Across Nearly 100 Years of Best Picture Winners, Americans Pick ‘Forrest Gump’ and ‘Titanic’ as the Very Best
A clear favorite has started to emerge in this year’s best picture race: Experts are largely predicting A24’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once” — which leads the Oscar field with 11 total nominations — to win the award next month following its sweep at last week’s Directors Guild of America Awards. “The Banshees of Inisherin” and “All Quiet on the Western Front” look like its primary challengers.
No matter the victor, best picture winners often receive a boost in prestige and awareness (and sometimes in ticket sales). New Morning Consult data found that more than half of all U.S. adults (54%) are interested in watching films that win the Academy Award for best picture. Those that win are etched into cinema history forever.
Ahead of the March 12 ceremony, Morning Consult asked Americans for their thoughts on every best picture winner, dating back to “Wings” in 1929. “Forrest Gump” (1994) is the ultimate Oscar best picture winner, garnering the highest net favorability rating among Americans out of the 94 films included in the survey. (Net favorability rating is the share of respondents with a favorable opinion of each film minus the share with an unfavorable view.)
Meanwhile, among self-identified avid film fans, “Titanic” (1997) was named the best Oscar winner.
Oscar Best Picture Winners, Ranked by Favorability
“Forrest Gump” is America’s favorite best picture winner
- Robert Zemeckis’ “Forrest Gump,” starring Tom Hanks, earned the highest net favorability rating (76) among the general U.S. population. Among generations, the 1994 best picture winner had the highest net favorability rating among baby boomers (84) and Gen Xers (76).
- While “Forrest Gump” had a net favorability rating of 79 among avid film fans, it was slightly overtaken by “Titanic” among that group, with a net favorability rating of 80. In honor of its 25th anniversary, the James Cameron-directed film was rereleased in theaters earlier this month, earning another $13 million domestically.
- “Rocky” (1976) and “The Godfather” (1972) appeared in the top five among both adults and avid film fans. “The Sound of Music” (1965), “Braveheart” (1995), “Rain Man” (1988) and “The Godfather Part II” also ranked highly among both groups.
- Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003), “Unforgiven” (1992) and “Gandhi” (1982) were the only films to appear in the top 20 among avid film fans that were not also in the general population’s top 20.
- Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” (2000) was the only film from 2000 or later to make it into the general population’s top 20 rankings. That could be good news for the long-awaited sequel, which is set for a 2024 release. Films from the 1990s and 1970s tended to perform well in the survey.
- More recent best picture winners — such as “CODA” (2021), “Nomadland” (2020) and “Parasite” (2019) — unsurprisingly had higher net favorability ratings among Gen Zers and millennials compared with older cohorts. Of the three, “Parasite” ranked the highest, in 52nd place out of 94.
Youngers generations appreciate a best picture winner
Winners from the 1990s and even earlier also earned high marks with the younger cohorts, suggesting many have seen, and appreciate, films released long before they were born.
The Morning Consult data also shows that Gen Zers (42%) and millennials (46%) are the generations most likely to watch next month’s 95th Academy Awards, which will be broadcast by ABC and hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. In addition, Gen Zers (60%) and millennials (60%) were most likely to say they’re interested in seeing films that win an Academy Award for best picture. As Hollywood labors to win over Gen Z viewers, one bankable way for a film to make a cross-generational impact appears to be to win the industry’s biggest award. Easy.
The Feb. 16-19, 2023, survey was conducted among a full representative sample of 2,202 U.S. adults, including a subset of between 973 and 1,156 respondents who were shown a portion of a complete list of 94 films, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.