Best Picture Oscar Winners of the 1940s

Academy Hits and Misses in the Golden Age of Hollywood

As the Best Picture Oscar winners of the 1940s prove, sometimes the Academy hits – and sometimes it misses by a mile. 1941 may have seen the most controversial Best Picture dust-up of all time, when the immortal

Citizen Kane
How Green Was My Valley

. Nevertheless, the 1940s were part of the Golden Age of Hollywood, hits and misses alike - a decade packed with stupendous films.

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1940 Best Picture – ‘Rebecca’

Rebecca. United Artists
Philadelphia Story
The Grapes of Wrath
Foreign Correspondent
The Letter, the Long Voyage Home, Our Town, Kitty Foyle
All This and Heaven, Too


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1941 Best Picture – ‘How Green Was My Valley’

How Green Was My Valley
How Green Was My Valley. 20th Century Fox

John Ford’s touching coming-of-age story in a Welsh mining village is a fine movie from a lovely novel, but history has rightly judged Orson Welles' Citizen Kane as the better movie. A masterpiece of film noir, The Maltese Falcon, also missed the prize, along with the charming biopic Sergeant York; the melodramatic stage hit The Little Foxes; and Hitchcock’s spellbinding Suspicion. Other movies that lost in 1941 were the delightful Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Blossoms in the Dust, Hold Back the Dawn and One Foot in Heaven.

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1942 Best Picture – ‘Mrs. Miniver’

Mrs. Miniver
Mrs. Miniver. MGM

The sweet, sentimental tale of wartime bravery and sacrifice in Great Britain

Mrs. Miniver
The Magnificent Ambersons
The Talk of the Town
King’s Row
Yankee Doodle Dandy
The Pride of the Yankees
Random Harvest, Wake Island, The Pied Piper
The Invaders


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1943 Best Picture – ‘Casablanca’

Casablanca. Warner Brothers

Thanks to Casablanca, we’ll always have Paris. Michael Curtiz’s cherished story of wartime love and sacrifice was the clear winner in 1943, beating out William Wellman’s gritty western allegory The Ox-Bow Incident; the frothy comedy The More the Merrier; and the Spanish Civil War tearjerker For Whom the Bell Tolls. Also falling that year were The Human Comedy, Heaven Can Wait, In Which We Serve, Song of Bernadette, The Watch on the Rhine, and Madame Curie.

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1944 Best Picture – ‘Going My Way’

Going My Way
Going My Way. Paramount

Another injustice here as the crowd-pleasing story of a priest in a tough parish (crooner Bing Crosby) vacuumed up seven Oscars, including the top prize. The film earned millions, and beat out the far superior

Double Indemnity
Since You Went Away

(as in President Woodrow).

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1945 Best Picture – ‘The Lost Weekend’

The Lost Weekend
The Lost Weekend. Paramount
The Lost Weekend
Going My Way
The Bells of St. Mary’s
Mildred Pierce
Anchors Aweigh

with Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly.

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1946 Best Picture – ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’

The Best Years of Our Lives
The Best Years of Our Lives. RKO Radio Pictures

The poignant story of troubled veterans returning from World War II to hardship at home bested Frank Capra’s perennial Christmas favorite, It’s a Wonderful Life, along with Henry V, The Razor’s Edge and the beloved children’s movie, The Yearling. Also notable in 1946 were several great films that weren’t even nominated for Best Picture, including Hitchcock’s tense spy thriller Notorious; British tearjerker Brief Encounter; racy western Duel in the Sun; and the classic noir crime film The Killers.

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1947 Best Picture – ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’

Gentleman's Agreement
Gentleman's Agreement. Paramount

In arguably the weakest year of the decade,

Gentleman’s Agreement
Miracle on 34th Street
The Bishop’s Wife
Great Expectations


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1948 Best Picture - ‘Hamlet’

Hamlet. Universal

Okay, it’s Shakespeare, it’s Sir Laurence Olivier, it’s great art, it's Hamlet – but I still think Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a better movie, and should have won. Nevertheless, John Huston’s classic story of human greed and frailty lost to the Bard of Avon’s great historical play. Shakespeare also won out over the mental-illness expose The Snake Pit, Jane Wyman as a deaf-mute rape victim in Johnny Belinda, and the cerebral ballet movie The Red Shoes.

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1949 Best Picture - 'All The King's Men'

All the King's Men
All the King's Men. Columbia

Broderick Crawford astounded in All The King's Men, a great movie about American politics from a great American novel, clearly based on the life of Louisiana Governor Huey Long. It triumphed over the popular war film Twelve O'Clock High (which inspired a TV series); Olivia De Haviland in The Heiress; a clever comedy on married life, A Letter to Three Wives, and Battleground, a World War II story.