So I watched 41 Best picture Winners ...

The Oscars. I don’t know about you but I look forward to them every year. The stunning dresses, the funny hosts, and of course seeing my favorite films of the year get the awards they rightfully deserve. Then of course, seeing the final and most talked-about award of the night, The Best Picture nominees. The anticipation of finding out who won and heading straight to twitter afterward to see how everyone feels gives me a total adrenaline rush. So when quarantine first began I decided to challenge myself. I would watch all 41 Best Picture winners from the Oscars starting from the year 1980 and ending in 2020. I had already seen five of the movies before I began but I still had 36 to go. So, on March 27th I started this journey, and two weeks ago on May 1st I finally finished! I watched practically a movie a day and in April I started to go a little crazy and watch 2 movies a day, some were even 3 hours and counting (I’m looking at you Gandhi, the winner in 1983). But I had so much fun doing this little challenge. I saw some amazing films, watched the classics my parents had always told me about, cried, laughed, and questioned why the heck some movies won Best Picture in the first place. Nevertheless, thanks to iTunes gift cards, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and good ‘ol Cable I saw some great cinema. I decided to only do the winners starting from the 1980s because if I had done all 92 winners but that would have taken me 2 more months and I have other things on my watchlist! But maybe someday I’ll get to you, Casablanca. So here I present my ranked list of the worst to best, Best Picture Winners (1980-2020) in my opinion. Enjoy and start watching some of these movies! 

#41 Shakesphere in Love

Starring Gwenyth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, and Judi Dench this film won in 1998. Directed by John Madden it also won six other Academy Awards.

Most romantic comedies don't win Best Picture awards and maybe it should stay that way because I did not enjoy this movie. The story is a fictional tale about Willam Shakespeare falling in love with a woman who poses as a man to star in one of Shakespeare's plays. I lacked an emotional connection to their relationship and felt it was all so boring. The relationships and jokes seemed too forced and I felt far away from the characters and their motives. But the costumes were pretty cool. 

Overall Rating :★☆☆☆☆

#40 Crash 

Directed by Paul Haggis and filled with a star-studded cast, this film won two other Academy Awards in 2004.

I started this movie on Netflix about a year ago, got about 40 minutes in, and stopped. I had to revisit the movie because of the challenge and thankfully it was still on Netflix! But it was still so/so to me. The movie interweaved many stories about race, gender, and class divide in Los Angeles in the days after 9/11. The movie was filled with a lot of B and A-plus rated actors which were interesting but the film felt very soap opera-esque. However, some parts of the movie did speak to the divides in America. For example, the scene when a racist white cop (Matt Dillon) stopped a wealthy black couple and sexually harassed the wife right in front of her husband. Or when the Middle Eastern store owner (Shaun Toub) shot and killed the child of a Hispanic handyman (Michael Peña) that worked at his store, because he thought the handyman stole his keys (crazy I know). This often regarded as this the worst film to ever win Best picture and I can't say I disagree.

Overall Rating : ★★☆☆☆

#39 Out of Africa 

Directed by Syndey Pollack and starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, Out of Africa won six other Academy Awards in 1986.

Out of Africa is based on the book denoting true events that happened to Karen Blixen-Fincke who wrote under the name Isak Dinesen. In the movie, Karen Blixen moves to Africa to become a dairy farmer with her husband. When she learns he is becoming unfaithful she falls in love with a hunter Denys and they both continue on their journeys in Africa while helping the native Africans learn to read, cook, etc. This movie was just way too long at 2 hours and 41 minutes and there were so many storylines going on that it became confusing. Also, the all too familiar storyline of the white savior (in this case Karen Blixen) saving the African people appeared. The cinematography was breathtaking but I would have liked to have been more compelled by Karen and Denys relationship.

Overall rating : ★★☆☆☆

#38 Dances With Wolves

Directed by and starring Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves won six other Academy Awards in 1991 including Best Director.

Dances With Wolves tells the story of a civil war soldier named Lieutenant Dunbar (Kevin Costner) who begins a friendship with the Lakota Native Americans. Soon Dunbar falls in love with a white woman, Stands with Fist (Mary McDonnell), who was raised by the tribe. Then he begins to face challenges when Union soldiers come to destroy the land of the Native Americans. I enjoyed this movie in the beginning, sort of got bored but enjoyed it again at the end. Although this may not be a true story it was nice to see a healthy relationship between a white man and Native Americans even though that probably wasn't the case all those years ago. I admired how Costner was able to seamlessly act out the role of Dunbar and appreciated the Native American culture, learned their language and saw them as friends instead of enemies. However, the movie was very slow and it felt like 15 minutes went by where nothing much happened. Overall it was an ok piece but more action and fighting scenes would have been nice and the development of Dunbar and Stands with Fist relationship fell short. Also, Goodfellas was nominated for Best Picture that year and it definitely should have won. 

Overall Rating : ★★★☆☆

#37 Braveheart

Starring and directed by Mel Gibson, Braveheart won four other Academy awards in 1996 including Best Director.

Braveheart tells the noble tale of Willaim Wallace (Mel Gibson), a Scottish man who revolts against the English after his love is killed. He leads the Scottish army in a full-fledged war against the English but eventually gets captured and executed by King Edward I’s court. The battle scenes in Braveheart are of course legendary but besides that, this movie wasn't impressive. I’m not a history buff so the whole Scotland vs. English backstory did not interest me. But the inner feminist in me did jump out when Wallace’s lover was nearly raped by a group of English soldiers and Wallace gave them a beat down. We love to see a man step for his woman! The movie was 3 hours and 2 minutes and seemed to drone on forever, so I will not be watching this again!

Overall rating : ★★★☆☆

#36 Chariots of Fire 

Directed by Hugh Hudson and starring Ben Cross and Ian Charleston, Chariots of Fire won three other Academy Awards in 1982.

Chariots of Fire tells the story of two runners, Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a strict Christian who refuses to run on the Sabbath and Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), a Jewish man from the US who overcomes anti-semitism. Both men have grown an everlasting friendship when they are put on the same team for the Olympics and battle the divides of religious beliefs, class, and more while participating in a sport they love. The movie had an interesting storyline but I wasn't extremely moved by their tale of friendship. When I read the description for the movie I thought I would be immersed in a great tale of friends who cared for each other despite their different religious backgrounds. Charleston and Cross did not embody that to me and the whole story fell short of my expectations. But the main theme, Vangelis is a classic, listen to it here:

 Overall Rating : ★★★☆☆

#35 Driving Miss Daisy

Starring Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy and directed by Bruce Beresford, Driving Miss Daisy won three other Academy Awards in 1990.

I watched this “classic” on Netflix and this movie is nothing special or Oscar-worthy. It tells the tale of Daisy Werthan (Jessica Tandy), an elderly widowed white woman who is headstrong and determined to be independent even though she is getting up in age. However after she gets into a car crash, her son, Boolie (Dan Aykroyd), hires an African American chauffeur (Morgan Freeman) for her. Their relationship starts off rocky but the two gradually become friends. To begin, Driving Miss Daisy was boring, after the car crash scene I might as well have taken a nap for the rest of the film. Also, I am not going to applaud a fish for swimming. In other words, I am not going to “aww” and “ooh” at Ms. Daisy befriending a black man, it felt like the movie wanted viewers to do just that. I also heard that the studio considered Eddie Murphy and Bette Midler for the roles and that is such an odd mix but it would probably have been more interesting to watch. 

Overall rating : ★★★☆☆

#34 Last Emperor

Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and featuring the wonderful Cinematography of Vittorio Storaro, the Last Emperor won nine Academy awards in 1988

The wonderful cinematography of the vast and rich landscape of China, the thousands of actors it took to play the role of the emperor's empire, and intricate costumes are just a few great attributes of this film. Last Emperor is the true story about Pu Yi (John Lone) who became the last emperor of China at only 2 years old. After being sent to prison for being a war criminal Pu Yi recounts the tales of his childhood and the isolation of growing up in the Forbidden City. Now don't get me wrong this was a very interesting story. Not many people can say they became emperor before they enter kindergarten. It was sad seeing Pu Yi grow up with so much wealth but he wasn't allowed to leave his kingdom, see his biological family, and more. The reason it ranks so low is I often found myself drifting away from what was happening on screen and wasn't fully interested. Overall it was a great film and won all nine Academy awards it was nominated for, but it is a one and done for me.

Overall rating : ★★★ ½ 

#33 The English Patient

Directed by Anthony Minghella and starring Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas, The English Patient won eight other Academy Awards in 1997

The English Patient is a tale about a man so badly burned his face is merely red flesh, Laszlo de Almasy (Ralph Fiennes), who is tended to by a nurse, Hana (Juliette Binoche) near an Italian church during the end of World War II. He recounts his love affair with a married English woman (Kristen Thomas) and his tales as a mapmaker in Africa. The English Patient reminds me of Out of Africa, perhaps because they both talk about white people in Africa, the woman protagonist has an affair and there are several shots of sandy landscapes. This movie was hard for me to finish and I had to restart it because I had no idea what was happening. But a heartwarming story was told. I liked how the memories of Almasy were interwoven with the present and Juliette Binoche did a great job as the supporting actress.The scene where Almasy came back to the cave and found Kristen Thomas dead was very devastating and added great emotion to the piece. Anthony Minghella deserved the win for best director but Fargo, starring the amazing Steve Buscemi and William Macy should have won Best picture :( What can I say, the Oscars love their sob stories.

Overall rating :  ★★★ ½  

#32 Gladiator

Directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russel Crowe and my favorite, Joaquin Phoenix, Gladiator won four other Academy awards in 2001.

Gladiator begins with the emperor of Rome confessing to his son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), that once he passes the throne will not belong to him instead he wants the general, Maximus (Russell Crowe) to be the next emperor of Rome. Commodus is enranged by this and kills his father and sells Maximus into slavery, where he becomes a gladiator and gains fame throughout Rome. This movie was fun to watch and the battle scenes were so intriguing. The whole gladiator business is crazy to me, thousands of people watched gladiators die for entertainment. Of course, there were a few awkward scenes where Commodus tried to kiss his sister but I thought it showed how lonely and insecure he was. Even after becoming an emperor, no one truly loved him, not even his sister. Crowe rightfully deserved his win for the Best Actor award for his role as Maximus, because his character embodied compassion while still slaying men left by right during the day. A good movie to watch.

Overall Rating : ★★★★☆ 

#31 Gandhi 

Directed by Richard Attenborough starring Ben Kinsley, Gandhi won seven other academy awards in 1983, including Best Director and Best Actor.

Gandhi is the biographical drama about the life of Mahatma Gandhi, the beloved Indian leader who protested the freedom of his country from British rule. He was persistent about using peace and non-violence to free his country. Of course, teachers have mentioned Mahatma Gandhi throughout the years, but we’ve never done a unit about him or fleshed out the great details of his work. This movie gave me the chance to learn more about him and it was very inspiring to see how he used his intelligence and calm demeanor to speak to British rule. The movie was a bit long but I learned a lot and I am glad for that experience. Plus Ghandi’s quote “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” is featured right here on my blog !

Overall rating : ★★★★☆ 

#30 No Country for Old Men

Directed by the Coen brothers and starring Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin, this film won three other Oscars in 2008.

No Country for Old Men is a western drama that starts with Llewlyn Moss (Josh Brolin) discovering the aftermath of a drug deal and deciding to take the money left behind. A merciless killer with mob ties, named Chigurh (Javier Bardem) picks up Moss’s trail and the two have a game of cat and mouse. Additionally, an aging policeman, Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), reflects on how much the world has changed while trying to find and protect Moss. No Country for Old Men was a good movie but it left me with a lot of unanswered questions, which interesting movies often do. I thought the film was very unique because it had the feel of a western but it didn't follow the traditional storyline where the hero kills the bad guy and reunites with his lover. Moss ends up killed off-screen and Chigurh goes back to kill his wife. Plus Chigurh’s weapon of choice, a captive bolt stoner that plunges right through you, is quite interesting. No country for Old men was the Coen brothers first Oscar win for Best Director and the first Best Actor win for Javier Bardem. This was a good story that maybe proves true that there is no room left for old men in the ever-changing and cutthroat West. 

Overall Rating: ★★★ ½ 

#29 Argo

Directed by and starring Ben Affleck, Argo won two other Academy Awards in 2013

Argo is the true story about how in 1979 militants invaded the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran, and took 66 American hostages. Six Americans manage to slip away however and take refuge with the Canadian ambassador. The U.S. government knows it's only a matter of time before the refugees are found and executed so they call upon extractor Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) to save them. Mendez plans to act as if he is a Hollywood producer scouting locations for his next movie and trains the refugees to act as his film crew. I liked this movie and it was surprisingly light-hearted although it involved hostages that have been in a foreign land for over a year. The plot kept me interested and I was at the edge of my seat in the final scenes where the four hostages tried to escape the Iranians and go on their flight back home. Good job, Affleck.

Overall Rating : ★★★★☆

#28 Titanic

Directed by James Cameron and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, Titanic won nine other Oscars in 1998

Before I tell you anything, imagine “My Heart will go on” playing in the background. Ok now that the mood is set, Titanic is a classic film that made 2.187 billion dollars when it first hit the box office in 1997. Titanic tells the fictional love story on the real ship, the R.M.S. Titanic that carried over 1,500 people and was the biggest moving object of her time. Rose Bukater (Kate Winslet) and Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) fall in love during their duration on the ship. However, it all came to an end when the Titanic hit an iceberg on April 15, 1912. Rose and Jack float out to sea and manage to find a wooden board but Jack sacrifices his life saying that there wasn't enough room and floats into the abyss of the ocean. This was one of the few movies I watched before I thought of doing the challenge. I think the only reason it ranks so low is that I watched the movie when I was eight and the emotional impact is not the same as it once was! But I definitely will rewatch this classic again soon.

Overall rating : ★★★★☆

#27 Schindler's List

Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Liam Nesson, Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes, Schindler’s List won six other Academy Awards in 1994.

Schindler’s List tells the heroic true story of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) who arrives in Krakow in 1939 to open a factory at the start of World War II. When the SS begins sending Jews to the Krakow concentration camps he arranges to have his workers protected to keep his factory open, but also saves thousands of lives in the process. Watching the Schindler’s List I learned a lot more about the Holocaust. Similar to Gandhi, in school my teachers have talked about the Holocaust but we’ve never done a full-fledged lesson on the period. In this movie, I saw two familiar faces, Ben Kingsley from Gandhi and Ralph Fiennes from The English Patient. It's always fun to see actors cross over in the movies you watch. I loved the symbolism of the girl in the red dress, being the only object of color in a black and white movie was incredibly moving. The ending was very sweet, where the real-life survivors from the Krakow camp and their descendants walked out with the actors of the film to put flowers on Oskar Schindler’s grave.

Overall rating : ★★★★☆

#26 The Artist

Directed by Michel Hazanavicius and starring Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, The Artist won four other Academy awards in 2012.

The Artist is set in the 1920s where actor George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is the hottest silent movie actor of Hollywood at the moment and starts to fall in love with the up-coming actor Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). However George is reluctant to cheat on his wife and as sound-movies become more popular, George falls from the stardom, and Peppy gravitates to the top. I thought The Artist was a cool film that showed the devastating truth of the term “15 minutes of fame”. When George auctioned off all of his actor memorabilia and Peppy bought them in secret that was truly a heartwarming moment. Also, the loyalty George’s driver showed him was one to remember; even when George was nothing but a washed-up actor, he continued to stay right by him. Michel Hazanavicius won Best Director for this film and Jean Dujardin won Best Actor, so the hype for this movie is real. This was the first silent film I ever watched and it's currently on Netflix so give it a watch!

Overall Rating : ★★★★☆

#25 Hurt Locker

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow and starring Jeremy Renner, this film won five other Oscars including Best Director (first woman to ever win!) in 2010.

Following the death of a respected Staff Sergeant in Iraq, Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), have to get adjusted to their new and bold leader. Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner) is now head of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit and his team cannot deny the natural talent he has for deactivating bombs. Hurt Locker was an interesting film and showed a different perspective on the lives of soldiers. The opening quote, “The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” rings true to James’ love for war. This idea is reinforced in the supermarket scene where James stands amongst rows and rows of cereal, seeing how Americans take so much for granted when children of Iraq have to beg for food every day. He truly does not fit into this domestic life and at the end of the film ends up returning to Iraq, leaving his son and wife behind. Overall, Hurt Locker was a very cool and entertaining watch that showed the darkness of what being in the military can do to you.

Overall rating : ★★★★☆

#24 Unforgiven

Directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, as well as Morgan Freeman and Frances Fisher, Unforgiven won three other Academy Awards in 1993.

After prostitute Delilah Fitzgerald (Anna Thomson) is slashed all over her face by a group of cowboys in Big Whiskey, Wyoming; the rest of her brothel post a reward for whoever murders the guys who did it. Two groups want to collect the money, one group is led by English Bob (Richard Harris). The other group includes The Schofield boy (Jaimz wool vest) who recruits the notorious and deadly ex-cowboy William Munny (Clint Eastwood), and his partner Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman). I thought Unforgiven was a cool Western and I was surprised that I liked it so much. I thought it very heroic that all these cowboys wanted to help the disfigured prostitute (well, English Bob was probably only in it for the money). I also admired the struggle Munny had with returning to his old ways as a cowboy. He gave up his rowdy and murdering anyone who crossed him type lifestyle because of his wife and even though she was no longer alive he still wanted to be a role model for his kids. This was the first nomination and win for Clint Eastwood in the Best Director category.

Overall Rating : ★★★★☆

#23 Terms of Endearment

Directed by James L. Brooks and starring Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, and Jack Nicholson, this classic won four other Academy Awards in 1984.

Winning Best Director, Best Actress (MacLaine) and Best Supporting Actor (Nicholson) for this film and having two cast members each in the Best Actress and Supporting Actor categories, there was a lot of good stuff happening in this movie. Widow Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) and her daughter, Emma (Debra Winger) are very close, but Emma marries Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels) against her mother's will. When their marriage starts to crumble due to Flap’s cheating, Emma leaves him and goes back home to stay with her mother. Her mother has been involved with an astronaut (Jack Nicholson) for many years but due to her stubbornness they never get very far. Soon Emma learns she has terminal cancer and tries to make peace with her husband, children, and mother. This was a very heartwarming film that spans over 30 years, so we see a lot of character growth. I truly admired the love Aurora had for her daughter and it tugged at my heartstrings when Emma got sick and in the hospital, she reflected on how her life had flown before her eyes. But let me just say Flap is a complete jerk! 

Overall Rating : ★★★★☆

#22 Kramer vs. Kramer

Starring Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep and directed by Rober Benton, Kramer vs. Kramer won four other Academy awards in 1980

Both Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep won Oscars for their roles as well and Robert Benton won Best Director, needless to say, this movie was a success being the highest-grossing film of 1979 ($106.3 million). Dustin Hoffman plays Ted Kramer, a leading businessman in Manhattan who gets the biggest account of his career when on the same day his wife, Joanna (Meryl Streep) announces that she is leaving him and their son, Billy (Justin Henry). Ted takes the role of a single father and grows closer through his son along with the help of another single parent, Margaret (Jane Alexander). A year after her departure, Joanna comes back and realizes that as Billy’s mother she wants to be a part of his life and have full custody. The two parents go back and forth in their court battle (hence Kramer vs. Kramer) and the overlying question of, “Is the mother always the best guardian for her child ?” is put into play. I thought this movie was really cute and interesting. Dustin Hoffman played a great role and we saw character development. He was no longer the busy Manhattan businessman that didn't know the name of his son’s teachers, he became the parent who took care of his sons "boo-boos"at the playground and he even lost his job because of his son. Even the dad who teaches his son to make French toast, one of the cutest scenes in the film (pictured above). It was frustrating when Joanna came back and wanted full custody and I am glad even though she won the court case, she decided it was best for Ted to raise their son. A very wholesome movie to watch. 

Overall rating : ★★★★☆

#21 Chicago

Starring Renée Zellweger, Queen Latifah and more, this fan-favorite was directed by Rob Marshall and won five other Academy Awards in 2003.

Chicago is the musical film that starts with Velma (Catherine Zeta-Jones) murdering her unfaithful husband and Chicago’s sneakiest lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) is set to defend her. Then wannabe cabaret star, Roxie Hart murders her man on the side because he falsely claimed that he could aid her in fame, and she ends up with Billy Flynn as her lawyer as well. Both Roxie and Velma fight it out for the media's attention in the ever desperate time of the 1920s, and neither of them will stop until they're at the top. Chicago is such a fun movie to watch. If you’ve ever seen Chicago you know what a trip all the women inmates are! They are all so thirsty for the public's attention, and will even fake being pregnant to get it. I love how there are so many strong women leads. Cellblock Tango ( aka 'He had it coming') is such an amazing scene that tells a beautiful story through singing and dancing. It’s really hard to make a musical into a movie and Rob Marshall nailed that task on the head. 

Overall Rating : ★★★★☆

#20 Million Dollar Baby

Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring himself, Hilary Swank, and Morgan Freeman, this box office hit won four other awards in 2005.

This was Clint Eastwood's second win for Best Director (he won Best actor as well), Hillary Swank won the Oscar for Best Actress and Morgan Freeman won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in my birth year of 2005. All three individuals played extremely powerful roles that told a unique story about the downfalls and triumphs of life. Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) is a seasoned Los Angeles boxing trainer who is stone cold and keeps everyone at arm's length except his good friends, Eddie "Scrap Iron" Dupris (Morgan Freeman). Then, Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) arrives in Frankie’s gym looking to be trained under his expertise. Frankie originally turns Maggie down because he refuses to train a woman to be a boxer but with Maggie’s headstrong attitude and determination to be a boxer he caves in and the two form an incredible bond. I watched this movie a year ago and I remember I loved it. I am a huge fan of boxing movies (the Rocky franchise is my favorite) so it's no surprise that I fell in love with this story. Maggie was so determined to be a boxer and no matter what she pushed through and succeeded with her life goal. It was also inspiring to see Frankie step out of his comfort zone and put his misogynistic ideals aside and learn something from Maggie. The ending was a heartbreaker, but at least Maggie was able to accomplish great things doing something she loved.

Overall Rating :★★★★

#19 Amadeus (Director’s Cut)

Directed by Miloš Forman and starring Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham, Amadeus won seven other Academy Awards in 1985.

Who knew Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was an extreme musical prodigy but was just as messed up as everyone else? Certainly not me. I never knew much about classical music, except in the fourth grade my music teacher Ms. Donato made us study a few composers. Nevertheless, I was completely transfixed by the story of Amadeus. Amadeus is told from Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), who resents Mozart’s natural gift for music and his reckless and brash lifestyle. Salieri becomes obsessed with making sure Mozart faces an inevitable downfall which leads to unhappy endings for both men. I truly think this film would have not been the same if it was told from Mozart’s point of view. I think viewers often forget how critical point of view is in a movie. It was exciting to hear Mozart's story through the mouth of his rival and I learned so much about an era of the classical music world and how demanding it was. The costumes and scenery of the movie were fantastic and although it was three hours long I felt like I was on a journey that I never wanted to end. This was such a great film with beautiful music and a thrilling story, you truly never knew what was behind each corner.