The Most Successful Best Picture Winners
Winning an Academy Award is the ultimate accomplishment in movies. And winning the Best Picture Oscar is the most coveted goal for every filmmaker.
Since its first ceremony in 1929, the Academy Awards have always been touted as the cream of the crop, and the movies that win Best Picture often launch careers and define future filmmaking trends.
Those movies, however, are not always successful on all fronts. Sometimes a film’s a critical success, but also a commercial flop. And sometimes a movie gets a mixed review, but still wins the most desirable Oscar.
The Best Picture winners on this list scored victories on two fronts: from the Academy and from the movie-going public, which paid a lot of hard-earned money to see the films.
Note: Rankings are based on inflation-adjusted amounts. Numbers via Box Office Mojo.
15) “The Best Years of Our Lives”
Adjusted Domestic Gross: $509,850,000
The post-World War II movie about soldiers returning from battle and trying to get back up to speed with civilian life struck a nerve with audiences and the Academy. The film won seven Oscars in addition to the big prize.
Veteran and non-actorHarold Russell won two of those Oscars, one for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and the other an honorary statuette for "bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans."
The movie endures because of its messages about veterans and war.
Adjusted Domestic Gross: $510,220,600
It’s considered one of the greatest sports movie ever made. Even more than 40 years after its release, the rags-to-riches, hard-working love story continues to inspire people to overcome odds. This movie not only won Best Picture, it also inspired a huge number of sequels and spin-offs, and even a Broadway musical.
13) “Lawrence of Arabia”
Adjusted Domestic Gross: $513,405,500
Epic success for one of Hollywood’s most renown epic films. David Lean directed the masterpiece, and Peter O’Toole starred as the title character.
The film, which remains a staple of best movies of all time lists, won seven total Oscars out of 10 nominations.
12) "West Side Story"
Adjusted Domestic Gross: $519,247,900
The innovative musical retelling of "Romeo and Juliet," “West Side Story” was an insanely successful movie on both the commercial and critical fronts. It was nominated for 11 Oscars and won 10, earning the most wins ever for a musical.
In 1997, the film was selected by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry.
11) “The Greatest Show on Earth”
Adjusted Domestic Gross: $556,200,000
Legendary director Cecil B. DeMille guided James Stewart, Charlton Heston, and the rest of the cast to Best Picture glory.
Still, the film wasn’t an all-around winner. Out of its five nominations, it only captured two oscars.
10) "My Fair Lady"
Adjusted Domestic Gross: $556,200,000
The film adaptation of the already popular and award-winning musical was, unsurprisingly, a huge hit. With a $17 million budget, it was the most expensive film ever shot at the time. And the reception made it worth every penny. Not only did people go see it in droves, but it also won eight Academy Awards.
The American Film Institute’s ranks it as one of the top 100 movies of all time.
9) "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"
Adjusted Domestic Gross: $571,400,000
This film was the second sequel to win Best Picture and the second film ever to gross more than a billion dollars worldwide. Plus, it was the first fantasy to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
On top of its incredible commercial and critical success, it also swept all eleven categories it was nominated in, taking home an incredible eleven Oscars (to presumably sit atop the large piles of money the filmmakers and studio earned).
8) “Around the World in 80 Days”
Adjusted Domestic Gross: $598,984,600
The entertainment legends that worked on “Around the World in 80 days are legion: David Niven, Shirley MacLaine, Cantinflas, Marlene Dietrich, John Gielgud, Buster Keaton, and Peter Lorre to name a handful.
Audiences ate it up, and so the Academy. The movie was nominated for eight Oscars, winning five.
7) "Forrest Gump"
Adjusted Domestic Gross: $728,757,600
The deceptively simple “Forrest Gump,” a semi-biopic romantic comedy of sorts, made Tom Hanks one of the most in-demand actors in the world. It was nominated and won tons of awards, including numerous Academy Awards.
It even inspired its own restaurant, the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.
6) "The Godfather"
Adjusted Domestic Gross: $793,297,200
This 1972 gangster movie is considered one of the most influential films of all time and, for a while, was one of the highest grossing films ever. Based on best-selling novel of the same name, Paramount Pictures acquired the rights to the story for a mere $80,000.
The creative crew, led by Francis Ford Coppola, won several more Academy Awards beyond Best Picture, including Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay.
5) “The Sting”
Adjusted Domestic Gross: $826,354,300
This terrific con movie set in the 1930s benefitted from its superstar cast. Paul Newman and Robert Redford play two grifters who, with grace and charisma, navigate a plot with incredible twists and turns.
The film won seven Academy Awards. One of the producers of “The Sting,” Julia Phillips, was the first woman to produce a film that won Best Picture.
Adjusted Domestic Gross: $908,460,000
The 1959 epic was the highest-grossing movie of that year. It’s often considered one of the greatest films ever made, gracing a number of “favorites” lists from critics and historians alike. It took home an incredible eleven Oscars, at the time the most of any single film ever.
Adjusted Domestic Gross: $1,256,546,800
It’s hard to be alive today and not know anything about this iconic movie. The radical film began with groundbreaking underwater shots of the actual Titanic, successfully employing filmmaking technology nobody had tried before. And it magically brought the ship back to life on so many levels.
It also cost a good deal of money, but its commercial and critical success proved to be well worth the investment. It tied “All About Eve” for the most Oscar nominations ever with a mind-boggling fourteen, and ended up taking home eleven Oscars, tying “Ben-Hur” for the most Academy Awards received by a film in one evening.
2) "The Sound of Music"
Adjusted Domestic Gross: $1,320,190,500
The beautiful Julie Andrews-led film adaptation of the musical resonated with people on multiple levels. People wanted and needed a feel-good story that addressed some serious themes.
At first, the critical response was mixed. But the commercial success quickly overshadowed the few negative responses, and the movie would win five Academy Awards.
1) "Gone with the Wind"
Adjusted Domestic Gross: $1,872,953,700
Though it’s now a classic piece of cinema, the movie was notoriously difficult to make. Between issues with production and controversies among its actors, it seemed like “Gone” could turn out to be a major failure. Instead it was a huge commercial success, one that skyrocketed Vivien Leigh to stardom.
It basically swept the 1940 Academy Awards, winning a total of eight Oscars that year – including, of course, Best Picture.