in , , ,

The Top 25 Best Production Design Winners So Far (Updated for 2023)

Well, we’re back at it a bit early this week! Continuing a tradition I’ve been keen on for years, I’m ranking the new crop of Academy Award winners. For nearly all of the Oscar categories, you’ll see me list the top 25 recipients of that prize. Sometimes, our newest winner will appear. Other times, they’ll be relegated to the Honorable Mention category. Who knows, maybe one or two won’t even make the cut? It’s a list series that I’ll do each and every single year, in the weeks after the ceremony concludes. So, while this is a fun way to think about the Oscars in the aftermath of the latest telecast, it’s also a beginning for another column here on the site. Of course, definitely show us your own lists as well, in the comments section below. We’re definitely keen to know what you all think!

This week, I’ll be doing the Best Production Design category. Sometimes, this is a field where “best” can mean “most,” but it’s no surefire thing. Flashy contenders do tend to do very well, however, as you’ll see below. Frankly, as I always say with this piece, it’s hard to beat Batman here, as what Anton Furst realized is pretty spectacular. That being said, La La Land and Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood did come close. It’s another category where it’s very hard to dislike any of the victorious films. They’re just all great looking movies, plain and simple. How does our most recent winner in All Quiet on the Western Front fare? What about last year’s Dune? What of the impressive Mank from a year prior? Does it maintain its initial spot? You’ll have to see next, but Dune also does come in at a pretty impressive spot, so the competition is fierce. Read on for more…

Here are what I consider to be the 25 best winners of the Best Production Design Oscar, to date:


25. All Quiet on the Western Front
24. The Great Gatsby (2013)
23. The Godfather: Part II
22. Doctor Zhivago
21. Hugo
20. The Apartment
19. Avatar
18. Schindler’s List
17. Moulin Rouge!
16. Mad Max: Fury Road
15. Dick Tracy
14. Lawrence of Arabia
13. Mank
12. Chicago
11. Raiders of the Lost Ark
10. Dune
9. Barry Lyndon
8. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
7. Black Panther
6. Star Wars
5. Titanic
4. Pan’s Labyrinth
3. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
2. La La Land
1. Batman

Honorable Mention: All That Jazz, The Aviator, Cabaret, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Last Emperor, and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street


Stay tuned for another category later on this week or early next week!


Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Robert Hamer
5 months ago

I actually think the “Best” = “Most” assumption is a much more pronounced and frustrating problem with this category. So many cleverly-designed sets that more directly link mise-en-scene to themes and characters are seldom even nominated, while so many lavish period pieces and expensive blockbusters coast to a win even if they look like crap. The hideous Alice in Wonderland being the absolute nadir of this trend, at least within my lifetime; how much cooler would it have been if the sumptuous, lovely interior spaces of I Am Love actually reflecting the emotions of its characters or the intimidating, razor-sharp modern architecture of The Ghost Writer had prevailed, instead? Or how many films have straight-up stolen Kristi Zea and Karen O’Hara‘s design of Buffalo Bill’s lair from the unnominated The Silence of the Lambs in their subsequent lurid serial killer thrillers? This isn’t even a recent thing, either — it never ceases to blow my mind when I’m reminded that Dr. Strangelove wasn’t even nominated during a time when black-and-white and color sets were separated into their own sub-categories. Can anyone recall a single setpiece from Zorba the Greek that comes even close to the iconography of the War Room and the Big Board?

Having said that, there have been a few bang-on perfect winners in this category. Your choice of Batman at #1 is a great one, and I would have ranked The Grand Budapest Hotel in the top ten (in fact, I’d put just about any Wes Anderson movie from the last fifteen years up against most of the Best Production Design/Art Direction winners ever, and I am absolutely including Asteroid City in that declaration). I’m also a huge fan of Raiders of the Lost Ark winning this award, not just because the sets are breathtaking but also in just how inventively they were utilized in every action sequence; so few action movies these days integrate their physical locales into how the actors move and fight through them nearly as effectively. Also, how cool was it that The Diary of Anne Frank won this award, despite taking place almost entirely in a single cramped attic? Figuring out how to make that movie seem “cinematic” despite such a limitation must have been daunting, but they somehow pulled it off and were rewarded for it!

5 months ago
Reply to  Robert Hamer

Without looking at my list from last year I know it’s changes some as my thinking on it has changed or evolved .
1.The Apartment
2.To Kill A Mockingbird
4.Sleepy Hollow
5.The Diary of Anne Frank
8. A Room With A View (RIP Julian Sands)
10.The Grand Budapest Hotel
11.Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
13.The Hustler
14.Black Panther
15.Dick Tracy
16.The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
18.Schindler’s List
19.Black Narcissus
21.Raider of The Lost Ark
22.An American In Paris
24.The Rose Tattoo
25.All That Jazz



Written by Joey Magidson

NTR Jr, Ram Charan, David Zaslav, and Taylor Swift Among New Academy Members

Awards Radar Podcast #143: Joey and Myles Try Out the New Game ‘Celluloid’ While Answering Questions, and Talking Pixar