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The only three films ever to have won 'The Big Five' Oscars


If the Oscars are your gauge for how good or bad a film is, you may want to reconsider your approach to the medium of cinema, as whilst the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sometimes recognise the best films of any given year, they often get it quite wrong. Simply consider the notable snubs from the past decade of the awards, with the likes of the Safdie brothers’ Uncut Gems, Another Round by Thomas Vinterberg and Bait by Mark Jenkin each missing out on one of the ‘Big Five’ Oscars. 

So, what indeed are the ‘Big Five’ Oscars? Keen to sideline the majority of technical awards, as they have done with the 2022 ceremony, the ‘Big Five’ refers to the awards that the Academy simply gives the most attention and most significance. As well as the crowning achievement of Best Picture, the other four awards include Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay (either Original or Adapted). 

The winners of each of these awards are the ones slapped on the front covers of the morning newspapers, with the actors and directors praised in industry circles whilst the screenwriter is often left to celebrate in obscurity. To win just one of these awards is a mammoth achievement, so to win all five in one given ceremony is a glorious success, managed by only three films in the history of the awards.

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The first came in 1934 at only the 7th Academy Awards, where It Happened One Night scooped all five of the glittering Oscar statuettes, beating the likes of Imitation of Life, The Thin Man and The White Parade. Taking home Best Picture as well as Best Director for Frank Capra, leading actors Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert both took home prizes alongside Robert Riskin who adapted the screenplay. 

Coming at a time when the studio system dominated Hollywood, such a stranglehold on the awards show from one major film wasn’t entirely surprising, though it was unprecedented, recording a feat that wouldn’t be replicated until over 40 years later.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest became a universal critical and commercial success upon its release in 1975, with Jack Nicholson seizing the hearts of cinephiles across the world as he took home the award for Best Actor the film that won Best Picture. Of course, these weren’t the only awards dished out, with Nicholson’s co-star Louise Fletcher also taking home a statuette with director Miloš Forman and writers Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman for their adapted screenplay. 

Beating out the likes of Barry Lyndon by Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws and Nashville by Robert Altman, the Oscars success of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is remarkable, though somewhat undeserved when looking at its competitors. 

The final film ever to achieve this remarkable feat was The Silence of the Lambs, released 16 years after Forman’s classic, telling the thrilling tale of an FBI agent trying to find a psychopathic serial killer. Winning Jodie Foster the leading Actress Oscar in the lead role, her performance was somewhat outdone by Anthony Hopkins as the terrifying Hannibal Lecter as the film took home Best Picture and became a pop-culture staple. Jonathan Demme, who helmed the project took home Best Director whilst Ted Tally was also praised for his adapted screenplay, as the film fought off the likes of JFK and Beauty and the Beast at the 1991 Academy Awards.

Whilst it’s always nice when the Academy shares the awards over several deserved films, it’s difficult to argue that these three cinematic classics didn’t deserve the adoration they received.

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