With the Oscars on Sunday, there is no better time than the present to rank the Top 5 Best Picture winning films. Even though the Academy have gone with safe picks for most of the last ten years, they did actually give the award to quite a few films that deserved it in my eyes in the past, and this will rank my five favorite. Of course, I have not seen ever Best Picture winning film, and these are my personal favorites, so please let me know what yours are in the comments.
5: The Godfather
Often considered one of the best films ever made, The Godfather might not live up to its reputation but is certainly a great film in its own right that revolutionized the crime drama genre.
Plot: 8.8/10- The Godfather's first 20-30 minutes are mostly setup the rest of the film by establishing the characters as well as the setting. Fortunately, however, the movie begins to pick up the pace a little as the story finally grabbed my attention by the 30 minute mark and after that, it was an entertaining experience. The plot took some unexpected twists and turns, and despite the long running time and occasional pacing issues, The Godfather did not feel like a long movie. Also, the conflict between the crime families is one of the more entertaining aspects as they each use calculated attacks to affect the other’s businesses or family.
Characterization: 8.5/10- In general, the characters of The Godfather are mostly well established characters for the type of movie being made. However, only three or four of the characters are actually memorable and identifiable, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Vito Corleone, head of the Corleone family, is the most memorable character, and he has many unforgettable quotes. Michael Corleone is the character that receives the most development throughout the course of the film, and he is the one that the audiences can connect with the most.
Overall: 8.8/10- Despite being overrated to a degree, The Godfather is undeniably a well crafted film with excellent performances and surprising entertainment value, providing the long running time is not a turn off for you. (For my full review, you can click here to check it out).
While it not the most well liked film, Braveheart is a personal favorite of mine. Some of the appeal is that my ancestors fought on both sides of the real war that the film portrays, and even though the movie itself is grossly historically inaccurate, what matters in the end is that it is a great film.
Acting: 8.7/10- Mel Gibson both stars in and directs the film, and his performance as William Wallace is all around great. He manages to balance the stoic nature of the character, while still providing the human aspect. Plus, no one else could deliver such an epic speech other than Gibson!
Soundtrack: 9.7/10- James Horner's score is one of my favorites. The main theme is easily the most memorable tracks, and it is fittingly epic and sweeping to fit the stunning cinematography.
Overall: 8.8/10- Braveheart might not be for everyone. However, Mel Gibson's historical (or rather fictional) epic is an inspiring tale of standing up against tyranny.
Much like Braveheart, Gladiator is the type of epically manly movie (not to say that it excludes the female audience in any way) that has both great spectacle and a well told story of revenge.
Action/Direction: 9.3/10- Ridley Scott's direction is superb. From the impressive cinematography to the thrilling gladiatorial battles, everything in Gladiator looks fantastic. Even though the opening battle sequence is often overrated, the rest of the action sequences throughout the film feature well choreographed battles and well framed shots.
Acting: 8.9/10- Russell Crowe's Oscar winning performance as Maximus Decimus Meridius is still his most iconic role.
Overall: 9.0/10- Gladiator is an impressively filmed and well told tale of revenge that never fails to entertain, and yes, "We are entertained."
2: The Silence of the Lambs
The first horror film to win Best Picture, The Silence of the Lambs surprised me by delivering a disturbing thriller that does not forget about the characters or plot.
Plot: 9.5/10- Silence of the Lambs is one of the most perfectly paced films in the mystery genre. Despite a plot that can be perceived as slow moving with dialogue sequences progressing the majority of the plot, the direction and performances maintain the audience’s attention as details of the mystery are slowly revealed. The direction the story goes is occasionally predictable, and the main character can seem a little slow at figuring out the plot for herself, but it rarely detracts from the tension and intrigue of the film.
Characterization: 8.9/10- Even if you have never seen the Silence of the Lambs, you would be hard-pressed to have never at least heard of the legendary character of Hannibal Lector, and he certainly lives up to the legend, largely thanks to Anthony Hopkins' Oscar winning performance.
Overall: 9.0/10- As thrilling and it is disturbing, The Silence of the Lambs is not necessarily an entertaining film, but rather an intriguing and exhilarating one. However, it is certainly not for everyone due to the disturbing nature of the film, and it is not one that I would want to watch again anytime soon. (A full review coming at some point)
1: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Could there be any other? The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King provides a fittingly epic and emotional conclusion to one of the greatest achievements in the film history. Despite being the first fantasy film to win Best Picture, the gateway to science fiction, comic book, and other fantasy films is, unfortunately, still closed in the minds of the Academy. Even though all of LOTR films should have won Best Picture, since they all are equally amazing, The Return of the King more than deserved it the year it won.
Characterization: 10/10- The Return of the King's large cast of characters all have their character arcs brought to a satisfying conclusion that reflects of the themes that Tolkien instilled in his original novel.
Overall: 10/10- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, along with the other LOTR films, are the closest thing we have seen to a flawless masterpiece of film in the 21st Century, and while others have made a valiant effort, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy still reigns supreme.
What are your favorites? Please comment below and let me know!
Honorable Mentions: Ben-Hur. The Bridge on the River Kwai, Casablanca, Dances with Wolves, The French Connection, The Godfather Part II, Lawrence of Arabia, Patton, The Sting, Rocky, Unforgiven,
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