Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927, F.W. Murnau)
During the first Academy Awards, there were actually two Best Picture winners. Although Wings is often credited as the first Best Picture winner, this one is technically a co-winner because Wings is Best Production while this won as Best Artistic Achievement. It is indeed one of German director Murnau's masterpieces. It's a rather melodramatic story about the love story between a couple but so stunningly made, it really is an artistic achievement in cinema.
Rebecca (1940, Alfred Hitchcock)
One of the most retarded things the Academy has ever done is not give a Best Director Oscar to the Master himself, Alfred Hitchcock but one of his films did manage to win Best Picture and that's Rebecca. It may not be the best Alfred Hitchcock film but it's definitely in the Top 8, easily. Mrs. Danvers is probably one of the best Hitchcock villains of all time.
Casablanca (1942, Michael Curtiz)
Quite a few films that win Best Picture often become only remembered for doing just that: winning the Best Picture Oscar. But not this film. This film is still fondly remembered and widely regarded as it was when it was first released, perhaps even more so. Extremely quotable, superbly acted and frankly one of the most romantic movies ever made. It's a real classic.
The Apartment (1960, Billy Wilder)
Speaking of romantic movies, this is another one of them. Billy Wilder has been known to create sardonic and often funny films. It's wonderful that a contemporary comedy like this would manage to win Best Picture, It's sharply written and wonderfully acted. It is one of those rare comedies that manage to win.
The Godfather (1972, Francis Ford Coppola)
Yet another Best Picture winner that the Academy got right. Until now, it's still revered as a classic and it's one of my favorites. The sequel is about as good as also won Best Picture.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991, Jonathan Demme)
Like comedy, horror is another genre that's sorely underrepresented at the Oscars. So it's kind of amazing that this gruesome but absolutely gripping, superbly acted horror-thriller manage not only to win Best Picture but sweep the top awards: Picture, Actor, Actress, Director and Screenplay. It instantly made Hannibal Lecter played by Anthony Hopkins one of the most iconic big-screen characters of all time.
Unforgiven (1992, Clint Eastwood)
Only three Westerns have won Best Picture Oscar and this is the best among them (Cimarron and Dances with Wolves are the other two). Clint Eastwood has made a name for himself as one of the great American filmmakers and this film is one of his masterpieces. One of the more exemplary choices made by the Academy.
Schindler's List (1993, Steven Spielberg)
The Academy was in a hot streak during the early '90s, no? After so many years, director Steven Spielberg finally earned respect and plaudits for turning a dead serious Holocaust drama. It may not be the best Holocaust movie ever made but it's certainly the one that opened my eyes to it. It's an incredible, mature piece of work and worthy of being called the best of the year.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003, Peter Jackson)
Fantasy is another genre that gets very little respect from the Oscars. But not this year. Peter Jackson's monumental achievement of filming J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy masterpiece swept the Oscars that year and in my opinion, deservedly.
No Country for Old Men (2007, Joel Coen & Ethan Coen)
Though I may slightly prefer There Will Be Blood that year, the Coen Brothers are among my favorite filmmakers and I have trouble deciding between this and Fargo as my favorite Coen Brothers film. I've seen this three times and it never ceases to amaze me. It's bleak and methodically paced but it's such a great film and will probably hold up for years to come.
Honorable mentions: All About Eve (1950, Joseph L. Mankiewicz), Lawrence of Arabia (1962, David Lean), The French Connection (1971, William Friedkin), The Godfather Part II (1974, Francis Ford Coppola), Annie Hall (1977, Woody Allen),.