18 Oscar-Winning Movies by Columbia Directors and Screenwriters

Aug. 29, 2023
Columbia Alma Mater statue holding Oscar statues


From the Golden Age to Green Book, Columbians have been sweeping up statuettes for decades. Here are some of their notable Academy Award–winning movies that you can add to your streaming queue. 

Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in Green Book
Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in "Green Book" (Patti Perret / Universal Studios).

Green Book (2018)

Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor 

Directed and cowritten by Peter Farrelly ’86SOA, this dramedy was inspired by the true story of African-American concert pianist Don Shirley; his white chauffeur, Frank Vallelonga; and their turbulent road trip through the Jim Crow–era South. 


Benedict Cumberbatch (second from left) in "The Imitation Game" (StudioCanal).
Benedict Cumberbatch (second from left) in "The Imitation Game" (StudioCanal).

The Imitation Game (2014)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Graham Moore ’03CC wrote the award-winning screenplay for this moving biopic of Alan Turing, the English mathematician who helped crack Nazi codes during World War II. 


Still from Disney's Frozen

Frozen (2013)

Best Animated Film

This family-friendly reboot of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale kicked off a massively profitable franchise. It also made screenwriter and codirector Jennifer Lee ’05SOA, today the chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios, the first woman to direct a movie earning more than $1 billion in box-office revenue. 


Still from The Hurt Locker
"The Hurt Locker"

The Hurt Locker (2009)

Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing

Kathryn Bigelow ’79SOA took home the highly coveted best-director Oscar for her film about an Iraq War bomb-disposal team. A decade later, she is still the only woman to have won this award.


Still from Gods and Monsters with Ian McKellen
Ian McKellen (left) in "Gods and Monsters."

Gods and Monsters (1998)

Best Adapted Screenplay

This historical drama written by Bill Condon ’76CC looks at the last days of James Whale, an openly gay English filmmaker who directed 1930s horror classics including Frankenstein and The Invisible Man.  


Rita Johnson and Robert Montgomery in Here Comes Mr. Jordan
Rita Johnson and Robert Montgomery in "Here Comes Mr. Jordan." (Columbia Pictures / IMDb)

Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941)

Best Screenplay

Sidney Buchman 1923CC, a prolific screenwriter of old-Hollywood classics like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, cowrote this Oscar-winning fantasy film about a boxer who is given a second chance at life after dying in a plane crash. 


Still from The Lunch Date short film, by Adam Davidson
"The Lunch Date"

The Lunch Date (1989)

Best Live Action Short Film

Adam Davidson ’91SOA was an MFA student at Columbia’s School of the Arts when he made this twelve-minute black-and-white film set in the cafeteria at Grand Central Terminal. The short went on to win both an Oscar and the Short Film Palme d’Or at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival.  


Tom Hulce in still from Amadeus
Tom Hulce in "Amadeus" (Warner Bros.)

Amadeus (1984)

Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Sound Mixing, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Based on the 1979 play by Peter Shaffer, this epic period drama from Czech filmmaker Miloš Forman ’15HON, the former chair of the Columbia School of the Arts film program, explores the intersections of art, genius, and immortality through the stories of rival classical composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri.


Still from Breaking Away
Jackie Earle Haley, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Christopher, and Daniel Stern in "Breaking Away" (20th Century Fox).

Breaking Away (1979)

Best Original Screenplay

Steve Tesich ’67GSAS, a Serbian-American writer who earned a master’s degree in Russian literature at Columbia, penned the Oscar-winning screenplay for this coming-of-age comedy about four recent high-school graduates who take up bicycle racing.


Cast of All the President's Men
Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Martin Balsam, Jason Robards, and Jack Warden in "All the President's Men." (IMDb / © 1976 Warner Bros.)

All the President's Men (1976)

Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, Best Art Direction, Best Sound

Novelist and screenwriter William Goldman ’56GSAS based his screenplay of All the President's Men, about the Watergate scandal and the fall of President Richard Nixon, on the 1974 book of the same name by investigative journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.


Still from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"
Jack Nicholson (second from left) in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (United Artists).

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay

Based on the iconoclastic 1962 novel by Beat writer Ken Kesey, this first Oscar-winning film from former Columbia faculty member Miloš Forman ’15HON, which starred Jack Nicholson as a rebellious patient in an oppressive mental institution, swept each of the “big five” awards at the 1976 Oscars. 


Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Katherine Ross in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Robert Redford, Katherine Ross, and Paul Newman in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." (IMDb)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Song

This award-winning western, which was written by William Goldman '56GSAS, stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford as real-life outlaws Robert LeRoy Parker and Harry Longabaugh.


Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Edie Adams in "The Apartment"
Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Edie Adams in "The Apartment" (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.).

The Apartment (1960)

Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction

Billy Wilder’s stark portrayal of workplace affairs and toxic office culture, cowritten by I. A. L. Diamond ’41CC, was shocking to some viewers in 1960, but the sleek dark comedy holds up extraordinarily well in a post–Mad Men #MeToo era. (Diamond, a frequent collaborator of Wilder’s, also cowrote the 1959 classic Some Like It Hot.)


Lobby card for 1955 film Interrupted Melody
Lobby card for "Interrupted Melody"

Interrupted Melody (1955)

Best Story and Screenplay

Cowritten by William Ludwig ’32CC, ’34LAW, this Technicolor musical tells the real-life story of Marjorie Lawrence, a Wagnerian opera star from Australia who was tragically struck with polio while touring in Latin America in 1941. 


Still from All About Eve
Anne Baxter, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, and George Sanders in "All About Eve" (Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation/ The Museum of Modern Art Film Stills Archive).

All About Eve (1950)

Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound Mixing, Best Costume Design

This lauded classic from Joseph L. Mankiewicz ’28CC about the competitive and backstabbing side of show business swept up fourteen Oscar nominations and six wins, while pushing forty-two-year-old Bette Davis — at the time a Hollywood has-been — back into the limelight.   


Still from A Letter to Three Wives
Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern, and Jeanne Crain in "A Letter to Three Wives" (20th Century Fox).

A Letter to Three Wives (1949)

Best Director, Best Screenplay

By the time he made All About Eve, Joseph L. Mankiewicz ’28CC was already an Oscar winner. His 1949 romantic melodrama, which features a young Kirk Douglas, may be largely forgotten today, but it won the prolific filmmaker his first Academy Awards for directing and screenwriting.  


Still from Casablanca
Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in "Casablanca."

Casablanca (1942)

Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay

From “Here’s looking at you, kid” to “We’ll always have Paris,” this World War II romance starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman contains some of the most famous film lines ever uttered. Some credit is due to cowriter Howard Koch ’25LAW, a Columbia Law School graduate who authored several Hollywood screenplays before he was blacklisted in 1951 by the House Un-American Activities Committee.


Orson Welles in Citizen Kane
Orson Welles in "Citizen Kane" (Warner Bros./ Courtesy of the Neal Peters Collection).

Citizen Kane (1941)

Best Original Screenplay

Herman J. Mankiewicz 1917CC, older brother of Joseph, cowrote this Orson Welles classic about the rise and fall of a William Randolph Hearst–like media mogul. The film, which was plagued by controversy and poor box-office receipts at the time of its release, is now ranked the greatest American movie of all time by the American Film Institute. 


This article was originally published in February 2020. It was last updated in January 2024.

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