Where do “Moonlight” and the other Oscar winners rank all time?


With the dust settling from an Academy Awards unlike any other, we can turn our attention a bit to the results, as opposed to how the results were delivered/handled. This is something that’s probably best to take more time to think about, but I’m always fascinated by instant rankings. As such, I wanted not just to do the piece I always do on where the newest Best Picture winner stacks up all time, but also how the other main Oscar winners do. There will be expanded articles in the next month or so going over them in more detail, but for now, this is just a quick glance at where the new class ranks, all time.

Before I get to Best Picture, which is clearly the big one, quickly I’d like to run down some of the other categories and how they stack up. That way, it’s more of a broader collection. Obviously, we know Moonlight won Best Picture, Damien Chazelle won Best Director for La La Land, Casey Affleck won Best Actor for Manchester by the Sea, Emma Stone won Best Actress for La La Land, Mahershala Ali won Best Supporting Actor for Moonlight, and Viola Davis won Best Supporting Actress for Fences. Here’s how I would rank the newest Academy Award winners, major category wise.


First up, Best Director:

30. John Schlesinger – Midnight Cowboy
29. Alejandro G. Iñárritu – Birdman
28. Steven Soderbergh – Traffic
27. Joel Coen and Ethan Coen – No Country for Old Men
26. Frank Capra – Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
25. John G. Avildsen – Rocky
24. James Cameron – Titanic
23. Jonathan Demme – The Silence of the Lambs
22. Francis Ford Coppola – The Godfather Part II
21. Clint Eastwood – Million Dollar Baby
20. Oliver Stone – Platoon
19. Robert Zemeckis – Forrest Gump
18. William Friedkin – The French Connection
17. Victor Fleming – Gone With the Wind
16. Miloš Forman – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
15. William Wyler – Ben-Hur
14. Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
13. John Ford – The Grapes of Wrath
12. Sam Mendes – American Beauty
11. Martin Scorsese – The Departed
10. David Lean – Lawrence of Arabia
9. Billy Wilder – The Apartment
8. Damien Chazelle – La La Land
7. Michael Curtiz – Casablanca
6. Elia Kazan – On the Waterfront
5. Mike Nichols – The Graduate
4. Steven Spielberg – Saving Private Ryan
3. Kathryn Bigelow – The Hurt Locker
2. Woody Allen – Annie Hall
1. Steven Spielberg – Schindler’s List


Next is Best Actor:

30. Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
29. Alec Guinness – The Bridge on the River Kwai
28. Colin Firth – The King’s Speech
27. Maximilian Schell – Judgment at Nuremberg
26. Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
25. Cliff Robertson – Charly
24. Jack Nicholson – As Good As It Gets
23. Forest Whitaker – The Last King of Scotland
22. Dustin Hoffman – Rain Man
21. Ben Kingsley – Gandhi
20. Kevin Spacey – American Beauty
19. Ernest Borgnine – Marty
18. Gene Hackman – The French Connection
17. Laurence Olivier – Hamlet
16. Philip Seymour Hoffman – Capote
15. George C. Scott – Patton
14. Gregory Peck – To Kill a Mockingbird
13. Marlon Brando – The Godfather
12. Sean Penn – Milk
11. Peter Finch – Network
10. Tom Hanks – Forrest Gump
9. Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
8. Anthony Hopkins – The Silence of the Lambs
7. Daniel Day-Lewis – There Will Be Blood
6. Jack Nicholson – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
5. Nicolas Cage – Leaving Las Vegas
4. Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
3. Marlon Brando – On the Waterfront
2. Robert De Niro – Raging Bull
1. Tom Hanks – Philadelphia


Now, Best Actress:

20. Jane Fonda – Klute
29. Audrey Hepburn – Roman Holiday
28. Faye Dunaway – Network
27. Emma Stone – La La Land
26. Helen Hunt – As Good As It Gets
25. Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
24. Julia Roberts – Erin Brockovich
23. Cher – Moonstruck
22. Katharine Hepburn – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
21. Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook
20. Kathy Bates – Misery
19. Anne Bancroft – The Miracle Worker
18. Shirley MacLane – Terms of Endearment
17. Vivien Leigh – A Streetcar Named Desire
16. Ellen Burstyn – Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
15. Julie Andrews – Mary Poppins
14. Frances McDormand – Fargo
13. Jodie Foster – The Accused
12. Ingrid Bergman – Gaslight
11. Brie Larson – Room
10. Hilary Swank – Million Dollar Baby
9. Meryl Streep – Sophie’s Choice
8. Louise Fletcher – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
7. Vivien Leigh – Gone With the Wind
6. Natalie Portman – Black Swan
5. Elizabeth Taylor – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
4. Charlize Theron – Monster
3. Jodie Foster – The Silence of the Lambs
2. Hilary Swank – Boys Don’t Cry
1. Diane Keaton – Annie Hall


The Best Supporting Actor ranking:

30. Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
29. Frank Sinatra – From Here to Eternity
28. Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
27. Karl Malden – A Streetcar Named Desire
26. Louis Gossett Jr. – An Officer and a Gentleman
25. Walter Huston – The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
24. Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained
23. Joel Grey – Cabaret
22. Morgan Freeman – Million Dollar Baby
21. Christopher Plummer – Beginners
20. Jack Nicholson – Terms of Endearment
19. Gene Hackman – Unforgiven
18. Jack Lemmon – Mister Roberts
17. Chris Cooper – Adaptation
16. Martin Landau – Ed Wood
15. George Kennedy – Cool Hand Luke
14. Kevin Spacey – The Usual Suspects
13. Christian Bale – The Fighter
12. Michael Caine – Hannah and her Sisters
11. Benecio del Toro – Traffic
10. Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club
9. Cuba Gooding Jr. – Jerry Maguire
8. Javier Bardem – No Country for Old Men
7. Joe Pesci – Goodfellas
6. Robin Williams – Good Will Hunting
5. Christoph Waltz – Inglourious Basterds
4. Robert De Niro – The Godfather Part II
3. Kevin Kline – A Fish Called Wanda
2. J.K. Simmons – Whiplash
1. Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight


Best Supporting Actress:

30. Whoopie Goldberg – Ghost
29. Melissa Leo – The Fighter
28. Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
27. Shelley Winters – The Diary of Anne Frank
26. Viola Davis – Fences
25. Penelope Cruz – Vicky Cristina Barcelona
24. Olympia Dukakis – Moonstruck
23. Kim Basinger – L.A. Confidential
22. Josephine Hull – Harvey
21. Dianne Wiest – Bullets over Broadway
20. Hattie McDaniel – Gone with the Wind
19. Patty Duke – The Miracle Worker
18. Beatrice Straight – Network
17. Meryl Streep – Kramer vs. Kramer
16. Catherine Zeta-Jones – Chicago
15. Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
14. Ruth Gordon – Rosemary’s Baby
13. Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables
12. Cate Blanchett – The Aviator
11. Angelina Jolie – Girl, Interrupted
10. Tatum O’Neal – Paper Moon
9. Mo’Nique – Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
8. Cloris Leachman – The Last Picture Show
7. Mira Sorvino – Mighty Aphrodite
6. Rita Moreno – West Side Story
5. Anna Paquin – The Piano
4. Eva Marie Saint – On the Waterfront
3. Dianne Wiest – Hannah and her Sisters
2. Kim Hunter – A Streetcar Named Desire
1. Marisa Tomei – My Cousin Vinny

As you can see, in Director and Actor, I think the winners are definitely all timers, even if that’s just my opinion. In Actress, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress, they just barely sneak in there at the end. Anyway, there will be more on that at another time…


Here now is the big one. This is how I would now rank the top 30 Best Picture winners of all time:

30. Chicago
29. 12 Years a Slave
28. Rain Man
27. Shakespeare in Love
26. Marty
25. No Country for Old Men
24. The Godfather
23. Moonlight
22. The Godfather Part II
21. Ordinary People
20. Kramer vs Kramer
19. Forrest Gump
18. The Departed
17. Midnight Cowboy
16. The Deer Hunter
15. On the Waterfront
14. The French Connection
13. Spotlight
12. Casablanca
11. Platoon
10. Million Dollar Baby
9. Argo
8. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
7. Rocky
6. The Hurt Locker
5. American Beauty
4. The Apartment
3. Schindler’s List
2. The Silence of the Lambs
1. Annie Hall

Honorable Mentions: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Slumdog Millionaire, The Sting, Terms of Endearment, and Unforgiven

Stay tuned to see what joins the ranks of Best Picture winners in the years to come!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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