Every year, somewhere between late February and early March, millions and millions of film fanatics from all around the world watch with amusement the annual ceremony of giving the Academy Awards for artistic achievement made the year before.
Most commonly known as the Oscars, the Academy Awards are the most prestigious and the highest honorary awards in the film and the entire entertainment industry. It is given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, an American organisation aiming to enhance the art of motion picture.
On 28 March 2022, the Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Centre in Los Angeles held the 94th Academy Awards. Besides Marlon Brando’s 1973 rejection of the Oscar which he won for his role in The Godfather and Charlie Chaplin’s 1972 12-minute ovation, the 94th Academy Awards witnessed another outrageous act when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock and later apologised to the Academy for it.
The first Oscar ceremony, however, was hosted on 16 May 1929. Unfortunately, no one watched it except for the 270 people who attended it. But the year after, the ceremony was broadcasted on the radio. In 1953, the Academy Awards were broadcasted on TV for the first time and have been ever since.
And Academy Awards are given for various achievements. Besides the actors’ acting skills and talents, the directors’ views, and the dazzling scripts, many other things contribute to the film’s making. Music, for instance, is one of the most crucial factors in the success of any film. Editing, visual effects, costumes, makeup, and many others all cooperate to bring out the final product, which we watch and enjoy.
That said, the Academy Awards are not just given to achievements in American feature films. They also honour artistic achievements of animated, documentary, short, and international films.
So, all in all, there are a total of 24 categories in which artists are honoured. Every year, the nominees for those 24 categories are announced at least a month before the awards are given. Typically, there are four nominees for each category, which come as follows:
- Best Actor in a Leading Role
- Best Actress in a Leading Role
- Best Actor in a Supporting Role
- Best Actress in a Supporting Role
- Best Adapted Screenplay
- Best Animated Feature
- Best Animated Short Film
- Best Art Direction
- Best Cinematography
- Best Costume Design
- Best Director
- Best Documentary Feature
- Best Documentary Short Subject
- Best Film Editing
- Best Foreign Language Film
- Best Makeup
- Best Original Score
- Best Original Screenplay
- Best Original Song
- Best Picture
- Best Sound Editing
- Best Sound Mixing
- Best Visual Effects
- Best Live Action Short Film
Now that the film industry has developed significantly over the past century, the Oscars categories also increased to fit the development this industry has witnessed. For that reason, this list of categories is always updated. As many categories were added, many others were discontinued.
For instance, Best Assistant Director was a category that lasted from 1932 to 1937. On the other hand, the Best Original Story had been awarded for 27 years before it was stopped in 1958.
So, which films were the most successful and won the highest number of Oscars? Which films made the most outstanding achievements in the history of the film industry over the past century?
Well, let’s find out.
Most Nominated and Oscar-Winning Films
For a film to be nominated for an Academy Award, it must excel in at least one of the 24 categories we have mentioned earlier. But for the masterpieces, one nomination is more of a joke.
Here are the five outstanding films that received the highest number of nominations as well as Oscars.
(1) Titanic (1997): 14 Nominations, 11 Wins
And what can we say about this extraordinarily marvellous film that is pretty much on top of everyone’s best-film-of-all-time list.
But it is not just that list that Titanic is heading. Up until recently, Titanic had been the highest-grossing film of all time, making a total of $2.202 billion against its $200 million budget until it was moved to second place by another James Cameron masterpiece, Avatar (2010), which made $2.905 billion.
Titanic was then moved to third place after the release of Avengers: Endgame (2019), which made a total of $2.797 billion worldwide and has been ranking second after Avatar for three years now.
The film merges facts with fiction and drama with romance and tragedy, a combination that made Titanic, which was initially classified as a disaster film, feel so epic.
The idea of the film initially stemmed from James Cameron’s fervour of shipwrecks. So he went for telling the story of the sinking of the RMS Titanic and added a captivating yet entirely fictional romance element represented by the love story between Lady Rose DeWitt Bukater and Jack Dawson, who separate tragically. Yet, their love is meant to live forever.
Besides the great story, it was the production of the film that made it so extravagant. James Cameron is one of those film directors who are willing to go too far to do such stunning work, as far as going to the Atlantic Ocean’s floor to shoot the Titanic wreck and then building a full-scale replica of it as well as a gigantic 8-acre water tank to shoot the sinking scenes.
Consequently, the Titanic became the most expensive film at the time, costing a total of $200 million. Titanic held that record for nine years until Superman Returns (2006) was produced at a $204 million budget.
The 70th Academy Awards held on 23 March 1998 was a special night for James Cameron and everyone else who helped create this epic sensation. Out of the 17 available categories, Titanic was nominated for 14 and won 11 Oscars, becoming one of the very few films that made such immense success.
The Oscars Titanic won include Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, and Best Music. Having said that, none of the 11 Oscars that masterpiece received was given for achievement in acting.
In 2017, Titanic was preserved in the US National Film Registry as a culturally significant film.
(2) La La Land (2016): 14 Nominations, 6 Wins
This is a super, multi-genre film.
Well, La La Land is a musical, romantic film with elements of comedy and drama combined. Starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, this epic sensation revolves around a struggling jazz pianist and failing-to-pass-an-audition actress who fell in love while trying to make their artistic dreams come true.
Interestingly, neither Stone nor Gosling was initially nominated for the roles, but rather Emma Watson and Miles Teller were supposed to star in the film. But then those two dropped out and were soon replaced by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, whose excellent performances and the screenplay and music contributed to the film’s huge success.
Out of the 17 categories that were available, La La Land was nominated for a total of 14 Academy Awards. It received six Oscars for Best Directing, Best Cinematography, Best Music (Original Song), Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Production Design, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay).
Besides the Oscars, La La Land was nominated for seven Golden Globes and won all of them, in addition to five BAFTAs out of the 11 it was nominated for.
(3) All About Eve (1950): 14 Nominations, 6 Wins
Produced by 20th Century Fox and listed by The American Film Institute (AFI) among the top 20 of the 100 best American films, All About Eve is a drama masterpiece based on a short story , The Wisdom of Eve, written by Author (and actress) Mary Orr. It holds the record for being nominated for 14 categories out of 16 that were available at the time, an honour it shares with both Titanic (1997) and La La Land (2016).
All about Eve follows the story of, yes, Eve, a passionate young fan who slips herself gradually and smoothly into the life of her idol Margo Channing, a talented but old Broadway star actress. Gently, Eve succeeds in taking over Channing’s relationships and intimidates her long successful acting career.
All About Eve stars legendary actress Bette Davis alongside Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, and many other American actors, including Marilyn Monroe, in her very first breakthrough acting role for which she received acclaim.
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, the film premiered on 13 October 1950 and soon swept the board. Besides that 14-nomination record, All About Eve is also the only film in the history of the Oscars to have four nominations for actresses in acting roles.
Out of the 14 nominations, All About Eve won six Oscars for Best Motion Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, in addition to three other categories.
Like Titanic, All About Eve was also preserved in the United States Library of Congress National Film Registry as one of the greatest American films of all time.
(4) Ben-Hur (1959): 12 Nominations, 11 Wins
Another Oscar-winning masterpiece is Ben-Hur, adapted from the 19th-century religious novel Ben-Hur: A tale of the Christ. This was another, or maybe one of the first, massive productions. In total, it cost $15.175 million for the enormous film sets and the vast number of staff who worked hard to bring out this masterpiece.
The film tells the story of Judah Ben-Hur, a wealthy Roman Jewish prince and merchant living in Jerusalem during the 1st century with his mother and sister. He meets his childhood friend, but still, the family slave, Messala, who comes to town after many years he spent in Rome. But due to differences in political views, Messala betrays Judah and falsely incriminates him for a crime he did not commit. After many years in prison, Judah is freed and determined to take revenge.
The making of the entire film took around two years, with pre-production and post-production each taking nearly six months. Ben-Hur made a total of $146.9 million and came in second place as the highest-grossing film after Gone with the Wind, which held that record for over 25 years.
At the time of the film’s release, there were 15 categories available for nomination for Ben-Hur. It was nominated for 12 of them and won all except one. Ben-Hur was the first film to win that many Academy Awards and held the record for 38 years until Titanic tied with it in 1997.
The film stars Charlton Heston as Judah Ben-Hur and Stephen Boyd as Messala. It runs for 212 minutes and was directed by Willian Wyler. In 2011 and as a way to celebrate the film’s 50th anniversary, Be-Hur was released on Blu-ray.
(5) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003): 11 Nominations, 11 Wins
After the enormous success and acclaim The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring received in 2001 as well as that achieved by its sequel in 2002, the third and last film of the trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), became another record-breaking film as it tied with Ben-Hur (1959) and Titanic (1997).
Adapted from J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy six-book, three-volume novel holding the same name, The Return of the King continues the adventure of the first two films to destroy the Ruling Ring. For it is a pure fantasy genre, The Return of the King received special acclaim for visual effects, music, screenplay, and costume design.
With a budget of $97 million and co-production of New Line Cinema and WingNut Films, the film was first released in New Zealand on 1 December 2003, where it was shot. Then, two weeks later, it was released in the United States.
The Return of the King made a total of $1.146 billion worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing film of 2003. As of 2022, it ranks 26 on the list of the highest-grossing films, a rank it was pushed to after the release of multiple other masterpieces. For instance, Avatar has been dominating the top of the list ever since 2009, followed by Avengers: Endgame (2019) and other films such as The Lion King (1994), Furious 7 (2015), Frozen II (2019), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011) and even The Minions which came in the 23rd place.
What is more distinct about The Return of the King is that it was nominated for a total of 11 categories out of 17 available nominations. It won all of them and made history as the only film with some of the highest nominations, the highest-ever Oscar wins, and no losses.
The Academy Awards that the film won include Best Picture, Best Music (Original Song), Best Sound Mixing, Best Directing, Best Visual Effects, and many others. In Addition, it won six BAFTAs, including Best Original Score and Best Cinematography, as well as three Golden Globes.