Oscar Flashback: The three films that swept the Big Five, including ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ ‘The Silence of the Lambs’

This article marks Part 6, the final entry in the Gold Derby series reflecting on films that contended for the Big Five Oscars – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay (Original or Adapted). With “A Star Is Born” this year on the cusp of joining this exclusive group of Oscar favorites, join us as we look back at the 43 extraordinary pictures that earned Academy Awards nominations in each of the Big Five categories, including the following three films that swept all of the top races.

At the 7th Academy Awards ceremony, Frank Capra’s romantic comedy “It Happened One Night” (1934) made Oscar history as the first film to triumph in all of the Big Five categories – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Clark Gable), Best Actress (Claudette Colbert) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Robert Riskin). For each of these talents, it would hardly be their lone Oscar appearance.

Capra, who was nominated in Best Director the year prior for “Lady for a Day” (1933), would go on to win an additional two Oscars in the category, for “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” (1936) and “You Can’t Take It with You” (1938). Neither Gable nor Colbert would again win an Oscar but both earned a future pair of nominations for leading turns, the former for “Mutiny on the Bounty” (1935) and “Gone with the Wind” (1939) and the latter for “Private Worlds” (1935) and “Since You Went Away” (1944). Riskin too would never prevail again, though another four nominations for his screenwriting did come to fruition.

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More than four decades later, Milos Forman’s drama “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975), despite stiff competition from fellow filmmaking greats Robert Altman (“Nashville”), Stanley Kubrick (“Barry Lyndon”), Sidney Lumet (“Dog Day Afternoon”) and Steven Spielberg (“Jaws”), staged a clean sweep of the Big Five. In addition to Best Picture and Best Director, leads Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher were victorious, as were screenwriters Bo Goldman and Lawrence Hauben in Best Adapted Screenplay.

For Fletcher and Hauben, this would mark her sole Oscar bids. As for Forman, Nicholson and Goldman, however, there were many more ceremonies to look forward to.

Forman again scored Best Director honors less than a decade later, this time for “Amadeus” (1984). Another nomination would later follow for “The People vs. Larry Flynt” (1996). Nicholson would go on to earn an additional seven Oscar nominations, including victories for “Terms of Endearment” (1983) and “As Good As It Gets” (1997).  Goldman would again triumph for his screenwriting, this time in Best Original Screenplay for “Melvin and Howard” (1980). A third nomination came in Best Adapted Screenplay for “Scent of a Woman” (1992).

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Most recently, it was Jonathan Demme’s spine-tingling thriller “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991) steamrolling the Big Five. It pulled off this spectacular feat despite voters’ presumed aversion to horror cinema and also despite the film having only scored one win, for Jodie Foster, at that year’s Golden Globes. On Oscar night, it cleaned up with victories in Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Foster) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally).

Remarkably, neither Demme nor Tally earned Oscar nominations before or after their wins for “The Silence of the Lambs.” Foster, who had previously been nominated for “Taxi Driver” (1976) and won for “The Accused” (1988), would later score a fourth Oscar bid with “Nell” (1994). As for Hopkins, a trio of nominations followed for “The Remains of the Day” (1993), “Nixon” (1995) and “Amistad” (1997).

SEE The eight films that struck out in the Big Five, including ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,’ ‘American Hustle’

SEE The 11 films that won one of the Big Five, including ‘Sunset Boulevard,’ ‘Chinatown’

SEE The 11 films that scored two of the Big Five, including ‘The Philadelphia Story,’ ‘La La Land’

SEE The six films that earned three of the Big Five, including ‘Network,’ ‘Million Dollar Baby’

SEE The four films that won four of the Big Five, including ‘Gone with the Wind,’ ‘American Beauty’

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