Wings bParamount Pictures’ Wings is the 1927 film that won the very first Best Picture Oscar at the initial Academy Award ceremony, held at the Hotel Roosevelt on May 16, 1929. Wings is a silent film packed with romance, action, and drama. Set during World War I, the plot follows the adventures of two fighter pilots who come from different social standings but find themselves vying for the affections of the same woman.

The 14 Best World War I Movies Ever Made 

By Fiona Underhill
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World War One is underrepresented on the big screen, certainly in comparison to the Second World War. Although fought from 1914, the late entry of the U.S. in 1917 and their relatively small losses could be a factor in this. The bleak tragedy and hollow futility of the First World War compared to the second, which had a much clearer motive and offered more chances for gung-ho heroism, is another reason why it's not exactly Hollywood movie material.

For understandable reasons, most of the films on this list are British and several have literary origins, being based on novels and plays. With the centenary of the end of the First World War in 2018, it is starting to fade into the background and does not appear in media and culture so much. This is why preservation projects such as Peter Jackson's "They Shall Not Grow Old" are so important, as this war should remain alive and fresh in the collective memory, especially because there are so many lessons to be learned from it. These WWI films stretch from the 1920s to the 2010s, and each one reflects the time in which it was made. The layering of history through the prism of the decade viewing it is an important consideration here. Join us on a tour of almost a hundred years of World War I movies.

Wings (1927)

The first-ever winner of the best picture Oscar is an epic involving hundreds of extras and spectacular air battles, bringing the burgeoning popularity and excitement surrounding both airplanes and moving pictures to mass audiences. Charles Lindbergh's transatlantic flight happened in May 1927, the same year as the premiere of "Wings," and movie attendance soared during the decade. The focus of the story is a love triangle in small-town America between Jack (Charles Rogers), David (Richard Arlen), and Mary (Clara Bow, a huge star at the time). Yet it actually becomes much more about the friendship between Jack and David. It also features an early Gary Cooper role, in not much more than a cameo, but it would be a star-making turn for him.

If you're not overly familiar with early cinema, "Wings" features many elements that might surprise you, including brief nudity (this was before the Hays Code), as well as deep affection and even kissing shown between men. It also displays some jaw-dropping technical achievements, such as the establishing tracking shot in the Parisian café which swoops over tables and through partying couples. The fact that a film as important as this was almost lost makes one think about what else out there has not been preserved. The ending is melodramatic but also genuinely tender. "Wings" is an important film for many reasons, not least that it was made by William Wellman (who had actual WWI combat experience), and is still hugely entertaining almost a century later.

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