10 Least Popular Best Picture Winners, According to IMDb

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Since the creation of the Oscars, given out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Best Picture award has been the most prestigious award a film can possibly earn in the industry. Given to the greatest cinematic achievement of a particular year, it’s an accolade that ensures a movie will go down as a classic in the history books. Even then, not all Best Picture winners are created equal, and for one reason or another, a few have faded into relative obscurity as time has passed.



It’s mostly older films that have moved away from the mainstream, proved by their small number of ratings on IMDb. Perhaps it’s a film like Cimarron, which is one of the lowest-rated Best Picture winners on the website. Or maybe it’s more along the lines of a movie like Wings, which still receives plenty of praise but hasn’t managed to become a general audience favorite.


10 ‘All the King’s Men’ (1949)

Directed by Robert Rossen

Image via Columbia Pictures


Complex and fairly influential in its time, All the King’s Men is a film noir chronicling the rise and fall of a corrupt politician holding unto power by any means necessary, making his friends richer and not caring who gets in the way. Even in spite of its Best Picture Oscar win, it’s one of the most overlooked noirs by many cinephiles, with only 16,300 ratings on IMDb.


The film’s commentary on corruption, political power, and the dangers of populism felt very timely in 1949, and remain massively important topics even to this day. The acting is amazing, particularly Broderick Crawford‘s Oscar-winning lead performance, and with a strong script bolstering that phenomenal cast, it’s a real shame that All the King’s Men doesn’t receive more recognition nowadays.


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9 ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ (1952)

Directed by Cecil B. DeMille

a man in adventurer's clothes and a clown, standing side by side
Image via Paramount Pictures


Cecil B. DeMille is one of early cinema’s most pivotal figures. Commercially successful, incredibly influential, and a pillar in the foundations of the American film industry as we know it today, he made some of the most important movies of old Hollywood. The Greatest Show on Earth, however, isn’t typically considered one of them, even despite its Best Picture win. It’s a 2-and-a-half-hour-long drama about the lives of trapeze artists, a clown, and an elephant trainer against the backdrop of circus life.


It’s certainly fun to get a glimpse into the backstage goings-on of a lifestyle so rarely depicted in film, but unfortunately, most of the 15,800 people who have rated The Greatest Show on Earth on IMDb think that it did a rather poor job at executing its premise. Boring and overlong, it’s far from being considered one of the best movies of the 1950s.


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8 ‘Wings’ (1927)

Directed by William A. Wellman and Harry d’Abbadie d’Arrast

A pilot flying a biplane in the 1927 movie, 'Wings.'
Image via Paramount Pictures 


Wings, being the very first recipient of the Best Picture Academy Award, is a key piece of film history. Even outside its historical and cultural value, however, it’s an exceptional silent war drama. Taking place over the course of World War I, it tells the tale of two young men from different social classes, both in love with the same woman, who become pilots in the war.


The film displays incredible artistic prowess from its directors, including some of the most impressive technical achievements of the ’20s, perhaps chief among which is one of the most popular tracking shots in the history of cinema. For those looking to get into silent films and the history of American cinema, Wings is a perfect introduction. It would certainly be great to add a few more ratings to the mere 14,200 that it has on IMDb.


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7 ‘Tom Jones’ (1963)

Directed by Tony Richardson

Albert Finney as Tom Jones, laying on the ground and smiling in Tom Jones
Image via United Artists


Though it’s often recognized as the weakest Best Picture recipient of the 1960s, Tom Jones nevertheless managed to beat better-known classics like Cleopatra and America America for the top award of 1963 movies. It follows the romantic adventures and escapades of chivalrous adopted bastard Tom Jones in 18th-century England.


With only a little over 14,000 ratings on IMDb, Tom Jones is definitely way below other Best Picture winners of the ’60s in terms of viewership. Frankly, it isn’t hard to see why. Irreverent, obscene, and every bit as horny as its titular character, it’s a rather niche adventure film that definitely not every kind of viewer can enjoy. Though its Best Picture win is puzzling, it’s not without a few fans who think it’s unfairly judged by many.


Tom Jones 1963 Poster

Tom Jones (1963)

Director
Tony Richardson

Cast
Albert Finney , Susannah York , Hugh Griffith , Edith Evans , Joan Greenwood , Diane Cilento

Runtime
129 minutes


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6 ‘Going My Way’ (1944)

Directed by Leo McCarey

man sitting on a table, pointing at man in chair in
Image via Paramount Pictures


In the final years of World War II, audiences were yearning for some wholesome entertainment that would fill their hearts with beautiful, uplifting stories. As such, those years saw the release of many such films. In 1944, the one that struck the hearts of Academy voters most closely was Going My Way, a dramedy where a young priest arrives at a new town, where old Father Fitzgibbon doesn’t think much of him.


Simple, satisfying, and with a pair of great performances by Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald, Going My Way may not be the most artistically impressive Best Picture winner of the ’40s. It may not even be worthy of being considered one of the decade’s best films. Going My Way is a sweet feel-good comedy with a strong script and even stronger performances, worthy of more than the 13,300 ratings it holds on IMDb.


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5 ‘The Life of Emile Zola’ (1937)

Directed by William Dieterle

The Life of Emile Zola - 1937
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures


If anything, legendary actor Paul Muni was praised for his unparalleled ability to entirely transform himself into any role, both physically and in terms of personality. One of his best works is in The Life of Emile Zola, only the second biopic ever to win the Best Picture Oscar, where the life of the famous French writer and his involvement in fighting the injustice of the Dreyfus Affair are examined.


One will certainly not find Emile Zola listed among many people’s favorite biopics, in large part because not many people have seen it to begin with, at only 8,900 ratings on IMDb. While many people feel that the way the movie fails to address the anti-semetism that lay at the heart of the true story has caused it to age poorly, it’s still a powerful drama anchored by an outstanding lead performance.


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4 ‘The Great Ziegfeld’ (1936)

Directed by Robert Z. Leonard

A couple marching surrounded by people in The Great Ziegfeld
Image via MGM


At the 1937 Oscars ceremony, The Great Ziegfeld became the very first biopic to win Hollywood’s top award. At nearly three hours long, it tells the ups and downs of Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., the producer who became Broadway’s biggest starmaker. It’s a lavish and well-made spectacle, but the 8,800 people on IMDb who have rated it feel that its tortuously excessive runtime and dated story are a bit too much.


For those that don’t mind their biopic dramas with a side of clichés and historical inaccuracies, The Great Ziegfeld is a fine enough film, though not particularly remarkable. For anyone else, it might not be very interesting. As such, its IMDb rating is abnormally low for a Best Picture winner, perhaps making it understandable why so few users have even gotten around to watching it.


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3 ‘The Broadway Melody’ (1929)

Directed by Harry Beaumont

A song and dance routine from The Broadway Melody
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures


The second Best Picture winner was also the first sound picture to get the award, as well as the first musical to do so. It was The Broadway Melody, panned by many as the single worst recipient of the accolade, due to its unengaging story about a pair of sisters from the vaudeville circuit who try to make it big on Broadway, though their hearts get in the way.


It’s a simple enough premise to do something entertaining enough with, but director Harry Beaumont somehow keeps finding more and more ways to make it boring and forgettable. It may have been received as quite extraordinary back in the day, but to modern audiences like the 7,800 people who rated it on IMDb, it has very little to offer beyond historical value.


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2 ‘Cimarron’ (1931)

Directed by Wesley Ruggles

Cimarron - 1931
Image via RKO Radio Pictures


It’s quite surprising that what many consider one of the worst Westerns of all time was also the first movie in the genre to win Best Picture. It’s Cimarron, a misogynistic and racially insensitive cultural caricature about a newspaper editor settling in an Oklahoma boom town at the end of the 19th century.


Only 6,800 people on IMDb have reported watching Cimarron, and it’s not likely that very many of them would recommend others to do the same. After all, it’s generally accepted to be nothing more than a clunky historical artifact, a Western that squanders its epic production values on a forgettable and poorly written story that has aged about as poorly as one would expect.


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1 ‘Cavalcade’ (1933)

Directed by Frank Lloyd

man in old soldier uniform looking at woman in elegant clothes
Image via Fox Film Corporation


Mixing the elements of the romantic and war drama genres that most people would call their most boring, Cavalcade is perhaps the most forgotten Best Picture winner of all time, with only a little over 5,800 people having rated it on IMDb. It portrays the ups and downs of two English families: one upper-class, the other working-class from the end of the 19th century to the early 1930s.


Historical epics covering such wide ground often prove to be either massive successes or overambitious flops. In the case of Cavalcade, at least in the modern day, the latter case is more true. Many would call it a forgettable melodrama that’s not even worth checking out for its historical value. Others on IMDb defend its story as powerful and Frank Lloyd‘s directing as effectively understated, but the fact is that there aren’t many viewers who can fairly state their opinion on this piece of Hollywood history.


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