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Film Studies 101
Empire & Sky Movies present coverage of the Academy Awards
A Guide To All The Oscar Best Picture Winners
An in-depth look at every winner, what it's about, why it won and did it deserve to


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BEN-HUR (1959)

What is it? Jewish prince Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) is falsely accused of an attempt on a Roman friend's life, and is sent away to labour in the galleys. He swears to return and take revenge: cue chariot race!


Why did it win? While there were many great films out that year, the Oscar nominees were merely good for the most part: infidelity drama Room at the Top, nunsploitation The Nun's Story, literary adaptation The Diary of Anne Frank and the pick of the lot, Otto Preminger's Anatomy of A Murder. Next to the titanic Ben-Hur, they all lacked that certain, as the French say, "races des chariots".


Did it deserve to win? It's the Oscar-iest film of the year, what with that combination of epic and slave galleys and really epic and chariot races with spinny knives on the wheels and seriously epic and, er, did we mention epic? But the best? Also out that year was the incomparable Some Like It Hot, the relentlessly pacy North By Northwest, the revolutionary 400 Blows, the quality Western Rio Bravo and one of Disney's finest hours, Sleeping Beauty.


Worth a look? Yes, if you have several hours and have already seen Some Like It Hot.

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THE BEST PICTURE WINNERS

1. (Best Production) Wings (1927-1928)2. The Broadway Melody (1928-1929)
3. All Quiet on the Western Front (1929-1930)4. Cimarron (1930-1931)
5. Grand Hotel (1931-1932)6. Cavalcade (1932-1933)
7. It Happened One Night (1934)8. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
9. The Great Ziegfeld (1936)10. The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
11. You Can't Take It with You (1938)12. Gone with the Wind (1939)
13. Rebecca (1940)14. How Green Was My Valley (1941)
15. Mrs. Miniver (1942)16. Casablanca (1943)
17. Going My Way (1944)18. The Lost Weekend (1945)
19. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)20. Gentleman's Agreement (1947)
21. Hamlet (1948)22. All the King's Men (1949)
23. All About Eve (1950)24. An American in Paris (1951)
25. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)26. From Here to Eternity (1953)
27. On the Waterfront (1954)28. Marty (1955)
29. Around the World in Eighty Days (1956)30. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
31. Gigi (1958)32. Ben-Hur (1959)
33. The Apartment (1960)34. West Side Story (1961)
35. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)36. Tom Jones (1963)
37. My Fair Lady (1964)38. The Sound of Music (1965)
39. A Man for All Seasons (1966)40. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
41. Oliver! (1968)42. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
43. Patton (1970)44. The French Connection (1971)
45. The Godfather (1972)46. The Sting (1973)
47. The Godfather Part II (1974)48. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
49. Rocky (1976)50. Annie Hall (1977)
51. The Deer Hunter (1978)52. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
53. Ordinary People (1980)54. Chariots of Fire (1981)
55. Gandhi (1982)56. Terms of Endearment (1983)
57. Amadeus (1984)58. Out of Africa (1985)
59. Platoon (1986)60. The Last Emperor (1987)
61. Rain Man (1988)62. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
63. Dances with Wolves (1990)64. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
65. Unforgiven (1992)66. Schindler's List (1993)
67. Forrest Gump (1994)68. Braveheart (1995)
69. The English Patient (1996)70. Titanic (1997)
71. Shakespeare in Love (1998)72. American Beauty (1999)
73. Gladiator (2000)74. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
75. Chicago (2002)76. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
77. Million Dollar Baby (2004)78. Crash (2005)
79. The Departed (2006)80. No Country For Old Men (2007)
81. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)82. The Hurt Locker (2009)
83. The King's Speech (2010)84. The Artist (2011)
85. Argo (2012)86. 12 Years A Slave (2013)


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