And the winner is? Yes, it is that time of year. The Oscar nominees have been released by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and movie lovers from around the world will watch the Academy Awards to see if their favorite movie(s) win a prize. However, winning the Oscar doesn’t necessarily mean success at the box office. There are films though that do cross the critical and popular movie boundaries to score big at the box office, such as the top 10 highest grossing Best Picture winning movies listed below.
That doesn’t mean that box office success should lead to Academy consideration and votes. Top grossing movies, while good as proven by their box office success, doesn’t mean they are what Oscar winning Best Picture movies are comprised. However, there are occasions where box office hits do translate into Oscar winning Best Picture moves.
Here is a list of the top 10 highest grossing Best Picture winning movies of all time. They are that rare breed where the movie generates box office victory on its way to winning a Best Picture Oscar. The following list is based upon U.S. gross box office receipts as compiled by IMDb.
10. The Sound of Music
Best Picture: 1966
U.S. Box Office: $163.21 million
Director: Robert Wise
Starring: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Eleanor Parker
Based on the real-life story of the Von Trapp Family singers, one of the world’s best-known concert groups in the era immediately preceding World War II, the Sound of Music follows the main character, Maria, played by Julie Andrews, as she leaves an Austrian abbey to become a governess in the home of a widowed naval captain, Georg Von Trapp, played by Christopher Plummer, who has seven children. Filled with breathtaking shots of the Austrian Alps and heart-warming music, Maria brings a new love of life and music into the home.
Best Picture: 2003
U.S. Box Office: $170.69 million
Director: Rob Marshall
Starring: Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Taye Diggs
Set on murderer’s row, murderesses Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) and Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) await trial in 1920s Chicago. The story follows both as they develop stories around their murders to attract public attention and sympathy so they can avoid being sentenced to death. The escapades in the film are filled with great music from John Kander, Danny Elfman and Steve Bartek. You’ll love the performances by the entire cast but Zelweger won a Best Actress Oscar.
8. A Beautiful Mind – Top 10 Highest Grossing Best Picture Winning Movies
Best Picture: 2002
U.S. Box Office: $170.74 million
Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer
A Beautiful Mind is based on the biography of American mathematician, John Nash, played by Russell Crowe. Nash was the 1994 Nobel Laureate in Economics for his ground-breaking work on game theory, which is the mathematical model for decision making. The film follows Nash from his early days as a graduate student at Princeton University during which he beings to develop paranoid schizophrenia to the development of his concepts around governing dynamics and its application for the United States Department of Defense. However, the fulcrum point for this movie is about Nash’s schizophrenia and how it impacts those around him, including his wife Alicia, played by Jennifer Connelly.
7. Rain Man
Best Picture: 1989
Studio: United Artists
U.S. Box Office: $178.80 million
Director: Barry Levinson
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Valeria Golino, Gerald R. Molen
Rain Man paired Dustin Hoffman, who won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal Raymond Babbitt, an autistic savant with incredible recall, and Tom Cruise, who plays Raymond’s younger brother Charlie. The movie follows Charlie, a self-centered schemer, who is in the middle of importing four Lamborghinis to Los Angeles which are being held at the port by the EPA when his father dies. Charlie travels back to Cincinnati to settle affairs where he learns the bulk of multi-million estate is going to an institution where his older brother resides, leaving him with a 1949 Buick Roadmaster.
That’s where the fun begins as Charlie breaks his brother out of the institution where he lives and embarks on a road trip back to Los Angeles. That is when Charlie’s Lamborghinis are seized by his creditors, leaving him $80,000 in debt. That leads to a trip to Vegas where they use Raymond’s recall to win $86,000 from blackjack.
6. Dances with Wolves
Best Picture: 1991
U.S. Box Office: $184.21 million
Director: Kevin Costner
Starring: Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Green, Rodney A. Grant
Dances with Wolves marked the directorial debut of Kevin Costner. He also produced the movie. What a way to begin your work as a director. The film follows the story of Union Army Lt. John Dunbar (Kevin Costner), a decorated war hero who travels to the western frontier to main a military post he finds deserted. He soon encounters a wolf he names “Two-socks” and a curious envoy from a nearby Sioux tribe.
After several encounters, Dunbar engenders the trust of Kicking Bird (Graham Greene), the tribe’s medicine man, and develops a friendship with his Sioux neighbors who name him Dances with Wolves. He later meets a white woman, Stands with a Fist (Mary McDoonnell) who was adopted by Kicking Bird. Dunbar and Stands with a Fist fall in love. Everything seems perfect until a rival Pawnee tribe attacks the Sioux and the U.S. Army starts to investigate the military outpost manned by Dunbar. The Pawnee are defeated by the Sioux with the help of Dunbar and avoid the U.S. Army by moving to their winter camp.
5. Gladiator – Top 10 Highest Grossing Best Picture Winning Movies
Best Picture: 2001
Studio: Dream Works
U.S. Box Office: $187.71 million
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Neilsen, Oliver Reed
Set in 180 AD, Gladiator tells the story of General Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe), who has lead his Roman army to victory over the Germanic tribes but is betrayed by Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), the son of Emperior Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris), who murders his father. Commodus orders the execution of Meridius and his family.
Near death upon returning home to find his family murdered, Meridius is sold into slavery where he becomes a Gladiator without peer. He eventually returns to Rome to fight in the Colosseum. Upon which, he is caught up in a plot to kill Commodus. The plot fails but Commodus challenges a poisoned Meridius to a duel in the Collosseum. However, revenue proves to be stronger than the poison.
4. Gone with the Wind
Best Picture: 1940
U.S. Box Office: $198.68 million
Director: Victor Fleming
Starring: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Thomas Mitchell
Epic Civil War drama focuses on the life of petulant southern belle Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh). Starting with her idyllic on a sprawling plantation, the film traces her survival through the tragic history of the South during the Civil War and Reconstruction, and her tangled love affairs with Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable).
3. Forrest Gump
Best Picture: 1995
U.S. Box Office: $330.25 million
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise
Slow-witted Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) has never thought of himself as disadvantaged, and thanks to his supportive mother (Sally Field), he leads anything but a restricted life.
Whether dominating on the gridiron as a college football star, fighting in Vietnam or captaining a shrimp boat, Forrest inspires people with his childlike optimism. But one person Forrest cares about most may be the most difficult to save — his childhood love, the sweet but troubled Jenny (Robin Wright).
2. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – Top 10 Highest Grossing Best Picture Winning Movies
Best Picture: 2004
Studio: New Line
U.S. Box Office: $377.85 million
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen
The culmination of nearly 10 years’ work and conclusion to Peter Jackson’s epic trilogy based on the timeless J.R.R. Tolkien classic, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” presents the final confrontation between the forces of good and evil fighting for control of the future of Middle-earth.
Hobbits Frodo and Sam reach Mordor in their quest to destroy the `one ring’, while Aragorn leads the forces of good against Sauron’s evil army at the stone city of Minas Tirith.
Best Picture: 1998
U.S. Box Office: $659.33 million
Director: James Cameron
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane
James Cameron’s “Titanic” is an epic, action-packed romance set against the ill-fated maiden voyage of the R.M.S. Titanic; the pride and joy of the White Star Line and, at the time, the largest moving object ever built.
She was the most luxurious liner of her era — the “ship of dreams” — which ultimately carried over 1,500 people to their death in the ice-cold waters of the North Atlantic in the early hours of April 15, 1912.