Academy Award for Best Production Design: Ranked 10 Winners

Academy Awards For Best Production Design

Academy Award for Best Production Design Ranked!!!

Movies are directed, shot, edited, and choreographed, but we can’t forget what goes on in the design.

Production design demands nothing less than the creation of worlds!

Worldbuilding can be clean and simple or massive in scale, but equally important in every movie.

The Godfather II
The Godfather II (Source: Wallpaper Flare)

Apart from the acting, the cameras, and the lights, design controls everything else that appears on the screen.

Turning words and fantasies into physical reality, for this list, we’ll be counting down our top picks for the Academy Awards for top ten Best Production Design.

Quick Overview

Rank Movie Winning Year
#10 Once Upon a Time in Hollywood 2019
#9 Mad Max: Fury Road 2015
#8 Fanny and Alexander 1983
#7 Titanic 1997
#6 The Godfather II 1974
#5 The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King 2003
#4 Batman 1989
#3 Star Wars: A New Hope (Episode IV) 1977
#2 Cleopatra 1963
#1 The Grand Budapest Hotel 2014

10. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood showcases Quentin Tarantino’s encyclopedic knowledge of cinema and pop culture.

The film is a love letter to 1969s Los Angeles as well as to the films, TV shows, and culture of that tumultuous era.

Tarantino and his team have painstakingly recreated the greater LA area of that period and its many landmarks.

Poster for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Source:

The movie won the Academy Awards for Best Production Design in 2019 as a result.

From Cliff’s trailer to Ricks’s mansion, each and every detail is an ode to the Hollywood landscape of that era.

9. Mad Max: Fury Road

The Mad Max movies have always been praised for their production designs!

However, it was the 2015 iteration of George Miller’s post-apocalyptic desert series that was finally acknowledged by the Academy for its ever-intriguing desert landscape.

Fury Road’s Iconic War Rigs (Source: The Verge)

This high octane film stepped on the gas and never let up.

While featuring scene after scene of breathtaking practical stunts in action along with beautifully bleak scenery, the film recites a compelling yet simple story.

8. Fanny and Alexander

Anna Asp and Susanne Lingeheim’s work on Fanny and Alexander stretches the period décor in different ways to a new effect every time.

Likewise, it twists and turns the over-intricate palatial décor of the period into all kinds of different niches.

Comfortable and austere, homey and dour, sweet and lonely, overlooked and eerie.

A Still From Fanny and Alexander (Source: The Collider)

Besides, each set is decorated with care and specificity, without ever feeling out of place.

Regardless, it dramatically expanded the possibilities of an era in a way that really embraces each and every physical space with endless feeling.

7. Titanic

The recreation of the unsinkable ship on the silver screen was quite a sight to behold!

The first-class cabin where Jack and Rose share their moment is still considered to be one of the finest settings for a romantic room.

Marketing Images for Titanic (Source: Internet)

All in all, art director Peter Lamont and the team used archival photographs and blueprints to match the ship’s interior to the original.

Similarly, Lamont won his sole Oscar for the film, while set decorator Michael won his second.

6. The Godfather Part II

Dean Tabulero’s work on The Godfather II is a high watermark in a career characterized by peerless taste.

Expanding on the foreboding gorgeous world of 40s power from the first Godfather, the sequel manages not just one but two incredible periods over three different countries.

The Godfather Part II (Source: Pinterest)

Each set shimmers with a period-appropriate naturalism, which won the Academy Award for Best Production Design in 1974.

Similarly, the never showy but ever appropriate amount of detail makes us feel that Coppola had somehow shot this thing through a portal into the past.

Nothing ever looks paused, recreated, or overly restored.

5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Perhaps one of the most impressive acts of worldbuilding ever brought to film is The Lord of the Rings trilogy. 

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy brings dozens of different cultures, habitats, biomes, ruins, and nations to life.

Similarly, it had unique looks for different races, for good and evil at multiple scales.

Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Source: Quora)

But production designer Grant Major didn’t do this without help.

The concept art of the film came from Tolkien’s original illustrators, drawing from a history of visual materials that was tied to the novels.

The result blends the historical, the mythical, and the utterly imagined into what really feels like an entirely new world.

4. Batman (1989)

Perhaps one of the best production designs of any superhero movie, Tim Burtons Batman had some killer designs!

The monolithic buildings, gothic staircases, and gargoyle statues all over the place really gave Gotham City a proper appeal.

Additionally, the Wayne mansion also boasts a plethora of memorable designs.

Take, for instance, the unusually long dining table.

Academy Award for Best Production Design- batman-1989
A Still Image From Batman (1989) (Source: vanyaland)

To further emphasize, the exterior of the billionaire’s mansion was of the famous Biltmore mansion in North Carolina.

The severe lines of the Joker’s office, the Deco-influenced design of Vicki Vale’s office, and not to mention the Batcave.

All were perfectly curated by art director Anton Furst and set decorator Peter Young.

3. Star Wars: A New Hope (Episode IV)

Lucas Films head honcho George Lucas introduced us to entirely new worlds in a galaxy far, far away with his epic space opera in 1977.

The vast and original Star Wars universe wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for the work of production designers like Barry, Reynolds, Dilley, and Christian.

Academy Award for Best Production Design- Star_Wars_IV_A_New_Hope-771214541-large
Star Wars 1977 Movie Poster (Source: Film Affinity)

As a matter of fact, Light Sabers, the Millenium Falcon, X-Wings, etc., are some of the famous set pieces to be ever created.

Similarly, the design of each set piece varies greatly from planet to planet.

However, we can’t get over the cool, stark futuristic simplicity of Luke’s home in Tatooine.

2. Cleopatra

Cleopatra is often dubbed as the best-designed set in the history of cinema!

The movie won the Academy Award for best production design in 1963.

While today’s modern movie magic has enabled us to fill a huge space with characters and props with the help of green screens and virtual set pieces.

It was not the same during the golden age of cinema.

Academy Award for Best Production Design- Cleopatra
Cleopatra (Source: Empire)

The massive Roman Square was all hand-built, and even the people seen in the huge crowds were actually there.

Reports also indicate that the Roman Square had to be built twice as the filming was rescheduled from England to Cineciita in Rome.

To further emphasize, there are gold accents everywhere with dramatic fabrics and an abundance of flowers.

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Pulling the ultra-specific references from Kodachrome and Postcards! The Grand Budapest Hotel was the second collaboration between Wes and production designer Adam Stockhouse.

Always real, often handmade, the entire world of Grand Budapest is styled around a particular frame rather than vice versa.

It resulted in an ultra-composed living, breathing world of fictional Eastern Europe, pre and post-war.

This multi-era decoration is perhaps one of the most compelling testaments to the power of good design.

Academy Award for Best Production Design- budapest
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Source: Tirelli Costumi)

Here, we can see the exact same spaces used to entirely different effects on full display.

Different décor communicates wealth and whimsy, but also decline, sad practicality, and the bygone.

The character of the world shifted dramatically via color, furniture, density, and design.

You Might also be Interested in the Academy Awards for Best Original Score.

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