Since 1929, 82 movies have held the distinguished title of Best Picture, as named by the Academy of Motion Pictures, and the majority of them are bona fide classics ('Crash,' not so much). As Oscar nears its 83rd ceremony, we pitted these champs against one another, narrowing down that daunting list to the 25 creme-de-la-creme pics -- and we ranked them, too. Click through to see what came out on top.

25. 'The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King'
Why It Won: The Academy essentially took this opportunity to recognize the entire trilogy Peter Jackson and his merry men cranked out.
Why We Think It's a Winner: Even if you don't know an Orc from orca, Jackson offered an approachable-yet-faithful adaptation of JRR Tolkien's sprawling fantasy saga.

24. 'Rocky'
Why It Won: Though it was up against heavy hitters like 'Taxi Driver' and 'Network,' 'Rocky''s inspirational story was tough to beat. How could you not root for the underdog?
Why We Think It's a Winner: 'Rocky' set the tone for all future sports movies. There wouldn't be a 'Fighter' without it.

23. 'The Departed'
Why It Won: Longtime Oscar bridesmaid Martin Scorsese finally won the Academy over with rollicking this Boston crime drama.
Why We Think It's a Winner: It's hard to single out Best Supporting Actor nominee Mark Wahlberg among the A list of wicked-good performances (by Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, to name a few).

22. 'Unforgiven'
Why It Won: It had been a long time since anyone made a decent Western. Plus, the Academy loves actors who direct (see: Robert Redford, Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, et al).
Why We Think It's a Winner: Only Clint Eastwood can make us root for the "bad" guy in a standoff between a gun-for-hire and a shady sheriff.

21. 'In the Heat of the Night'
Why It Won: This stark police drama deals with racism as both the cause and effect of a seemingly incidental murder in small-town Sparta, Miss.
Why We Think It's a Winner: One-man civil rights movement Sidney Poitier (they call him Mr. Tibbs!) squares off against Chief Bill Gillespie (Best Actor Rod Steiger) in this explosive flick.

20. 'No Country for Old Men'
Why It Won: After a slew of nominations, voters couldn't resist the Coen brothers' chilling western, which combined all of their strengths into one bloody-good movie.
Why We Think It's a Winner: Years later, Javier Bardem's Oscar-winning performance still gives us the willies. We'll never look at a coin toss the same way.

19. 'Terms of Endearment'
Why It Won: It reminded us that life is funny, even when it isn't -- not by cracking lame cancer jokes, but by crafting characters who face a death sentence with true humanity.
Why We Think It's a Winner: Best Actress Shirley MacLaine showed us why we all love our mothers, even when they're as complicated as Aurora Greenway.

18. 'The French Connection'
Why It Won: This action-packed cop drama perfectly captured the gritty world of 1970s New York, boasted an endlessly quotable -- and Oscar-winning -- performance by Gene Hackman ("I'm gonna nail you for picking your feet in Poughkeepsie!"), and climaxed with an epic car chase that still hasn't been topped.
Why We Think It's a Winner: Did we mention the car chase?

17. 'My Fair Lady'
Why It Won: Best Director George Cukor's musical retelling of the George Bernard Shaw play 'Pygmalion' is just lovely.
Why We Think It's a Winner: Best Actor Rex Harrison, reprising his Broadway role, is as good an imperious snob as he is a smitten suitor. And Audrey 'epburn's -- er, Hepburn's -- Cockney accent is winning.

16. 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'
Why It Won: Mental-health reform dominated the '70s, and Oscar has always loved films about people with infirmities, physical or otherwise (see: 'Rain Man').
Why We Think It's a Winner: Best Actor Jack Nicholson blurs the line between audacious and insane to such great effect that rumors circulated that he'd actually undergone electroshock therapy.

15. 'The Deer Hunter'
Why It Won: With the end of Vietnam still an open wound, the film mines the tricky territory of the soldiers' plight when they return home.
Why We Think It's a Winner: Amid a stellar cast, it's Christopher Walken's chilling Best Supporting Actor–winning performance -- and the Russian roulette scene -- that still haunts.

14. 'The Sound of Music'
Why It Won: It had the perfect blend of great music, historical drama and a lovely leading performance by the legendary Julie Andrews.
Why We Think It's a Winner: Forty-six years after its release, the music still resonates with audiences both young and old. The hills are very much alive, indeed.

13. 'It Happened One Night'
Why It Won: Frank Capra won his first directing Oscar for what has been called the original screwball comedy.
Why We Think It's a Winner: The chemistry between rogue reporter Peter Warne (Clark Gable) and on-the-run socialite Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert) carries this light romp of a film all the way from Miami to New York.

The Bridge on the River Kwai12. 'The Bridge on the River Kwai'
Why It Won: A can-do military thriller that pits an international cadre of World War II POWs against their Japanese captors is a no-brainer.
Why We Think It's a Winner: Made just 12 years after the end of WWII, this war drama still stands up for the gritty reality of its depiction of tensions between combatants -- and allies.

11. 'All About Eve'
Why It Won: Oscar buckled its seat belt and enjoyed every second of this smart, sardonic and bumpy night.
Why We Think It's a Winner: Who better than hellcat Bette Davis to show us a good catfight? Best Director and Best Screenplay winner Joseph L. Mankiewicz's poison pen spawned a cottage industry of quotable quotes.

10. 'Gone With the Wind'
Why It Won: The epic scope of the story and the sumptuous visuals of Reconstruction-era Atlanta (in gorgeous Technicolor) brought Margaret Mitchell's popular novel to the masses.
Why We Think It's a Winner: Frankly, it's the tumultuous love affair between Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) and Scarlett O'Hara (Best Actress Vivien Leigh).

9. 'The Silence of the Lambs'
Why It Won: Thomas Harris' bestselling novel already had a built-in audience, as did the film, the first Best Picture winner available on VHS well before awards night.
Why We Think It's a Winner: The rapport between Best Actress winner Jodie Foster and Best Actor winner Anthony Hopkins is part battle of will, part creepy seduction.

8. 'The Apartment'
Why It Won: By 1960, writer-director Billy Wilder was an Academy darling, having amassed an impressive 17 noms and three wins. This is his 'Some Like It Hot' follow-up.
Why We Think It's a Winner: The talented cast and peppy script keep the tone of the dark story light and the pacing brisk. The plot was quite daring for its time.

7. 'Schindler's List'
Why It Won: Because it was directed by Steven Spielberg and it's about the Holocaust, a frequently-rewarded topic of the Academy.
Why We Think It's a Winner: Because Ralph Fiennes' Amon Goeth put a handsome face on evil. And because, ultimately, the story of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) is a tragedy infused with optimism and hope.

6. 'Lawrence of Arabia'
Why It Won: David Lean's sprawling bio-epic of British officer T.E. Lawrence was perfect fodder for a Best Picture win.
Why We Think It's a Winner: It also won Oscars for art direction and cinematography -- it's a beauty to watch. Peter O'Toole (as the title character) and Omar Sharif (as an Arab soldier) were both nominated for their acting.

5. 'On the Waterfront'
Why It Won: The odds were against it being a contendah, since Best Director Elia Kazan ID'ed suspected communists for Congress. Did it make him a favorite son -- or a pariah?
Why We Think It's a Winner: We feel Terry Malloy's pain. Marlon Brando's tightly wound performance redefined all subsequent depictions of on-screen masculinity and rage.

4. 'The Godfather: Part II'
Why It Won: Francis Ford Coppola expanded the second installment, with flashbacks about the earnest start of young Vito Corleone (Best Supporting Actor Robert De Niro).
Why We Think It's a Winner: We see how it all begins to topple. A move to Las Vegas exposes the family to new threats, including the petty jealousies of a brother passed over.

3. 'Annie Hall'
Why It Won: Woody Allen tapped into the zeitgeist of the Me Generation with a quirky story of a woman's self-discovery through a very modern love affair.
Why We Think It's a Winner: Instead of a "punch line" movie ('Bananas,' 'Sleeper'), Allen gave us an odd-but-real heroine (Best Actress Diane Keaton) we could fall in love with.

2. 'The Godfather'
Why It Won: Oscar likes big stories, and the saga of the Corleone family is a veritable history of the New York Mafia.
Why We Think It's a Winner: By now, the mob genre has been done to death (RIP, 'Sopranos'), but writer-director Coppola's vast opus went there first, and was also an affecting family (with a small "f") drama.

1. 'Casablanca'
Why It Won: Life imitated art when the Allies invaded Casablanca in November 1942, bringing topical resonance to the film's pre-invasion setting. Its timeless romance didn't hurt its odds, either.
Why We Think It's a Winner: Admit it -- you were in love with Ingrid Bergman or Humphrey Bogart after watching it.


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