Oscars: Best Winner of Each Decade, from 1930s to Present

In addition to its win for Best Picture, Everything Everywhere All At Once holds the all-time record for most “above the line” wins in the history of awards, as it won Best Director (The Daniels), Best Actress (Michelle Yeoh), Best Supporting Actress (Jamie Lee Curtis), Best Supporting Actor (Ke Huy Quan), Best Original Screenplay (The Daniels), and Best Editing. It’s not far off from the all-time record for wins either; currently, that honor is tied between Ben-Hur, Titanic, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, each with 11 wins.

It will be interesting to see how Everything Everywhere All At Once is judged as a Best Picture winner in the future. The Oscars have sometimes honored future classics with their top prize, including Casablanca, West Side Story, On the Waterfront, and Silence of the Lambs; there’s also been undeserving films such as Around The World In 80 Days, Cimarron, Crash, and Green Book that have aged poorly following their victories.

Sometimes, films are best remembered not only on their own merits, but for what they took the Best Picture prize away from. How Green Was My Valley will always be the movie that beat Citizen Kane, and The King’s Speech was awarded Best Picture over The Social Network. Nonetheless, some films have genuinely deserved their victories and are worth revisiting and celebrating. Here are the greatest Best Picture winners of every decade.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

While the recent German language adaptation of the same novel was well rewarded by the Academy Awards with four wins, the original All Quiet on the Western Front is still a towering achievement in film history. Its scathing depiction of the perils of trench combat clearly had an impact on later war films such as Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line.

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

The Best Years of Our Lives may have been released only shortly after the end of World War II, but it was unafraid to deal with the controversies of the era and challenge some of the traditional norms about patriotism that had emerged in American society. The film follows three veterans who reunite their friendship after the war, only to find that the world has moved on and they may no longer occupy the same roles they once had.

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Another war film to win the top prize, The Bridge on the River Kwai is another epic production that presented moral dilemmas for its central characters. While David Lean’s epic scope and scale are still impressive to this day, it’s the conflict between Commander Shears (William Holden) and Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson (Sir Alec Guinness) that makes the film so rewatchable.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather: Part II (1974)

The first sequel to ever win Best Picture certainly deserved its place in history. While some would argue that the first The Godfather film, which also won Best Picture, is superior, The Godfather: Part II is for some more dynamic study of the American dream through the parallel storylines featuring Michael Corleon (Al Pacino) and younger version of his father, Vito (Robert De Niro).

Platoon (1986)

Oliver Stone’s Platoon wasn’t the first Hollywood film about the Vietnam War, but it certainly didn’t shy away from showing the loss of humanity that occurred on both sides during the conflict. Stone would continue to make anti-war films that took on the American military, and once again won Best Director three years later for Born on the Fourth Of July.

Schindler’s List (1993)

Cinephiles had been waiting forever to see Steven Spielberg finally win an Academy Award, and he finally took home both Best Picture and Best Director for the moving Holocaust drama Schindler’s List, a heartbreaking film anchored by Liam Neeson’s great performance. 1993 was a great year for Spielberg, as it also saw the release of Jurassic Park, which would become the new highest-grossing film of all-time.

The Departed (2006)

While many filmmakers are awarded “overdue Oscars” for films later in their career, The Departed was worthy way to honor the legacy of Scorsese. Despite being a remake of the Infernal Affairs trilogy, The Departed was an equally riveting thriller between cops and criminals that featured outstanding performances from the ensemble cast, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, and Vera Farmiga.

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Tackling a subject as slavery was an ambitious undertaking for Steven McQueen, who delivered an important and personal story with 12 Years a Slave.

Instead of trying to recount the experiences of the entire horrific practice, McQueen centered his story on the free musician Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofer), who was kidnapped and enslaved for over a decade. Although Ejiofer deserved to take home Best Actor, he sadly lost to Matthew McConaughey for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club.

Nomadland (2020)

It’s early in the decade and some great films will likely be released, but Nomadland stands above Coda and Everything Everywhere All At Once, two films with more broad appeal that perhaps won’t age as well. Chloe Zhao’s gorgeous depiction of an offbeat side of American society is poignant, emotional, and cautiously reserved; Frances McDormand delivered a performance for which she won her third Best Actress Oscar.