The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been handing out those hefty gold Oscar statues since 1927. Since then, motion picture production, the industry and the kinds of movies people like to watch have all changed dramatically. What hasn’t changed, however, is that the best movies, the ones with Academy Awards to their names, are the ones that people remember.
Another Best Picture Oscar statuette will be handed down in a few weeks, and another title go down in history. With over eighty years of Best Picture (Best Motion Picture, Outstanding Picture) Academy Award winners, it’s difficult to choose the best of the best, but being an avid movie-goer, I’ve tried to do just that.
So here are my top five (in chronological order, since picking a best of the best of the best was just too difficult):
Gone with the Wind, 1939
Because how could it not be on the top five list? Hours of deliciously costumed Civil War saga, loaded with timeless themes, and full of the drama that people want to see (even if they don’t want to admit it). Romance, disappointed love, lies, deceit, violence, tragedy, hope and probably every other emotion and action out there, plus amazing camera shots, scenery, and a beautiful score. Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable don’t hurt, either, and this Academy Award was pretty much a given.
Laurence of Arabia, 1962
Another sweeping saga about a conflicted British military man’s complex and bloody life during his long journey through foreign war. This picture combined a brilliantly executed script with equally amazing acting, directing, music and vision, as well as cinematography that should make anyone in the business want to curl into a ball and weep for not having done it themselves (hello, desert shots!). And forget all the blatantly obvious and overused special effects nowadays-this movie stands strongly on its own as one of the best Oscar pictures ever.
The Godfather, 1972
The ultimate mafia movie, which spawned countless catchphrases and made organized crime look really cool. It’s an improbably personal film, not just about mob rivalry and offing people, but about the bonds of family and loyalty as a new generation is poised to take over.. This movie has an incredibly genuine atmosphere, which doesn’t take away from the story or go blatantly over the top. Amazingly, The Godfather II went on to win the Best Picture Oscar two years later, which only proves how well-written, acted and produced they both were (how many sequels win any kind of award, let alone an Academy Award?).
Schindler’s List, 1993
There might well be disagreement over this one. But it’s a really important Academy Award winner, because it deals with a truly delicate subject without all the Hollywood dramatic schlock. This is not a film created to be some vague Holocaust homage piece; it’s based on a true story, it deals with one of the most horrible events in history without excess, and the main character is neither a typical hero archetype nor always likeable. In the end he finds out what he’s seems to have done almost offhandedly, and how much he could have done if he had just had the spirit. If Schindler’s List had tried to be anything but what it was, it wouldn’t have worked, and it definitely wouldn’t have been an Oscar winner.
Forrest Gump, 1994
The Best Picture winner that might have spawned more catchphrases than all the Godfather movies put together. How this film was put together without coming off as ridiculous or just plain stupid is a feat anyone should be amazed at. The film could have fallen disastrously flat at any point in its decades-long, over-the-top yet down-to-earth story about a man with low IQ and incredible perseverance and luck. But the writers, producers, actors and the rest of the film’s team pulled it off so well that it’s not only totally believable but moviegoers might just feel like it really happened. An epic saga disguised as anything but, which is quite likely why it won the Oscar.
So there you have it. Some of you are no doubt shouting at the computer screen about what I did and did not put on the list. I tried to be objective and not just list my favorites (which would have been a VERY different list). Here’s hoping that there are decades more of Best Picture Oscars waiting to be won out there. For detailed information on any of these movies, visit theInternet Movie Database (IMdB) or the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.