As y’all know, I love movies, and I used to care about the Oscars. I even made a point back in the day of seeing all the Best Picture nominees before the big night — and mind you, in those days that meant going to the theater and buying a ticket. But I stopped caring after the debacle of 1998. I knew the Academy’s judgments were random, whimsical, and dumb before that, but that was the last straw.
And since then, I haven’t seen any evidence that my 1998 judgment was wrong.
So while I generally ignored all the hoopla over the Oscars over the weekend, my attention was grabbed by this story in The Washington Post: “The Oscars always get it wrong. Here are the real best pictures of the past 47 years.”
By the Post‘s critic’s standards (I’m using “critics” loosely here), that headline is somewhat misleading, since they occasionally agreed with the Academy’s judgment. And so do I. But in general, it states a truism.
I don’t know why they started with 1976, but since that is about when I started reviewing movies for The Jackson Sun, it works for me.
So I copied their list, and corrected it, by stating which was truly the Best Picture in these given years. You can thank me later. Oh, and to explain — especially in the earlier years, a huge criterion for me is whether it holds up. Is it as impressive now as it was then, or even more so? Do I think “Star Wars” was a great, profound cinematic statement? No. But boy, has it held up…
If I say “I dunno,” it’s because I didn’t see the nominated films — or saw one or two and was unimpressed, and wasn’t interested enough to see the others. You’ll see me do that a lot in the last few years. I’ve seen some good films over those years, but no really great ones — and of course I’ve felt far less obliged to go out and see them. I mean, I’ve got a nice HD screen in my house. I wait at least until they appear on a streaming service that will show them for “free.”
And no, I didn’t give this a lot of thought, and didn’t elaborate. I just saw it as a good topic for discussion. Or a bunch of such topics. If anyone engages, I’ll explain my choices.
My version of the list:
Nominees: All the President’s Men, Bound for Glory, Network, Rocky, Taxi Driver
Best Picture winner: Rocky
The actual best picture: All the President’s Men, OR Rocky. Quite a year.
Nominees: Annie Hall, The Goodbye Girl, Julia, Star Wars, The Turning Point
Best Picture winner: Annie Hall
The actual best picture: Star Wars
Nominees: Coming Home, The Deer Hunter, Heaven Can Wait, Midnight Express, An Unmarried Woman
Best Picture winner: The Deer Hunter
The actual best picture: The Deer Hunter
Nominees: All That Jazz, Apocalypse Now, Breaking Away, Kramer vs. Kramer, Norma Rae
Best Picture winner: Kramer vs. Kramer
The actual best picture: Apocalypse Now, with a good word thrown in for Breaking Away
Nominees: Coal Miner’s Daughter, The Elephant Man, Ordinary People, Raging Bull, Tess
Best Picture winner: Ordinary People
The actual best picture: Coal Miner’s Daughter
Nominees: Atlantic City, Chariots of Fire, On Golden Pond, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Reds
Best Picture winner: Chariots of Fire
The actual best picture: Chariots of Fire
Nominees: E.T. the Extraterrestrial, Gandhi, Missing, Tootsie, The Verdict
Best Picture winner: Gandhi
The actual best picture: E.T.
Nominees: The Big Chill, The Dresser, The Right Stuff, Tender Mercies, Terms of Endearment
Best Picture winner: Terms of Endearment
The actual best picture: The Right Stuff, OR Tender Mercies
Nominees: Amadeus, The Killing Fields, A Passage to India, Places in the Heart, A Soldier’s Story
Best Picture winner: Amadeus
The actual best picture: Amadeus
Nominees: The Color Purple, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Out of Africa, Prizzi’s Honor, Witness
Best Picture winner: Out of Africa
The actual best picture: Witness
Nominees: Children of a Lesser God, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Mission, Platoon, A Room with a View
Best Picture winner: Platoon
The actual best picture: Hannah and Her Sisters
Nominees: Broadcast News, Fatal Attraction, Hope and Glory, The Last Emperor, Moonstruck
Best Picture winner: The Last Emperor
The actual best picture: Moonstruck
Nominees: The Accidental Tourist, Dangerous Liaisons, Mississippi Burning, Rain Man, Working Girl
Best Picture winner: Rain Man
The actual best picture: Working Girl
Nominees: Born on the Fourth of July, Dead Poets Society, Driving Miss Daisy, Field of Dreams, My Left Foot
Best Picture winner: Driving Miss Daisy
The actual best picture: Field of Dreams
Nominees: Awakenings, Dances With Wolves, Ghost, The Godfather Part III, Goodfellas
Best Picture winner: Dances With Wolves
The actual best picture: Goodfellas
Nominees: Beauty and the Beast, Bugsy, JFK, The Prince of Tides, The Silence of the Lambs
Best Picture winner: The Silence of the Lambs
The actual best picture: Oh, surely there had to be something better than these.
Nominees: The Crying Game, A Few Good Men, Howards End, Scent of a Woman, Unforgiven
Best Picture winner: Unforgiven
The actual best picture: Unforgiven
Nominees: The Fugitive, In the Name of the Father, The Piano, The Remains of the Day, Schindler’s List
Best Picture winner: Schindler’s List
The actual best picture: The Piano
Nominees: Forrest Gump, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption
Best Picture winner: Forrest Gump
The actual best picture: Four Weddings and a Funeral
Nominees: Apollo 13, Babe, Braveheart, Il Postino, Sense and Sensibility
Best Picture winner: Braveheart
The actual best picture: Apollo 13. (The critics simply said “not that,” referring to the Mel Gibson film. They’re right.)
Nominees: The English Patient, Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Secrets & Lies, Shine
Best Picture winner: The English Patient
The actual best picture: Fargo
Nominees: As Good as It Gets, The Full Monty, Good Will Hunting, L.A. Confidential, Titanic
Best Picture winner: Titanic
The actual best picture: As Good as It Gets, OR Good Will Hunting
Nominees: Elizabeth, Life Is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan, Shakespeare in Love, The Thin Red Line
Best Picture winner: Shakespeare in Love
The actual best picture: Life Is Beautiful, OR Saving Private Ryan
Nominees: American Beauty, The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Insider, The Sixth Sense
Best Picture winner: American Beauty
The actual best picture: The Sixth Sense
Nominees: Chocolat, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Erin Brockovich, Gladiator, Traffic
Best Picture winner: Gladiator
The actual best picture: Gladiator, for the lack of anything better.
Nominees: A Beautiful Mind, Gosford Park, In the Bedroom, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Moulin Rouge!
Best Picture winner: A Beautiful Mind
The actual best picture: The Lord of the Rings, starring New Zealand
Nominees: Chicago, Gangs of New York, The Hours, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Pianist
Best Picture winner: Chicago
The actual best picture: Chicago
Nominees: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Lost in Translation, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Mystic River, Seabiscuit
Best Picture winner: The Lord of the Rings
The actual best picture: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Duh.
Nominees: The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Million Dollar Baby, Ray, Sideways
Best Picture winner: Million Dollar Baby
The actual best picture: The Aviator
Nominees: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Crash, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich
Best Picture winner: Crash
The actual best picture: Munich, or Capote
Nominees: Babel, The Departed, Letters From Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen
Best Picture winner: The Departed
The actual best picture: The Departed
Nominees: Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood
Best Picture winner: No Country for Old Men
The actual best picture: Michael Clayton
Nominees: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire
Best Picture winner: Slumdog Millionaire
The actual best picture: Gran Torino, which I can’t believe wasn’t nominated. Actually, yes I can.
Nominees: Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air
Best Picture winner: The Hurt Locker
The actual best picture: The Hurt Locker OR A Serious Man
Nominees: Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone
Best Picture winner: The King’s Speech
The actual best picture: The King’s Speech
Nominees: The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse
Best Picture winner: The Artist
The actual best picture: Moneyball
Nominees: Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty
Best Picture winner: Argo
The actual best picture: Lincoln
Nominees: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street
Best Picture winner: 12 Years a Slave
The actual best picture: Gravity
Nominees: American Sniper, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash
Best Picture winner: Birdman
The actual best picture: Dunno — despite the fact I saw most of these.
Nominees: The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Spotlight
Best Picture winner: Spotlight
The actual best picture: Brooklyn, OR Spotlight
Nominees: La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, Arrival, Fences, Lion, Hidden Figures, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water
Best Picture winner: La La — no, wait! MOONLIGHT!
The actual best picture: Manchester by the Sea
Nominees: Call Me By Your Name; Darkest Hour; Dunkirk; Get Out; Lady Bird; Phantom Thread; The Post; The Shape of Water; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Picture winner: The Shape of Water
The actual best picture: Dunkirk
Nominees: BlacKkKlansman, Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star Is Born, Vice
Best Picture winner: Green Book
The actual best picture: Dunno.
Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, Parasite
Best Picture winner: Parasite
The actual best picture: Jojo Rabbit (or anything, I’m sad to say, other than The Irishman)
Nominees: The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, Mank, Minari, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Sound of Metal, The Trial of the Chicago 7
Best Picture winner: Nomadland
The actual best picture: Dunno. Tried to watch both Mank and Trial of the Chicago 7, but didn’t get to the end of either.
Nominees: Belfast, CODA, Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, Dune, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, The Power of the Dog, West Side Story
Best Picture winner: CODA
The actual best picture: Dunno.
Nominees: All Quiet on the Western Front, Avatar: The Way of Water, The Banshees of Inisherin, Elvis, Everything Everywhere All at Once, The Fabelmans, Tár, Top Gun: Maverick, Triangle of Sadness, Women Talking
Best Picture winner: Everything Everywhere All at Once
The actual best picture: Dunno, although I still plan to see All Quiet on the Western Front and The Banshees of Inisherin, soon as I can grab the time.
I had meant to post this over the weekend before the Oscars, but didn’t, and who cares? I didn’t have an opinion on this year’s…
This post is an elaboration on this tweet. The tweet concentrated on 1998, but in more detail:
those are all wrong…
You mean like, William S. Burroughs?
Here’s a related article you might find of interest:
We’ve done this before but I’ll do the 21st century movies for fun:
2000: Crouching Tiger (Gladiator was wretched)
2001: A Beautiful Mind
2002: Chicago (Saw the stage production on Broadway. Even better there)
2003: Sea Biscuit
2004: Million Dollar Baby
2006: Little Miss Sunshine (A really good movie year)
2007: Juno (The only one of these that I’ve seen)
2008: Benjamin Button (Another really great movie year)
2009: The Blind Side (by default. A bad movie year)
2011: War Horse
2014: ? A bad movie year)
2015: The Martian
2016: (I haven’t seen any of these)
2017: The Shape of Water
2018: Bohemian Rhapsody
2019: Jojo Rabbit (After 30 minutes I thought this was the worst movie in cinema history)
2021: Don’t Look Up
2022: Everything Everywhere all at Once
I agree with a bunch of yours.
I would have selected Mississippi Burning, The Prince of Tides, Born on the Fourth of July, and Tootsie would have been my selections.
As much as I like Dustin Hoffman, I would have selected Gene Hackman in Mississippi Burning (he was nominated and most believed it was between him and Dustin) as Best Actor over Hoffman in Rain Man. Hoffman was great nailing an autistic person but I thought once he did that, I thought he just played the same thing the entire movie.
Hackman in Mississippi Burning was terrific.
I also thought Nick Nolte in The Prince of Tides was fantastic. His breaking down into a puddle in the psychiatrist’s office (Streisand) and the flashbacks of the abuse and rape of him and his sister and mom was amazing work worthy of an Oscar and great filmmaking.
The acting at the 3:36 mark in this video – his eyes- just incredible work The entire scene is brilliant. The way Nolte played this was exactly how I would expect someone like his character- a southern born and bred man (who wears a University of South Carolina Gamecocks shirt at one point in the movie) who is a tough football coach would play it. Superb acting.
I’ll go you one better for your shout out to Breaking Away in 1979. I would say it was the best movie that year. Also, you are obviously annoyed that the Academy passed over Grand Torino. That was a very good film but 2008 was a great movie year. My hand wringing is over 2000. Why was Castaway overlooked?
Interesting thing about the 2012 Lincoln movie. I didn’t even think it was the best Lincoln movie in 2012. I found it pretty tedious. Granted it was a historical account that by its nature should be rather boring. But this film really was more like a college class lecture that an entertaining movie event. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter on the other hand was an edgy albeit over the top thriller about how our 16th president REALLY saved the nation. Just a pure blast of fun, as movies should be.