The #AcademyAwards voting bloc has a reputation for being the embodiment of cinema snobbery, due in part to their apparent bias for highbrow arthouse films and distaste for popular movies.
But every once in a while, the #Oscars voting bloc gets its right and bestows the highest Oscar honors to the year's most popular #blockbuster; acknowledging the biggest cinema spectacles can be more than forgettable popcorn fair and are an equally important part of the art form.
Here are seven big blockbuster hits that won big in the Oscars and pushed the boundaries of movie-making in many ways.
1. Gone With The Wind
- Year Of Release: 1939
- Directed By: Victor Fleming
- Box Office: $3.3 billion (counting numerous re-releases)
Billed as "The greatest screen entertainment of all time!" (a reputation it maintains even today) #GoneWithTheWind won eight of 13 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Director. The classic romance is still as beloved as it was when it first opened in cinemas, and it's a epic of cinema that is also a household name.
Despite the story's romanticizing of slavery and the Confederacy, Gone With The Wind was actually one of the most progressive movies of its time. The film included actors of color in leading roles during an era of extreme racial prejudice. In fact, Actress Hattie McDaniel became the first woman of color to be nominated for Best Supporting Actress in the history of the Academy Awards and went on to win the Oscar as well for her role as Mammy, the loyal house servant.
Though some would dismiss the romantic epic as a racially insensitive product of its time, Gone With The Wind had an impact on viewers and the progressive firsts it achieved are accomplishments that continue to have positive ramifications today.
Check out the most iconic moment from Gone With The Wind below.
2. The Sound Of Music
- Year Of Release: 1965
- Directed By: Robert Wise
- Box Office: $286.2 million
While it was not the first musical to be released onscreen, The Sound Of Music defined the genre and remains highly influential on modern musicals. Audiences and critics agreed #TheSoundOfMusic was a masterpiece, and that year the Academy agreed with the general viewing public.
The movie garnered ten Oscar nominations, and took home five including Best Picture and Director. The Sound Of Music also won the Oscar for Best Music and Scoring of Music (Adaptation or Treatment) - an award befitting a movie with a strong musical backbone.
Listen to a sample of those wonderful sounds in the trailer below.
The only places where The Sound Of Music isn't loved are Austria and Germany, but for understandable reasons. Due to the themes of encroaching Nazism, Germany approved of the unauthorized cutting of the movie's third act. However, 20th Century Fox intervened and successfully got the movie to be released uncut, but The Sound Of Music remains unpopular in the nations where Nazism first came to power.
3. The Godfather
- Year Of Release: 1972
- Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola
- Box Office: $245.1 million
There was a time when crime movies were seen as nothing more than pulp entertainment, but that all changed when the crime epic #TheGodfather hit cinemas. For its time, The Godfather was a trailblazer not only because it represented the best of the #NewHollywood generation, but it was one of the first movies to place criminals at the center of the story and treat them seriously.
Sadly, Nino Rota's composition for the film was disqualified from the race for Best Original Score when part of it was determined to be lifted from a pre-existing musical piece.
The Godfather won only three of the nine Oscars it was nominated for that year, yet it became the talk of the town for unexpected reasons following the Academy Awards telecast. Marlon Brando refused to receive his Oscar for Best Actor due to his disdain for the way Native Americans were depicted in Hollywood films.
Watch Sacheen Littlefeather refuse the Oscar for Best Actor on behalf of Marlon Brando below.
The story of the Corleone family would garner two more sequels, but its undeniable impact is best exemplified in the real life crime families who saw the first film. Upon watching The Godfather, real life mobsters were so flattered by the film's depiction of crime families that they began to imitate the characters' mannerisms.
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- Year Of Release: 1976
- Directed By: John G. Avildsen
- Box Office: $225 million
People love a good underdog story, which is why #Rocky is the underdog movie to beat. Just like the titular hero, lead actor #SylvesterStallone took on an uphill fight to get the film off the ground. His hard work resulted in a blockbuster franchise that put his name on the map and inspired many people who connected with Rocky's determination.
Rocky was nominated for ten Oscars and took home three, including Best Picture and Director. Though Stallone lost the Best Actor race, his movie still enjoyed critical acclaim and box-office success. Rocky was the highest-grossing movie of 1976. It spawned six sequels, including a spin-off that put Rocky Balboa in the role of a coach and father figure.
Stallone himself recognizes the importance of the down-on-his-luck boxer, since his career wouldn't even exist without him. When he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor after reprising Rocky in the spin-off #Creed, Stallone knew exactly who to thank:
"I'm going to thank my imaginary friend Rocky Balboa for being the best friend I ever had."
Watch the whole movie summed up in 15 seconds below.
- Year Of Release: 1997
- Directed By: James Cameron
- Box Office: $2.187 billion
Recently, blockbuster king #JamesCameron claimed that the Academy is inherently biased against mainstream blockbusters. Yet, ironically, Cameron's own mega-blockbuster hit #Titanic not only became one of the highest-grossing movies of all time, but it became one of the biggest Oscar winners of all time as well.
Titanic was nominated for 14 Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture (both of which it won), tying with All About Eve for the most number of Oscar nominations received by a movie. The movie about the romance on a doomed voyage won 11 of the 14 Oscar nods, this time tying itself with Ben-Hur (1959) for the most number of Oscars won by a single film.
Without adjusting for inflation, Titanic was the first movie to earn one billion dollars and it was the highest grossing movie for nearly two decades. It would take another Cameron film, #Avatar, to beat the record set by Titanic, making Cameron the only director to have helmed two of the three movies that have earned over two billion dollars.
Watch the whole movie summed up in 15 seconds below.
- Year Of Release: 2000
- Directed By: Ridley Scott
- Box Office: $457.6 million
Before the year 2000, the sword and sandals genre was all but dead. Ridley Scott's #Gladiator brought the ancient spectacle back to life, and the movie became one of the director's biggest successes at the box office.
Gladiator proved to be the strongest contender during Oscars night in 2001, racking up 12 nominations. The movie took home five Oscars, including Best Picture, Director and Actor (Russel Crowe). The movie also earned back more than three times its budget at the global box office, proving those who had doubts about its large budget were wrong.
Gladiator is credited for sparking newfound interest in the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome in both film and real life. In the years after Gladiator hit the big screen, countless movies about historical battles and/or ancient mythology became a mainstay, while academic books that covered these topics saw a spike in sales and demand.
Watch the Gladiator trailer below.
7. The Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King
- Year Of Release: 2003
- Directed By: Peter Jackson
- Box Office: $1.120 billion
No other fantasy epic defined the early 2000's as much as #TheLordOfTheRings did, and the trilogy's concluding chapter could be seen as its vindication at the Oscars. Despite reviving the fantasy movie and leaving a massive mark on popular culture, the first two The Lord Of The Rings movies were only given two Oscars each for technical achievements.
The Return Of The King, on the other hand, won all of the 11 Oscars it was nominated for, setting the record for the highest Oscar sweep. It also holds the record for being the second sequel after The Godfather Part II and the only fantasy movie to win the Best Picture prize.
Ever since The Return Of The King ended the big screen journeys into Middle Earth, many other films tried and failed to fill in the vacuum left in the high fantasy genre. Even Peter Jackson's return to Tolkein's world, #TheHobbit prequels, failed to hold a candle to the behemoth that was The Lord Of The Rings, earning slightly less at the box office and collecting fewer Oscar nods and wins.
Watch the The Lord Of The Rings trilogy in 15 seconds below.
As snobbish as the Academy may sometimes be, there are times when the voting bloc gets off its high horse to acknowledge that some popular movies have more to them than just popcorn entertainment value.
Blockbusters such as the ones listed here can do a lot more for cinematic storytelling than some people would care to admit. They're equally valuable works of art.
Which Oscar-winning blockbusters is your favorite?