In honor of Veterans Day let’s take a look back at the war movies that won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. There have been 16 films set against the backdrop of war that took the top prize at the Oscars, beginning with the first ceremony way back in 1928 (“Wings”). Below, we list all of these Oscar champs beginning with the most recent of these, “The Hurt Locker” (2009).
This year, the Best Picture frontrunner is “Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan‘s World War II epic that chronicles the British retreat from France. After reviewing the roster of past Best Picture winners that were war movies, be sure to make your predictions for this year’s Oscars at the bottom of this post.
“The Hurt Locker” (2009)
Kathryn Bigelow made Oscar history as the first woman to win Best Director for this intense look at the Iraq War through the eyes of an army bomb disposal squad. It also won Best Original Screenplay, Film Editing, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing.
“The English Patient”(1996)
Anthony Minghella won his only Best Director Oscar bid for this adaptation of Michael Ondaatje‘s 1992 novel set at the close of WWII when a young nurse tends to a badly-burned plane crash victim. It also won Best Supporting Actress (Juliette Binoche), Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Original Score, and Sound.
Mel Gibson won his only Best Director Oscar for this historical epic about William Wallace, a 13th-century Scottish warrior, who leads a revolt against King Edward I of England. It also won Best Cinematography, Makeup and Sound Editing.
“Schindler’s List” (1993)
Steven Spielberg won the first of his two Best Director Oscars for bringing to the screen the story of Oskar Schindler who saved many of his Jewish workforce in German-occupied Poland during World War II. It also won Best Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction, Cinematography, Film Editing and Original Score.
Oliver Stone won the first of his two Best Director Oscars for his heartfelt film about a young soldier in Vietnam who faces a moral crisis when confronted with the horrors of war and the duality of man. It also won Best Film Editing and Sound.
“The Deer Hunter” (1978)
Michael Cimino won his only Best Director Oscar bid for this in-depth examination of the ways in which the Vietnam War impacts and disrupts the lives of people in a small industrial town in Pennsylvania. It also claimed Best Supporting Actor (Christopher Walken), Film Editing and Sound.
Franklin Schaffner won his only Best Director Oscar for this in-depth look at the World War II phase of the career of the controversial American general George S. Patton. The actor who portrayed him, George C. Scott, caused a controversy when he refused to accept the Oscar for Best Actor. The film also won Best Original Screenplay, Art Direction, Film Editing and Sound.
“Lawrence of Arabia” (1962)
Lean won his second Best Director award for this epic retelling of the story of T.E. Lawrence, the English officer who successfully united and led the diverse, often warring, Arab tribes during World War I in order to fight the Turks. It also won Best Art Direction, Cinematography, Film Editing, Original Score and Sound.
“The Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957)
David Lean won the first of his two Best Director Oscars for this screen version of Pierre Boulle’s 1952 novel about British POWs who conspire to blow up the railway bridge that their Japanese captors force them to build. It also won Best Actor (Alec Guinness), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing and Original Score.
“From Here to Eternity” (1953)
Fred Zinnemann won the first of his two Best Director Oscars for this adaptation of James Jones’ 1951 bestseller about the days leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that brought America into WWII. It also won Best Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra), Supporting Actress (Donna Reed), Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing and Sound.
“The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946)
Wyler won his second Oscar for this film about three World War II veterans who return home to small-town America to discover that they and their families have been irreparably changed. It also won Actor (Fredric March), Supporting Actor (Harold Russell), Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing and Original Score.
Michael Curtiz won his only Oscar for directing this classic romance about a cynical American expatriate (Humphrey Bogart) who must help his former lover (Ingrid Bergman) and her husband (Paul Henreid) escape from the Vichy-controlled city of Casablanca. It also won Best Screenplay.
“Mrs. Miniver” (1942)
William Wyler won the first of his three Best Director Oscars for this heartfelt drama about a British family struggling to survive the first months of World War II. The film also won Best Actress (Greer Garson), Supporting Actress (Teresa Wright), Screenplay and Cinematography.
“Gone with the Wind” (1939)
Victor Fleming won his only Oscar bid for directing this lavish adaptation of Margaret Mitchell‘s Pulitzer Prize winning 1936 novel about the turbulent romance between a manipulative woman and a roguish man during the Civil War and Reconstruction periods. It also won Best Actress (Vivien Leigh), Supporting Actress (Hattie McDaniel), Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction, Cinematography and Film Editing.
“All Quiet on the Western Front” (1929/1930)
Lewis Milestone won the second of his two Oscars for this adaptation of Erich Remarque‘s 1929 novel of the same name about a young soldier who faces profound disillusionment in the soul-destroying horror of World War I.
William A. Wellman directed this epic about two young men, one rich, one middle class, who are in love with the same woman, and become fighter pilots in World War I. It also won the Oscar for Best Engineering Effects.
Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23.