With Estimated $4B, This Is the Highest Grossing Best Picture Oscar Winner of All Time

With Estimated $4B, This Is the Highest Grossing Best Picture Oscar Winner of All Time
Image credit: Legion-Media, MGM

It's definitely not the title you're expecting to see.


  • This movie continues to be a huge hit despite its age.
  • It ran in theaters for 4 years, and when adjusted for inflation is the highest grossing movie of all time.
  • Even at its release the movie was protested for its racist elements, which have caused eighty years of controversy.

Gone With The Wind had a famously troubled production. Producer David O. Selznick juggled three different directors over the course of shooting, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. But when it hit theaters, the movie became the biggest blockbuster in history almost instantaneously. If you adjust for inflation, GWTW made $4 billion at the box office.

Not even Avatar, Titanic, or Avengers: End Game came close to touching that record.

What's It About?

Spoiled southern belle Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) lives a carefree life on her family's slave-run plantation. The American Civil War changes life in the south forever, and Scarlett survives the war and its aftermath while getting entangled with her love for two different men: the gentle Ashley and the fiery Rhett.

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How Did They Do It?

There had never been a movie as epic as GWTW. The burning of Atlanta – those incredible costumes – audiences had rarely seen anything like it. And unlike today, if people wanted to see GWTW they had no choice but to go to the movie theater: there was no such thing as waiting for a video or streaming release.

That means that as long as people wanted to see GWTW, theaters were showing it. Although some Black-owned theaters banned the movie due to its racist content (more of that in a sec), other theaters continued screening the film for an incredible FOUR YEARS.

When the movie was first televised in 1976, a record 47% of American households tuned in to watch.


Gone With The Wind was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards and won eight, including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress (for Hattie McDaniel, the first Black person to win an Oscar).

When the National Film Registry was created for the purpose of preserving 'culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant' movies, Gone with the Wind was among the first batch chosen to be included.

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A Troubled History

Back in 2020, HBO Max pulled Gone With The Wind from its streaming service in response to letters protesting its depictions of Black people. Two weeks later the movie was back up, this time with a short disclaimer about its cultural context.

If you're rolling your eyes about 'modern woke culture', you should know – protests about the portrayal of Black characters in Gone With The Wind started before the film was even in production.

When it was first announced that Margaret Mitchell's notoriously racist book was being adapted into a movie, the NAACP pleaded with producer David O. Selznick to hire a consultant to help guide the depictions of Black people in Antebellum South. Selznick obliged… by hiring white men to do the consulting.

The result is a movie that was protested from the moment it was released, with some theaters even banning it outright for its depictions of Black people (all stereotypes), its sympathy for the Ku Klux Klan, and its nostalgia for the good ol' days of slavery.

But I Still Want To Watch It, Though

You can find Gone With The Wind back up on Max, now with a short disclaimer about its 'cultural context'. You can also find a one-hour panel discussion from the 2019 TCM Classic Film Fest, titled 'The Complicated Legacy of 'Gone With the Wind''.

You better set aside a whole afternoon, though – the movie is a whopping four hours long.