Red carpets, best (and worst) dressed lists, big emotions: Few of us are immune to the glamor of the Academy Awards, also known as The Oscars. 2023 marks the 95th anniversary of the world-famous Hollywood event. That means a long list of flicks worth streaming. But which are the best Oscar-winning movies of all time? StudyFinds screened expert “best of” lists to find out.
You may not always agree with the academy’s Oscar pick: People’s movie preferences turn out to be highly individual. “What we find enjoyable in movies is strikingly subjective — so much so that the industry’s targeting of film-goers by broad demographic categories seems off the mark,” says Pascal Wallisch, a clinical assistant professor in New York University’s Department of Psychology.
However, a consensus on the very best movies definitely does exist. Some movies are universally beloved classics that you don’t want to miss out on. One of the few upsides of the pandemic was that the majority of Americans finally had an excuse to watch the classic films they’d always wanted to see but never did, according to a survey.
Are you still catching up on classic films? We have compiled the top expert recommendations. StudyFinds went through ten expert lists to compile our very own top five of the best of the best Oscar-winning movies. Do you agree with the ranking? Please let us know in the comments.
The List: Best Oscar-Winning Movies, According To Cinema Experts
The experts have spoken. Every single list included “Casablanca” among its highest-ranking movies, often in first or second place. “An undisputed masterpiece and perhaps Hollywood’s quintessential statement on love and romance, ‘Casablanca’ has only improved with age, boasting career-defining performances from Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman,” raves Rotten Tomatoes.
“Casablanca’s the great American movie,” claims Total Film. “A brilliant blend of romance, thriller, and war-torn actioner that has two top-of-their-game actors in leading roles. Whatever you want to call it, you can’t deny the watchability of Michael Curtiz’s World War Two adventure, which sees Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman as two lovers who can’t be together.”
And Vulture writes: “You close your eyes and that perfect ending plays out in memory. Every movie is trying to be ‘Casablanca’, in one way or another. But only one was.”
"Casablanca" won the Oscar for "Outstanding Motion Picture" on this day at the 16th Academy Awards held on 2 March 1944. pic.twitter.com/etRnVC6R7t
— Hollywood Golden Age of Cinema (@HGACinema) March 2, 2022
Some great movies break our hearts. Also set during WWII, USA TODAY describes “Schindler’s List” as “the best Steven Spielberg movie,” yet “devastating.” While “praised for its use of black-and-white cinematography and notable performances by Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes,” as well as its “historical accuracy,” this film “is often considered one of the most brutal depictions of Holocaust atrocities in film,” says Screen Rant.
“Set in Krakow during World War II, ‘Schindler’s List’ tells the true story of industrialist Oskar Schindler, who becomes concerned for his Jewish workforce after witnessing their persecution by the Nazis. He gradually involves himself in [the Nazis’] lives through bribes and favors, ultimately saving over 1000 Jews from certain death in concentration camps. […] This masterpiece earned 91 wins (including 7 Academy Awards) and 49 nominations,” writes Bored Panda.
Per Rotten Tomatoes, “‘Schindler’s List’ blends the abject horror of the Holocaust with Steven Spielberg’s signature tender humanism to create the director’s dramatic masterpiece.”
— More Movies (@MoreMovies4U) April 21, 2021
Surprisingly, “The Silence of the Lambs” got more expert mentions than movies like “Lawrence of Arabia” or “Gone With the Wind.” While it’s maybe not the most cinematic movie, “‘The Silence of the Lambs’ is, above all else, a wonderfully scripted and acted mystery, with every plot point and performance falling perfectly into place,” according to Vulture.
NPR states that “‘The Silence of the Lambs’ isn’t just any horror movie. It’s a psychological thriller headlined by Oscar-winning performances from Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, who makes a meal (sorry) of some of the film’s juiciest bits of dialogue. The portrayal of serial killer Buffalo Bill hasn’t aged well, but the deeply uneasy relationship at the film’s center haunts audiences to this day.”
As for further credentials, “The Silence of the Lambs” is “one of the only three movies to have won Academy Awards in all the top five categories – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay,” Bored Panda points out.
The Silence of the Lambs at the Oscars, 1992. pic.twitter.com/MYBQzKyqDn
— best of jodie foster (@bestofjfoster) October 20, 2021
The experts couldn’t quite decide which part of the famous trilogy is better, but they are a package deal anyway. “With violence, betrayal, drama, Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, the sprawling gangster epic is the cannoli on top of the Oscars’ best picture cake,” USA TODAY claims regarding its all-time favorite.
“What is left to say about ‘The Godfather’ that hasn’t already been said? […] There’s not a single misstep in its almost three-hour running time, thanks to a brilliant screenplay by Coppola and the book’s author, Mario Puzo, innovative cinematography by Gordon Willis, and what’s possibly the greatest cast ever assembled for a movie,” says Reader’s Digest Canada.
“Themes of loyalty, family, and sacrifice drive home Francis Ford Coppola’s second chapter in the Corleone clan’s tale,” Total Film summarizes its favorite Oscar-winning movie. “One of the first sequels ever to outdo its predecessor, the movie surges with confidence. Coppola takes everything that made the first movie jolt moviegoers out of their seats, and ups the stakes. […] The greatest gangster movie ever made.”
Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro were the first actors to win Oscars for playing the same role (Vito Corleone) in different movies.
Brando won Best Actor for 1972's "The Godfather" and De Niro won Best Supporting Actor for 1974's "The Godfather: Part II." pic.twitter.com/giA2L9RPOS
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) January 13, 2022
These two movies also got the same amount of positive expert mentions and ranked highly on the consulted lists. Rotten Tomatoes awards both a 99 percent rating: “Smart, sophisticated, and devastatingly funny, ‘All About Eve’ is a Hollywood classic that only improves with age,” while in “On the Waterfront,” “Marlon Brando redefined the possibilities of acting for film and helped permanently alter the cinematic landscape.”
“A fleet of good performances, a focused emotional wallop, a tale about a decent man (Marlon Brando) who stands up to corruption: ‘On the Waterfront’ is undeniably moving and visceral,” says Vulture.
And about “All About Eve,” Total Film writes: “The double-whammy of Bette Davis as veteran actress Margo Channing and Anne Baxter as her conniving ingenue Eve Harrington is what makes ‘All About Eve’ still so watchable. The pair are flung together in this timeless story about our resistance to growing old, with Davis’ scathing delivery of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s razor-sharp dialogue making this her finest performance.”
Joseph L Mankiewicz won back-to-back Best Director AND Best ScreenPlay Oscars for Letter to Three Wives (in 1950) and All About Eve (in 1951)…
photo: winning Best Director and Best Screenplay for All About Eve at the 23rd Academy Awards… pic.twitter.com/uVJo38rxhM
— Classic Movie Hub (@ClassicMovieHub) February 11, 2023
You might also be interested in:
- Rotten Tomatoes
- Total Film
- USA TODAY
- Bored Panda
- Screen Rant
- Reader’s Digest Canada
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This post may contain affiliate links.