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‘Best’ Picture Films: Are They Really That Good?


The Oscars are coming up, so like any sane person, I decided to study up by watching hours of films that had previously won Best Picture. Although I didn’t watch them all, I watched a good number, and I thought I’d introduce them to you.

P.S. The ratings are NOT in comparison with all other films in existence, but rather with those that have also won this prestigious award. Therefore, if a film receives a 5/10, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad film, while a 10/10 means it’s one of the greatest movies of all time. Take that into consideration when you see my ratings.

Oh yeah. Spoilers. Obviously. 

Best Picture 1972: The Godfather: It is one of the best movies I’ve ever watched. The beauty of the film is that it captures the inner workings of the mob world from the perspective of its participants, not its prosecutors. The film displays the intricacies of this underground world: the plots, assassinations, and subtle negotiations. Yet it also manages to humanize mob bosses, showing us that although they may be powerful, they can also be kind and caring toward their communities.

My favorite scene: A Series of Murders: This scene contradicts the violent assassinations of NYC mob bosses with the peaceful baptizing of a child. It’s very bloody, so viewer discretion is advised. 

My Rating: 10/10


Best Picture 1974: The Godfather Part II: I know this is a sequel, so it’s kind of cheating, but the fact that it won Best Picture again shows just how incredible this series is. This film depicts the rise of a mob boss, and the brutality of his son. If the first film showed the mob boss’ power, and then his fall, this film divides them into two characters, and epitomizes them separately. 

My Favorite Scene: The Murder of Don Ciccio. I know I’m addingin a lot of murder scenes, but this scene floods me with so many emotions. On one hand, young Vito is getting revenge on the man who murdered his parents, but on the other, the victim was a defenseless old man. I simply can’t choose just one emotion.

My Rating: 9/10


Best Picture 1988: Rain Man: A gorgeously written piece on the value of brotherhood. It introduces a story of a young, spiteful man who discovers he has a severely autistic brother, and follows his transformation from a jerk to a true brother. I don’t comment on acting much, but Dustin Hoffman is truly incredible in this film.

My Favorite Scene: “Stay With Me?”: Just the title of this scene and the memory of this film brings a tear to my eye. This is the scene where Tom Cruise shows that he has truly changed into someone who loves his brother. . When they touched heads (3:21),  I remembered crying. If you watch the film, I’m sure you’ll see why.

My Rating: 7/10


Best Picture 1994: Forrest Gump: I was introduced to this film with very high expectations, which might explain why I don’t find it as enjoyable as the other films. But this film is chock full of iconic scenes. Whether it’s the famous “Life is Like a Box of Chocolates” or “Run, Forrest, Run!” scenes from early on, or the “I’m Walking Here!” and “He Made His Peace With God” later on, there are simply too many to count. If you want to read more about this film from someone who actually appreciates it, refer to Sarah’s fascinating article on how Forrest Gump got her a 5 on APUSH.

My Favorite Scene: “Forrest Gump Runs Across America”: When I first watched this scene, I thought that Forrest Gump clearly didn’t have any wisdom and was just running for absolutely no reason at all. But now I realize that although Forrest may not have been the smartest of humanity, he was certainly one of its wisest. 

My Rating: 6/10


Best Picture 1997: Titanic: My dad said that he cried when he watched this film, and I have never seen him cry. Because of my dad’s reaction, I thought this film would be super sad, and I would turn into a literal human fountain. Unfortunately, like the previous film, I went in with my expectations too high. However, the main theme of the film, which is the power of love, whether it be for a person or an artistic practice (the violinists playing till their deaths, for example), is a powerful one that will always go on in my heart.

My Favorite Scene: “Jack’s Death”: I know this is a cliche scene to talk about, and yes, Jack does die, sorry for the spoiler. But it’s a beautiful scene that marks the culmination of the pure love between the two characters. Weird overanalysis here, but it’s poetic how although Jack freezes to death, their love still burns forever warm. 

My Rating: 8.5/10


Best Picture 2000: Gladiator: If you wanted a film that really encapsulated the power and corruption of the Roman Empire at its height, there’s no better movie. I especially felt that Joaquim Phoenix’s role as Emperor Commodus, the main antagonist, was cast perfectly. He literally emanates evil spoiled teenager vibes.

My Favorite Scene: “Barbarian Horde Battle”: There’s so much I love about this chariot battle scene. First, the underdogs (who didn’t get chariots and golden armor. So fair, right?) came out on top due to superior discipline. Secondly, this scene doesn’t lose any of the intensity of a real gladiatorial fight, and in many ways enhances it. The crowd’s reactions throughout is the cherry on top. 

This is a scene I’d recommend you watch, even if you’re not interested in watching the film.

My Rating: 8/10


Best Picture 2001: A Beautiful Mind: Russel Crowe films winning best pictures two years in a row! This time, he plays the role of a great professor who suffers from schizophrenia. The film is only two hours long, but it’s as if we’ve watched the lives of three different people all in one. It begins with the tale of a young, ambitious man, and morphs into that of a man in a desperate battle against himself, before finally settling into an old man who found his peace with the world.

My Favorite Scene: “She Never Gets Old”: I’m not going to reveal what transpires in this scene since I assume many of you have not seen this film, and I would not want to spoil its climax. However, even in rewatching, I can still feel every emotion this scene evokes: fear twisting into anger falling into hopelessness before rising into hope. If you’ve seen this film, I promise that the phrase “she never gets old” will take on a new meaning that is deeply layered.

My Rating: 7.5/10


Best Picture 2008: Slumdog Millionaire: The story is beautiful, and the friend who watched it with me really enjoyed the film. Personally, I thought the plot was a little cliche. However, it vividly captures the power of enduring love before the backdrop of terrible poverty. The film is funny, witty, and provides a sense of satisfaction, however bittersweet, in the end.

My Favorite Scene: “Jamal Wins Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”: Again, don’t watch this scene if you want the entire film spoiled (don’t worry, the title doesn’t actually reveal much). It was difficult to choose just one scene from this film, so I decided to choose this climax, where the character arcs of both the main character and his brother complete the full circle. The transitions are done beautifully; truly evocative and gripping stuff.

My Rating: 5.5/10


Best Picture 2010: The King’s Speech: I’ve seen this film so many times, and yet I never get tired of it. The film centers around how King George VI managed to overcome his stuttering issue with…inventive methods. To this day, I can’t fully pinpoint how the film managed to make a historical footnote into a plot more exciting than a war movie, (looking at you, Dunkirk!) but that’s what keeps enticing me to watch the film again and again.

My Favorite Scene: “The Swearing Scene”: I put this scene in cause it’s hilarious. But I hope you can see how important this scene is to the plot, and also how great of an actor Colin Firth is. 

My Rating: 8.5/10


Best Picture 2011: The Artist: I will admit that I watched this in film studies and not in my free time. But looking back, it does make a lot of sense that Mr. Jupin chose this film. This film is almost completely silent, and fully in black and white. It details an actor’s experience grappling with his diminishing popularity in the face of sound films. Besides the plot, everything about the movie, from its set design to its expressive body language, yearns to take the audience back to the dawn of sound film. Everything about this film cries out FILM STUDIES CLASSES OF THE WORLD, WATCH ME!

My Favorite Scene: Up In Flames”: I picked this scene not only because it’s the climax, but also because it reminds us that silent scenes can be powerful scenes as well. In fact, I’d argue that soundlessness (besides the music) actually enhances the effect of the protagonist’s crazed anger in this scene. 

My Rating: 7/10


Best Picture 2012: Argo: I love this film, even though I watched it on the plane (and you know how low the quality of films is on planes). It centers around the Iranian Hostage Crisis and American attempts to rescue the hostages. The film is funny yet gripping, and both tense and powerful. Even if you’re not a fan of Cold War era politics, the constant intensity of the film will glue your eyes to the screen until it fades to black. 

My Favorite Scene: “Cleared For Takeoff”: Even if you have never watched this movie, this scene alone, which marks the climax and the resolution of the film, should demonstrate how intense this film truly is. The helplessness of the protagonists as Iranian police pursue them will have your every heartbeat pounding quicker than the last.

My Rating: 8.5/10


Best Picture 2013: 12 Years A Slave: In my opinion, this film is less moving in its full plot as it is powerful in individual scenes. Every scene floods the viewer with a fiery anger toward slavery and its cruelties. From the protagonist almost being hanged by a vengeful plantation master to him being forced to whip a good friend, it brings a terrible historical reality from the past right before our very eyes.

My Favorite Scene: “The Whipping of Patsey”: This is the only scene on this list that I did not enjoy watching, but I think that it encapsulates the contents of this film well. Every time the whip snaps, you can feel it and see it in Soloman’s eyes. The slave owner’s actions are a brutal reminder of what terrible things power can do to a person and those around him.

My Rating: 8/10


Best Picture 2017: The Shape of Water: The film is a creative blend of Cold War era politics and mythical creatures. It, like many other movies, reminds us of the infinite permutations of love. That being said, this film did not leave a lasting mark on me like other films on this list did, because it felt like just a slightly-more-creative love story that had a fish person rather than a man, and a woman who was deaf and mute.

My Favorite Scene: “Unable to Perceive the Shape of You, I Find You All Around Me”: This scene is the final scene of the film, so watch if you want spoilers! This scene provides us with the namesake of this film, reminding us that love, like water, is shapeless and ubiquitous.

My Rating: 6/10


Best Picture 2018: Green Book: It’s easy to look at this film and conclude that it’s just about race relations since it centers around an Italian acting as a bodyguard for an African-American pianist. But I’d argue that this film is also about disparities in economic status, social positions, and education level. Most importantly, it’s a film about enduring friendship despite these disparities. The film may not be action packed, but it manages to be highly entertaining and deeply meaningful.

My Favorite Scene: “Chicken Etiquette”: I feel that this scene perfectly encapsulates the message of the movie. Firstly, it reminds us never to make judgements about a person based on race or any other superficial trait. But secondly, and most importantly, it reminds us that race doesn’t have to stand in the way of friendship, and having a good laugh.

My Rating: 9/10


Best Picture 2021: CODA: This film had a budget of only 10 million dollars, and most of it was spent on buying the rights to use the songs the protagonist sings. The plot is far from thrilling, and mostly revolves around a girl who is in a deaf family discovering her love for singing. However, it did warm my heart and nearly succeeded in drawing tears from my eyes at the end. I would recommend this film if you have two hours to spare and want to simply relax.

My Favorite Scene: “Both Sides Now”: Throughout the film, the protagonist’s singing can be enjoyed by everyone except her deaf family, which leaves them feeling left out. This scene not only exhibits the protagonist’s beautiful voice, but also reconciles her singing with her family’s deafness, allowing her to finally bridge the gap between her passion and their hearts.

My Rating: 6/10


Which film should win in 2024? I know the hype around Barbie, at least in our school, has been pretty high. But in my honest opinion, Oppenheimer deserves the award of Best Picture more. Feel free to throw stuff at this article if you disagree, but when this article is published, we should already have our answer.

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