If Christopher Nolan‘s war epic “Dunkirk” ends up winning Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars, it will be the 17th such film to claim glory. Oscar voters just can’t get enough of war films, which is no surprise considering they tick all of the right boxes: impact, emotion, empathy, and ultimately hope in humanity. Click through our photo gallery above to see all of the war movies that have triumphed at the Academy Awards, from “The Hurt Locker” (2009) to “Wings” (1928).
“Dunkirk” tells the true story of Allied soldiers trying to survive on the beaches of Dunkirk, France, during World War II. The film features little dialogue and is told in three simultaneous parts: by land, by sea and by air. Opening this Friday, the film stars Oscar champ Mark Rylance (Best Supporting Actor for “Bridge of Spies,” 2015) as well as Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Harry Styles and Kenneth Branagh. Despite earning three Oscar nominations for co-writing “Memento” (2001) and for writing and producing “Inception” (2010), Nolan holds a massive Oscar IOU as he’s never been nominated for directing.
Mel Gibson‘s “Hacksaw Ridge” came within firing range of winning Best Picture last year as it took home the prizes for Best Film Editing and Best Sound Mixing. But it ultimately lost out to “Moonlight” in an on-stage battle of its own against “La La Land.”
Thus, “The Hurt Locker” remains the only war film of the past 20 years to claim the top prize. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, that 2009 film tells the story of a three-man bomb disposal team in the Iraq War. “The Hurt Locker” claimed six trophies out of its nine nominations, including for Bigelow who became the first (and still only) female directing champ in Oscar history.
“The English Patient” (directed by Anthony Minghella) prevailed in 1996, just one year after Gibson’s “Braveheart” (1995) and three years after Steven Spielberg‘s “Schindler’s List” (1993), which means that no less than three Best Picture winners in the 1990s were films about war. To compare, only one movie from the 1980s makes this list: “Platoon” (1986), directed by Oliver Stone.
Of course, the very first film to win Best Picture also happened to be a war movie, proving that Oscar voters have always had a soft spot for the gritty genre. At the inaugural ceremony in 1928, “Wings” defeated “The Racket” and “Seventh Heaven” to claim the first-ever prize. That film is about two World War I fighter pilots who fall in love with the same woman.