But the Oscars are more than just those prestigious dramas in the running for best picture. Genre pictures may not pick up the big awards but they're often at the cutting edge of technical crafts like makeup, special effects and sound. So we're saluting the films you might not expect to have won an Oscar.
Pop quiz, hotshot: Big dumb action movies rarely get a look-in at the Oscars. But which Keanu Reeves movie sped its way to awards for sound mixing and sound editing? "Speed", of course, in 1995. Speaking of Keanu, "The Matrix" also won four Oscars for its jaw-dropping sound and effects.
Joe Dante's only film to win an Oscar involved a tiny Dennis Quaid bouncing around inside Martin Short, earning an award for best visual effects in 1988. "Fantastic Voyage", the 1966 film that inspired "Innerspace", also won for its effects.
It's one of the the worst films ever, yet Michael Bay's WWII weepie "Pearl Harbor" snagged four Academy Award nominations and won for best sound editing. It was also nominated for six Golden Raspberry Awards, making it the first film to both win an Oscar and earn a nomination for worst picture Razzie.
Caption byRichard Trenholm / Photo by Andrew Cooper SMPSP/Touchstone Pictures/Getty Images
The second film in Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp's free-booting "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise released the kraken, the ghostly Flying Dutchman and the squid-faced Davy Jones. It also won the Academy Award for visual effects thanks to the wizards at Industrial Light & Magic. For "Dead Man's Chest", ILM created Imocap, a new image-based motion-capture system.
David Cronenberg's earlier body of horror work seems a million miles from high-minded Oscar bait, but the icky, squicky makeup for 1986's "The Fly" was too good to ignore. Oscar-winning makeup artist Chris Walas even directed the sequel in 1989.
The Academy has a blind spot for horror movies, but there have been a few spine-chilling wins over the years. Ruth Gordon won best supporting actress for her role in "Rosemary's Baby". "The Omen" won for its terrifying score. William Friedkin's "The Exorcist" earned a head-spinning 10 nominations, taking home two statuettes.
Paul Verhoeven's lurid and violent action satire, "RoboCop", gave the Academy 20 seconds to comply. I like to think it was the noise of the toxic-waste-melted guy getting splatted by a car that helped it win for best sound editing.
Caption byRichard Trenholm / Photo by Orion Pictures Corporation/Corbis/Getty Images
All three of the original Star Wars movies won Oscars, with "A New Hope" taking home six. It also earned special awards for sound designer Ben Burtt and the trio John Dykstra (pictured here), Al Miller and Jerry Jeffress for the development of the motion control Dykstraflex camera system.
It's racially insensitive, but "The Jazz Singer" was the first "talkie" with sound, earning an honorary Academy Award for Warner Bros. studio head Darryl F. Zanuck at the first Oscars ceremony in 1929.
Caption byRichard Trenholm / Photo by Abraham Pisarek/ullstein bild/Getty Images
You know the Oscar-winning song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" from Disney's 1946 film "Song of the South", but you're less likely to have seen the actual film. The movie's dodgy racial attitudes have kept it from being released on home video. However, it did earn the first Oscar for a black male actor: James Baskett won an honorary Academy Award for his role.
Caption byRichard Trenholm / Photo by John D. Kisch/Separate Cinema Archive/Getty Images
Ape adventure "Mighty Joe Young" won best visual effects in 1950. The award was handed to stop-motion pioneer Willis O'Brien in recognition for his monkeying around on both this and "King Kong", which hadn't been nominated for a single Oscar because there wasn't such a category in the first decade of the awards.
Incidentally, a young Ray Harryhausen, who would later earn a special achievement Oscar, also worked on this film.
Referenced in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan", George Pal's 1951 sci-fi parable "When Worlds Collide" won for special effects imagining the apocalyptic effects of discovering new Earth-like planets. Hang on...
Jonathan Mostow's 2000 underwater war movie "U-571" may not have its facts straight about who captured an Enigma machine from the Nazis. (Hint: it wasn't Jon Bon Jovi.) But it did have top-notch sound editing, according to the Academy.
The star-studded but schlocky 1970s disaster movie genre hasn't stood the test of time, but the Academy members were clearly fans: "The Poseidon Adventure" won two Oscars, while in 1975 "The Towering Inferno" and "Earthquake" claimed 12 nominations and four wins between them.
Tobey Maguire's second outing as your friendly neighbourhood wall-crawler saw him do battle with Doctor Octopus in "Spider-Man 2". With great power came great responsibility -- and a best visual effects award.
The late, great Prince starred in and created the music for this loosely autobiographical tale. His legendary album "Purple Rain" won the Oscar for best original song score in 1985, the last time that award was handed out due to the lack of musicals in recent years.
James Bond has undergone something of a renaissance under the stewardship of director Sam Mendes. Both his 007 films, "Skyfall" and "Spectre", took home Oscars for best song, crooned by Adele and Sam Smith, while "Skyfall" also won for best sound mixing.
"Goldfinger", the third Bond film, was the first in the series to win an Academy Award. It won for best sound effects. The following year, "Thunderball", also starring Sean Connery, won for best visual effects. The Bell-Textron Rocket Belt that appeared in "Thunderball" was actually a real piece of futuristic technology.
Meryl Streep holds the record for the most acting nominations, but she wasn't impressed by the ILM CGI wizardry that beat out "Alien 3" and "Batman Returns" for the visual effects award. "You stand there like a piece of machinery," she said of the shoot. "It was like being at the dentist." Pictured is her co-star Goldie Hawn.
Warren Beatty's "Dick Tracy" is basically remembered as the big budget turn-of-the-'90s comic book movie that isn't "Batman". This isn't entirely fair. It's more fun than you remember and wasn't as much of a financial bomb as you think. But at least the Academy gave this romp its due: With awards for art direction, makeup and best original song, it's the comic book film with the most Oscars, beating even "The Dark Knight".
Caption byRichard Trenholm / Photo by Touchstone Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty Images
Rick Baker's 2011 best makeup Oscar for this critical and commercial flop brought him full circle to his first Academy Award, which he won for "An American Werewolf in London" in 1982. Here we see Baker picking up his "Wolfman" Oscar with fellow makeup artist Dave Elsey (right) and presenter Cate Blanchett.
It may be an adrenaline-fuelled blast of rock-'em sock-'em old-school action, but damn if our return to the "Mad Max" universe wasn't a cinematic tour de force. "Fury Road" was nominated for best picture and best director for George Miller and won six Oscars -- for best costume design, best production design, best makeup and hairstyling, best film editing, best sound editing, and best sound mixing.
Groundbreaking effects helped James Cameron's "Terminator 2" pick up four Oscars. It won for sound, sound effects editing, visual effects and makeup. With armfuls of Oscars for this, "The Abyss", "Titanic" and "Avatar", Cameron won't want for doorstops.