Despite the common notion that Oscar voters favour art house cinema or those films directed towards a niche market instead the general audience, there have been several commercially successful movies that have won the Best Picture award. We take a look at some of these here.
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Recent examples of this include films like Green Book (2018) and the Korean-language thriller Parasite (2020), both of which proved to be as big a hit at the box-office as at the Oscars. Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite won four Oscars, namely for Best Picture, Best Direction, Best International Feature Film, and Best Original Screenplay, while also collecting over $263 million worldwide.
Of the 10 films nominated for Best Picture at the upcoming 94th edition of Oscars, Dune is the only film that can be categorised as a commercial success. The science-fiction film, directed by Denis Villeneuve and based on Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel by the same name, collected over $400 million in worldwide collections. Dune has earned the second most number of nominations at the Oscars this year. How many of those awards it wins remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, Silverscreen India brings you this list of 10 commercially successful films, which have also won the Oscar for Best Picture, in the past.
The third highest-grossing film of all time that collected over $2.1 billion, Titanic remains the biggest example of commercial cinema that has won an Oscar. This period drama featuring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio is directed by James Cameron, and revolves around the real-life tragedy of a British passenger ship of the same name, that sank after striking an iceberg at sea. The film holds a record of the greatest number of Oscars ever won, with 11 awards. Its strong fanbase is imminent through the additional $350 million that the film’s re-release of a 3D version garnered, in 2012.
The final installment in the Lord of the Rings trilogy trails behind Titanic as the second highest-grossing film to earn an Oscar, with collections over $1.1 billion. Based on JRR Tolkein’s book series of the same name, the film is directed by Peter Jackson. The film is also tied with Titanic in terms of winning 11 Oscars, and is the only film to win in all categories it was nominated for. The popularity of the books and the film series has led Warner Bros and Amazon Studios to add spin-off series to the franchise.
Starring Tom Hanks in the titular role, Forrest Gump revolves around a slow-witted, kind man who unknowingly influences some of the most important historic events of the 20th century. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, the film is based on Winston Groom’s 1986 novel by the same name, and collected over $678.2 million at the box office. Hanks’s performance had also earned him the Oscar for Best Actor.
The epic historical drama is directed by Ridley Scott, and features actors Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, and Connie Nielsen in prominent roles. The story revolves around Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridius (Crowe) and his journey to seek vengeance after the Emperor (Phoenix) gets his family murdered. The film earned $460 million worldwide, with Crowe also receiving an Oscar for his performance.
Dances With Wolves (1990)
Dances With Wolves marked the directorial debut of Kevin Costner, who also starred as the protagonist, Lieutenant John J Dunbar. The story revolves around Dunbar, who is assigned to a remote western Civil War outpost, where he befriends wolves and Native Americans. This leads to a conflict between him and his colleagues. The film garnered over $424 million, worldwide.
The King’s Speech (2010)
Helmed by Tom Hooper, the film has Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in prominent roles. It tells the story of King George VI and his struggle to overcome his stammer, with the help of vocal coach Lionel Logue. It earned 12 Oscar nominations, and ended up winning in four categories including a Best Actor award for Firth. The film’s worldwide collections stand at around $424 million.
The British drama film with a primarily Indian cast and setting, Slumdog Millionaire is loosely based on Vikas Swarup’s novel Q&A. Directed by Danny Boyle, the film revolves around Jamal Malik, played by Dev Patel, who gets arrested after being accused of cheating on a live reality television show. The film was nominated in 10 categories and bagged eight awards, including for Best Director, as well as two Oscars for Indian music composer AR Rahman. The film has collected over $378 million, worldwide.
American Beauty (1999)
Directed by Sam Mendes, American Beauty features actors Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, and Mena Suvari, in pivotal roles. The film deals with Lester Burnham’s (Spacey) midlife crisis faced, after he becomes infatuated with his daughter’s best friend. It grossed over $356 million, worldwide.
Rain Man (1988)
Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman play brothers in this Barry Levinson-directorial. The story follows Charlie Babbitt (Cruise), who discovers that his estranged father had bequeathed all of his wealth and assets to his autistic brother, Raymond (Hoffman). The film won four Academy awards out of eight nominations, including a Best Actor award bagged by Doffman, as well as the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. It collected over $354 million, globally.
Schindler’s List (1993)
Helmed by Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List revolves around the life of German industrialist, Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), who had saved more than a thousand Jewish refugees from the Holocaust by employing them in his factories during World War II. The film also stars Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley. The film is based on Thomas Keneally’s 1982 novel Schindler’s Ark and earned Spielberg an Oscar for direction. The film had global collections of over $322 million.