The formative years of the Oscars were marked by inconsistency, indifference, and irregularities as the Academy figured out exactly how these awards would work. As I said in the Introduction, the development of the Academy Awards corresponds almost exactly with the development of sound in cinema, and the experiments in both, and their effects on one another, are evident as one watches the films nominated for Best Picture.
Over the first decade, emphasis on the exposition of the wonders of film as an exciting new technology gradually faded as the novelty of sound wore off, and films soon had to find new ways to stand out in order to win the increasingly prestigious Best Picture award. During the Depression a winning formula soon coalesced, and its influence continues to the present day, at least in Hollywood studio films.
Anyway, here they are, the first ten years of Best Picture nominees:
(Until this point, the eligibility period for the Awards was August 1 of one year until July 31 of the next. After the 6th Academy Awards, for which the eligibility period ran from August 1, 1932 to December 31, 1933, it was decided to change it to one calendar year. It has remained so ever since.)