Academy Awards
Best Picture Milestones



Late 1920s - 1930s
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Oscars - Best Picture Milestones
Year of Awards (No.) Production Company Best Picture Winner/Year and Director
Number of Awards/Nominations and Milestones
Film Poster
1927-1928 (1st)

Paramount Famous Lasky

Wings (1927)
d. William A. Wellman
Awards: 2
Nominations: 2

Jazz baby Clara Bow plus spectacular aerial scenes of WWI fighter planes made this silent war film a hit.

  • the winner of the first Academy Award for Best Picture (titled as Outstanding Picture for the first two years of the awards)
  • the first war film to be nominated and win Best Picture
  • the first - and only - silent film to win Best Picture
  • the first film to win Best Picture and every other nomination it received
  • the first film to win Best Picture without a Best Director nomination
  • the first film to win Best Picture without any acting nominations
  • the first and only year in which these three categories were awarded: Best Unique and Artistic Production, Best Title Writing (for silent films), and Best Comedy Direction
1927-1928 (1st)

Fox

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
d. F. W. Murnau
Awards: 3
Nominations: 4

F. W. Murnau's American debut silent film with roots in German Expressionism told of a deadly love triangle.

  • the first - and only - film to win Best Picture (titled Outstanding Picture), Unique and Artistic Production (the category was immediately dropped after its first year)
1928-1929 (2nd)

MGM

The Broadway Melody (1929)
d. Harry Beaumont
Awards: 1
Nominations: 3

Hollywood's first all-talking musical was a backstage story featuring a Technicolor sequence.

  • the first sound film to win Best Picture
  • the first musical film to win Best Picture
  • the first Best Picture winner to receive an acting nomination
  • the first of three films to win Best Picture without any other Academy Awards wins (the other two were in 1931/32 and in 1935)
  • the first MGM-produced film to win Best Picture
  • in the same year, the only time in Academy history that a Best Director Oscar has been awarded to a director (Frank Lloyd for The Divine Lady (1928/29)) whose film was not nominated for Best Picture
1929-1930 (3rd)

Universal

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
d. Lewis Milestone
Awards: 2
Nominations: 4

The horrors of WWI, told from the perspective of a young German conscript.

  • the first talkie war film to win Best Picture
  • the first film to win 'Best Picture' when it was in a category titled Outstanding Production (from 1930-1940)
  • the first Universal-produced film to win Best Picture; it would be another 43 years until Universal would again win the top prize for The Sting (1973)
1930-1931 (4th)

RKO Radio

Cimarron (1931)
d. Wesley Ruggles
Awards: 3
Nominations: 7

The land rush into Oklahoma Territory and the saga of an American family, based on a best-selling novel by Pulitzer Prize-winner Edna Ferber.

  • the first western film to win Best Picture; it wouldn't be until 1990 when the next western film would win Best Picture (Dances With Wolves (1990))
  • the first film to receive more than 6 Academy Award nominations
  • the only film in Oscar history to be nominated in every possible category
  • the first film to receive Big Five nominations ('Best Picture,' Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Writing (Adaptation)), in other words, the first film to be nominated for every major Academy Award, including Best Picture
  • the first RKO Radio-produced film to win Best Picture
  • in the same year, Skippy (1930-31), the first (and only) film based on a comic book, comic strip, or graphic novel to be nominated for Best Picture
1931-1932 (5th)

MGM

Grand Hotel (1932)
d. Edmund Goulding
Awards: 1
Nominations: 1

A cross section of guests, from a world-famous ballerina to a dying accountant, check into a Berlin hotel.

  • the first - and only - film to win Best Picture without receiving nominations in any other categories
  • the second of three films to win Best Picture without any other Academy Awards wins (the other two were in 1928/29 and in 1935)
  • the first year (other than the first year) that there were more than 5 nominees for Best Picture - there were 8
1932-1933 (6th)

Fox

Cavalcade (1933)
d. Frank Lloyd
Awards: 3
Nominations: 4

Based on Noel Coward's play, this drama juxtaposes the trivial problems of London's rich and havoc of the early 20th century.

  • in the same year, the first non-US (foreign) film to win an Academy Award (The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), Charles Laughton as Best Actor)
  • in the same year, the first British-made film to be nominated for Best Picture (The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933))
  • among the Best Picture nominees this year, the shortest (She Done Him Wrong (1933))
  • the first year that there were 10 nominees for Best Picture
1934 (7th)

Columbia Pictures

It Happened One Night (1934)
d. Frank Capra
Awards: 5
Nominations: 5

A runaway heiress and a macho reporter fall in love on the road in this pioneering screwball comedy.

  • the first film to win the "Big Five" (the major nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay), unmatched until 1975 and 1991; it was the first of only three films to win every major Academy Award (the Big Five), including Best Picture
  • the first Best Picture nominee (and winner) to win both Best Actor and Best Actress
  • the first comedy film to win Best Picture; the next comedy film to win Best Picture was Frank Capra's You Can't Take It With You (1938)
  • the first year that there were 12 nominees for Best Picture
  • the first Columbia Pictures-produced film to win Best Picture
1935 (8th)

MGM

Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
d. Frank Lloyd
Awards: 1
Nominations: 8

Abused sailors rebel against sadistic Captain Bligh in a movie based on a real-life incident.

  • to date, the third of three Best Picture winners to not win in any other awards categories; the other two were The Broadway Melody (1928/29) and Grand Hotel (1931/32); therefore, Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) was the last Best Picture winner to take home only that award
  • the first remake to win Best Picture (it was a remake of In the Wake of the Bounty (1933, Australia) starring Errol Flynn)
  • the first Best Picture nominee to have three acting nominations, and the first film to have three co-performers competing against each other in the same category - as Best Actor
  • in the same year, the first time that a Shakespearean film adaptation was nominated for Best Picture (A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935))
1936 (9th)

MGM

The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
d. Robert Z. Leonard
Awards: 3
Nominations: 7

Showman Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.'s fictionalized life is an excuse to showcase Follies featuring catchy tunes, famous comedians, and leggy girls.

  • the first musical film in Academy history in which a cast member won an Academy Award (Best Actress, Luise Rainer)
  • the first biographical film (although fictionalized) in Academy history to win Best Picture
  • the first year that the Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress award categories were added
  • the first year that a studio - MGM - won Best Picture two years in a row
  • in the same year, My Man Godfrey (1936), the first film to receive 4 acting nominations without a Best Picture nomination (this also occurred in 1948, 1965, and 2008), and the first film to receive nominations in each of the four acting categories; it was the first time that a film which swept the acting and directing nominations failed to receive a Best Picture nomination
1937 (10th)

Warner Bros.

The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
d. William Dieterle
Awards: 3
Nominations: 10

The French writer's fight for Captain Dreyfus, a victim of nineteenth-century anti-Semitism, is the focus of this biopic.

  • the first Warner Bros.-produced film to win Best Picture
  • the first true biopic film in Academy history to win Best Picture
  • the first Best Picture nominee to receive a total of at least 10 nominations
  • the first year in which a Best Picture nominee (A Star is Born (1937)) was the first all-color film nominee
1938 (11th)

Columbia Pictures

You Can't Take It With You (1938)
d. Frank Capra
Awards: 2
Nominations: 7

This timeless comedy revolves around a dinner for the in-laws of a liberal girl who falls for a conservative guy.

  • this Best Picture winner was the first of only two Best Picture winners to have been adapted for the screen from plays which won the Pulitzer Prize (the other was Driving Miss Daisy (1989))
  • the first year that a director won his third Best Director Oscar (in just five years) for his second Best Picture-winning film
  • the first year that a non-English foreign-language film (French) was nominated for Best Picture (Grand Illusion (1938, Fr.)); it wasn't until 1956 that a separate Foreign Language Film award category was established
1939 (12th)

MGM
(Selznick Int'l Pictures)

Gone With The Wind (1939)
d. Victor Fleming
Awards: 8
Nominations: 13

Love, money, ambition, and family conflict made this Civil War spectacle an enduring critical and popular favorite.

  • the first Best Picture-winning film with a record-breaking 8 Oscar wins
  • the first Best Picture Oscar winner to be filmed entirely in color
  • the first Best Picture-winning film that was also a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (also occurred in 1949)
  • at the time, the longest American sound film, and the longest Best Picture nominee and winner, although Lawrence of Arabia (1962) is arguably the longest Best Picture nominee and winner ever
  • at the time, the all-time highest grossing domestic box-office hit (finally displaced by The Sound of Music (1965))
  • besides winning 8 awards, the film was given two other non-competitive awards: honorary and technical, a record which stood for 20 years (until Gigi (1958))
  • the first year that a children's/family film was nominated for Best Picture (The Wizard of Oz (1939))

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