Academy Award Rankings

Ranking All The Movies Nominated At The 12th Academy Awards In 1940

The Best Movies From The 12th Academy Awards In 1940

“What are the best movies nominated for the 12th Academy Awards held in 1940?” We looked at all 54 movies nominated for an Oscar in 1940 and ranked them again one another to answer that very question!

We took all 57 movies that were nominated for an Academy Award in 1940 and looked at their Rotten Tomato Critic, Rotten Tomato User, IMDB, and Letterboxd scores, ranking them against one another to see which movies came out on top. The movies are ranked on our list below, with the full chart of rankings included at the bottom of the page. We did not use Metacritic scores because of the lack of data for older movies on that site. Metacritic scores will be included when we do rankings for other years in the future.

If you want to see the rankings for additional years you can visit our Academy Award Rankings page.

Happy Viewing!



The Top 1940 Academy Award Movie Rankings



54 ) Five Times Five

Nominated For:

  • Best Short Subject, Two-reel

Cicile, Annette, Yvonne, Emile and Marie, the Dionne Quintuplets, turn five-years-old and have a private birthday party in their garden. Other than the five little French-Canadian princesses-of-the-world, the other attendees at the party for the sheltered sisters are their doctor-and-mentor, Roy Dafoe; a priest and two nurses; radio’s “Town Crier,” Alexander Woollcott; and RKO-Newsreel cameraman Harry Smith. Happy Fifth Birthday, girls.

Purchase / Learn More



53 ) Sword Fishing

Nominated For:

  • Best Short Subject, One-reel

A group of fisherman, including Howard Hill, “the world’s greatest archer,” go in search of marlin off the California coast. With fishing line attached to his arrow, Hill plans to spear the fish, which would then be brought aboard the boat by rod and reel.

Purchase / Learn More



52 ) Information Please: Series 1, No. 1

Nominated For:

  • Best Short Subject, One-reel

Oscar nominated short from RKO Radio

Purchase / Learn More



51 ) Way Down South

Nominated For:

  • Best Music, Scoring

Musical – life in the south complete with all the things you would expect in 1939.

Purchase / Learn More



49 Tie ) She Married a Cop

Nominated For:

  • Best Music, Scoring

This comedy is set in New York and centers upon a singing Irish cop who causes quite a sensation among two producers when he sings at the annual Policeman’s Ball. For a long time, they have been looking for a voice for their new cartoon feature, “Paddy the Pig,” and the cop is just perfect. The policeman is tickled pink at the prospect of being a star and begins telling all his friends about his good fortune (he has no idea what they plan to do with his voice). Eventually he ends up marrying one of the producers, who still hasn’t told him the truth. Suddenly the night of the big premiere finally arrives and all of the policeman’s old friends and colleagues are there. As it begins, the policeman is appalled and humiliated to see that he has been mocked and has become a laughing stock. He immediately spurns his new wife and goes back to the police force. Time passes, and fortunately, the two reunite and settle their differences.

Purchase / Learn More



49 Tie ) Sons of Liberty

Nominated For:

  • Best Short Subject, Two-reel (Win)

Set during the American Revolution, this colorful 2 reel short tells the story of Haym Salomon, American patriot and financier of the American Revolution.

Purchase / Learn More



47 Tie ) Captain Fury

Nominated For:

  • Best Art Direction

An Irish convict sentenced to hard labor in Australia escapes into the outback, and organizes a band of fellow escapees to fight a corrupt landlord.

Purchase / Learn More



47 Tie ) Lady of the Tropics

Nominated For:

  • Best Cinematography, Black-and-White

Playboy Bill Carey woos a half-caste beauty in French Indochina, but her second-class legal status makes a formidable barrier.

Purchase / Learn More



45 Tie ) Drunk Driving

Nominated For:

  • Best Short Subject, Two-reel

In this Crime Does Not Pay series entry, John Jones is an up and coming businessman who drinks too much but denies he has a problem. One day he mixes drinking and driving, and the tragic consequences hit very close to home.

Purchase / Learn More



45 Tie ) Eternally Yours

Nominated For:

  • Best Music, Original Score

Anita Halstead, swept off her feet by magician Arturo, finds the results less than magical.

Purchase / Learn More



43 ) Balalaika

Nominated For:

  • Best Sound, Recording

A Russian prince disguised as a worker and a cafe singer secretly involved in revolutionary activities fall in love.

Purchase / Learn More



43 ) Nurse Edith Cavell

Nominated For:

  • Best Music, Original Score

Story of the brave nurse who served the Allies so gallantly during WWI while working with the Belgian underground to aid wounded soldiers. English nurse Edith Cavell works in a small private hospital in German-occupied Brussels during WWI. When the son of a patient escapes from a German prisoner-of-war camp, Cavell aids him to reach Holland and safety. This leads to Cavell and other locals forming an underground organization to help other soldiers from Belgium, France, and England escape Germany as well. However, eventually the Germans hear news of Cavell and capture her, sentencing her to death by firing squad. There is not happy ending here, but Cavell faces her death with poise, bravery, and honor, like a modern-day Joan of Arc.

Purchase / Learn More



41 Tie ) Prophet Without Honor

Nominated For:

  • Best Short Subject, One-reel

The story of Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806-1873), an American Naval officer, who developed the first maps that charted the oceans’ winds and currents.

Purchase / Learn More



41 Tie ) Swanee River

Nominated For:

  • Best Music, Scoring

Swanee River is a 1940 American biopic about Stephen Foster, a songwriter from Pittsburgh who falls in love with the South, marries a Southern girl, then is accused of sympathizing when the Civil War breaks out. Typical of 20th Century Fox biopics of the time, the film is more fictional than factual biography.

Purchase / Learn More



40 ) Detouring America

Nominated For:

  • Best Short Subject, Cartoons

This travelogue across America is filled with sight gags such as the ‘Old Reliable’ geyser spitting into a spittoon, cliff-dwelling Indians who walk horizontally up and down the faces of cliffs to get to their homes, and a Texas cow puncher who really punches cows. Also featured is Mr. Butter Fingers, a ‘human fly’ who climbs the outside of the Empire State Building.

Purchase / Learn More



38 Tie ) Busy Little Bears

Nominated For:

  • Best Short Subject, One-reel (Win)

Three bear cubs are observed exploring the forests of the Sierra Nevadas, encountering other wildlife, and invading the kitchen of a local ranch house.

Purchase / Learn More



38 Tie ) Man of Conquest

Nominated For:

  • Best Art Direction
  • Best Music, Original Score
  • Best Sound, Recording

The story of Sam Houston, hero of the Texas revolution, statesman, and first president of the Republic of Texas.

Purchase / Learn More



36 Tie ) Second Fiddle

Nominated For:

  • Best Music, Original Song

Studio publicist (Power) discovers Minnesota skating teacher (Henie) and takes her to Hollywood. She goes back to Minnesota but he follows her.

Purchase / Learn More



36 Tie ) The Great Victor Herbert

Nominated For:

  • Best Cinematography, Black-and-White
  • Best Music, Scoring
  • Best Sound, Recording

In his last film assignment, portly Walter Connolly fills the title role (in more ways than one) in The Great Victor Herbert. Very little of Herbert’s life story is incorporated in the screenplay (a closing title actually apologizes for the film’s paucity of cold hard facts); instead, the writers allow the famed composer’s works to speak for themselves. In the tradition of one of his own operettas, Herbert spends most of his time patching up the shaky marriage between tenor John Ramsey (Allan Jones) and Louise Hall (Mary Martin). Many of Herbert’s most famous compositions are well in evidence, including “Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life”, “March of the Toys” and “Kiss Me Again”, the latter performed con brio by teenaged coloratura Susanna Foster. Evidently, the producers were able to secure the film rights for the Herbert songs, but not for the stage productions in which they appeared, which may explain such bizarre interpolations as having a song from Naughty Marietta.

Purchase / Learn More



35 ) Intermezzo: A Love Story

Nominated For:

  • Best Cinematography, Black-and-White
  • Best Music, Scoring

A concert violinist becomes charmed with his daughter’s talented piano teacher. When he invites her to go on tour with him, they make beautiful music away from the concert hall as well. He soon leaves his wife so the two can go off together.

Purchase / Learn More



34 ) The Mikado

Nominated For:

  • Best Cinematography, Color

The legendary Gilbert and Sullivan troupe the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company joined forces with Hollywood for this 1939 Technicolor version of the beloved comic opera The Mikado, the first work by the famed duo to be adapted for the screen. Directed by musician and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Victor Schertzinger, it is a lavish cinematic retelling of the British political satire set in exotic Japan.

Purchase / Learn More



33 ) The Pointer

Nominated For:

  • Best Short Subject, Cartoons

Mickey and Pluto go hunting for quail. Pluto scares away the first ones they see; Mickey scolds him, then relents. He shows Pluto how to be a pointer, and they set off after another quail, but Mickey accidentally jumps on a bear’s nose, and thinks it’s Pluto. Meanwhile, Pluto finds the quail and points.

Purchase / Learn More



32 ) Gulliver’s Travels

Nominated For:

  • Best Music, Original Score
  • Best Music, Original Song

Johnathan Swift’s animated classic fantasy of an English sailor, Gulliver, shipwrecked on the shores of the kingdom of Lilliput, inhabited by a race of tiny folk. Soon he finds himself in the middle of a war against their neighbors. Bright, delightful, and ideal for youngsters of all ages.

Purchase / Learn More



31 ) Golden Boy

Nominated For:

  • Best Music, Original Score

A Famous Play….. Now A Great Picture. Despite his musical talent Joe Bonaparte wants to be a boxer.

Purchase / Learn More



30 ) Topper Takes a Trip

Nominated For:

  • Best Effects, Special Effects

Mrs Topper’s friend Mrs Parkhurst has convinced Mrs topper, to file for a divorce from Cosmo, due to the strange circumstances of his trip with ghost Marion Kirby. Marion comes back from heaven’s door to help Cosmo again, this time only with dog Mr. Atlas. Due to a strange behavior of Cosmo, the judge refuses to divorce them, so Mrs Parkhurst takes Mrs Topper on a trip to France, where she tries to arrange the final reasons for the divorce, with help of a gold-digging French baron, Marion takes Cosmo to the same hotel, to bring them back together and to get her own final ticket to heaven, but the whole thing turns out to be not too easy.

Purchase / Learn More



29 ) When Tomorrow Comes

Nominated For:

  • Best Sound, Recording (Win)

Romance and heartbreak walk hand-in-hand when Philip Chagal accidentally meets Helen Lawrence in a restaurant where she is a waitress. Unhappily married to a woman who suffers from mental illness, he is attracted to her and they make a date to go sailing, arriving at Philip’s country home just as a storm is breaking. Helen learns who he is for the first time, a celebrated-and-famous concert pianist and, falling in love with him, decides to leave before matters go further. A hurricane hits and their car is crippled by a falling tree. Rising water forces then to seek shelter in the choir loft of a church, where they spend the night.

Purchase / Learn More



28 ) They Shall Have Music

Nominated For:

  • Best Music, Scoring

A boy runs away from home and ends up at a music school for poor children. When the school suffers hard times, he enlists the aid of violinist Heifetz to save the day.

Purchase / Learn More



27 ) Juarez

Nominated For:

  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role
  • Best Cinematography, Black-and-White

The story of three men – Benito Juarez, Napoleon III and Emperor Maximilian – driven by political passions and of a woman, Empress Carlota, driven to madness.

Purchase / Learn More



26 ) The Rains Came

Nominated For:

  • Best Art Direction
  • Best Cinematography, Black-and-White
  • Best Effects, Special Effects (Win)
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Music, Original Score
  • Best Sound, Recording

This romantic drama based on Louis Bromfield’s novel stars Myrna Loy as an unhappily married woman whose visit to India awakens her to true love and selflessness.

Purchase / Learn More



25 ) Babes in Arms

Nominated For:

  • Best Actor in a Leading Role
  • Best Music, Scoring

Mickey Moran, son of an old vaudeville-team puts on his own show to avoid being sent with other vaudevillians’ children to a work farm, but that isn’t that easy.

Purchase / Learn More



23 Tie ) Drums Along the Mohawk

Nominated For:

  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role
  • Best Cinematography, Color

Classic account of a revolutionary war-Era farmer’s attempts to build a life for himself and his family in the mohawk valley.

Purchase / Learn More



23 Tie ) Union Pacific

Nominated For:

  • Best Effects, Special Effects

One of the last bills signed by President Lincoln authorizes pushing the Union Pacific Railroad across the wilderness to California. But financial opportunist Asa Barrows hopes to profit from obstructing it. Chief troubleshooter Jeff Butler has his hands full fighting Barrows’ agent, gambler Sid Campeau; Campeau’s partner Dick Allen is Jeff’s war buddy and rival suitor for engineer’s daughter Molly Monahan. Who will survive the effort to push the railroad through at any cost?

Purchase / Learn More



22 ) Peace on Earth

Nominated For:

  • Best Short Subject, Cartoons

Two baby squirrels ask grandpa to explain what “men” are when he comes in singing “peace on earth, goodwill to men”. Grandpa tells the story of man’s last war.

Purchase / Learn More



21 ) The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

Nominated For:

  • Best Art Direction
  • Best Cinematography, Color
  • Best Effects, Special Effects
  • Best Music, Scoring
  • Best Sound, Recording

Academy Award-winner Bette Davis (“Jezebel,” “Dark Victory”) is the homely Queen Elizabeth I, whose jealous love of the handsome Earl of Essex leads to tragedy.

Purchase / Learn More



20 ) First Love

Nominated For:

  • Best Art Direction
  • Best Cinematography, Black-and-White
  • Best Music, Scoring

In this reworking of Cinderella, orphaned Connie Harding is sent to live with her rich aunt and uncle after graduating from boarding school. She’s hardly received with open arms, especially by her snobby cousin Barbara. When the entire family is invited to a major social ball, Barbara sees to it that Connie is forced to stay home. With the aid of her uncle, who acts as her fairy godfather, Connie makes it to the ball and meets her Prince Charming in Ted Drake, her cousin’s boyfriend.

Purchase / Learn More



19 ) The Man in the Iron Mask

Nominated For:

  • Best Music, Original Score

The Three Musketeers rescue the king’s unjustly imprisoned twin.

Purchase / Learn More



18 ) Gunga Din

Nominated For:

  • Best Cinematography, Black-and-White

Cary Grant leads the way in this action-packed adventure about three rowdy British soldiers who defeat a murderous cult in India with help from native water boy, Gunga Din.

Purchase / Learn More



17 ) Love Affair

Nominated For:

  • Best Actress in a Leading Role
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role
  • Best Art Direction
  • Best Music, Original Song
  • Best Picture
  • Best Writing, Original Story

Aboard ship on route to America French playboy Michael (Charles Boyer) meets Terry (Irene Dunne), as the voyage progresses they become friends and develop feelings for each other. On arrival in New York they agree to meet again in six months at the Empire State Building to see if Michael has become a more dependable man.

Purchase / Learn More



15 Tie ) Dark Victory

Nominated For:

  • Best Actress in a Leading Role
  • Best Music, Original Score
  • Best Picture

Bette Davis stars as a hedonistic socialite who learns to value the simple things in life after being diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor in this three-hanky drama.

Purchase / Learn More



15 Tie ) Ugly Duckling

Nominated For:

  • Best Short Subject, Cartoons (Win)

A remake of an earlier (1931) Silly Symphony retells the story of an outcast duckling whose search for a family to accept him leads to constant rejection before learning his true identity as a swan.

Purchase / Learn More



14 ) Bachelor Mother

Nominated For:

  • Best Writing, Original Story

“Just ten baby fingers and ten baby toes–Troubles? Scandal?–Gosh–Nobody Knows”Polly Parrish, a clerk at Merlin’s Department Store, is mistakenly presumed to be the mother of a foundling. Outraged at Polly’s unmotherly conduct, David Merlin becomes determined to keep the single woman and “her” baby together.

Purchase / Learn More



13 ) Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Nominated For:

  • Best Actor in a Leading Role (Win)
  • Best Actress in a Leading Role
  • Best Director
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Picture
  • Best Sound, Recording
  • Best Writing, Screenplay

Six-time Oscar-nominated romantic classic about a staid schoolmaster whose heart is thawed by a beautiful young woman. Starring Robert Donat, Greer Garson and Paul Henreid.

Purchase / Learn More



12 ) Wuthering Heights

Nominated For:

  • Best Actor in a Leading Role
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role
  • Best Art Direction
  • Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (Win)
  • Best Director
  • Best Music, Original Score
  • Best Picture
  • Best Writing, Screenplay

The Earnshaws are Yorkshire farmers during the early 19th Century. One day, Mr. Earnshaw returns from a trip to the city, bringing with him a ragged little boy called Heathcliff. Earnshaw’s son, Hindley, resents the child, but Heathcliff becomes companion and soulmate to Hindley’s sister, Catherine. After her parents die, Cathy and Heathcliff grow up wild and free on the Moors and despite the continued enmity between Hindley and Heathcliff they’re happy — until Cathy meets Edgar Linton, the son of a wealthy neighbor.

Purchase / Learn More



10 Tie ) The Four Feathers

Nominated For:

  • Best Cinematography, Color

This Technicolor spectacular is considered the finest adaptation of A. E. W. Mason’s classic 1902 adventure novel. Set at the end of the nineteenth century, The Four Feathers follows the travails of a young officer accused of cowardice after he resigns his post on the eve of a major deployment to Khartoum; he must then fight to redeem himself in the eyes of his fellow officers and fiancée.

Purchase / Learn More



10 Tie ) Young Mr. Lincoln

Nominated For:

  • Best Writing, Original Story

Henry Fonda’s great stamp on the Lincoln character, directed by John Ford and featuring ten years in the President’s life.

Purchase / Learn More



9 ) Beau Geste

Nominated For:

  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role
  • Best Art Direction

THUNDERING DRAMA Beau, John, and Digby Geste are three inseparable, adventurous brothers who haven been adopted into the wealthy household of Lady Brandon… They join the French Foreign Legion in North Africa, after one of them steals their adoptive family’s famous heirloom sapphire.

Purchase / Learn More



7 Tie ) Of Mice and Men

Nominated For:

  • Best Music, Original Score
  • Best Music, Scoring
  • Best Picture
  • Best Sound, Recording

A mentally disabled giant and his level headed guardian find work at a sadistic cowboy’s ranch in depression era America.

Purchase / Learn More



7 Tie ) Only Angels Have Wings

Nominated For:

  • Best Cinematography, Black-and-White
  • Best Effects, Special Effects

Jean Arthur is a stranded showgirl who sets her sights on Cary Grant in this rousing adventure taleof men who fly mail planes over the Andes.

Purchase / Learn More



6 ) Ninotchka

Nominated For:

  • Best Actress in a Leading Role
  • Best Picture
  • Best Writing, Original Story
  • Best Writing, Screenplay

Greta Garbo bursts into a rare bit of onscreen laughter during her portrayal of a cold-hearted Soviet agent who is warmed up by a trip to Paris and a night of love.

Purchase / Learn More



4 Tie ) Gone with the Wind

Nominated For:

  • Best Actor in a Leading Role
  • Best Actress in a Leading Role (Win)
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Win)
  • Best Art Direction (Win)
  • Best Cinematography, Color (Win)
  • Best Director (Win)
  • Best Effects, Special Effects
  • Best Film Editing (Win)
  • Best Music, Original Score
  • Best Sound, Recording
  • Best Writing, Screenplay (Win)
  • Best Picture (Win)

Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Havilland and Hattie McDaniel star in this classic epic of the American South.

Purchase / Learn More



4 Tie ) The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Nominated For:

  • Best Music, Scoring
  • Best Sound, Recording

Considered by many as the greatest adaptation of the Victor Hugo classic novel about the deformed bell ringer of Notre Dame who rescues beautiful gypsy woman and falls in love with her.

Purchase / Learn More



3 ) The Wizard of Oz

Nominated For:

  • Best Art Direction
  • Best Cinematography, Color
  • Best Effects, Special Effects
  • Best Music, Original Score (Win)
  • Best Music, Original Song (Win)
  • Best Picture

The Wizard of Oz follows Dorothy and her dog Toto when they are caught in a tornado’s path and somehow end up in the land of Oz.

Purchase / Learn More



2 ) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Nominated For:

  • Best Actor in a Leading Role
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role
  • Best Art Direction
  • Best Director
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Music, Scoring
  • Best Picture
  • Best Sound, Recording
  • Best Writing, Original Story (Win)
  • Best Writing, Screenplay

James Stewart takes on the powers-that-be in our nation’s capitol in Frank Capra’s timeless classic.

Purchase / Learn More



1 ) Stagecoach

Nominated For:

  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Win)
  • Best Art Direction
  • Best Cinematography, Black-and-White
  • Best Director
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Music, Scoring (Win)
  • Best Picture

John Ford’s smash hit and enduring masterpiece Stagecoach revolutionized the western, elevating it from B movie to the A-list and establishing the genre as we know it today. Stagecoach features outstanding performances from Hollywood stalwarts Claire Trevor, John Carradine, and Thomas Mitchell, and, of course, John Wayne, in his first starring role for Ford, as the daredevil outlaw the Ringo Kid.

Purchase / Learn More



The Best 12th Academy Award Rankings



1940 Academy Award Rankings

Film RT Critic RT User IMDB Letterboxd Overal Rank
Stagecoach 1 7 5 1 1
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 12 1 1 1 2
The Wizard of Oz 10 3 3 1 3
Gone with the Wind 13 2 1 5 4
The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1 7 5 8 4
Ninotchka 11 3 4 5 6
Of Mice and Men 1 10 7 8 7
Only Angels Have Wings 1 13 11 1 7
Beau Geste 1 10 7 13 9
The Four Feathers 1 7 13 13 10
Young Mr. Lincoln 1 13 13 7 10
Wuthering Heights 1 10 11 13 12
Goodbye, Mr. Chips 17 6 7 10 13
Bachelor Mother 21 5 13 10 14
Dark Victory 15 16 13 10 15
Ugly Duckling 21 13 7 13 15
Love Affair 16 19 18 13 17
Gunga Din 14 18 17 19 18
The Man in the Iron Mask 21 17 21 22 19
First Love 21 19 25 19 20
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex 19 24 21 22 21
Peace on Earth 21 37 18 13 22
Drums Along the Mohawk 18 28 25 19 23
Union Pacific 21 26 21 22 23
Babes in Arms 1 19 38 35 25
The Rains Came 21 25 27 22 26
Juarez 21 30 20 29 27
They Shall Have Music 21 23 21 37 28
When Tomorrow Comes 21 33 29 22 29
Topper Takes a Trip 21 22 34 29 30
Golden Boy 21 31 29 27 31
Gulliver’s Travels 20 29 31 29 32
The Pointer 21 37 27 27 33
The Mikado 21 32 34 29 34
Intermezzo: A Love Story 21 37 31 29 35
Second Fiddle 21 27 41 37 36
The Great Victor Herbert 21 37 31 37 36
Busy Little Bears 21 37 34 37 38
Man of Conquest 21 37 34 37 38
Detouring America 21 37 45 29 40
Prophet Without Honor 21 37 38 37 41
Swanee River 21 37 38 37 41
Balalaika 21 35 43 37 43
Nurse Edith Cavell 21 37 41 37 43
Drunk Driving 21 37 43 37 45
Eternally Yours 21 34 48 35 45
Captain Fury 21 37 45 37 47
Lady of the Tropics 21 37 45 37 47
She Married a Cop 21 37 48 37 49
Sons of Liberty 21 37 48 37 49
Way Down South 21 35 51 37 51
Information Please: Series 1, No. 1 21 37 52 37 52
Sword Fishing 21 37 53 37 53
Five Times Five 21 37 54 37 54

You Might Also Like