HomeUncategorizedOscar Best Picture Winners, Ranked From Worst to Best

Oscar Best Picture Winners, Ranked From Worst to Best

Wondering where you can watch the below films? Here’s our complete streaming guide to the Oscar Best Picture Winners. This list has been updated to include the Best Picture winner of 2022.

The Academy Awards, as film historian David Thompson once explained for Vanity Fair, may have evolved out of studio head Louis B. Mayer’s desire to distract his employees from any potential interest in unionization. Yet since those first awards were handed out in 1929, they’ve become an industry obsession, around which the entire annual cycle of film releases is now oriented, with that illustrious goal of Oscar being the most meaningful scorecard for which studios and filmmakers alike can strive.

This makes it fascinating to dig into the 90-plus year history of the awards, and remember that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has made some weird-ass choices since Wings won the award for “Outstanding Picture.” Every year, up until today, has been packed with drama over who was nominated, who wasn’t, and who ultimately won; every film fan has strong opinions about years when the best films went under-appreciated. (Funnily enough, we don’t talk all that much about the years when Oscar did get it right — there’s something about human nature that makes us so much more prone to engage with outrage.)

On some level, Oscar-watching is a sport, a game to be played; there’s an entire industry built around attempting to optimize each year’s contenders for a win. It’s a whole epic drama in its own right, one with real stakes: No matter what the ceremony’s origins might have been, today winning the Oscar for Best Picture means a film has that much more of a chance at the everlasting life which Elinor St. John (Jean Smart) describes to movie star Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt) in 2022’s Babylon: “A child born in 50 years will stumble across your image flickering on a screen and feel he knows you like a friend, though you breathed your last before he breathed his first.”

It’s a funny kind of immortality, winning an award declaring you to be the best movie of that year. But it’s more than most of us mortal humans will ever achieve.

— Liz Shannon Miller
Senior Entertainment Editor

97. Crash (2005)

Oscar Best Picture Winners Ranked

Crash (Lionsgate)

Even if Crash hadn’t stood in the way of Ang Lee’s masterful Brokeback Mountain winning the trophy it deserved, it’d still take the bottom slot of this list. Nothing about Crash has aged well: Leaving out writer/director Paul Haggis’s recent legal issues (including a civil court ruling that he sexually assaulted a woman in 2013), it remains a clunky, over-the-top, and tone-deaf attempt to make white Oscar voters feel less bad about racism.

Its sprawling narrative contains many reasons to eye-roll, with perhaps the most egregious being Matt Dillon’s racist cop sexually assaulting a woman (Thandiwe Newton) during a traffic stop — but it’s all okay, because later said cop risks his life to pull her out of a burning car. Crash remains an infuriating win… But on the plus side, we didn’t struggle to figure out what should take the bottom spot on this list. — L.S. Miller

96. The Broadway Melody (1931)

Oscar Best Picture Winners Ranked

The Broadway Melody (MGM)

The competition wasn’t astounding at the second Academy Awards, as the industry struggled to adapt to a new era of synchronized sound. Thus, a film like The Broadway Melody — a sound-packed melodrama about two sisters who dream of an acting career, torn apart by their mutual love for a cad of a songwriter — managed to stand out against the other nominees. But it’s a thin film, and the romance isn’t very convincing. In retrospect maybe some of the other nominated films, like the clever thriller Alibi or the subtextually queer Western In Old Arizona, had more going for them. (Then again, maybe not. It really wasn’t a great year.) — William Bibbiani

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