Oscar: Foreign-Language Winning Films, 1947-Present

Officially, the category of the best foreign-language film Oscar was established in 1956.









Fellini’s masterpiece, La Strada, was the first legit winner in 1956, which helped established the Italian maestro as one of the world’s most important directors.

Prior to the creation of a separate, legitimate category, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) recognized several foreign films with an Honorary Oscar, beginning with Vittorio De Sica’s neo-realistic movie “Shoeshine,” in 1947.

Academy leader and board member Jean Hersholt held that “an international award, if properly and carefully administered, would promote a closer relationship between American film craftsmen and those of other countries.”

The citation for De Sica’s Shoeshine read: “The high quality of this motion picture, brought to eloquent life in a country scarred by war, is proof to the world that the creative spirit can triumph over adversity.”

The following pictures were singled out for Special Award before the foreign-language category was created as an annual competitive category:

1947                 Shoeshine (Italy)

1948                 Monsieur Vincent (France)

1949                 The Bicycle Thief (Italy)

1950                 The Walls of Malapaga (France-Italy)

1951                 Rashomon (Japan)

1952                 Forbidden Games (France)

1953                 No citation

1954                 Gate of Hell (Japan)

1955                 Samurai, the Legend of Musashi (Japan)


Most o of the honored films had received theatrical distribution in the U.S. and came from established national cinemas, such as the French, the Italian and the Japanese. Some of them were nominated for and won Oscars in other fields, such as costume design for the Japanese film, Gate of Hell.

More importantly, all the movies singled out by the Academy were directed by big-name filmmakers, such as Italian Vittorio De Sica (“Shoeshine” and “The Bicycle Thief”), Japanese Akira Kurosawa (“Rashomon”), fellow-Japanese Teinosuke Kinugasa (“Gate of Hell”), and French director Rene Clement (“Forbidden Games”).