30 Best Picture Oscar Winners You Can Stream Right Now

David Bornfriend, A24
David Bornfriend, A24

Picking any given year’s Oscar winners is far from an exact science. Of the 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. Just since 2005, we’ve seen a quirky Coen brothers 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), a moving chronicle of a young man growing up in Miami at three stages of his life (Moonlight), and a love story between a mute woman and a fish-man (The Shape of Water) all claim the Academy’s top prize.

This weekend, the 91st annual Oscars are sure to add yet another distinctive film to that list—but 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, YouTube

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: iTunes, YouTube

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: iTunes, YouTube

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: Amazon, Cinemax, iTunes, YouTube

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, YouTube

Francis Ford Coppola didn’t invent the mob crime genre, but he may as well have. More than 45 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, YouTube

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, YouTube

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: YouTube

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 Prime, Hulu, iTunes, YouTube

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: Amazon Prime, Hulu, iTunes, YouTube

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, HBO Go, iTunes, Netflix, YouTube

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, Netflix, YouTube

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: Netflix, YouTube

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, YouTube

“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, YouTube

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, Netflix, YouTube

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, YouTube

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, YouTube

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, YouTube

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, YouTube

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 Prime, iTunes, YouTube

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: iTunes, YouTube

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: iTunes, Netflix, YouTube

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: Amazon, iTunes, Netflix, YouTube

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, iTunes, Showtime, YouTube,

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, Netflix, YouTube

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, YouTube

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. 12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013)

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes, YouTube

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.

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

Where to watch it: Amazon, iTunes, YouTube

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.

30. Moonlight (2016)

Barry Jenkins's Moonlight will forever be known as the movie that lost the Best Picture Oscar to La La Land ... then won it anyway. But the film is memorable for more reasons than being at the center of one of the Academy's biggest all-time snafus. In addition to proving that Jenkins is one of Hollywood's most talented new voices, as he showed yet again with If Beale Street Could Talk (which is nominated for three Oscars at this year's ceremony). The film is a deeply moving portrait of a young man's maturation from child to adult, and the struggles that come with it—including questions about his sexuality. In addition to being named the year's Best Picture, True Detective star Mahershala Ali took home the Best Supporting Actor statuette (an award he's up for again this year for Green Book) and Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney won for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Fact-Checking 13 Plot Points in All Is True, Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespeare Biopic

Kenneth Branagh as William Shakespeare in All Is True (2019).
Kenneth Branagh as William Shakespeare in All Is True (2019).
Robert Youngson, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

After being the face of Shakespeare film adaptations to a whole generation in films like Henry V (1989), Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Othello (1995), Hamlet (1996), and Love's Labour's Lost (2000), Kenneth Branagh has stepped into the shoes of the Bard himself. The British actor plays William Shakespeare in the new movie All Is True, which the five-time Oscar nominee also directed.

The film, which began rolling out in U.S. theaters on May 10, functions as a sequel of sorts to Shakespeare in Love. Call this one Shakespeare in Retirement. It depicts the Bard in the final few years of his life, which historians believe he mostly spent in Stratford-upon-Avon. Before his death in 1616, Shakespeare reunited with the wife and children he’d spent so much time away from while working in London.

All Is True takes its name from an alternate title used during Shakespeare’s lifetime for his play Henry VIII. The film frequently winks at its title, exploring the role of truth—or lack thereof—in the life of Branagh’s Will.

Spotty historical records leave many details about Shakespeare’s life in the realm of uncertainty, so filmmakers depicting the playwright must make use of broad artistic license to fill in the blanks. Mental Floss spoke with Harvard University professor and Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare author Stephen Greenblatt to fact-check All Is True. It turns out that the film’s depiction of Shakespeare is a mix of truth, presumed truth, and pure imagination.

1. Partially true: Shakespeare retired to Stratford-upon-Avon after the Globe burned down.

All Is True opens with the striking image of Will’s silhouette in front of a massive, crackling fire that destroys his prized playhouse. A title card tells viewers that at a performance of Shakespeare’s Life of Henry VIII (a.k.a. All Is True) at the Globe on June 29, 1613, during Act 1 Scene 4, a prop cannon misfired, starting the blaze. The next title card states, “The Globe Theatre burnt entirely to the ground. William Shakespeare never wrote another play.”

A prop cannon likely did misfire, and the resulting fire did destroy the Globe; while there were fortunately no deaths or serious injuries as a result, the fire delivered a serious financial blow to Shakespeare and other shareholders in the King's Men, the company of actors who performed at the Globe. But "never wrote another play" is a stretch. “The movie suggests he rode out of London, as it were, in the wake of the fire,” Greenblatt says. “But actually, it’s widely thought that he retired to Stratford before but he continued to write for the theater.”

The Tempest, for example, was likely the last play Shakespeare wrote solo, without a collaborator, and some scholars theorize he wrote it at home in Stratford-upon-Avon, not in London. Academics are divided as to which play was the final play Shakespeare ever wrote, but the general consensus is that it was either Henry VIII or The Two Noble Kinsmen, both collaborations with John Fletcher, which were possibly written during return trips to London.

2. True: Shakespeare’s daughter was accused of adultery.

Left to right: Jack Colgrave Hirst as Tom Quiney, Kathryn Wilder as Judith Shakespeare, Kenneth Branagh as William Shakespeare, Judi Dench as Anne Hathaway, Clara Ducz- mal as Elizabeth Hall, Lydia Wilson as Susanna Hall
Left to right: Jack Colgrave Hirst as Tom Quiney, Kathryn Wilder as Judith Shakespeare, Kenneth Branagh as William Shakespeare, Judi Dench as Anne Hathaway, Clara Duczmal as Elizabeth Hall, and Lydia Wilson as Susanna Hall in All Is True (2019).
Robert Youngson, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

The film depicts a man named John Lane accusing Shakespeare’s eldest child, Susanna Hall, of adultery. That really happened, and the real-life Susanna Hall sued Lane in 1613 for slanderously saying that she had cheated on her husband with local man Ralph Smith.

As for whether Susanna Hall really did have an extramarital relationship with these men, that’s not known for sure, and the film leaves this somewhat up to viewer interpretation. But her real-life slander case did succeed in getting Lane excommunicated.

3. Likely true: Shakespeare had no schooling beyond age 14.

When a fanboy approaches Will with some eager questions, he says, “They say you left school at 14.” The line may be a bit misleading: Shakespeare did not quit school as a student would today if he "left school" at age 14. But it is true that boys in Shakespeare’s time completed grammar school at around age 14. They then could begin apprenticeships. Shakespeare’s schooling would have been intense, though: He would have been in lessons from 6 a.m. to as late at 6 p.m. six days a week, 12 months a year (getting an extra hour to sleep in only during the winter, when school started at 7 a.m. in the dark and cold months).

As Greenblatt wrote in Will in the World, “the instruction was not gentle: rote memorization, relentless drills, endless repetition, daily analysis of texts, elaborate exercises in imitation and rhetorical variation, all backed up by the threat of violence.”

No surviving records confirm that Shakespeare attended the school in Stratford-upon-Avon, but most scholars safely assume that he did. The grammar school there was free and accessible to all boys in the area, the exception being the children of the very poor, since they had to begin working at a young age.

Regarding the fanboy moment in the film, Greenblatt says, “The implication of that moment was precisely to remind us that [Shakespeare] didn’t go to university, as far as we know. I’m sure he didn’t. He would have bragged about it at some point" (as many of his contemporaries did).

4. Likely true: Susanna Hall was literate, while Shakespeare’s wife and younger daughter were not.

While boys received a formal education in Elizabethan and Jacobean England, girls did not. The film depicts Susanna as skillful at reading, unlike Will’s younger daughter, Judith, or his wife, Anne.

This is likely true: Greenblatt says that “the general sense is that Susanna was literate and that Judith and Anne were not,” though this is another area of Shakespeare’s family history that scholars cannot know for certain.

“This is a trickier matter than it looks,” Greenblatt says, “because lots of people in this period, including Shakespeare’s father, clearly knew how to read, but didn’t know how to write. This would be particularly the case for many women but not exclusively women in the period—that writing is a different skill from reading and that quite a few people were able to read.”

5. True: Shortly after his son’s death, Shakespeare wrote The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Judi Dench as Anne Hathaway and Kenneth Branagh as William Shakespeare in 'All Is True'
Judi Dench as Anne Hathaway and Kenneth Branagh as William Shakespeare in All Is True (2019).
Robert Youngson, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

When Will insists that he did mourn Hamnet, his only son, who died in 1596 at age 11, Anne bites back, “You mourn him now. At the time you wrote Merry Wives of Windsor.”

It’s a gut-punch from Anne not just because Merry Wives (featuring the ever-entertaining character Falstaff) is a raucous comedy but also because it was, in the most cynical view, a cash grab. Shakespeare likely wrote Merry Wives after the Falstaff-featuring Henry IV Part 1 but before moving onto the grimmer Henry IV Part 2, “to tap an unexpected new market phenomenon,” scholars Martin Wiggins and Catherine Richardson wrote in British Drama, 1533-1642: A Catalogue regarding the "humours comedy," which debuted to immediate popularity in May 1597.

There is another way to interpret this: Both parts of Henry IV deal with a troubled father-son relationship, and the conclusion of Part 2 depicts a son taking up the mantle of his deceased father. Perhaps Prince Hal and King Henry hit too close to home for Will (who in this film hopes his son will follow in his poetic footsteps), and a lighthearted comedy is what he needed.

6. Very unlikely: The Earl of Southampton visited Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, was one of Shakespeare’s patrons, and Shakespeare included a lengthy dedication to Southampton in his poem The Rape of Lucrece. Despite that affiliation, the idea that Southampton (played by Ian McKellen, yet another acclaimed Shakespearean actor) would have visited Shakespeare’s home in Stratford is just “a piece of imagination,” according to Greenblatt. He points out that “it’s difficult to imagine any longer the social abyss” between an earl and someone like Shakespeare but explains, “The difference in social class is so extreme that the idea that the Earl would trot by on his horse to visit Shakespeare at his house is wildly unlikely.”

It is more likely that fellow playwright Ben Jonson would have visited Shakespeare, as he does later in the film.

7. Uncertain: Shakespeare’s sonnets were published “illegally and without [his] consent”

This is what Will reminds the Earl of Southampton of in the film. Regarding that term illegally, it’s worth first noting that though copyright law as we know it did not exist in 16th century England, “there definitely were legal controls over publication,” Greenblatt says.

“This is a notoriously complicated matter—the publication of the sonnets,” he explains. “It is still very much open to question. It’s not a settled matter as to whether Shakespeare did or did not have anything to do with the publication of those sonnets.”

8. Uncertain: Shakespeare wrote some of his sonnets for and about the Earl of Southampton.

Ian McKellen as Henry Wriothesley in 'All is True'
Ian McKellen as Henry Wriothesley in All is True (2019).
Robert Youngson, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

One juicy debate about Shakespeare that endures is the question of who (if anyone) is the subject of his sonnets. Some speculate that his poems that describe a fair youth refer to the Earl of Southampton.

The film imagines a slightly more complicated—and perhaps more believable—situation than the idea that Southampton and Shakespeare had a fling: Will harbors feelings for Southampton, unrequited by the Earl, who reminds Will, “As a man, it is not your place to love me.”

“There is no way of achieving any certainty,” Greenblatt wrote in Will in the World regarding whether the sonnets were written as love tokens for anyone in particular. “After generations of feverish research, no one has been able to offer more than guesses, careful or wild.”

9. True: 3000 attendees could fit into the Globe for one performance.

In an elaborate, impressive clapback directed at Thomas Lucy, a local politician who repeatedly insults Will, the celebrated playwright cites his many responsibilities in London, then says he somehow “found time to write down the pretty thoughts you mentioned.”

It’s true that Shakespeare was both a businessman and poet. His status as a shareholder in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (later the King’s Men) was actually unprecedented: “No other English literary playwright had ever held such a position,” Oxford professor Bart van Es wrote in Shakespeare in Company, adding that becoming part owner of the Globe, “the most impressive venue in London … placed him in a category entirely of his own.”

Among the accomplishments Will lists for Lucy is filling the Globe with “3000 paying customers per afternoon.”

“That is the upper end of the size of those public theaters, as far as we now know from archaeological evidence,” Greenblatt says. “Three thousand is at the high end, but yes. Whether they actually got 3000 people every afternoon is another question.”

Meanwhile, the reconstruction of the Globe that opened in London in 1997 has a capacity of about half that. Its dimensions are the same as the Globe of Shakespeare’s day but modern fire codes don’t allow playgoers to be packed in quite so tightly.

10. True: Shakespeare wrote Thomas Quiney out of his will.

The film depicts the retired playwright adding his son-in-law-to-be, Thomas Quiney, to his will in anticipation of Quiney's marriage to Will's youngest daughter, Judith. A couple of months later, Shakespeare amends his will again after it’s revealed that Quiney fathered a child by another woman before marrying Judith.

This may have really happened. Shakespeare summoned his lawyer in January 1616 to write Quiney into the will. Then in March, a month after his wedding, Quiney confessed in the vicar’s court to being responsible for the pregnancy of unmarried Stratford woman Margaret Wheeler, who had just died in childbirth (along with the child). Shakespeare then met again with his lawyer to strike out Quiney’s name and insert Judith’s name instead. However, some historians dispute that Shakespeare made this change as a result of the scandal; they instead suggest that it was due to practical concerns about Judith’s financial future.

All Is True reverses scholars’s common assumption that Shakespeare had a better relationship with Susanna’s husband, physician John Hall, than with Judith’s. It depicts Will’s removal of Quiney from his will as a reluctant necessity. “What the movie does is suggest [that John] Hall is an obnoxious, Puritan prig and that Thomas Quiney is actually a very nice fellow,” Greenblatt says.

One aspect of Shakespeare’s relationship with Hall that the film leaves out entirely is scholars’ assumption that Hall would have tended to the playwright during any sickness that led to his death. The cause of Shakespeare’s death is unknown, however, and Hall’s surviving casebooks date back only to 1617, the year after Shakespeare’s death.

11. Unlikely: Shakespeare’s family recited his verse at his funeral.

At what appears to be Will’s funeral, Anne, Judith, and Susanna (all with varying levels of literacy) read aloud the words of a dirge sung for the supposedly dead Imogen in Cymbeline. “Fear no more the heat o’ th’ sun,” they quote, “Thou thy worldly task hast done … All lovers young, all lovers must / Consign to thee and come to dust.”

The words are evocative of Scripture. (“Be not afraid” / “Have no fear” is said to be the most repeated phrase in both the Old Testament and the New Testament—and of course there’s the Genesis passage often read at funerals: “For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”) Greenblatt says it is “very unlikely” that verse not from the Bible would have been recited at a funeral at the time of Shakespeare’s death, adding, “but I found that moment quite touching.”

SPOILER WARNING: The remainder of this article includes spoilers about some major twists in All Is True.

12. Uncertain: Shakespeare’s offspring wrote poetry.

Kathryn Wilder as Judith Shakespeare, Kenneth Branagh as William Shakespeare in All is True (2019)
Kathryn Wilder as Judith Shakespeare and Kenneth Branagh as William Shakespeare in All Is True (2019).
Robert Youngson, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

In All Is True, when Will voices grief for his son who had died 17 years prior, he often references Hamnet’s apparent talent as a poet. “He showed such promise, Anne,” Will cries.

Branagh’s film imagines that Hamnet wrote poems full of wit and mischief. Then Judith drops the revelation that she actually crafted the poems, dictating them to her twin brother, who knew how to write. All Is True thus displaces the controversial authorship question from Shakespeare to his children.

“There’s no historical trace of any of this,” Greenblatt says. “That is just an invention.”

13. Uncertain: Hamnet Shakespeare died of the plague.

The other revelation that stuns Will in All Is True is about Hamnet’s death. Will looks at the record noting young Hamnet’s death and becomes suspicious about whether his only son really died of the plague. He confronts Anne and Judith, pointing out the small number of deaths in Stratford in the summer of 1596, saying that the plague strikes with “a scythe, not a dagger.” At this point, Judith confesses that her twin took his own life after she threatened to tell their father about the true author of the poems. She then tearfully recalls Hamnet, who did not know how to swim, stepping into a pond and drowning.

Though the historical record doesn't supply a cause of death for Hamnet, many historians assume he died of the bubonic plague. For the film's revelation about Hamnet’s suicide, which Greenblatt deems as another imaginative invention, Branagh and screenwriter Ben Elton seem to have taken inspiration from the real parish register recording burials at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford, which lists no more than two dozen burials between June and September 1596. Meanwhile, a plague epidemic hit Shakespeare’s hometown shortly after the poet’s birth in 1564 and lasted about six months, killing more than 200 people in Stratford, which was about a sixth of the population.

As Greenblatt points out, the storyline about Judith’s poems and Hamnet’s death serves as a commentary on Virginia Woolf’s compelling essay, “Shakespeare’s Sister,” which appears in A Room of One’s Own, published in 1929. The essay imagines a tragic story for Shakespeare’s fictional sister who is as gifted as her successful brother but is not permitted to go to school and whose parents scold her each time she picks up a book. “She was as adventurous, as imaginative, as agog to see the world as he was,” Woolf wrote.

Greenblatt observes that the central theme of All Is True seems to be “the tragic cost of not having full access to literacy if you were a woman.” He notes, though, that in Elizabethan and Jacobean England, “there were actually quite a few [literate] women, and the work of the last generation, particularly feminist scholars, have recovered a much larger field than Virginia Woolf could have understood or than the movie suggests, of women who were reading and writing in the period.”

Kenneth Branagh’s All Is True is in theaters now.

David Lynch Drew a Damn Fine Map of Twin Peaks, Washington

David Lynch and Mädchen Amick in Twin Peaks
David Lynch and Mädchen Amick in Twin Peaks
1990 ABC/Spelling Ent./CBS Paramount Domestic Television

It can be tough even for die-hard fans of Twin Peaks to navigate its convoluted narrative. In the original 1990-1991 television series, the 1992 film (Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me), and the 2017 Showtime continuation (Twin Peaks: The Return), director David Lynch offered a sprawling examination of weirdness in a small town. Now fans have discovered Lynch has drawn a map, J.R.R. Tolkien-style, of his weird wonderland that helped his cast feel a little less lost.

Actor Kyle MacLachlan, who portrayed FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper on the show, posted Lynch’s hand-drawn map of Twin Peaks on Instagram.

“Two years ago, we made a journey back to a little town with some amazing Douglas Firs,” MacLachlan wrote. “Today I wanted to share a fun part of Twin Peaks history: to create a sense of place for the show, David Lynch drew this map of the town.”

Lynch is no stranger to illustration. In his career, he has worked in a variety of media including painting, drawing, sculptures, and anthropomorphic lamps. More than 500 of his pieces were on exhibit in Maastricht, the Netherlands recently, with another exhibit due to open in Manchester, England on July 6.

[h/t Vulture]

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