Oscars: All the Best Picture winners!

How many Best Picture winners have you seen? Which are the actual best? Which are the worst?

2015: Furious 7

2014: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) — beat American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash
[ review ]

2013: 12 Years a Slave — beat Gravity, American Hustle, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street, Captain Phillips, Nebraska
[ review ]

2012: Argo — beat Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook, Django Unchained, Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild
[ From the get-go, it has many things going for it: amazingly convincing period recreation that sometimes makes us wonder whether we’re watching archival footage, a strong dose of suspense and energy, a great cast… It made me think a bit of something like “United 93” at first, but then comes the twist, i.e. the whole thing about how Affleck’s CIA agent character schemes to free some hostages from Iran by creating a cover story for them as a Canadian film crew supposedly there to scout locations for a sci-fi movie. This leads to a bunch of Hollywood stuff that’s stylish and fun, makes you think of maybe “Wag the Dog”, with Alan Arkin and John Goodman doing wonderful work as film industry bigwigs…  And then there’s more suspenseful stuff during the third act, which may or may not stretch the way things really happened for maximum tension. In any case, “Argo” is a gripping watch and a really well put together production. I wouldn’t call it one of the year’s best like many folks have, but it remains well worth checking out. ]

2011: The Artist — beat The Help, The Descendants, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
[  In 1927 Hollywood(land), silent movie actor George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) enjoys fame and fortune. Two short years later, the advent of sound makes his career derail… Meanwhile Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), a young and pretty chorus line girl he’d been flirting with, makes it big. Falling star meets rising star: that’s the gist of this new film from many of the same folks behind 2006’s “OSS 117: Le Caire, nid d’espions”, notably writer-director Michel Hazanavicius, stars Dujardin and Bejo, cinematographer Guillaume Schiffman and composer Ludovic Bource. Again, they perfectly recreate both the time period of the story and the filmmaking style of that era, in this case the golden age of the studio system, in the years when talkies came into prominence (already the setting of “Singin’ in the Rain”, not so incidentally). Shot in black and white, in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, with no dialogue or sound effects (save for a few specific, very meta instances) but with intertiles, “The Artist” is not a spoof but a sincere homage, a veritable love letter to classic cinema. Like in “OSS”, Jean Dujardin’s dashing and debonair performance contributes greatly to the success of the film. It’s in his greased-down hair, pencil moustache, impeccable wardrobe and killer smile, in the way he emulates the likes of Gene Kelly, Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks, but also in the way he navigates the tonal shifts of this romantic tragicomedy. Bérénice Bejo is very good as well, and so is the supporting cast (John Goodman, James Cromwell, etc.). Oh, and let’s not forget about George Valentin’s dog sidekick, who may just be my favorite character in the flick! This is an aesthetically irreproachable, featuring many clever, amusing and/or touching scenes… And yet I felt like it was missing a je ne sais quoi… A stronger narrative? More thematic depth? I don’t know… I admired and enjoyed “The Artist” while I was watching it, and for that it remains well worth seeing, but it didn’t quite have enough impact on me to call it one of the year’s best like some have done, going as far as predicting that it could win Best Picture at the Oscars.  ]

2010: The King’s Speech — beat 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone

2009: The Hurt Locker — beat Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, Inglourious Basterds, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air
[ Simply put, this is one of the most suspenseful movies I’ve ever seen. Following a bomb squad while they do their thing around Irak, “The Hurt Locker” constantly keeps us on the edge of our seats, as everything the characters do could instantly kill them if they make a mistake… Or even if they don’t, because there’s seemingly always threatening individuals waiting in the shadows. Even in between the half dozen of nerve-wrecking set pieces, during the male bonding scenes, things remain tense, as our daredevil heroes always appear to be a moment away from blowing a fuse. Shot in a guerilla documentary style that reminds of Paul Greengrass, the film also features note perfect performances from the three leads (Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty and the particularly badass Jeremy Renner), as well as a few memorable guest star appearances (Guy Pearce, David Morse and especially Ralph Fiennes). A truly great action flick. ]

2008: Slumdog Millionaire — beat Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Reader
[ review ]

2007: No Country for Old Men — beat Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood
[ review ]

2006: The Departed — beat Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen
[ review ]

2005: Crash — beat Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich
[ review ]

2004: Million Dollar Baby — beat Finding Neverland, Ray, Sideways, The Aviator
[ review ]

2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King — beat Lost in Translation, Master and Commander, Mystic River, Seabiscuit
[ review ]

2002: Chicago — beat Gangs of New York, The Hours, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Pianist
[ review ]

2001: A Beautiful Mind — beat Gosford Park, In the Bedroom, Moulin Rouge, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
[ review ]

2000: Gladiator — beat Chocolat, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
[ review ]

1999: American Beauty — beat The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Insider, The Sixth Sense
[ review ]

1998: Shakespeare in Love — beat Elizabeth, Life is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line
[ review ]

1997: Titanic — beat As Good as It Gets, Good Will Hunting, L.A. Confidential, The Full Monty
[ review ]

1996: The English Patient — beat Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Secrets & Lies, Shine
[ This won 9 Oscars? Sure, it’s a lush, classy, epic production, but it’s not that great. Pretty nurse Juliette Binoche cares for burnt, dying Ralph Fiennes, who we see in flashbacks exploring the North African desert before the war and macking on lovely Kristin Scott Thomas while hubby Colin Firth is away. I guess I can see what some people respond to here, but the storytelling felt ponderous to me and Fiennes’ character is a dick; worse, he’s boring. On the other hand, I dug Willem Dafoe’s badass Monte Cristo-style avenger from Montreal (“Chabot, north of Laurier” – we’re almost neighbours!) and Naveen Andrews’ bomb-defusing Sikh loverboy – wish we’d seen more of them. ]

1995: Braveheart — beat Apollo 13, Babe, The Postman, Sense and Sensibility
[ review ]

1994: Forrest Gump — beat Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption
[ review ]

1993: Schindler’s List — beat In the Name of the Father, The Fugitive, The Piano, The Remains of the Day
[ review ]

1992: Unforgiven — beat A Few Good Men, Howards End, Scent of a Woman, The Crying Game
[ review ]

1991: The Silence of the Lambs — beat Beauty and the Beast, Bugsy, JFK, The Prince of Tides
[ review ]

1990: Dances With Wolves — beat Awakenings, Ghost, Goodfellas, The Godfather, Part III
[ Saw this on VHS back in the day with my parents… I might have fell asleep… Obviously, I need to see it again! ]

1989: Driving Miss Daisy — beat Born on the Fourth of July, Dead Poets Society, Field of Dreams, My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown

1988: Rain Man — beat Dangerous Liaisons, Mississippi Burning, The Accidental Tourist, Working Girl
[ I’m not sure this qualifies as the “Best Picture” of any year, but I liked it quite a bit. Dustin Hoffman is great, of course, and Tom Cruise offers strong support in the less showy role. ]

1987: The Last Emperor — beat Broadcast News, Fatal Attraction, Hope and Glory, Moonstruck

1986: Platoon — beat A Room with a View, Children of a Lesser God, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Mission
[ Saw this a long time ago, so my memory is hazy… I remember some iconic shots, great acting… But also a feeling that this is no “Apocalypse Now”. ]

1985: Out of Africa — beat Kiss of the Spider Woman, Prizzi’s Honor, The Color Purple, Witness

1984: Amadeus — beat A Passage to India, A Soldier’s Story, Places in the Heart, The Killing Fields
[ Salieri (F. Murray Abraham, in one of the most incendiary “super-villain” performances I’ve ever seen) is chaste and devoted while Mozart (Tom Hulce, irreverent) is a “giggling, dirty-minded creature”. Then why would God give the latter the greater musical genius? This is the fascinating mystery at the heart of this peculiar historic biopic, less a conventional costume drama than a comedy of manners and cruel irony. Even more so, this is an astounding tribute to Mozart’s music, deconstructing and reconstructing it to glorious effect. ]

1983: Terms of Endearment — beat Tender Mercies, The Big Chill, The Dresser, The Right Stuff
[ This film is adapted from a Larry McMurtry novel, but what it felt like to me is a condensed version of five seasons of a TV dramatic series. We first see Emma (Debra Winger) as a baby, then we see her grow up, get married, have a kid, then another, then another… Meanwhile, her mother (Shirley MacLaine) has an affair with her neighbour (Jack Nicholson), a drunken, womanizing astronaut. There’s a whole lot happening over many years, with ellipses ahoy! And then, in the third act, it becomes about cancer and it gets really moving, maybe because we’ve seen these characters go through so many things. ]

1982: Gandhi — beat E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Missing, The Verdict, Tootsie

1981: Chariots of Fire — beat Atlantic City, On Golden Pond, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Reds

1980: Ordinary People — beat Coal Miner’s Daughter, Raging Bull, Tess, The Elephant Man

1979: Kramer vs. Kramer — beat All That Jazz, Apocalypse Now, Breaking Away, Norma Rae

1978: The Deer Hunter — beat An Unmarried Woman, Coming Home, Heaven Can Wait, Midnight Express
[ review ]

1977: Annie Hall — beat Julia, Star Wars, The Goodbye Girl, The Turning Point
[ review ]

1976: Rocky — beat All the President’s Men, Bound for Glory, Network, Taxi Driver
[ review ]

1975: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest — beat Barry Lyndon, Dog Day Afternoon, Jaws, Nashville
[ review ]

1974: The Godfather, Part II — beat Chinatown, Lenny, The Conversation, The Towering Inferno
[ review ]

1973: The Sting — beat A Touch of Class, American Graffiti, The Exorcist, Cries and Whispers

1972: The Godfather — beat Cabaret, Deliverance, Sounder, The Emigrants
[ review ]

1971: The French Connection — beat A Clockwork Orange, Fiddler on the Roof, Nicholas and Alexandra, The Last Picture Show
[ In France, he guy walks around, buys a baguette, goes home and gets shot in the face. Back in the New York, Roy Scheider and Gene Hackman (the latter dressed as Santa Claus!) run after a “nigger”, then rough him up. Later, our two cops tail a “greaser”, just because he looks suspicious… 20 minutes into the movie, we don’t really know what’s going on, except that the protagonists seem to be antiheroes and that director William Friedkin has a knack for making everything feel tense and gritty. Scheider and Hackman do stakeouts, listen to wiretaps, follow people around… But again, for a long time, we’re not sure what they’re after and the thing is, maybe they don’t either. They just have a hunch or something. Yet thanks to the way each scene is shot, cut and scored, it remains engrossing. “The French Connection” is basically a feature-length chase scene, culminating with the famous sequence in which Hackman tries to catch up to a train in a car. Add a few shootouts and you get one of the best action films of the 70s. ]

1970: Patton — beat Airport, Five Easy Pieces, Love Story, MASH

1969: Midnight Cowboy — beat Anne of the Thousand Days, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Hello Dolly!, Z
[ review ]

1968: Oliver! — beat Funny Girl, Rachel Rachel, Romeo and Juliet, The Lion in Winter

1967: In the Heat of the Night — beat Bonnie and Clyde, Doctor Dolittle, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Graduate
[ Forced to investigate a murder case with the Mississippi cops who initially brought him in as a suspect, a Philadelphia “Negro” homicide detective clashes with the town Sheriff as they try to find the killer. Propelled by lively direction, a soulful score by Quincy Jones and powerful performances from Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger, this Oscar winner for Best Picture is both a provocative drama about race relations and an entertaining mystery thriller, and maybe even the first blaxploitation flick. When you slap this Nigger, he slaps back! ]

1966: A Man for All Seasons — beat Alfie, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, The Sand Pebbles, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

1965: The Sound of Music — beat A Thousand Clowns, Darling, Doctor Zhivago, Ship of Fools
[ review ]

1964: My Fair Lady — beat Alexis Zorbas, Becket, Dr. Strangelove, Mary Poppins

1963: Tom Jones — beat America America, Cleopatra, How the West Was Won, Lilies of the Field

1962: Lawrence of Arabia — beat Mutiny on the Bounty, The Longest Day, The Music Man, To Kill a Mockingbird
[ review ]

1961: West Side Story — beat Fanny, Judgment at Nuremberg, The Guns of Navarone, The Hustler
[ review ]

1960: The Apartment — beat Elmer Gantry, Sons and Lovers, The Alamo, The Sundowners
[ Funny, charming and smart if old fashioned. Jack Lemmon and Shirley Maclaine are adorable and I love that the ending is left open. ]

1959: Ben-Hur — beat Anatomy of a Murder, Room at the Top, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Nun’s Story

1958: Gigi — beat Auntie Mame, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Separate Tables, The Defiant Ones

1957: The Bridge on the River Kwai — beat 12 Angry Men, Peyton Place, Sayonara, Witness for the Prosecution
[ Alec Guinness leads a company of British P.O.W.s in occupied Burma who are forced by a Japanese madman to build a railway bridge in this classic WWII film. Shot in CinemaScope, on location in the Ceyton jungle, with hundreds of extras and what might be the largest set ever built for a movie, this 160 minute beast is pure David Lean, for better or worse. I have a feeling I’d be more appreciative of his films if given the opportunity to see them on the big screen. On a small TV, you clearly lose on the epic aspect of the filmmaking, and the slow storytelling can be a chore. Guinness and the Japanese colonel spend almost an hour arguing whether officers should do manual labor. Is this such an important principle? Hundreds of soldiers are worked to death, but the half dozen officers get out of it, whoop-dee-doo. Then the British decide to take the bridge-building seriously and be the most productive possible for their enemy (???) and, as soon as the bridge is finished, Allied commandos blow it up! What was that all about? Goes to show how pointless war is, I guess. The movie’s well crafted and I like William Holden’s smart-ass character, but I don’t feel this is “one of the most memorable cinematic experiences of all time”, as the back of the DVD promises. ]

1956: Around the World in Eighty Days — beat Friendly Persuasion, Giant, The King and I, The Ten Commandments

1955: Marty — beat Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, Mister Roberts, Picnic, The Rose Tattoo

1954: On the Waterfront — beat Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Caine Mutiny, The Country Girl, Three Coins in the Fountain
[ review ]

1953: From Here to Eternity — beat Julius Caesar, Roman Holiday, Shane, The Robe

1952: The Greatest Show on Earth — beat High Noon, Ivanhoe, Moulin Rouge, The Quiet Man

1951: An American in Paris — beat A Place in the Sun, A Streetcar Named Desire, Decision Before Dawn, Quo Vadis
[ The story is paper thin and the romance doesn’t work, but the song and dance numbers are pretty great. ]

1950: All About Eve — beat Born Yesterday, Father of the Bride, King Solomon’s Mines, Sunset Blvd.
[ When Broadway star Margo Channing (Bette Davis) meets borderline stalker Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), who comes to see her perform in her latest play every night, they hit it off and Eve becomes Margo’s “sister, lawyer, mother, friend, psychiatrist and cop”. But soon enough the honeymoon’s over and the claws come out, as Eve’s initially flattering attempts to become like her idol reveal to be the makings of a cunning coup. Full of bitingly clever dialogue and note-perfect acting, “All About Eve” is a brilliant satire of clashing egos, backstage brouhaha and diva behaviour. “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” ]

1949: All the King’s Men — beat A Letter to Three Wives, Battleground, The Heiress, Twelve O’Clock High

1948: Hamlet — beat Johnny Belinda, The Red Shoes, The Snake Pit, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

1947: Gentleman’s Agreement — beat Crossfire, Great Expectations, Miracle on 34th Street, The Bishop’s Wife

1946: The Best Years of Our Lives — beat It’s a Wonderful Life, The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fifth with his Battell Fought at Agincourt in France, The Razor’s Edge, The Yearling

1945: The Lost Weekend — beat Anchors Aweigh, Mildred Pierce, Spellbound, The Bells of St. Mary’s
[ 1945’s Best Picture Oscar winner is an old-fashioned but nonetheless affecting portrait of alcoholism, desperation and self-destruction. It’s very melodramatic, writerly and “actorly”, too, and it’s hardly as raw a take on the subject as something like “Leaving Las Vegas”. But it still cuts through and gets to what feels like a truly honest place. As in every Wilder film, the storytelling is tight and the direction is masterful. Wilder manages to build suspense numerous times out of whether or not the guy will take a drink, the moody B&W cinematography adds to the sombre, almost noir-like feel of the piece, the use of theremin gives eerie echoes to the score and there are some truly clever visual compositions revolving around bottles and shot glasses. This isn’t quite “Double Indemnity” or “Sunset Blvd.”, but it’s a solid pit stop between the two. ]

1944: Going My Way — beat Double Indemnity, Gaslight, Since You Went Away, Wilson

1943: Casablanca — beat For Whom the Bell Tolls, Heaven Can Wait, In Which We Serve, Madame Curie, The Human Comedy, The More the Merrier, The Ox-Bow Incident, The Song of Bernadette, Watch on the Rhine
[ review ]

1942: Mrs. Miniver — beat 49th Parallel, Kings Row, Random Harvest, The Magnificent Ambersons, The Pied Piper, The Pride of the Yankees, The Talk of the Town, Wake Island, Yankee Doodle Dandy

1941: How Green Was My Valley — beat Blossoms in the Dust, Citizen Kane, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Hold Back the Dawn, One Foot in Heaven, Sergeant York, Suspicion, The Little Foxes, The Maltese Falcon

1940: Rebecca — beat All This and Heaven Too, Foreign Correspondent, Kitty Foyle: The Natural History of a Woman, Our Town, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Dictator, The Letter, The Long Voyage Home, The Philadelphia Story

1939: Gone with the Wind — beat Dark Victory, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Love Affair, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ninotchka, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz, Wuthering Heights
[ review ]

1938: You Can’t Take it With You — beat Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Boys Town, Four Daughters, Jezebel, La grande illusion, Pygmalion, Test Pilot, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Citadel

1937: The Life of Emile Zola — beat A Star Is Born, Captains Courageous, Dead End, In Old Chicago, Lost Horizon, One Hundred Men and a Girl, Stage Door, The Awful Truth, The Good Earth

1936: The Great Ziegfeld — beat A Tale of Two Cities, Anthony Adverse, Dodsworth, Libeled Lady, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Romeo and Juliet, San Francisco, The Story of Louis Pasteur, Three Smart Girls

1935: Mutiny on the Bounty — beat A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Alice Adams, Broadway Melody of 1936, Captain Blood, Les misérables Naughty Marietta, Ruggles of Red Gap, The Informer, The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, The Personal History, Adventures, Experience & Observation of David Copperfield the Younger, Top Hat

1934: It Happened One Night — beat Cleopatra, Flirtation Walk, Here Comes the Navy, Imitation of Life, One Night of Love, The Barretts of Wimpole Street, The Gay Divorcee, The House of Rothschild, The Thin Man, The White Parade, Viva Villa!
[ “Remember me? I’m the fella you slept on last night.”
Clark Gable stars as a flippant newshound who hooks up on a night bus to New York with a spoiled brat (Claudette Colbert) running away from her father. This is an old-fashioned romantic comedy, pairing a wisecracking leading man matched with a dame who can snap back at him – it’s “When Harry Met Sally” 50 years early. The plot is thin and the characters aren’t very complex, but Colbert and Gable have chemistry and the banter between them is enjoyable. ]

1933: Cavalcade — beat 42nd Street, A Farewell to Arms, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, Lady for a Day, Little Women, She Done Him Wrong, Smilin’ Through, State Fair, The Private Life of Henry VIII

1931-32: Grand Hotel — beat Arrowsmith, Bad Girl, Five Star Final, One Hour with You, Shanghai Express, The Champ, The Smiling Lieutenant

1930-31: Cimarron — beat East Lynne, Skippy, The Front Page, Trader Horn

1928-30: The Broadway Melody — beat Alibi, In Old Arizona, The Hollywood Revue of 1929, The Patriot

1927-28: Wings — (best picture, production) beat 7th Heaven, The Racket

1927-28: Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans — (best picture, unique and artistic production)
[ Murnau’s first American picture (after making “Nosferatu” and “The Last Laugh” in Germany) was the toast of the very first Academy Awards ceremony, winning Oscars for “Most Unique and Artistic Production”, Best Actress and a particularly deserved Best Cinematography. “Sunrise” may feel slow, dull and desperately corny to today’s audiences, but visually it remains as stunning as ever (the use of superimposition alone is pure genius). Too bad the story and characters aren’t particularly interesting – the film could have used more of the coolest dog ever (watch him swim!) and of the city woman (who smokes cigarettes!!!) who threatens to come between the virtuous husband and wife. ]