All Quiet on the Western Front (1929-1930)
What is it? The adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque's World War I memoir follows a group of German volunteers encouraged to join the Army by their jingoist teacher, and looks at the mental and physical anguish they suffer in the trenches as a result. Just goes to show: ignore your teachers, kids!
Why did it win? In comparison to the gritty violence and literary pedigree of the winner, the other nominees must have looked fluffy and unserious indeed. The film's continuing reputation suggests that the Academy got it thoroughly right on this occasion - with the bonus that they pissed off the Nazis, who tried to disrupt the film's screenings in Germany, and the Italian fascists, who banned it for years.
Did it deserve to win? Yes - even if it did establish a dangerous precedent for the ongoing popularity of war movies. The other nominees were The Big House (well-observed prison movie), Disraeli (fictionalised biopic), The Divorcee (Norma Shearer potboiler) and The Love Parade (big misogynist musical).
Worth a look? Yes, as a near-contemporary look at World War I.