As you probably know, being an avid reader of my blog (ahem), that the nominations for the 83rd Academy Awards were announced yesterday, and that has inspired me to compose a list of my five favourite movies that have won the Best Picture Oscar in the past. There have been many great films which have won the award, and this year’s nominees would easily fit onto this list as I’ve loved the ones I’ve seen on there. But I’m just going to have to pick from 80 odd years of film. Slim Pickens! Here are what I consider to be my 5 favourite Best Picture winners, in chronological order:
I’ve started in the 70’s as I haven’t actually seen many of the winners before this one, but this is an excellent starting point. A clichéd choice? Yeah, sure, but there’s a reason it’s become a cliché to love this film. It’s because it is pretty much flawless filmmaking, with some of the best performances ever committed to celluloid and artistic direction from Francis Ford Coppola on top of his game. Everybody talks about Marlon Brando’s performance as Don Corleone being the gem in the crown of the cast, but for me it’s the young Al Pacino as Michael Corleone. It’s a beautifully reserved performance, brimming with intensity as Michael is slowly swallowed by the dark world of the Mafia. It was followed by the equally superior Godfather Part 2 (which also won the Best Picture statue in 1974) and the belated Part 3 in 1990 (which I actually quite enjoyed, despite many fans loathing it). The Godfather is an American classic, that deservedly features on a number of Top movies of all-time lists. If you haven’t seen any of them, I highly recommend you get your hands on the trilogy, if only just to say you’ve seen them.
Another excellent movie that truly defines a Cinderella Story as Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa is given the shot of a lifetime, whilst also finding love and himself in the process. The film has become incredibly influential in a modern context, from the 118 118 adverts, and to nearly every boxing film that followed. I think this film practically invented the training montage, which I’m sure you’ll agree, the world would be a darker place without. Stallone has never been better (save maybe First Blood) and practically every boxing film that followed owes Rocky a great debt, for laying down the foundations for the perfect sports movies. I really do doubt The Fighter would be as highly regarded or received as many nominations if Rocky hadn’t made such an impression back in ’76. Sure, the effect of the movie may have been diminished by the five sequels that followed, I liked most of them though, so for me, Rocky will always remain one of my favourite movies.
Oliver Stone’s Vietnam War epic remains one of, if not the, finest movie based on one of the darkest parts of America’s history. It is a deeply personal film, Stone drawing on his own personal experiences from his time in the ‘Nam. Stone, I don’t think has made a better film, certainly none of them match up to the honest and tough portrayal of life for American troops, fighting a war far away from the home front, fighting an enemy fair superior in tactics and with much higher moral. It wasn’t a tricky year, Platoon was the winner from the off, with ‘Nam movies really grabbing award, audience and critic attention and appreciation. This was also a time when Charlie Sheen was a serious, dramatic young up and coming actor. This, also along with Stone’s brilliant Wall Street, shows Sheen’s real talent. It is one of the finer war movies, perhaps not quite having the punch and gritty-ness of the likes of Saving Private Ryan, but its an excellent account of war that throughly deserved the Oscar.
4. American Beauty (1999)
Another choice which is a very popular one, mostly because when you really look at it, it’s quite an unconventional choice for an Oscar winner. It’s a weird movie, which takes unexpected turns in the tale of one man’s mid-life crisis, as he battles with a failing marriage, a detachment from his daughter and strange feelings he has for one his daughters friends from High School. It’s a surreal outlook on American suburban life, presented by a director from Reading of all places. But Sam Mendes truly understands his material and Kevin Spacey delivers one of his most interesting and memorable performances in a career of many. It was a year in which the only real competition came from Frank Darabont’s The Green Mile and The Sixth Sense, but this was a sure-fire winner from the start I believe due to how fresh it was, marking it as probably the best movies of the 90’s. Again, if you haven’t seen this movie, you should really find the time to change that.
The Martin Scorsese picture that finally saw the man receive the award for Best Director. It must have been a pleasant surprise for him to have that award accompanied by the Best Picture award for his Boston Crime Epic The Departed. It is one of his most confident pieces of work, moving back into the crime flick following success with such movies as Goodfellas and Casino. Its got visual flair, inventive camerawork, an awesome soundtrack and is just all in all a cool movie. It also features some excellent performances from its all-star cast, particularly from Matt Damon and Mark Whalberg. It’s Scorsese’s most accomplished film, not his most beautiful, but definitely one of his most entertaining efforts, that was rather fitting for both Scorsese’s personal victory and the Best Picture award.
So there you are, was hard to pick these movies, particularly considering some of the other winners in the past. I could’ve easily put Rain Man, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Schindler’s List, all throughly deserved to win their respective years. Now lets look forward to the next movie which will join the ranks of the ones above at the end of next month!