The red carpet rolls, the cameras flash, and the stars come out for the most important days of their lives. For all the industry politics and sociopolitical turmoil surrounding them, the Academy Awards—aka the Oscars—are still a spectacle and monument to the weight of narrative film in our culture.
Landing even a single Oscar nomination can land a film in the history books. But every now and then, a film comes along that resonates on such a level to be showered with adulation across the board. There are three films to date that have been nominated for 14 Academy Awards—the most ever.
All About Eve (1950)
Twenty years after the institution of the Academy Awards began, the 1950 classic All About Eve broke records for nominations. The film was nominated for 14 awards, six of which it won. It is also the only film to ever receive four female acting nominations. Bette Davis plays the titular protagonist, an aging chain-smoking actress pitted against her younger counterparts, in what is argued to be one of her best performances on screen. Ironically, Davis did not secure the award for Best Actress, which went to Judy Holiday that year.
The film also features a brief appearance by Marilyn Monroe in the early days of her career. Even in her brief appearance, it was said that no matter how a scene was lighted, Monroe managed to draw all of the light to herself. The film is still regarded as one of the greatest of all time. And in 1990, it was selected to be preserved at the National Film Registry.
La La Land (2016)
The 2016 musical about making it big in Hollywood is one of the most nominated films in Academy history. Of the 14 award nominations received by La La Land, the film won six. Emma Stone won Best Actress for her widely-praised performance as Mia Dolan, opposite Ryan Gosling and directed by Best Director winner Damien Chazelle. Critics embraced the film as a revival of a dwindling genre that touches on the golden years of the entertainment industry. In many ways, the film was a love letter to Los Angeles and its legacy. Ty Burr of the Boston Globe writes: "...the movie traffics in the bittersweet happiness of treasuring things that are vanishing, like the unrealized future imagined in the climactic dance number, or those inky, star-filled dance floors that go on forever in old movies, or Hollywood musicals themselves.”
In addition to the score, La La Land was praised for its elaborate and communicative choreography. Critic Brian Tallerico writes: “in Chazelle’s vision, choreography matters, and a simple piano refrain can have more power than a lyric.”
In suit with its subject, Titanic was one of the most grand, expensive, and lucrative films in history. The production budget for the film totaled $200 million, and its worldwide gross marked more than $2 billion. The film was nominated for 14 Oscars and won 11, making it the most-awarded film ever, along with Ben-Hur (and, later, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King).
Director James Cameron was a long-time diving enthusiast and nautical explorer. In an interview with Playboy, he stated, “I made Titanic because I wanted to dive to the shipwreck, not because I particularly wanted to make the movie.” It was with this passion for the subject that he dedicated research and tremendous resources to the visual and technical feats of the film. Regardless of his impetus, Cameron managed to tell a resonant human story within the wreckage of the ship. From the romance at the center of the piece to the story unfolding around the sinking ship, themes of classism, gender, and the will to live made an impact on audiences comparable to the crash of the ship itself. In 2017, Titanic was added to the National Film Registry.