among the few successful actresses to transition from silent films to “talkies” was screen legend Clara Bow, who was still giving viewers the silent treatment in Wings, the first Best Picture Winner of all time. In the film, two WWI fighter pilots from different economic backgrounds square off over the same girl. One must imagine those pilots had more important things to worry about.
1929: The Broadway Melody
In "The Broadway Melody," two vaudevillian performers (who also are sisters) head off to Broadway in pursuit of acting dreams, only to get waysided by romantic endeavors. This film was the first with sound to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, though a silent version was also released for all the movie theaters not yet equipped for audio.
1930: All Quiet on the Western Front
Here’s a film so violent it could make Tarantino blush. Indeed, "All Quiet on the Western Front" is a harrowing portrayal of WWI atrocity, as seen through the eyes of German soldiers. The movie was so controversial in Germany during the ’30s that resentful Nazis would routinely attack theaters using stink bombs and rats. As such, the film wasn’t properly screened in Germany until 1956.
A newspaper editor and his wife move to an Oklahoma boom town toward the end of the 19th century in 1931’s "Cimarron." Among the film’s more notable scenes is a massive land rush, which required 5,000 extras, 28 cameramen, 6 still photographers, and 27 camera assistants.
1932: Grand Hotel
According to at least one guest at Berlin’s luxurious Grand Hotel, “Nothing ever happens...” However, this film of the same name would kindly disagree. The 1932 Best Picture winner features all sorts of romance and drama between the various people staying at the prestigious hotel. Starring big names like John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, and Greta Garbo, the movie was a hot seller right out of the gate, so much so that theaters charged a whopping $1.50 per ticket for the road-show, an exorbitant amount back then.
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The decades-long story of two parallel families—one upper class and one working class—takes center stage in Frank Lloyd’s "Cavalcade." It’s all set against a backdrop of unforgettable events like World War I and the sinking of the Titanic. In fact, the film’s initial release date purposefully coincided with the 21st anniversary of the Titanic’s fateful journey.
1934: It Happened One Night
Filmmaker Frank Capra deftly helmed "It Happened One Night," about a spoiled heiress who runs away from her family, falling in with an undercover newspaper reporter in search of a hot story. After they completed filming, actress Claudette Colbert told a friend she’d just finished working on "the worst picture I’ve ever made." That very same picture would sweep all five main categories at the Academy Awards.
1935: Mutiny on the Bounty
It’s crew vs. captain on the HMS Bounty in 1935’s "Mutiny on the Bounty." One crew member refuses to partake in the uprising, but that doesn’t prevent him from being singled out and therefore forced to defend himself. The movie features no less than three unforgettable performances, making it the first and only film to receive three Best Actor nominations at the Oscars, winning none of them.
1936: The Great Ziegfeld
Released in 1936, "The Great Ziegfeld" chronicles the extravagant saga of its titular character, Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., who amassed and lost vast fortunes as the producer of epic stage revues. This was the first biopic to take home the Academy Award for Best Picture.
1937: The Life of Emile Zola
Fresh on the heels of "The Great Ziegfeld" came "The Life of Emile Zola," i.e. the second biopic to win Best Picture. It tells the story of an outspoken French writer who puts everything on the line to defend a falsely accused military captain. This was also the first film to receive 10 Academy Award nominations.
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