With the 2017 Academy Awards just around the corner, we’re taking a trip down memory lane. Here are our favorite Best Picture winners and losers.
Alex’s Picks (Blog Writer)
FAVORITE WINNER: The Hurt Locker (2009)
2009 was the first year that I was really old enough to care about the Academy Awards, so The Hurt Locker is really the first Best Picture winner I got to see. A low-budget independent film that made less than $50 million, competing with the record breaking Avatar, seemed like a stretch at the time. However, in hindsight, the dramatic character-driven war thriller was the clear option. Maybe it’s just nostalgia speaking, but to this day I believe it still holds up as probably the most deserving Oscar winner since its release. It also introduced me to Jeremy Renner, so I must thank it for that.
FAVORITE LOSER: Mad Max: Fury Road (2016)
From the producer of the Academy Award Best Picture nominee Babe, came the most intense, beautiful, crazy, emotional action-thriller in recent memory. Combining old techniques with modern technology gave George Miller the tools needed to create, arguably, the best action sequences since the turn of the century. Although no one expected it to win Best Picture, Mad Max: Fury Road was surely the most deserving movie of the year and will probably, in the long run, be remembered more fondly than 2016’s winner Spotlight. Looking back, I’m just happy that it got nominated.
Cassie’s Picks (Blog Writer)
FAVORITE WINNER: The Lost Weekend (1945)
“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation. I can’t take quiet desperation!” During his lifetime, director Billy Wilder received overwhelming recognition for his craft. He racked up twenty one Academy Award nominations, six of which he won. His films are essential to film history and pop culture. With successes such as The Apartment, Sunset Blvd., Some Like it Hot and Double Indemnity, it’s easy to forget one of the most daring depictions of alcoholism in cinema. The Lost Weekend utilizes noir styling to tell the story of Don Birnam (Ray Milland), a man whose entire support system is trying to save him from an alcohol-induced, self-destruction. While 1945 had some great films nominated for Best Picture, most notably Mildred Pierce and Spellbound, The Lost Weekend is a perfect blend of a meaningful message attached to a devastating performance.
FAVORITE LOSER: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
“Good. Better. Best. Bested.” Play adaptations are prevalent in the Best Picture race and rely quite heavily on the success of their ability to transcend the stage format. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? executes this almost flawlessly, balancing the claustrophobic environment of George (Richard Burton) and Martha’s (Elizabeth Taylor) hostile party with the constant drive of sick fascination surrounding what these people will do to their guests (Sandy Dennis and George Segal). With fantastic performances at the helm, it’s not a shock that all the actors in the film were nominated for Academy Awards. However, it ultimately lost several of the categories, including Best Picture, to the historical biopic A Man for All Seasons.
Dan’s Picks (Blog Writer)
FAVORITE WINNER: Rebecca (1940)
A masterclass in tackling issues of female spectatorship and the woman’s relation to processes of imaging, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca is one of his best and most iconic psychological thrillers. The housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers (played by Judith Anderson), has been heavily referenced but never matched, and Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier are arguably one of Hitch’s best pairings. I remember seeing this in my youth and being blown away, especially by the explosive climax, and then studying it in college in a Woman’s Film of the 1940s course, being enlightened to its complexities and themes I had theretofore overlooked.
Obvious pick, I know, but this was in the thick of when I was actually interested in the Oscars and thought they did a relatively solid job of nominating worthy films (with the exception of winner Crash, I remember thinking Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, and Munich were all top notch). I remember hating the fact that Crash won, even though I didn’t hate the film, just because of how much I liked Brokeback. It didn’t occur to me until years later how obvious and unimpressive the film was. Although Brokeback has lost a little of its luster, 2005 will still probably go down as the most I was ever emotionally invested in the ceremony, as I’ve generally felt indifferent the past few years about the nominees.
Eli’s Picks (Blog Writer)
FAVORITE WINNER: Casablanca (1944)
You might laugh and say that Casablanca is the “easy pick” for favorite Best Picture winner, which is completely true. However, it is the easy pick for a reason — it’s an enduring classic that totally lives up to the hype. It’s one of the most endlessly quotable and re-watchable movies of all time, and even though it sometimes comes across as a little cheesy or clichéd, it’s important to remember that it invented those very clichés.
FAVORITE LOSER: Sunset Boulevard (1951)
The fact that Sunset Boulevard didn’t win Best Picture would be an absolute crime… if the winner that year weren’t the equally excellent All About Eve. In fact, the 1950 ceremony was kind of stacked, considering that the fantastic comedy Born Yesterday was also nominated for Best Picture (though Born Yesterday’s Judy Holliday did take home Best Actress over Sunset Boulevard’s Gloria Swanson). So, yes, Sunset Boulevard is my favorite Best Picture loser, but it certainly wasn’t robbed!
Emmanuel’s Picks (Member Experience Associate)
FAVORITE WINNER: Spotlight (2016)
Although I did not catch last years Oscar ceremony, I did see this gem of a movie during the following summer. And boy oh boy, did it deliver! First of all, the cast is incredible. It’s not hard to get me to watch a movie with Mark Ruffalo. His credentials alone warranted my attention to this film. Secondly, the subject matter of child abuse in the Catholic church, too often considered a taboo subject, was confronted. From there, I was sucked into the rabbit hole, like Alice in Wonderland. I found the story, characters, and direction to be in perfect harmony. The film kept me enthralled from beginning to end.
FAVORITE LOSER: The Color Purple (1986)
Considered to be a quotable American classic that helped spawn a hit Broadway play, The Color Purple’s loss in the Best Picture race is a travesty beyond belief. The reason why I love this film is that it displayed the African American experience in a way that was beautiful, authentic, and heartbreaking. There is not a false hit with this movie. Steven Spielberg perfectly conducted powerhouse performances from Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Avery, and Oprah Winfrey. It will forever be the film that could and should have been awarded the Best Picture Oscar.
Michael’s Picks (Blog Writer)
FAVORITE WINNER: No Country For Old Men (2008)
I worship at the altar of the Coen brothers. By 2007 they’d already created more masterpieces than most – Fargo, Miller’s Crossing, Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, Blood Simple, The Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou? – but had yet to receive a Best Picture or Director Oscar. So when the Academy finally gave them the double honors for their harrowing and masterful translation of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men, I was overjoyed; true to their nature, they gave a fantastically understated speech with a shout out to Henry Kissinger.
FAVORITE LOSER: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won in 2003, as a sort of “holy hell, you pulled this off!” trophy for the trilogy. Which is okay. It was an achievement. Yet … Return of the King – while still epic and engaging – doesn’t possess the intimacy of the first or the grandeur of the Two Towers. I wish either one of those had won and left 2003 open for Peter Weir’s grand and beautiful Master and Commander, a film that practically defines the word “rousing.” I didn’t expect Master and Commander to win, not with Peter Jackson’s behemoth standing in its way, but it still left me disappointed.
Sam’s Picks (Member Experience Associate)
Being a thoroughly nerdy teen, I loved LOTR and watched it for more hours than I’d like to add up. Watching the entire cast jump up on stage when The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won Best Picture is one of my all-time favorite Oscar memories. I even cut out a photo of that moment from the newspaper (which apparently now tells you that I’m old) and had it taped proudly on my wall for years. LOTR is such a cinematic experience and the scope of the production and story always felt like an extraordinary achievement in film to me. I have a feeling that watching all the LOTR movies years from now will still have just as a big an impact on any future audiences.
FAVORITE LOSER: The Social Network (2011)
My severe obsession with The Social Network may make me a little biased; but, come on, it should have won instead of The King’s Speech. The Social Network brought us one of the greatest opening scenes of all time, featuring an incredibly talented actress who became quite famous afterwards, Rooney Mara. It has an entirely quotable and brilliant script by Aaron Sorkin and killer performances by Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield. Not to mention, this is also the movie that brought us Armie Hammer, twice. It tracked an entire cultural revolution that was taking place that still affects everyone’s daily lives today while telling a personal and relatable story. The King’s Speech is good, but The Social Network is so much more.
Veronica’s Picks (Blog Writer)
FAVORITE WINNER: The Artist (2012)
When The Artist won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2012, it was as if Hollywood were paying tribute to its own glorious past, and rightly so. In glorious black and white, Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist is a beautifully rendered love letter to the silent era of film. Everything from Jean Dujardin’s and Berenice Bejo’s stellar performances to Ludovic Bource’s incredible score, make this romantic comedy-drama an instant classic and an all-time crowd pleaser. Shot in only 35 days, Dujardin and Bejo’s total commitment and love for the project is clearly visible on the screen: their chemistry is infectious and their dance routines reminiscent of another era. Similarly to this year’s La La Land, The Artist is the director’s personal homage to a particular time in cinema that deeply affected him and his craft. It is these personal, passion projects that remind us of cinema’s power.
FAVORITE LOSER: There Will Be Blood (2007)
The Coen Brothers’ neo-western, neo-noir thriller, No Country for Old Men, won Best Picture at the 2007 Academy Awards. While it definitely deserved it, it came as a surprise to anyone who thought that There Will Be Blood would take home the prestigious honor. Paul Thomas Anderson’s film is a magnificent minimalist historical epic that explores the rise and fall of a self-made American tycoon throughout his ruthless quest for oil, power and money during Southern California’s oil boom in the early 20th century. Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano’s characters represent capitalism and religion respectively, and the two actors give performances of a lifetime in this great masterpiece. There Will Be Blood explores the inner ambiguities that make up the American spirit, as well as the creative and destructive powers within each of us. By pitting faith against avarice, Anderson’s drama is both, an unsettling and beautifully, rendered film that does not shy away from man’s true nature.