My Year at the Oscars - Academy Award Best Picture Winners Ranked Pt. 5


If you're new to My Year at the Oscars, in 2014 I decided to watch every Best Picture winner in a single year and then rank them.  After four installments ranking #87 - #21, we have finally the top 20 Best Picture winners.  It gets very hard around this point in a ranking to determine what it the "greatest" between films that are all rightfully considered to be masterpieces of their genre, so a lot of this comes down to personal preferences.  

Thank you so much to those of you who have been reading this blog for the past 4 weeks.  Before I get started, I wanted to let you guys know some of the other posts coming in the next month.  

On Tuesday, February 23rd there will be "My Top 15 in 15", ranking the best 15 films from last year.  On Thursday, February 25th my Oscar predictions for this years ceremony will be posted.  A post that you will all likely find very interesting comes the day after the Oscars, on Monday, February 29th, in which I predict and rank the 30 most likely players in the 89th Academy Awards.  Friday, March 4th is going to be centered around the 20 best nominated films that didn't win of the last ten years.  After that we will begin a three-part ranking of Nicolas Cage Films, with the three parts appearing March 11th, March 18th, and March 25th.

Pt. 5: #20 - #1

#20: Patton

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
Release Date: April 2nd, 1970
Ceremony: 43rd
Wins: 7 (Best Picture; Best Director; Best Actor - George C. Scott; Best Original Screenplay; Best Film Editing; Best Sound; Best Art Direction)
Nominations: 10 (Best Original Score - not a musical; Best Cinematography; Best Visual Effects)
Other Nominees: Airport; Five Easy Pieces; Love Story; MASH

Patton is a war film for the ages, taking ideas from previous decades of military pictures and turning them into an absolute masterpiece.  Well-directed and incredible well-written, it moves at an exceptional pace for its 3 hours and never lets the intrigue rest.  George C. Scott, one of only two actors to turn down an Academy Award, gives one of the most deserving performances in Oscar history.  It is a classic war film thanks in part to Scott's aforementioned performance, but also because of the excellent job Francis Ford Coppola did writing the script.  Two years before The Godfather existed when Coppola was just an up and comer, it took a remarkable combination of boldness and brilliance to write a scene like the opening flag speech.  Scott didn't want this scene to open the film because it might "overshadow" the rest of his performance, and while he may have been right about that, it also has left him the star of one of the most iconic scenes in cinematic history.  

#19: Gone With the Wind

Director: Victor Fleming
Release Date: December 15th, 1939
Ceremony: 12th
Wins: 8 (10) (Best Picture; Best Director; Best Actress - Vivien Leigh; Best Supporting Actress - Hattie McDaniel; Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Cinematography, Color; Best Film Editing; Best Art Direction; SPECIAL AWARD: "For outstanding achievement in the use of color for the enhancement of dramatic mood" to William Cameron Menzies; TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: "For pioneering the use of coordinated equipment" to Don Musgrave and Selznick International Pictures )
Nominations: 13 (Best Actor - Clark Gable; Best Supporting Actress - Olivia de Havilland; Best Original Score; Best Sound Recording; Best Special Effects)
Other Nominees: Dark Victory; Goodbye, Mr. Chips; Love Affair; Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; Ninotchka; Of Mice and Men; Stagecoach; The Wizard of Oz; Wuthering Heights

Of all the films that are considered "classics", it is hard to find one that deserves the title more than Gone With the Wind.  Adjusted for inflation, it is still the biggest box office success in the history of cinema.  To modern movie-goers, it may feel like a feat to finish this film, clocking in at over three and a half hours long, but trust me, great portions go by very quickly and it is worth the time invested.  Vivien Leigh and Hattie McDaniel more than earn their Oscars with two excellent early Hollywood performances, while Clark Gable, though unrecognized, absolutely nails Rhett Butler.  It is said that the director delayed production of the movie until Gable was available and that decision might have been his best throughout production.  That said, it would be easy make a case for some of the more incredible shots, one in particular being the scene if Leigh walking through the city of fallen soldiers as the camera shows scope that had never been seen before and would hold up to a film released today.  Yes, it is dated in production in places, but it is so ahead of its time in many other places. As films come and go, this one will never lose its status as a true "classic". 

#18: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Director: Peter Jackson
Release Date: December 1st, 2003 (Wellington); December 17th, 2003 (U.S.)
Ceremony: 76th
Wins: 11 (Best Picture; Best Director; Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Original Song - "Into the West"; Best Original Score; Best Film Editing; Best Art Direction; Best Costume Design; Best Makeup; Best Sound Mixing; Best Visual Effects)
Nominations: 11 (ALL WINS)
Other Nominees: Lost in Translation; Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World; Mystic River; Seabiscuit

Ranking Return of the King this low severely hurts the fan boy in me, but let me give a few conditions to the ranking before my fellow Lord of the Rings nerds disown me.  First of all, I am ranking the theatrical release as opposed to the extended.  That is the version that won, and while it is my least favorite of the trilogy in its theatrical form, I think it becomes the best when extended.  Secondly, this is looking at this film as a standalone.  When you put all three Lord of the Rings together (in extended form), you have the greatest 12-hour long epic that has ever graced the screen and one of the best movies ever made.  Fantasy had been done before, but nothing on this scale had ever been attempted and the fact that it worked so well and exceeded expectations is a testament to Peter Jackson's vision.  There will never be anything like this made again (partially proved by the abysmal by comparison Hobbit trilogy).  As fast as technology evolves, it is incredible that there is technology pioneered by this film 13 years ago that is still frequently used today.  Every element is perfect, from the ensemble cast to the beautiful New Zealand "Middle Earth" landscape and the cinematography.  But the best element of this film might be Howard Shore's score, which I rank up there with the greatest of all time.  

#17: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Director: Miloš Forman
Release Date: November 19th, 1975
Ceremony: 48th
Wins: 5 (Best Picture; Best Director; Best Actor - Jack Nicholson; Best Actress - Louise Fletcher; Best Writing Adapted Screenplay )
Nominations: 9 (Best Supporting Actor - Brad Dourif; Best Film Editing; Best Cinematography; Best Original Score)
Other Nominees: Barry Lyndon; Dog Day Afternoon; Jaws; Nashville

If I sat down and ranked Jack Nicholson performances as a future list, I would be hard pressed to find a better one than One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.  One of the three films to win the Big Five (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay), this film cemented its place in history thanks to an excellent interpretation of already fantastic source material and actors seemingly born to play these roles.  Something I loved about films in the 70's that this shows perfectly is an unreal combination of high-end production value and personal, gritty filmmaking.  It isn't elaborate and flashy, but it is still beautifully shot and scored, while at the same time giving you realistic characters that are possible to relate to and easily understood.  Its beauty is in its simplicity, and this is one of the most beautiful movies ever made. 

#16: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Release Date: August 27th, 2014 (Venice Film Festival); October 17th, 2014 (U.S.)
Ceremony: 87th
Wins: 4 (Best Picture; Best Director; Best Original Screenplay; Best Cinematography)
Nominations: 9 (Best Actor - Michael Keaton; Best Supporting Actor - Edward Norton; Best Supporting Actor - Emma Stone; Best Sound Editing; Best Sound Mixing)
Other Nominees: American Sniper; Boyhood; The Grand Budapest Hotel; The Imitation Game; Selma; The Theory of Everything; Whiplash

Where Birdman will rank for me in a decade remains to be seen, but I'll go ahead and say this was a conservative ranking.  I think it is a modern classic and will go down in history as such, but I know there is also a large population that found it overrated.  The joys of ranking movies.  I found it to be one of the most unique movies ever made, and a series of real risks that paid off.  The idea of the continuous shot throughout could have been a disaster, but it ends up being its defining feature.  The drum score could have been distracting and a detractor but it just accentuates the stress and confusion perfectly.  Michael Keaton's character and the mysteries surrounding him could have come off as silly, but they end up being intriguing to the very end.  It is on the surface a sarcastic "dramedy" that paints a grim picture of the trade of acting, but underneath the creative twists and turns, its true soul is an incredible look at the immortality of art in a fast-paced world.  Hopefully it will be remembered for more than Michael Keaton running around in his underwear. 

#15: It Happened One Night

Director: Frank Capra
Release Date: February 22nd, 1934
Ceremony: 7th
Wins: 5 (Best Picture; Best Director; Best Actor - Clark Gable; Best Actress - Claudette Colbert; Best Screenplay)
Nominations: 5 (ALL WINS)
Other Nominees: The Barretts of Wimple Street; Cleopatra; Flirtation Walk; The Gay Divorcee; Here Comes the Navy; The House of Rothschild; Imitation of Life; One Night of Love; The Thin Man; Viva Villa!; The White Parade

We've reached another one of the Big Five winners, which is even more impressive in a time when films didn't sweep the Oscars like they have grown to do.  It Happened One Night is the defining film of "screwball" comedy.  Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable are both hilarious, but the humor is somehow subtle in a genre defined by big, silly moments.  What might be most impressive about this feat is how well it has stood the test of time, with most of the jokes and hilarious situations still eliciting a laugh 80 years later.  It is a timeless film that is so charming you will want to watch it again the following night the second you finish.  Frank Capra made a lot of excellent movies, but it is hard to argue against this as his masterpiece.  

#14: The Silence of the Lambs

Director: Jonathan Demme
Release Date: February 14th, 1991
Ceremony: 64th
Wins: 5 (Best Picture; Best Director; Best Actor - Anthony Hopkins; Best Actress - Jodie Foster; Best Adapted Screenplay)
Nominations: 7 (Best Film Editing; Best Sound)
Other Nominees: Beauty and the Beast; Bugsy; JFK; The Prince of Tides

While it elicited debate over whether Hopkin's nomination and subsequent win for Actor in a Leading role was warranted based on only 16-minutes of screen time, it is hard to argue against one of the most terrifying performances in history.  As the defining character of the film, I fully agree with the win that helped propel The Silence of the Lambs into the incredible honor as the most recent of the three films to win all Big Five awards.  This is a psychological horror film that is unlike any other, keeping the viewer on the edge of their seats until the credits finally roll.  While it helps having one of the best fictional horror characters and stories to base it off of, every detail of this film is just jarring in a serene way.  Jodie Foster is on point as the protagonist, but as mentioned before, Hopkins steals the show in his short time on screen.  It is too bad the rest of the films in the Hannibal series weren't as genius as this one.  

#13: Amadeus

Director: Miloš Forman
Release Date: September 6th, 1984 (Los Angeles); September 19th, 1984 (U.S.)
Ceremony: 57th
Wins: 8 (Best Picture; Best Director; Best Actor - F. Murray Abraham; Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Art Direction; Best Costume Design; Best Makeup; Best Sound Mixing)
Nominations: 11 (Best Actor - Tom Hulce; Best Film Editing; Best Cinematography)
Other Nominees: The Killing Fields; A Passage to India; Places in the Heart; A Soldier's Story

In a time when MTV was king and synth pop was the music of choice, the greatest winner of the 80's was oddly enough a partly fictitious biopic about a 18th century composer.  Though in true 80's form, Amadeus did inspire a 1985 dance hit in Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus".  This movie is hilarious and matches much of the excess of the man himself, with Tom Hulce absolutely nailing Mozart.  The outrageous laugh, the juvenile manner and sense of humor all turn a legendary composer into a human being, albeit an absolutely crazy one.  But the real show stealer is F. Murray Abraham, who plays a much lesser known composer who is jealous of Mozart and sets many of the events in the film in motion.  It is hard to identify the best part of this movie, whether it be the brilliant dialogue throughout or the immensely entertaining shots of the conductors conducting their masterpieces, with Abraham's stern and sharp performance countering Hulce's absolute silliness. 

#12: No Country for Old Men

Director: Joel & Ethan Coen
Release Date: May 19th, 2007 (Cannes); November 9th, 2007 (U.S.)
Ceremony: 80th
Wins: 4 (Best Picture; Best Director; Best Supporting Actor - Javier Bardem; Best Screenplay - Adapted)
Nominations: 8 (Best Film Editing; Best Cinematography; Best Sound Editing; Best Sound Mixing)
Other Nominees: Atonement; Juno; Michael Clayton; There Will Be Blood

The Coen Brothers were already a Hollywood fixture when they made No Country for Old Men, but this is the film that turned them into the true masters of their time.  Adapted from a Cormac McCarthy novel that seems incredible difficult to adapt, Joel and Ethan Coen do what they do best and that is perfect even the littlest detail while still allowing the film to flow smoothly.  It is a complicated drama with lots of moving pieces and characters to keep track of, but it allows every character to have extended and suspenseful scenes to define them.  Each line of dialogue is just as well thought out as an extended, film-defining monologue would be. At times, it is actually hard to classify this as action, drama or horror.  There are a lot of noteworthy acting performances, but Javier Bardem easily steals the show playing the villain.  All the scenes he is in are easily the best , and moments like the gas station and the motel with his weird-haired antagonist are just mind-blowingly good filmmaking.  

#11: My Fair Lady

Director: George Cukor
Release Date: November 9th, 1964
Ceremony: 37th
Wins: 8 (Best Picture; Best Director; Best Actor - Rex Harrison; Best Original Music Score; Best Cinematography; Best Sound; Best Art Direction; Best Costume Design)
Nominations: 12 (Best Supporting Actor - Stanley Holloway; Best Supporting Actress - Gladys Cooper; Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Film Editing)
Other Nominees: Becket; Dr, Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb; Mary Poppins; Zorba the Greek

If anybody thinks that My Fair Lady isn't the best musical to ever win Best Picture, go back and watch how artfully done the horse racing scene is and hopefully you'll remember the magic that is this cinematic classic.  The story is almost as famous as some of the songs themselves are, as is the legend of Audrey Hepburn and the ultimate decision to dub her voice.  Also interesting, in an Oscar winning performance from Rex Harrison, is that he refused to pre-record his songs, thus leading to the first usage of a wireless microphone in film (thank you Rex and your stubbornness from a former sound engineer).  It ranges from hilariously silly to heartbreakingly sad, but remains throughout engrossing and entertaining beyond comparison.  Does it help that the source material is itself a classic? Sure, but that doesn't take away from the great work that Cukor did as a director in the production of this musical marvel.  

#10: The Deer Hunter

Director: Michael Cimino
Release Date: December 8th, 1978 (Los Angeles); February 23rd, 1979 (U.S.)
Ceremony: 51st
Wins: 5 (Best Picture; Best Director; Best Supporting Actor - Christopher Walken; Best Film Editing; Best Sound)
Nominations: 9 (Best Actor - Robert DeNiro; Best Supporting Actress - Meryl Streep; Best Original Screenplay; Best Cinematography)
Other Nominees: Coming Home; Heaven Can Wait; Midnight Express; An Unmarried Woman

If it is your first time watching The Deer Hunter, you might start out confused when you've almost spent an hour at a wedding in what you thought was a war movie.  But then, when you realize how important that scene is to get you fully invested in each of the characters and how well it serves to show you how much they change throughout, you'll understand that it was one of the most brilliant filmmaking decisions ever.  The fact that this film did not win for its cinematography is beyond me, as some of the scenes with the characters hunting in the woods are out of this world.  Robert DeNiro and Meryl Streep both nail their performances, but don't hold a candle to Christopher Walken who easily runs away with this movie.  Between the acting, the message throughout has and the story itself, I would happily argue that this is the greatest war movie of the past 50 years, and anything released since 1978 takes from this film in some shape or form.  

#9: On the Waterfront

Director: Elia Kazan
Release Date: July 28th, 1954
Ceremony: 27th
Wins: 8 (Best Picture; Best Director; Best Actor - Marlon Brando; Best Supporting Actress - Eva Marie Saint; Best Story and Screenplay; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration Black-and-White; Best Film Editing; Best Cinematography Black-and-White)
Nominations: 12 (Best Supporting Actor - Lee J. Cobb; Best Supporting Actor - Karl Malden; Best Supporting Actor - Rob Steiger; Best Dramatic or Comedy Score)
Other Nominees: The Caine Mutiny; The Country Girl; Seven Brides for Seven Brothers; Three Coins in the Fountain

Elia Kazan is not the first director you think of when you're listing the all time greats, but he really should be, and On the Waterfront is the prime example of why.  Up until this movie, there were many acting performances that were great and iconic, but still vaguely theatrical, which is understandable since movies were still a relatively new thing at the time. But every modern cinema actor owes their livelyhood partly to Kazan for how he was able to direct Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, and the rest of the cast in this movie.  To me, this is the defining moment when acting took a step forward and the focus wasn't turning stage actors into movie stars.  These were born stars coached to make movies.  The film itself is a classic tale of the working man versus the big boss told over the top of a mobster tale with religious undertones.  This isn't to forget the love story that is being told throughout.  It is such a highly ranked movie because on top of the revolutionary acting, this is an excellent story with all of the elements that make a great film.  

#8: The Bridge on the River Kwai

Director: David Lean
Release Date: October 2nd, 1957 (U.K.); December 14th, 1957 (U.S.)
Ceremony: 30th
Wins: 7 (Best Picture; Best Director; Best Actor - Alec Guinness; Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium; Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Film; Best Film Editing; Best Cinematography)
Nominations: 8 (Best Supporting Actor - Sessue Hayakawa)
Other Nominees: Sayonara; Peyton Place; Witness for the Prosecution; 12 Angry Men

The Bridge on the River Kwai is a war film unlike any other.  In fact, David Lean's epic has very few shots related to war itself, instead focusing on Alec Guinness' protagonist and his team's struggles in a prison camp controlled by an outstanding Sessue Hayakawa, who may in fact be the best part of this film.  Despite being a wartime film, the lack of battle is very indicitive of what the film itself wants to say, as you watch a seemingly sane colonel so determined to do the task he is assigned that he slowly loses sight of himself and drifts into madness.  You forget about the war from time to time as well, and become so invested in the task at hand that the rest of the outside world disappears.  Lean is one of the all time greats, and nobody can direct an epic quite like he does.  If you've lived your life without seeing this movie I recommend you fix that as soon as possible.    

#7: Rebecca

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Release Date: April 12th, 1940
Ceremony: 13th
Wins: 2 (Best Picture; Best Cinematography, Black-and-White)
Nominations: 11 (Best Director; Best Actor - Laurence Olivier; Best Actress - Joan Fontaine; Best Supporting Actress - Judith Anderson; Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Film Editing; Best Original Score; Best Art Direction, Black-and-White; Best Special Effects)
Other Nominees: All This, and Heaven Too; Foreign Correspondence; The Grapes of Wrath; The Great Dictator; Kitty Foyle; The Letter; The Long Voyage Home; Our Town; The Philadelphia Story

I do not know many casual Hitchcock fans who consider this one of his top films, and a large portion of people who know Psycho and North by Northwest so well may not have even seen Rebecca.  That is partially a testament to his work, but it is also a great shame, as they are missing out on one of the greatest psychological thrillers that has ever been made.  While it only won 2 of its 11 nominations, I can only justify that by assuming it was so far ahead of its time that most viewers didn't know what to make of it.  The mystery within is captivating, the scenes are eerie, and the whole movie gives you a feeling of impending doom from start to finish.  Nobody could direct a film that made you feel like Hitchcock did and in his first American movie he showcases that these skills were honed in from early on.  Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson are all incredible in this visionary work.

#6: Schindler's List

Director: Steven Spielberg
Release Date: November 30th, 1993 (Washington D.C.); December 15th, 1993 (U.S.)
Ceremony: 66th
Wins: 7 (Best Picture; Best Director; Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Film Editing; Best Original Score; Best Art Direction; Best Cinematography)
Nominations: 12 (Best Actor - Liam Neeson; Best Supporting Actor - Ralph Fiennes; Best Sound; Best Makeup; Best Costume Design)
Other Nominees: In the Name of the Father; The Fugitive; The Piano; The Remains of the Day

Schindler's List is like no other film made about tragedy in its approach.  While it is obviously heartbreaking throughout, Spielberg manages to take one of the worst events in human history and focus on a person who was doing good and giving hope.  It is a perfect film on every level.  The decision to shoot the film almost entirely in black and white gives the movie a timeless feel, while the limited use of color really enhances certain moments and helps give them greater importance.  All of the acting is superb, with both Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson giving career best performances, not to mention a great showing from Ben Kingsley.  John Williams score may well be the very best he has ever done, which for a man who just received his 50th nomination is saying a lot.  There are some movies that have a particular scene that sticks with you forever.  This movie has one of those scenes every few minutes.  Spielberg's direction is simply unreal.  

#5: Casablanca

Director: Michael Curtiz
Release Date: November 26th, 1942 (Hollywood Theater); January 23rd, 1943 (U.S.(NOTE: This was before a rule change and competed in the 16th Academy Awards with 1943 films due to its wide release in January, even though it was technically released in 1942, )
Ceremony: 16th
Wins: 3 (Best Picture, Best Director; Best Writing, Screenplay)
Nominations: 8 (Best Actor - Humphrey Bogart; Best Supporting Actor - Claude Rains; Best Film Editing; Best Dramatic Score; Best Cinematography, Black-and-White)
Other Nominees: For Whom the Bell Tolls; Heaven Can Wait; The Human Comedy; In Which We Serve; Madame Curie; The More the Merrier; The Ox-Bow Incident; The Song of Bernadette; Watch on the Rhine

I have tried multiple times in the past to write about why Casablanca is such an incredible movie, but it is hard to put into words just what makes it so fantastic.  It is the wartime romance to define all future films.  In fact, any other romantic movie almost certainly borrows from Casablanca in some shape or form.  The songs throughout are as fantastic as the acting, in particular Humphrey Bogart who absolutely nails the lead performance.  But as it is a romantic drama, what makes it work so well throughout is the chemistry between the leads.  Beyond that, every character and event's connection to World War II is so well thought out that you find yourself absolutely lost in the story and the world the film portrays.  It is a movie without fault, that exceeds all expectations one could have about a simple love story in a war torn world.  

#4: Lawrence of Arabia

Director: David Lean
Release Date: December 10th, 1962
Ceremony: 35th
Wins: 7 (Best Picture; Best Director; Best Film Editing; Best Substantially Original Score; Best Art Direction; Best Cinematography; Best Sound)
Nominations: 10 (Best Actor - Peter O'Toole; Best Supporting Actor - Omar Sharif; Best Adapted Screenplay)
Other Nominees: The Longest Day; The Music Man; Mutiny on the Bounty; To Kill a Mockingbird

The first time I saw Lawrence of Arabia, I could not understand why it won Best Picture or why it was considered one of the greatest films of all time.  Of course, I was watching a VHS copy in a 4:3 aspect ratio on a small television.  This movie is absolutely incredible when it is seen as it is supposed to be: in huge widescreen.  The shots of the desert practically become a character in the movie.  The focus on the vastness and emptiness of this environment of sand and heat make this, the longest of all of the winners, less of a film and more of an engrossing experience.  You forget that you aren't there riding across the desert with Peter O'Toole and participating in his adventures.  The action scenes are as well directed as the dialogue.  When everything has to be shot in that format for consistency, it takes a lot of directing prowess to keep it all interesting, particularly over that length of time.  Not once in the four hours of this film was I ready to call it quits, in fact, I couldn't bring myself to look away.  We need a modern day David Lean to remind us why films are meant to be enjoyed on the big screen.

#3: The Godfather

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Release Date: March 15th, 1972 (Loew's State Theatre); March 24th, 1972 (U.S.)
Ceremony: 45th
Wins: 3 (Best Picture; Best Actor - Marlon Brando; Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium)
Nominations: 10 (Best Director; Best Supporting Actor - James Caan; Best Supporting Actor - Robert Duvall; Best Supporting Actor - Al Pacino; Best Film Editing; Best Costume Design; Best Sound Mixing)
Other Nominees: Cabaret; Deliverance; The Emigrants; Sounder

The Godfather series has long been my favorite, so I come into this with some bias.  But it is clearly my favorite and many other people's favorite for a reason and that is because it is such an immense and engrossing story. There is a developed mythology within this tale that is not about a fantastical fictitious world or a long ago war, but about a family of gangsters in New York.  It is a movie about criminals where you grow to love every character as your own brother and simultaneously distrust them as your archenemy.  If only one feature had to be emphasized, it would be the character development throughout this film.  There is never a static character just as there is never a dull moment.  Francis Ford Coppola nails every directorial decision and every single word he wrote.  Sure, there are some great shootouts and mobster killings, but almost anyone who knows this movie can quote at least a line of dialogue, if not ten.  It transitions perfectly from storyline to storyline, making seemingly unimportant side tales the forefront, and then shocking you later when they were in fact incredibly important.  Marlon Brando, the second actor to turn down an Oscar in three years, gives the performance of a lifetime.  To make a long story short (which is thankfully not one of Coppola's gifts), this is a perfect movie from start to finish and one that can be watched time and time again.

#2: All About Eve

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Release Date: October 13th, 1950
Ceremony: 23rd
Wins: 6 (Best Picture; Best Director; Best Supporting Actor - George Sanders; Best Writing, Screenplay; Best Sound Recording; Best Costume Design, Black-and-White)
Nominations: 14 (Best Actress - Anne Baxter; Best Actress - Bette Davis; Best Supporting Actress - Celeste Holm; Best Supporting Actress - Thelma Ritter; Best Film Editing; Best Dramatic or Comedy Score; Best Art Direction, Black-and-White; Best Cinematography, Black-and-White)
Other Nominees: Born Yesterday; Father of the Bride; King Solomon's Mines; Sunset Boulevard

There have been countless movies made over the years that manage to stick one to the man and make fun of Hollywood, the theater or entertainment industry as a whole.  Some of them are from the perspective of an outsider looking in and others are from the perspective of a veteran looking outside of their world.  What does All About Eve do to make it stand out above these other oft-awarded entertainment stories?  Well for starters, they make it from the perspective someone who toes the line of being inside the industry and an outsider at the same time: a critic.  As if that wasn't an interesting enough take, the critic is looking at the two aforementioned characters.  One of them is Bette Davis' famous actress who is looking down on the new stars, while the other is Anne Baxter's up and coming starlet, challenging the throne.  You've never seen so many catty women duking it out before, and all of them doing it so well, shown by the four separate actress nominations.  This isn't even counting an early appearance by a young Marilyn Monroe, who steals her brief scene with absolute ease.  The one acting win by George Sanders is quite deserved, as he is the real glue that holds together this tale of backstabbing and industry politics.  Regardless of your opinions of movies about the business, this is a movie that you cannot afford to miss.  It is so clever in its writing, with the witty narration driving the story as much as the dialogue itself.  

#1: The Godfather Part II

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Release Date: December 12, 1974 (New York City); December 20th, 1974 (U.S.)
Ceremony: 47th
Wins: 6 (Best Picture; Best Director; Best Supporting Actor - Robert DeNiro; Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted from Other Material; Best Music, Original Dramatic Score; Best Art Direction - Set Decoration)
Nominations: 11 (Best Actor - Al Pacino; Best Supporting Actor - Michael V. Gazzo; Best Supporting Actor - Lee Strasberg; Best Supporting Actress - Talia Shire; Best Costume Design)
Other Nominees: Chinatown; The Conversation; Lenny; The Towering Inferno

And the top best picture winner of all time, unsurprisingly, goes to The Godfather Part II.  Everything that was mentioned as being an asset to the first film, from story to character development, are doubled in greatness here.  This is partially due to Francis Ford Coppola developing as a director, but it is mostly due to the ability to tell the story over two timelines.  I think that of all the movies to ever use flashbacks or multiple timelines, not one film has understood quite how to use it as well as this one.  DeNiro developing as a young Vito Corleone directly correlating and contrasting with Pacino's Michael developing as the new head of the family is what makes this movie a masterpiece.  That being said, the modern day story itself is more in depth than the first film.  Whereas The Godfather picks up with a family setup in its structure, Part II picks up with a less sure leader still trying to figure out exactly what to do.  The film not only goes from Vegas to New York to Cuba, but manages to also introduce an interesting political aspect to the film.  It adds so much to the already perfect first film that it seems as if it would bloat it and take away from what it was, but instead that only makes it greater.  Whereas so many sequels are caught looking backwards too much and others forget what made them the classics they are, this one defines what a follow up to an excellent movie can be if done correctly.  It pays tribute to the past with DeNiro giving a backstory on the character that Brando had perfected two years earlier, but looks to the future with Pacino delving deeper into the politics of the mob world.    

Top 15 Films of '15 coming Tuesday, 2/23/16

88th Oscar Predictions coming Thursday, 2/25/16

30 Potential 89th Oscar Contenders coming Monday, 2/29/16

20 Best Nominees of the Last 10 Years coming Friday, 3/4/16

Nicolas Cage Films Ranked Pt. 1 coming Friday, 3/11/16

Complete List:
87 - The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
86 - Cimarron (1931)
85 - The Broadway Melody (1929)
84 - Dances With Wolves (1990)
83 - Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
82 - Cavalcade (1934)
81 - Crash (2005)
80 - Out of Africa (1985)
79 - The Lost Weekend (1945)
78 - How Green Was My Valley (1941)
77 - Gentleman's Agreement (1947)
76 - Ordinary People (1980)
75 - Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
74 - Terms of Endearment (1983)
73 - The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
72 - A Man for All Seasons (1966)
71 - The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
70 - Braveheart (1995)
69 - Going My Way (1944)
68 - Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979)
67 - Oliver! (1968)
66 - Million Dollar Baby (2004)
65 - Chariots of Fire (1981)
64 - Hamlet (1948)
63 - 12 Years A Slave (2013)
62 - The Last Emperor (1987)
61 - Mrs. Miniver (1942)
60 - Tom Jones (1963)
59 - Rain Man (1988)
58 - The King's Speech (2010)
57 - Chicago (2002)
56 - Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
55 - All the King's Men (1949)
54 - A Beautiful Mind (2001)
53 - Midnight Cowboy (1969)
52 - Ben-Hur (1959)
51 - Shakespeare in Love (1998)
50. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
49. Rocky (1976)
48. Gigi (1958)
47. West Side Story (1961)
46. Wings (1927)
45. The English Patient (1996)
44. The Artist (2011)
43. American Beauty (1999)
42. Forrest Gump (1994)
41. From Here to Eternity (1953)
40. An American in Paris (1951)
39. Marty (1955)
38. Titanic (1997)
37. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
36. Platoon (1986)
35. Gladiator (2000)
34. The Apartment (1960)
33. The French Connection (1971)
32. Gandhi (1982)
31. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
30. The Hurt Locker (2009)
29. Unforgiven (1992)
28. The Sound of Music (1965)
27. You Can't Take it With You (1938)
26. The Sting (1973)
25. Grand Hotel (1932)
24. Argo (2012)
23. Annie Hall (1977)
22. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
21. The Departed (2006)
20. Patton (1970)
19. Gone With the Wind (1939)
18. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
17. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
16. Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)
15. It Happened One Night (1934)
14. Silence of the Lambs (1991)
13. Amadeus (1984)
12. No Country for Old Men (2007)
11. My Fair Lady (1964)
10. The Deer Hunter (1978)
9. On the Waterfront (1954)
8. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
7. Rebecca (1940)
6. Schindler's List (1993)
5. Casablanca (1943)
4. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
3. The Godfather (1972)
2. All About Eve (1950)
1. The Godfather Part II (1974)


  1. I've really enjoyed reading through your notes and seeing this list come together. I was really surprised by All About Eve. Very interesting.

    1. Thank you so much Aaron, glad you've enjoyed reading this! All About Eve is a great film, I myself was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.


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