These 10 movies have the highest number of Oscar wins in history

movies highest Oscar wins lord of the rings
movies highest Oscar wins lord of the rings

Over the years, several cinematic gems have bagged double-digit Academy Awards nominations and many of these went on to become films with the highest number of Oscar wins.

The Oscars are considered to be the highest honour in the world of cinema. Their reputation is such that getting nominated for an award is in itself an achievement. These awards are divided into multiple categories, ranging from the best film to a series of technical recognitions.

The three movies to hold the Guinness World Record of winning 11 Oscars — the highest by a film — are The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Titanic and Ben-Hur.

Meanwhile, Titanic is also one of the three films which received the most number of nominations at 14. The other two are All About Eve (1950) and La La Land (2016). In 2022, a psychological western by Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog, received 12 nominations, making it one of the most-nominated films at the Oscars.

Additionally, among the many outstanding films that have won several Oscars, only one didn’t bag the Best Picture despite being nominated in the category. This was the 1972 musical Cabaret.

A look at 10 films that bagged the highest number of Oscars

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Highest Oscar wins
Image: Courtesy of © 2003 – New Line Cinema/IMDb

The third and final instalment of the original Lord of the Rings trilogy transformed the landscape of epic fantasy films with its special effects, performances, cinematography and direction.

In The Return of the King, Frodo and Sam try to destroy the ‘One Ring’ and with that the evil Sauron. As they make their way towards Mount Doom, Aragorn and Gandalf must keep Sauron’s army of Orcs busy at Minas Tirith to create the diversion the hobbits need.

The Return of the King is the only film in Academy Award history to have been nominated in more than 10 categories and won all of them.

Oscar nominations: 11

Oscar wins: 11

Best Picture — Barrie M. Osborne, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh

Best Director — Peter Jackson

Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay — Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson

Best Film Editing — Jamie Selkirk

Best Art Direction-Set Decoration — Grant Major, Dan Hennah, Alan Lee

Best Costume Design — Ngila Dickson, Richard Taylor

Best Makeup — Richard Taylor, Peter Swords King

Best Music, Original Score — Howard Shore

Best Music, Original Song for  “Into the West” — Fran Walsh, Howard Shore, Annie Lennox

Best Sound Mixing — Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Michael Hedges, Hammond Peek

Best Visual Effects — Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cook, Alex Funke


Titanic (1997)

Titanic
Image: Courtesy of © 1997 – Paramount Pictures/IMDb

The tragic romantic fictional drama was set in the backdrop of the ill-fated voyage of the real RMS Titanic. The story entails two star-crossed lovers, Rose and Jack, who fall in love during the voyage despite their class differences.

Directed by James Cameron, the film was the first picture since Ben-Hur (1959) to have won 11 Academy Awards. Titanic is the third-highest-grossing film of all time and the only film from the 1990s among the 30 highest-grossing films by lifetime.

Oscar nominations: 14

Oscar wins: 11

Best Picture — James Cameron, Jon Landau

Best Director — James Cameron

Best Cinematography — Russell Carpenter

Best Art Direction-Set Decoration — Peter Lamont, Michael Ford

Best Costume Design — Deborah Lynn Scott

Best Sound — Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson, Gary Summers, Mark Ulano

Best Film Editing — Conrad Buff IV, James Cameron, Richard A. Harris

Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing — Tom Bellfort, Christopher Boyes

Best Effects, Visual Effects — Robert Legato, Mark A. Lasoff, Thomas L. Fisher, Michael Kanfer

Best Music, Original Song for “My Heart Will Go On” — James Horner, Will Jennings

Best Music, Original Dramatic Score — James Horner

Ben-Hur (1959)

Highest Oscar wins
Image: Courtesy of © 1959 Warner Bros./IMDb

One of the greatest films in history, Ben-Hur was the first picture to win 11 Oscars — a record that stood unmatched for decades until Titanic equalled it.

The movie is based on Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ — a 19th-century novel by Lew Wallace. Set in Biblical times, it tells the story of the titular protagonist who is a Jewish prince. Betrayed and sold into slavery, Ben-Hur fights his way to freedom and avenges the ruin of his family.

Besides the grand scale of the film, it was Charlton Heston’s performance as Ben-Hur that won plaudits from critics and cinema lovers alike.

Oscar nominations: 12

Oscar wins: 11

Best Picture — Sam Zimbalist (Posthumously)

Best Director — William Wyler

Best Actor in a Leading Role — Charlton Heston

Best Actor in a Supporting Role — Hugh Griffith

Best Cinematography, Color — Robert Surtees

Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color — William A. Horning, Edward C. Carfagno, Hugh Hunt

Best Costume Design, Color — Elizabeth Haffenden

Best Sound — Franklin Milton (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer SSD)

Best Film Editing — Ralph E. Winters, John D. Dunning

Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture — Miklós Rózsa

Best Effects, Special Effects — A. Arnold Gillespie, R.A. MacDonald, Milo B. Lory

West Side Story (1961)

Highest Oscar wins
Image: Courtesy of © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved./IMDb

A musical masterpiece set in New York City of the 1950s, West Side Story revolves around two young lovers, who are connected to two rival gangs by fate. As they dream of a future together, simmering tensions between the gangs spell doom.

It was the first film adaptation of the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name. This was also the first time two people shared the Academy Award for Best Director for a film.

Oscar nominations: 11

Oscar wins: 10

Best Picture — Robert Wise

Best Director — Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins

Best Actor in a Supporting Role — George Chakiris

Best Actress in a Supporting Role — Rita Moreno

Best Cinematography, Color — Daniel L. Fapp

Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color — Boris Leven, Victor A. Gangelin

Best Costume Design, Color — Irene Sharaff

Best Sound — Fred Hynes (Todd-AO SSD), Gordon Sawyer (Samuel Goldwyn SSD)

Best Film Editing — Thomas Stanford

Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture — Saul Chaplin, Johnny Green, Sid Ramin, Irwin Kostal

Gigi (1958)

Highest Oscar wins
Image: Courtesy of © 1958 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved/IMDb

The American musical comedy is about Gigi, a carefree Parisian girl who has a platonic relationship with an older man, Gaston. Things get complicated when Gigi, who is trained to be a courtesan, and Gaston, the rich playboy, fall in love.

Oscar Nominations: 9

Oscar wins: 9

Best Picture — Arthur Freed

Best Director — Vincente Minnelli

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium — Alan Jay Lerner

Best Cinematography, Color — Joseph Ruttenberg

Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black and White or Color — William A. Horning, E. Preston Ames, Henry Grace, F. Keogh Gleason (posthumously)

Best Costume Design, Black and White or Color — Cecil Beaton

Best Film Editing — Adrienne Fazan

Best Music, Original Song for “Gigi” — Frederick Loewe, Alan Jay Lerner

Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture — André Previn


The Last Emperor (1987)

The Last Emperor
Image: Courtesy of Artisan Entertainment – © 1998 Columbia Pictures/IMDb

Bernardo Bertolucci’s epic period film gives the Western world a peek into China’s revolutionary history through the life of the last Emperor of China —  Pu Yi.

Creating a brilliant narrative work through visuals, Bertolucci follows Pu Yi through his childhood to adulthood, during which time China was transformed from a monarchy to a Communist republic.

The Last Emperor is one of the few films which won in all categories it was nominated for.

Oscar nominations: 9

Oscar wins: 9

Best Picture

Best Director — Bernardo Bertolucci

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium — Bernardo Bertolucci, Mark Peploe

Best Cinematography — Vittorio Storaro

Best Art Direction-Set Decoration — Ferdinando Scarfiotti, Bruno Cesari, Osvaldo Desideri

Best Costume Design — James Acheson

Best Sound — Bill Rowe, Ivan Sharrock

Best Film Editing — Gabriella Cristiani

Best Music, Original Score — Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Byrne, Cong Su

The English Patient (1996)

Highest Oscar wins
Image: Courtesy of © 1996 – Miramax/IMDb

The British film is based on Michael Ondaatje’s 1992 novel of the same name.

Ralph Fiennes portrays a mysterious Hungarian named Almásy during World War II, who has been rescued from a plane crash and is undergoing treatment for his severe burns.

At the same time, Almásy is interrogated by an intelligence officer who suspects he is behind an incident that led to the officer losing his thumbs. When questioned, the Hungarian reveals his side of the story and his fateful affair with Katharine Clifton (Kristin Scott Thomas) that led to a personal loss.

Both Fiennes and Thomas were nominated in the best actor and best actress categories, respectively, but they didn’t win. The other major stars in the film include Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe and Colin Firth.

Oscar nominations: 12

Oscar wins: 9

Best Picture — Saul Zaentz

Best Director — Anthony Minghella

Best Actress in a Supporting Role — Juliette Binoche

Best Cinematography — John Seale

Best Art Direction-Set Decoration — Stuart Craig, Stephenie McMillan

Best Costume Design — Ann Roth

Best Sound — Walter Murch, Mark Berger, David Parker, Christopher Newman

Best Film Editing — Walter Murch

Best Music, Original Dramatic Score — Gabriel Yared

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Slumdog Millionaire
Image: Courtesy of IMDb

The British drama is based on Indian author Vikas Swarup’s 2005 novel, Q & A.

Jamal is a young man in Mumbai who appears as a contestant on Kaun Banega Crorepati, the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. As he goes on correctly answering the questions, he is arrested on suspicion of cheating in the game. Jamal then reveals his past, where he rises from the slums of Mumbai to enter the underworld and his desire to protect the love of his life.

The film earned three Indians — A.R. Rahman, Gulzar and Resul Pookutty — Academy Awards in multiple categories.

Oscar nominations: 10

Oscar wins: 8

Best Picture — Christian Colson

Best Achievement in Directing — Danny Boyle

Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay — Simon Beaufoy

Best Achievement in Cinematography — Anthony Dod Mantle

Best Achievement in Film Editing — Chris Dickens

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score — A.R. Rahman

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song for “Jai Ho” — A.R. Rahman, Gulzar

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing — Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke, Resul Pookutty

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Gandhi (1982)

Gandhi 1982
Image: Courtesy of © 1982 Columbia Pictures/IMDb

The Richard Attenborough directorial is one of the greatest films of all-time. After all, Gandhi is the biography of Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian freedom struggle icon who is counted among the greatest personalities of the 20th century.

The film focuses on Gandhi’s life, starting from his days as a young lawyer in South Africa when he experiences racism first-hand to his assassination in 1948. It chronicles his transformation into the great apostle of non-violence and civil rights that continues to inspire many across the world. It also highlights his thoughts and powerfully depicts his determined opposition to British injustices.

Bhanu Athaiya became the first Indian to win an Oscar when she was awarded in the category of Best Costume Design.

Oscar nominations: 11

Oscar wins: 8

Best Picture — Richard Attenborough

Best Director — Richard Attenborough

Best Actor in a Leading Role — Ben Kingsley

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen — John Briley

Best Cinematography — Billy Williams, Ronnie Taylor

Best Art Direction-Set Decoration — Stuart Craig, Robert W. Laing, Michael Seirton

Best Costume Design — John Mollo, Bhanu Athaiya

Best Film Editing — John Bloom

Amadeus (1984)

Highest Oscar wins
Image: Courtesy of IMDb

The biographical period drama is about the 18th-century musical genius, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but is presented from the point of view of his peer and rival, Antonio Salieri.

In the film, Salieri is confined to an asylum, where he recounts events that led to the death of Mozart and how he had a hand in it.

Murray Abraham played Antonio Salieri and Tom Hulce essayed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Both actors were individually nominated for the Best Actor in a Leading Role category, which Abraham won.

Oscar nominations: 11

Oscar wins: 8

Best Picture — Saul Zaentz

Best Director — Milos Forman

Best Actor in a Leading Role — F. Murray Abraham

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium — Peter Shaffer

Best Art Direction-Set Decoration — Patrizia von Brandenstein, Karel Cerný

Best Costume Design — Theodor Pistek

Best Sound — Mark Berger, Thomas Scott, Todd Boekelheide, Christopher Newman

Best Makeup — Paul LeBlanc, Dick Smith

(Hero and featured image credit: New Line Cinema)

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