30 Best Picture Winners You Can Stream Right Now

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Picking any given year’s Oscar winners is far from an exact science. Of the nearly 90 movies that have been named Best Picture since the very first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929, there’s no clear-cut recipe for what makes a successful film. In the past 10 years alone, we’ve seen a quirky crime drama (No Country for Old Men), a gritty war flick (The Hurt Locker), a black-and-white silent film (The Artist), an inspiring slavery epic (12 Years a Slave), an experimental meditation on the life of an actor (Birdman), and a moving chronicle of a young man growing up in Miami at three stages of his life (Moonlight) all claim the Academy’s top prize. And as the 90th Academy Awards are sure to add yet another distinctive film to that list, there’s still time for you to bone up on Best Pictures past. Here are 30 Best Picture winners you can stream right now.

1. WINGS (1927)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

William Wellman’s romantic war drama, about a love triangle involving two WWI fighter pilots and one Clara Bow, holds the distinction of being named the Academy’s very first Best Picture winner.

2. GONE WITH THE WIND (1939)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

At nearly four hours long, Victor Fleming’s adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book—about the tumultuous love life of Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), the ultimate Southern Belle—is the longest film to be named Best Picture.

3. CASABLANCA (1942)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes, Filmstruck

Like Gone With the Wind before it, Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca—about an American expat (Humphrey Bogart) running a nightclub in Morocco, and occasionally dabbling in some less legal business ventures, who bumps into a lost love (Ingrid Bergman)—is one of those films that any card-carrying cineaste must watch at least once in his or her life (or risk misquoting it, as so many others do).

4. MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969)

Where to watch it: iTunes, Amazon, HBO

Since the X rating was done away with in 1990, Midnight Cowboy—John Schlesinger’s trippy buddy movie about a wannabe gigolo and a small-time criminal trying (and failing) to make a name for themselves with New York City's Upper East Side ladies—will forever be known as the only X-rated film to be named Best Picture.

5. THE GODFATHER (1972)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes, Netflix

Francis Ford Coppola didn’t invent the mob crime genre, but he may as well have. More than 40 years after its original release, The Godfather remains a quintessential film—and not just in terms of its own genre. If your most recent viewing(s) of the movie have been on network television, you owe it to yourself—and the art of cinema as a whole—to set aside three hours of quiet time to bask in its mastery.

6. THE GODFATHER: PART II (1974)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes, Netflix

In 1975, The Godfather: Part II became the first sequel to win the Oscar for Best Picture. And rightfully so. Coppola’s continuation of the Corleone family’s saga managed to capture all of the brilliance of the first film, while adding new layers of complexity to the story. Unfortunately, the same cannot exactly be said for the third entry in the trilogy.

7. ROCKY (1976)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

Rocky is the script that Sylvester Stallone purports to have written in three days. It’s also the script that he refused to sell without having himself attached as the lead, even though he was destitute. Sly stuck to his guns and the rest is movie history. The story of a washed-up boxer who somehow almost manages to beat the champ is perhaps the greatest American-made David vs. Goliath story in Hollywood history. The film turned Stallone into an A-list name and earned him nods for both writing the film and starring in it. 

8. AMADEUS (1984)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

Amadeus, much like the music of the man it is named for, gets better with age. The lavish film tells the tragic story of musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his spiral into the depths of obsession and insanity at the hands of his nemesis, fellow composer Antonio Salieri. As life often imitates art, F. Murray Abraham (Salieri) beat out Tom Hulce (Mozart) for the Best Actor Oscar.

9. PLATOON (1986)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

More than a decade after the Vietnam War ended, Hollywood was still reluctant to delve into its subject matter. But Oliver Stone changed that with Platoon, a semi-autobiographical account of the psychological and moral issues a young soldier (Charlie Sheen) faces after abandoning his privileged life to voluntarily enlist in the U.S. Army.

10. RAIN MAN (1998)

Where to watch it: iTunes, Amazon

Prior to Rain Man, no one knew much, if anything, about autism. Barry Levinson’s film brought the condition into the public consciousness, even if it did show it in a quirky light. The film is a classic road movie that follows Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) and his unassuming—and only recently discovered—brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) as they watch The People’s Court and buy underwear at Kmarts across the country.

11. DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

Dances With Wolves—which follows Civil War Lt. John Dunbar’s assimilation into the Sioux tribe—was the first Western to win the Academy’s most prestigious award since 1931’s Cimarron. Star Kevin Costner also took home the gold for directing, but missed out on the Best Actor award (he was bested by Jeremy Irons, who won for Reversal of Fortune).

12. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

Director Jonathan Demme made genre history when The Silence of the Lambs became the first (and so far only) horror movie to be named Best Picture. It’s also one of only three films to win all Big Five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor (for Anthony Hopkins), and Best Actress (Jodie Foster).

13. UNFORGIVEN (1992)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

One of only three westerns to be named Best Picture (the aforementioned Dances With Wolves and Cimarron being the other two), Unforgiven stars Clint Eastwood (who also directed the film) as Bill Munny, an erstwhile shootist who is brought out of retirement to collect on one last bounty.

14. FORREST GUMP (1994)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

“Run, Forrest, run!” is as firmly entrenched in the popular lexicon as any other famous movie quote—as are many other of this film’s catchphrases (there were enough to fill a book, apparently). And part of the thanks for that goes to Tom Hanks, who earned a consecutive Best Actor Oscar (following 1993’s Philadelphia) for playing the film’s namesake, who has an uncanny ability to inadvertently shape history, from teaching Elvis how to move his pelvis to blowing the lid on the Watergate break-in.

15. BRAVEHEART (1995)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

Braveheart’s hair, makeup, costuming, and production design departments more than make up for the film’s lack of historical accuracy. Featuring some of the finest mullets and war paint ever put on celluloid, Braveheart recounts the life of Scottish legend William Wallace and his struggle against the truculent Longshanks (King Edward I of England). The movie culminates in perhaps the most memorable disembowelment scene in recent film history.

16. THE ENGLISH PATIENT (1996)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

In case you’ve forgotten, this is the movie that ostensibly introduced the world to the "suprasternal notch." Largely through flashbacks, The English Patient recounts a torrid love affair between a cartographer (Ralph Fiennes) and a seemingly happily married woman (Kristin Scott Thomas) who find themselves thrown together in a surveying expedition circa WWII.

17. TITANIC (1997)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

Girl meets boy. Girl gets boy. Girl loses boy to icy, underwater grave by way of the Titanic disaster. That old story. This was the film that catapulted Leonardo DiCaprio to stardom amidst the cacophony of collective screams let out by the world’s 13-year-old female population. Remember when director James Cameron infamously (if not nerdily) intoned, “I’m the king of the world!” during his Best Director Oscar acceptance speech? That happened.

18. SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (1998)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

Shakespeare In Love tells the story about that time Shakespeare lost and then regained his mojo. Gwyneth Paltrow took home the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of the Bard’s muse, and Dame Judi Dench notched a Best Supporting award for her role as Queen Elizabeth I, even though she only appeared on the screen for eight minutes—and in the same year that Cate Blanchett was nominated for playing the same character in Elizabeth, no less.

19. AMERICAN BEAUTY (1999)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

American Beauty’s tagline states, “Look Closer.” That just about sums it up as this film digs beneath the flimsy surface of a seemingly placid and pristine suburban neighborhood and turns it on its head. The film, which was Sam Mendes’s directorial debut, also gave the world new respect for windblown pieces of garbage.

20. GLADIATOR (2000)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

Ridley Scott’s Gladiator marked Russell Crowe’s first (and so far only) Best Actor victory. It tells the story of Maximus, a Roman general who is betrayed, sold into slavery, and forced to fight as—you guessed it—a gladiator.

21. A BEAUTIFUL MIND (2001)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

A Beautiful Mind, the first collaboration between Ron Howard and Russell Crowe, tells the true story of famed mathematician John Nash and his struggle with schizophrenia. In addition to its Best Picture win, the film took home Oscars for Best Director (Ron Howard), Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Connelly), and Best Adapted Screenplay. Though nominated for Best Actor, Crowe lost to Denzel Washington for Training Day.

22. THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (2003)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

Though it’s debated by fans whether the third installment in Peter Jackson’s lauded The Lord of The Rings trilogy is truly the best of the three films, what’s not in dispute is that it was the last film. And as such, the epic three-film endeavor—as a whole—demanded recognition from the Academy. The Return of The King mounted the biggest sweep in Oscar history, winning all 11 awards for which it was nominated (which, surprisingly, did not include a single acting nod).

23. THE DEPARTED (2006)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

After seven nominations and no wins, Martin Scorsese finally earned a long-overdue Best Director statuette for 2006’s The Departed, an English language retelling of Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s Infernal Affairs. The film was loosely based on infamous Boston mobster Whitey Bulger, and chock full of bad Boston accents (plus very real Boston accents, courtesy of Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg).

24. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007)

Where to watch it: iTunes, Amazon

Adapted by the Coen brothers from Cormac McCarthy’s novel, No Country For Old Men is a quintessential American story of greed, violence, and disillusionment. Less about the plot and more about the chase, the film garnered the Coens Oscars for Best Picture, Best Directing, and Best Adapted Screenplay, and Javier Bardem was named Best Actor for his terrifying performance as Anton Chigurh.

25. THE HURT LOCKER (2008)

Where to watch it: Amazon, Netflix, Hulu

In 2010, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to be named Best Director for her work on The Hurt Locker, an unrelenting look at the psychology of warfare, as seen through the eyes of an American bomb squad in Iraq.

26. THE KING’S SPEECH (2010)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

From laughing stock to maestro of one of Great Britain’s finest public addresses, The King’s Speech tells the true story of King George VI’s triumph over stuttering. The film took home Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Tom Hooper), Best Actor (Colin Firth), and Best Original Screenplay (David Seidler).

27. THE ARTIST (2011)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

Director Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist is only the second silent film to win the Oscar for best picture (1927’s Wings, the Academy's first Best Picture winner, is the other). A love story about a silent film star’s journey toward obscurity in the midst of the “talkie” revolution, The Artist also turned its star, Jean Dujardin, into the first-ever French actor to take home a Best Actor trophy.

28. ARGO (2012)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

Ben Affleck directed and starred in this true story about a fabricated sci-fi movie production that was used to free six Americans hiding in Tehran during the 1980 Iranian hostage crisis. Argo took home awards for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Editing, but did not notch a victory for its director. (Incidentally, it was producer George Clooney who was supposed to be at the film’s helm; when his Ides of March ran into scheduling conflicts, he handed the project over to Affleck.)

29. 12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

Based on actual events, 12 Years A Slave is the amazing story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Filmmaker Steve McQueen made history with the film in 2014 when he became the first black producer to receive a Best Picture Oscar and the first black director behind the camera of a Best Picture-winning film.

30. BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) (2014)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes

When Alejandro González Iñárritu won the Best Director Oscar for The Revenant in 2016, it marked his second in a row, following 2015's win for Birdman, which tells the story of Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), an over-the-hill actor who tries to prove his worth as a thespian by starring in his own theatrical production of a Raymond Carver story. Unfortunately, Riggan cannot escape his past—which haunts him in the form of a superhero in a bird suit.

8 Haunting Horror Movie Gimmicks

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

In the 1950s and 1960s, horror movies were making studios huge profits on shoestring budgets. But after the market hit horror overload, directors and studios had to be extra creative to get people to flock to theaters. That's when a flood of different gimmicks were introduced at movie theaters across the country to make a film stand out from the crowd. From hypnotists to life insurance policies and free vomit bags, here's a brief history of some of the most memorable horror movie gimmicks.

1. PSYCHO-RAMA // MY WORLD DIES SCREAMING (1958)

In order to truly become a classic, a horror movie can't just work on the surface; it has to get deep inside of your head. That's what Psycho-Rama tried to achieve when it was first conceived for My World Dies Screaming, later renamed Terror in the Haunted House. Psycho-Rama introduced audiences to subliminal imagery in order to let the scares sink in more than any traditional film could.

Skulls, snakes, ghoulish faces, and the word "Death" would all appear onscreen for a fraction of a second—not long enough for an audience member to consciously notice it, but it was enough to get them uneasy. Obviously Psycho-Rama didn't really catch on with the public or the film industry, but horror directors, like William Friedkin in The Exorcist, have since gone on to use this quick imagery technique to enhance their own movies.

2. FRIGHT INSURANCE // MACABRE (1958)

Director William Castle didn't make a name for himself in the film industry by directing cinematic classics; instead, he relied on shock and schlock to help fill movie theater seats. His movies were full of what audiences craved at the time: horror, gore, terror, suspense, and a heaping helping of camp. But his true genius came from marketing—and the gimmicks he brought to every movie, which have since become legendary among horrorphiles.

His most famous stunt was the life insurance policy he purchased for every member of an audience that paid to see Macabre. This was a real policy backed by Lloyd's of London, so if you died of fright in your seat, your family would receive $1000. Now who wouldn't want to roll the dice on that type of deal? Of course, the policy didn't cover anyone with a preexisting medical condition or an audience member who committed suicide during the screening. Lloyd's had to draw the line somewhere, right?

3. HYPNO-VISTA // HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM (1959)

How do you make your routine horror movie stand out from the crowd? Hypnotize your audience, of course. Thus Hypno-Vista was born. For this gimmick, James Nicholson, president of American International Pictures, suggested that a lecture by a hypnotist, Dr. Emile Franchel, should precede Horrors of the Black Museum, which had a plot focusing on a hypnotizing killer.

For 13 minutes, Dr. Franchel talked to the audience about the science behind hypnotism, before attempting to hypnotize them himself in order to feel more immersed in the story. Nowadays it comes off as overlong and dry, but it was a gimmick that got people into theaters back in 1959. Plus, writer Herman Cohen said that eventually the lecture had to be removed whenever the movie re-aired on TV because it did, in fact, hypnotize some people.

4. NO LATE ADMISSION // PSYCHO (1960)

Though this isn't the most gimmickiest of gimmicks, Alfred Hitchcock's insistence that no audience member be admitted into Psycho once the movie started got a lot of publicity at the time. The Master of Suspense's reasoning is less about drumming up publicity and more about audience satisfaction, though. Because Janet Leigh gets killed so early into the movie, he didn't want people to miss her part and feel misled by the movie's marketing.

This publicity tactic wasn't completely novel, though, as the groundbreaking French horror movie Les Diaboliques (1955) had a similar policy in place. This was at a time when people would simply stroll into movie screenings whenever they wanted, so to see a director—especially one so masterful at the art of publicity—who was adamant about showing up on time was a great way to pique some interest.

5. FRIGHT BREAK // HOMICIDAL (1961)

Another classic William Castle gimmick was the "fright break" he offered to audience members during his 1961 movie, Homicidal. Here, a timer would appear on the screen just as the film was hurtling toward its gruesome climax. Frightened audience members had 45 seconds to leave the theater and still get a full refund on their ticket. There was a catch, though.

Frightened audience members who decided to take the easy way out were shamed into the "coward's corner," which was a yellow cardboard booth supervised by some poor sap theater employee. Then, they were forced to sign a paper reading "I'm a bona-fide coward," before getting their money back. Obviously, at the risk of such humiliation, most people decided to just grit their teeth and experience the horror on the screen instead.

6. THE PUNISHMENT POLL // MR. SARDONICUS (1961)

The most interactive of William Castle's schlocky horror gimmicks put the fate of the film itself into the hands of the audience. Dubbed the "punishment poll," Castle devised a way to let viewers vote on the fate of the characters in the movie Mr. Sardonicus. Upon entering the theater, people were given a card with a picture of a thumb on it that would glow when a special light was placed on it. "Thumbs up" meant that Mr. Sardonicus would be given mercy, and "thumbs down" meant … well, you get the idea.

Apparently audiences never gave ol' Sardonicus the thumbs up, despite Castle's claims that the happier ending was filmed and ready to go. However, no alternative ending has ever surfaced, leaving many to doubt his claims. Chances are, there was only one way out for Mr. Sardonicus.

7. FREE VOMIT BAGS // MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970)

Horror fans are mostly masochists at heart. They don't want to be entertained—they want to be terrified. So when the folks behind 1970's Mark of the Devil gave out free vomit bags to the audience due to the film's grotesque nature, how could any self-respecting horror fan not be intrigued? It wasn't just the bags that the studio was advertising; it also claimed the film was rated V, for violence—and maybe some vomit?

8. DUO-VISION // WICKED, WICKED (1973)

Duo-Vision was hyped as the new storytelling technique in cinema—offering two times the terror for the price of one ticket. Of course Duo-Vision is just fancy marketing lingo for split-screen, meaning audiences see a film from two completely different perspectives side-by-side. In the 1973 horror film Wicked, Wicked, that meant watching the movie from the points of view of both the killer and his victims.

Seems like a perfect concept for the horror genre, right? Well, Duo-Vision wasn't just employed during the movie's most horrific moments; it was used for the movie's entire 95-minute runtime. The technique had been used sparingly in other films—most notably in Brian De Palma's much better film Sisters (1973)—but it had never been implemented to this extent. A little bit of Duo-Vision apparently goes a long way, because it fell out of favor soon after.

John Carpenter May Be Planning a They Live Sequel

Universal Studios Home Video
Universal Studios Home Video

John Carpenter is one of the horror genre's biggest names. The man behind the original Halloween, The Fog, Escape from New York, and The Thing, ​Carpenter has had a long enough career to see many of his most popular creations be remade, including this year's new Halloween film, which features some of the original actors returning to their iconic roles to continue a decades-long story.

But in a recent interview with ​Den of Geek, when Carpenter was questioned about whether his cult classic They Live might he ripe for revisiting, Carpenter teased: "Well, I’m not gonna tell you about that, because it might be closer to reality than you think."

​They Live, which came out in 1988, featured the late professional wrestler 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper in his signature role as a man who finds a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see the true state of the world and uncover an alien invasion. Like so many of Carpenter's other films, it has continued to amass a cult following in the decades since its release—especially among those viewers who understood and appreciated its underlying political metaphor.

Today's highly divisive political climate makes it a perfect time for a sequel/reboot/reimagining of They Live, and it sounds as if Carpenter might agree.

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