The 50 most-deserving Oscar winners of all time

Movies, actors, directors, soundtracks: one list to rule them all.

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  • Oscar winners: The Exorcist, Best Sound, 1974

  • Oscar winners: Martin Scorsese, Best Director, 2007, The Departed

  • Oscar winners: "Theme from Shaft," Best Song, 1972, Shaft

  • Oscar winners: Wuthering Heights, Best Cinematography, 1940

  • Oscar winners: Batman, Best Art Direction, 1990

  • Oscar winners: Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Best Visual Effects, 1989

  • Oscar winners: Robert De Niro, Best Actor, 1981, Raging Bull

  • Oscar winners: Sunset Blvd., Best Story and Screenplay, 1951

  • Oscar winners: Apocalypse Now, Best Sound, 1980

  • Oscar winners: La Strada, Best Foreign Language Film, 1957

Oscar winners: The Exorcist, Best Sound, 1974

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Oscar winners: The Exorcist, Best Sound, 1974

The Exorcist, Best Sound, 1974

The creativity that went into this picture is scary: First came the vocal talents of sprightly Mercedes McCambridge as the voice of the demon—treated, slowed, reversed. Then came Gonzalo Gavira, the recordist behind the trippy El Topo, who utilized mushy eggs and a plucked comb to create the sounds of head-spinning terror.—Joshua Rothkopf

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Oscar winners: Martin Scorsese, Best Director, 2007, The Departed

Martin Scorsese, Best Director, 2007, The Departed

The collective sigh heard around the globe was deafening: Finally. And while Scorsese's most devoted fans could cite several other instances (Taxi Driver, The Last Temptation of Christ, etc.) when the director's leadership was more revolutionary, this effort was astonishing, a punchy return to form.—Joshua Rothkopf

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28
Oscar winners: "Theme from Shaft," Best Song, 1972, Shaft

"Theme from Shaft," Best Song, 1972, Shaft

You can thank Isaac Hayes and his funky, wah-chicka-wah "Theme from Shaft" for breaking the stranglehold that Broadway-style show tunes and Tin Pan Alley standards had on the category. Suddenly, rock and soul had a real shot. And Hayes's sexy basso profundo purr makes this song one bad mutha...(shut your mouth)!—David Fear

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27
Oscar winners: Wuthering Heights, Best Cinematography, 1940

Wuthering Heights, Best Cinematography, 1940

Gregg Toland had already been experimenting with deep-focus cinematography prior to this, but his adaptation of Emily Bront's classic novel is where he starts to put some of those theories into practice. It's a trick of the light that he'd soon refine in a modest little movie called Citizen Kane.—David Fear

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Oscar winners: Batman, Best Art Direction, 1990

Batman, Best Art Direction, 1990

Here is a Gotham City to haunt you: Its towering spires, rain-slicked streets and smoky back alleys are clearly sprung from a feverish mind (and a tortured one: Anton Furst committed suicide two years after the film's release). The gloomy yet vital aesthetic proved influential for years to come.—Keith Uhlich

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25
Oscar winners: Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Best Visual Effects, 1989

Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Best Visual Effects, 1989

All the Na'vis of today can be traced back to a manic, bow-tie-wearing bunny trading wisecracks with Bob Hoskins. Cartoon characters and human beings interact so convincingly in Roger Rabbit that the Academy had to take notice, in turn spurring a rekindled interest in old-school animation.—Keith Uhlich

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24
Oscar winners: Robert De Niro, Best Actor, 1981, Raging Bull

Robert De Niro, Best Actor, 1981, Raging Bull

De Niro himself was the prime mover on the project, intrigued by the animalistic nature of boxer Jake LaMotta. Martin Scorsese declined at first, but eventually came around to the idea, reinvigorated. His collaborator was prepared: De Niro gained more than 60 pounds and turned in the Method performance of a lifetime.—Joshua Rothkopf

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23
Oscar winners: Sunset Blvd., Best Story and Screenplay, 1951

Sunset Blvd., Best Story and Screenplay, 1951

Let's give a loving, Norma Desmond--worthy close-up to the script of the ultimate Hollywood metamovie. We laugh at the faded starlet's declaration, "I am big. It's the pictures that got small." But her rejection still cuts deep. There'd be no Mulholland Drive without Billy Wilder & Co.'s acid example.—Keith Uhlich

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22
Oscar winners: Apocalypse Now, Best Sound, 1980

Apocalypse Now, Best Sound, 1980

From the helicopter chop of a ceiling fan to the enveloping mayhem of an attack on a Vietnamese village, Walter Murch's revolutionary use of layered, ambient noise changed the way movies could speak. Because of Murch and his crew, what you heard suddenly became as important as what you saw.—David Fear

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21
Oscar winners: La Strada, Best Foreign Language Film, 1957

La Strada, Best Foreign Language Film, 1957

The Academy inaugurated its official (as opposed to merely honorary) foreign-film award with one of vintage Italian cinema's best. Federico Fellini's circus-performer tragedy helped turn on countless Americans to the joys of reading subtitles, and significantly broadened the domestic audience for non-English-language movies. Molto grazie, Oscars.—David Fear

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