From 87 years of Academy Award winners, I pick my favorite Best Picture wins. These are movies I enjoyed because they were dark, funny, an amazing feat of film making or simply tried to show the best and worst of humanity. I have a lot of honorable mentions: ( “All the King’s Men” “The Godfather” “The Godfather II” “Schindler’s List”-devastating, “How Green Was My Valley” “Rocky” “Terms of Endearment” “Ordinary People” and others… ) but the following list holds a more dear place in my heart. If you know your Oscar history, you know that this is a wild and wooly category. Sometimes a movie wins for Best Picture, but its director does not. ( Famously “Rebecca” won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1940, but its director: Alfred Hitchcock did not ). Sometimes a person wins the Best Director award, but his/her film does not. It’s unfair…at most – bizarre, but it happens. Don’t call the ACLU or your Civil Rights attorney. It happens.
Here are my favorite winners and of course…all roads lead to “Gone With the Wind.”
( 1939 ) “GONE WITH THE WIND” – ( Victor Fleming )
This film has everything. It’s epic. And it’s a love story. I don’t care I dont care I don’t care. Fiddle dee dee. THIS is monumental filmmaking. ( And no CGI! ) The cast is perfect. And yes, again, Gable was robbed!!
( 1943 ) “CASABLANCA” – ( Michael Curtiz )
Another love story set in tumultuous times. Perfectly cast, with a bitter sweet ending that ensures its immortality. Bogart and Bergman…the Marseilles…the villain…the scoundrel… the noble. It’s all there, including a faithful friend.
( Best Director for 1942 – William Wyler for “Mrs. Miniver” )
( 1946 ) “THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES” – ( William Wyler )
What happens to three soldiers when they come home from war and have to integrate themselves back into a Society…that wants to forget about war. What a beautiful motion picture. If I ever were to win an Oscar…I would thank William Wyler and all the great master filmmakers of classic films.
( 1947 ) “GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT” – ( Elia Kazan )
One might laugh at how quaint a story this is to tackle prejudice. I see its importance, no matter WHAT the prejudice. A job well-done 20th Century Fox.
( 1950 ) “ALL ABOUT EVE” – ( Joseph Mankiewicz )
It’s a perfect motion picture. A bitchfest Supreme! But also about the insecurity of a woman who has everything, and the unbridled ambition of a wannabe who wants it all. On your mark…get set…WATCH!!
( 1972 ) “THE GODFATHER” – ( Francis Ford Coppola )
The short of it…an epic about a crime family. The long of it, they’re just like yours and my family. Without the guns and murder. Love, betrayal, trust, magnificent.
( Best Director for 1972 – Bob Fosse for “Cabaret” – old chum! )
( 1974 ) “THE GODFATHER, Part II” – ( Francis Ford Coppola )
Al Pacino really comes into his own as the head of his Family. And he’s as ruthless as that position commands. We see also see the portrait of a don as a young man, played by DeNiro where he has to embody Brando’s persona into his portrayal. Conventional wis-dom says sequels don’t work. But THIS one makes you an offer you can’t refuse. A great story…and great filmmaking.
( 1977 ) “ANNIE HALL” – ( Woody Allen )
I think this comedy is epic. Filmed in my beloved New York it symbolizes an era. One of the very few comedies to win an Academy Award, it was well deserved. Love and pain and the whole damn thing. The film is romantic and hilarious. Keaton and Allen are a wonderful team. Bravo Woody!
( 1985 ) “OUT OF AFRICA” – ( Sidney Pollack )
This film transported me to another world. The sights and sound of Mother Africa. Yes, and through this woman’s eyes. I say, Thank you.
( 1991 ) “SILENCE OF THE LAMBS” – ( Jonathan Demme )
I think I blinked once during this entire movie. It is riveting. And scary. The world is dark, depraved, frightening. I’m shocked as all get out that the Academy awarded this film with its hightest honor. Could they be growing up? Or could they just not deny what Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster and Jonathan Demme achieved. Excellent. THIS is what it looks like when it allllllllll comes together.
( 1997 ) “TITANIC” – ( James Cameron )
I admit it. I’m not going to lie. I loved this film when it came out. What a technological achievement. There is a love story in there, and if I hear Celine Dion or Leo DiCaprio yell “I’m the king of the world” one more time, somebody’s gonna get it. But I did love this film. I thought it was breathtaking. James Cameron, this is your crowning glory. And your Selznick curse.
( 2000 ) “GLADIATOR” – ( Ridley Scott )
A sword and sandal picture? Ha! That’s what YOU think. “Are you not entertained?!!” I am. I am. Please sir, may I spend time with Djimon Hounsou?
( Best Director for 2000 – Steven Soderbergh for “Traffic” )
( 2001 ) “NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN” – ( Ethan & Joel Cohen )
I can’t even explain this movie. Just strap yourself in.
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Now if you’ve found reading this a little shorter than actually watching the Oscars, here is a little trivia. These directors have won two or more Academy Awards. An asterisk means their film ALSO won Best Picture. And it’s a darn shame Hitchcock never won one though he did receive one for the body of his work. I give you…
MOST OSCAR-WINNING DIRECTORS:
“The Lost Weekend” *
“The Apartment” *
“Million Dollar Baby” *
“Bridge on the River Kwai” *
“Lawrence of Arabia” *
“Gentleman’s Agreement” *
“On the Waterfront” *
“It Happened One Night” *
“You Can’t Take It With You” *
“A Place in the Sun”
( “My name is John Ford and I make westerns.” )
“The Grapes of Wrath”
“How Green Was My Valley” *
“The Quiet Man”
“A Letter To Three Wives”
“All About Eve” *
“The Awful Truth”
“Going My Way” *
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” *
“Born on the 4th of July”
“Schindler’s List” *
“Saving Private Ryan”
“Mrs. Miniver” *
“The Best Years of Our Lives” *
Thank you for reading.
( H O M E )