This is an ongoing ranking of what I believe are the best to…least best…. Best Picture winners at the Oscars, beginning in 1927. I’m nowhere near watching them all yet, but I will continually update my ranking as I go. Remember, all opinions are completely subjective and you definitely don’t have to agree with me.
Unless you reeeeeally liked Shakespeare in Love. Then we need to have a chat outside.
Beginning with the Best Best Picture Winner:
1. All About Eve —Because yay feminism! And many, many other things. This movie is so friggin’ good.
2. The Godfather Part II —I feel like I don’t need to explain why this is in the Top 5.
3. Casablanca —Also deserves the Oscar for most quotable movie of all time.
4. The Godfather —I feel like I don’t need to explain why this is in the Top 5 either.
5. Unforgiven —Everything from the beginning of this film to the final line feels perfect to me (especially that final line).
6. Silence of the Lambs —The only way a movie like this works is if every piece (e.g., acting, editing, directing, sound, cinematography, etc.) is in sync and tonally even. Thankfully, they all are.
7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest —The omnipresence of this film on my blog and twitter should give you an inkling by how blown away I am by it.
8. Lawrence of Arabia —This film arguably gets lost in itself at times, but it’s undeniable that it alone inspired many of the greatest movies of all time–both Oscar-fodder and blockbuster.
9. On the Waterfront —Popular Opinion: Marlon Brando and Elia Kazan are the best cinematic chocolate-and-peanut-butter combo, perhaps rivaled only by De Niro and Scorsese.
10. Schindler’s List —Some may argue this is too mainstream-y or glossy for a film related to the Holocaust (I would redirect these people to Shoa), but I remain moved by pretty much every part of it, from Liam Neeson’s performance to that little red coat.
11. The Hurt Locker –My career choice is ultimately what makes me love this movie so much, as it’s one of the most well-articulated series of psychological case studies that I’ve seen in a Best Picture winner so far.
12. It Happened One Night –A classic that plays well on gender roles that were emphasized at the time. IMHO, it’s Capra’s best (yes, I know he’s the same guy who made It’s a Wonderful Life).
13. All the King’s Men –Alarmingly relevant in American society.
14. The Departed –Bloody, good drama.
15. No Country For Old Men –It’s the final monologue from a superb Tommy Lee Jones that makes this film so impressive to me. No spoilers.
16. Annie Hall –Thanks to Woody Allen, I can never watch this movie again, but that doesn’t stop Annie Hall from being a great comedy.
17. The English Patient –I’m not a sucker for romance films (in case you can’t tell yet), but the performances in this film make it one I can’t forget.
18. The Sound of Music –This, my friends, is the musical.
19. Kramer v. Kramer –Surprisingly endearing, Dustin Hoffman is at his most relatable and Meryl manages to “steady cry” in literally almost every single scene she’s in.
20. Titanic –The script may have some weak points, but this is probably the best modern epic that won the Best Picture award since 1962.
21. Gentleman’s Agreement –An unexpected exposé on antisemitism that I feel merits a remake soon given certain political climates. It’s not perfect, but it is interesting.
22. Chicago –I have to give props to a film that seamlessly merges musical and film in a way that doesn’t make me feel like I’m watching a filmed musical.
23. Spotlight –Compelling, chilling, and oftentimes downright scary, this is a solid film on investigative journalism. The only crime committed is no Oscar nomination for Michael Keaton, who gives the greatest performance in the film.
24. Forrest Gump –A film with all the feels, just don’t think about the ending too hard.
25. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King –Great film minus the 800 endings. Personally, I wish it had been Two Towers that took the trophy, but apparently that is not how AMPAS (or any industry award) works.
26. Amadeus –Hilarious and devastating at the same time.
27. From Here to Eternity –Clearly what Pearl Harbor was hoping to be.
28. Slumdog Millionaire –Three standouts of this film: the concept, the young actors, and the cinematography.
29. The King’s Speech –Hypothesis: If there was an Oscar category for “Best Performance by an Ensemble Cast,” I believe this film would’ve snagged it instead of Best Picture, and Best Picture probably would’ve gone to The Social Network (just saying).
30. My Fair Lady –While I wish I could’ve seen the version with Julie Andrews (boo ageism), Hepburn still manages to charm me.
31. A Beautiful Mind —I know audiences are mixed on this one, but I remain impressed with the acting, editing, and direction of this film despite the awkward political commentary.
32. Gone with the Wind —Perhaps more of a “big” movie than a “great” one, Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable are responsible for making it truly memorable (and highly quotable)
33. Ben-Hur —I rarely say this, but Ben-Hur is an epic that deserves to be appreciated for just that (if you can overlook the sheer whitewashing and brown-facing).
34. Midnight Cowboy —Tip: Go into this one knowing what to expect.
35. Braveheart –A simple, straightforward story that I loved until I fact-checked it.
36. Patton —A case study that rests on the strengths of its core actor always deserves major props.
37. Gladiator —A simple, straightforward story that I loved in high school.
38. Birdman —It’s creative and well acted, but it ultimately feels like Hollywood was patting itself on the back with this one.
39. American Beauty —So. Much. Loudness.
40. You Can’t Take it With You —Ultimately feels like a nicely-filmed stage production rather than a movie.
41. Dances with Wolves —White man with stick, rawr.
42. Crash —While well-intentioned, caution is merited whenever a movie about racism is completely written and directed by a white man (see: Zootopia).
43. Gigi —The song, “I Remember It Well,” is admittedly the only thing I remember about Gigi after multiple viewings.
44. Gandhi –I can’t tell if the Oscar here was really for the movie, or just a second one for Ben Kingsley’s performance.
45. Shakespeare in Love –Entertaining? Yes. Fabulous Gwenyth Paltrow? Absolutely. Bountiful love scenes best described as gratuitous? …Let’s just say don’t watch it with your parents. Other than those bits and Harvey Weinstein, I don’t understand how this film walked away with the Oscar.
46. Out of Africa —Meryl is aces and I love any story about Isak Denesen, but the film itself is too long and 40% sap.
47. Oliver! —The advertising pitch for Oliver! was “It’s more than just a musical!” when really, it isn’t. It’s just a musical. Plain ol’ musical.