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: Purple Rain, Best Song Score, 1985

  • Oscar winners: Black Narcissus, Best Cinematography, 1948

  • Oscar winners: Chinatown, Best Original Screenplay, 1975

  • Oscar winners: The Red Shoes, Best Art Direction, 1949

  • Oscar winners: Joan Crawford, Best Actress, 1946, Mildred Pierce

  • Oscar winners: Jaws, Best Original Score, 1976

  • Oscar winners: Walter Huston, Best Supporting Actor, 1949, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

  • Oscar winners: "Over the Rainbow," Best Song, 1940, The Wizard of Oz

  • Oscar winners: Casablanca, Best Picture, 1944

  • Oscar winners: An American Werewolf in London, Best Makeup, 1982

Oscar winners: Purple Rain, Best Song Score, 1985

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Oscar winners: Purple Rain, Best Song Score, 1985

Purple Rain, Best Song Score, 1985

The image of Academy voters getting down to Prince's "Darling Nikki" is a strange one indeed. But it only demonstrates the influence of the High Priest of Pop, whose inimitable music and mesmerizing performance style made us feel like we were glimpsing the future.—Keith Uhlich

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Oscar winners: Black Narcissus, Best Cinematography, 1948

Black Narcissus, Best Cinematography, 1948

In Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's classic, a group of British nuns set up shop in a windy Himalayan palace; Jack Cardiff's searing Technicolor imagery helps to project their torments of the flesh. It's cinematography as psychology—particularly inspiring to next-gen American filmmakers like Martin Scorsese.—Keith Uhlich

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Oscar winners: Chinatown, Best Original Screenplay, 1975

Chinatown, Best Original Screenplay, 1975

If we wanted to pinpoint the apex of Hollywood's 1970s ambition, it would be Robert Towne's dazzling script for this neonoir, still a model for aspiring writers. Diving deep into the actual history of Los Angeles's land grabs, Towne also supplied romance, nostalgia and Jack Nicholson's finest hour.—Joshua Rothkopf

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Oscar winners: The Red Shoes, Best Art Direction, 1949

The Red Shoes, Best Art Direction, 1949

If the recent restoration of this ballet classic proves nothing else, it's that the movie's dynamic art-direction duo—Hein Heckroth and Arthur Lawson—knew how to use vivid color and creative sets for maximum impact. Look at that cobbler's shop! The velvet green interior of that coach! Those titular pieces of footwear!—David Fear

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16
Oscar winners: Joan Crawford, Best Actress, 1946, Mildred Pierce

Joan Crawford, Best Actress, 1946, Mildred Pierce

Already a box-office draw for a decade, Crawford lunged into a screen test for director Michael Curtiz, who initially wanted nothing to do with her. Out of that audition, Crawford seized melodrama's finest role, one that greatly expanded the psychological range expected of actors.—Joshua Rothkopf

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Oscar winners: Jaws, Best Original Score, 1976

Jaws, Best Original Score, 1976

How do you convince audiences that a mechanical shark is the real, man-eating deal? Get John Williams to compose an iconic theme that makes the omnipresent threat more frightening than the attack itself. Betcha can't step into the ocean without looking for a fin on the horizon.—Keith Uhlich

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Oscar winners: Walter Huston, Best Supporting Actor, 1949, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Walter Huston, Best Supporting Actor, 1949, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Talk about a great Father's Day present: John Huston, wunderkind director of The Maltese Falcon, decided to cast his legendary dad as a grubby prospector in this 1948 thriller. Out of their collaboration came Oscar gold for Pops (as well as Best Director and Best Screenplay wins for Sonny).—Joshua Rothkopf

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13
Oscar winners: "Over the Rainbow," Best Song, 1940, The Wizard of Oz

"Over the Rainbow," Best Song, 1940, The Wizard of Oz

She sings wistfully, staring off toward an unseen horizon. Her dog looks too. And in less than three minutes of screen time, the whole of adolescent dreaminess is delivered to your wet eyes. Judy Garland never eclipsed this song performance, nor would she have to—it's the definition of a magic spell.—Joshua Rothkopf

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12
Oscar winners: Casablanca, Best Picture, 1944

Casablanca, Best Picture, 1944

This ode to resistance and romance is a great example of what the studio system could accomplish at full mast: peerless dialogue ("Round up the usual suspects"), perfectly cast character actors and a movie-star pairing that made you believe the problems of two people did amount to a hill of beans.—David Fear

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11
Oscar winners: An American Werewolf in London, Best Makeup, 1982

An American Werewolf in London, Best Makeup, 1982

No computer effects here, geeklings: Rick Baker's wizardly application of sprouting hair, lengthening paws and chomping jaws on actor David Naughton is the key accomplishment of the latex-happy field of monster making (a sadly shrinking one). The entire Best Makeup Oscar category was created to honor this film.—Joshua Rothkopf

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