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
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 :★☆☆☆☆
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
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
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 : ★★★☆☆
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
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: https://bit.ly/2YEW5i1
Overall Rating : ★★★☆☆
#35 Driving Miss Daisy
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
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
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
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 : ★★★★☆
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
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
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 : ★★★★☆
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
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
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
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 : ★★★★☆
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
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
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 : ★★★★☆
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
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)
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.
Overall Rating : ★★★★ ½
Platoon was a hearty film, that told a well and concise story. It begins with Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) leaving his college studies to enlist in the Vietnam war in 1967. At first, he fears he isn't cut out for the army but finds refuge in a group of other soldiers quickly. Problems in his group arise between Staff Sergeant Barnes (Tom Berenger), who believes a group of villagers are hiding Viet Cong soldiers but Sergeant Elias (Willem Dafoe) is more sympathetic towards the frightened natives. The soldiers end up turning against one another and gruesome battle scenes eventually weed them out. I honestly didn't think I would like this film so much because to me most war movies tend to be too dramatic or the story never compels me. I think Platoon gave us great characters whose individual motives arose at the darkest times and shows that at the end of the day we let our emotions get to us. The battle scenes were thrilling and kept me on the edge of my seat, and I admired Charlie Sheen in his young acting career. The scene where Johnny Deep’s character came to save the villagers from hothead Staff Sergeant Barnes, was beautifully played out. Lastly, Platoon showed the conflicting meaning of “All is fair in love and war,” whether it ethical just to kill innocent people because their country is currently your enemy and all of the sticky traps war can create.
Overall Rating : ★★★★ ½
#17 Silence of the Lamb
Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins both won Oscars for their roles and it is no surprise why. Jodie Foster plays Clarice Starling, a top student at the FBI training academy. Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) wants Clarice to use being an attractive young woman to her advantage and interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a violent serial killer and cannibal serving a life sentence for various crimes. Jack believes that Hannibal Lecter may have insight on the ongoing case of serial killer Buffalo Bill and Claire will be the one to get the information out of him. I originally watched this movie about a year and a half ago and didn't understand it, I was going to review it just as it was but I decided to give it another try to see if my opinion had changed. It certainly did and I now understand why Silence of the Lambs is deemed a classic. This film played with your emotions and examined different angles of the human psyche which I love. This took you on a journey similar to a Law and Order episode and the was the ending a total twist. But I do have to mention that the girl Buffalo Bill held captive, Catherine (Brooke Smith) was a bit of a brat. (Spoiler alert!) When Jodie Foster came to rescue her she was like “Get me out already!,” I mean yeesh I would be a little more grateful when someone saves me from becoming the flesh of a human costume.
Overall : ★★★★½
Based on the Pulitzer winning journalist team, in 2001 Marty Baron of The Boston Globe assigned a team of journalists to investigate the allegations against John Geoghan. John Geoghan, a Catholic priest, was accused of molesting more than 80 boys in the Boston area. Led by editor Walter ``Robby" Robinson (Michael Keaton), his spotlight reporters Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Matt Carroll, and Sacha Pfeiffer hunt down victims and uncover more priests doing the same disturbing actions as Geoghan. The determined group of reporters will go to no end to make sure that the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic church no longer stands. My goal in life is to become a journalist at the New York Times and as a second option, The Boston Globe. Watching Spotlight immediately resonated with me because this is the exact kind of work I hope to do when I am older. The Spotlight team of journalists in this movie all do a wonderful job of playing anxious writers trying to uncover the truth while dealing with the burden it brings when you try to “bad-mouth” the church. It certainly hit home when one of the members of Spotlight realized that one of the accused priests lived a block away from his home, and he wrote a sign to his kids along the lines of “Stay away from house 297.” The world is truly a scary place and it takes brave journalists like the Spotlight team to uncover the truth no matter the backlash it releases. The only critique for this movie is that it wasn't uber exciting, the way I described the movie is all that happens. No priest goes to jail, which unfortunately makes sense due to statute of limitation laws and such, but at least the truth was revealed.
Overall Rating : ★★★★★
#15 Green Book
I had many preconceived notions about Green Book before I watched it, but they all turned out to be pretty wrong. At first glance, I thought Green Book was going to be a repeat of Driving Ms. Daisy, a tainted film about race relations. While it was a film about race relations, in this case, told in the view from a white character, I did enjoy the film. The film is about Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), an African-American world-class pianist who hires a chauffeur for his concert tour in the deep South in 1962. Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) is chosen for the job and his tough Italian-American attitude does not bode well with Dr. Shirley at first. But over the tour the two form an unexpected bond. Green Book was well acted and I didn't feel like it was pushing down the idea that the audience should praise the white man for befriending the black man like it did in Driving Ms. Daisy. Tony and Dr. Shirley simply became friends and they learned a lot about each other through their endeavors. The final scene where Tony invites Dr. Sirley to his home for Christmas was heartwarming I can't deny. As well as the scene where Dr. Shirley tried fried chicken for the first time, it was pretty funny. Green Book did not embellish anything to me and it felt natural, which is what I liked. However, just because the film is good that does not mean it should be the Best Picture winner. I haven't watched any of the other nominees for the 2018 Best Picture but Green Book can easily be replaced for this award.
Overall Rating : ★★★★☆
#14 A Beautiful Mind
This film is a human drama inspired by the life of John Forbes Nash Jr. and based on the biography "A Beautiful Mind" by Sylvia Nasar. Rusell Crow plays John Forbes Nash, the Princeton mathematician who is at the brink of his career when he is diagnosed with schizophrenia. His wife, Alicia Nash (Jennifer Connelly), is forced to determine whether it is safe to stay with John once his behavior starts to spiral but in the end, she stays by his side and watches how he grows from the pains and downfalls of his life. This was a really good movie that addresses mental illness well. As this quote from the movie explains, “Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been. What kind of hell would that be?" This quote, in essence, captured the movie. How scary would it be to find out that the people that you thought you knew were merely a fragment of your imagination. It was very heroic to see how John Nash did not let his schizophrenia get the best of him and was even awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Nash shows that you don't have to let your illnesses define you and that is truly a beautiful thing.
Overall Rating : ★★★★☆
#13 12 Years a Slave
In the years before the Civil War, musician Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man in New York is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South. Solomon struggles to survive under his oppressive Master Epps (Michael Fassbender) but is shown kindness and compassion by fellow slaves. Then in the 12th year from his kidnapping, he is finally freed once again. 12 Years a Slave is a hard film to watch because it is sickening to see how this country was not even 300 years ago. It is devastating to see what my people had to go through and 12 Years a Slave did not sugar coat the harshness of the American slave system and I appreciate that. Lupita Nyong’o did a wonderful job as Patsey, Master Epps token slave girl, and it was heartbreaking to see how black women were stripped of everything at the time and often taken for granted by their masters. An inspiring and historical film to watch.
Overall rating : ★★★★★
#12 Slumdog Millionaire
After the first taping of 18-year-old Jamal Malik answering questions on the Indian Version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire ?,” Police Inspector (Irrfan Khan) kidnaps Jamal with the tv show’s permission to find out how this “slumdog” is so smart and is getting every single question correct. The film then interweaves flashbacks of Jamal’s life that led to him to the answers to the questions and the moment as a whole. Jamal and his brother Salim (Madhur Mittal) becoming thieves after their mother dies, their escape from a disturbing orphanage, Jamal’s everlasting love with Latika (Freida Pinto), and the overall life of growing up as a slum in Mumbai are thoroughly depicted. Slumdog Millionaire portrayed a beautiful story with amazing color and life bursting at you at every second. I love reading books and watching movies that take place in India because there is something so alive and prominent about the country and its people. The beautiful sarees, packed streets, and markets; reminds me a lot about my Mimi’s home country of Guyana. Jamal was a unique character and had this sad puppy dog way about him. After escaping the life of being a thief and working small day jobs he was able to earn the chance of a lifetime. The love story between Latika and Jamal is simply sublime and the sacrifice Salim takes for his brother at the end of the movie shows two brothers who survived against it all. The cheers from everyone in India watching Jamal win the million dollars in the end, truly made my heart happy to see that no matter where you come from you can always make something good out of the bad. A definite favorite on my list
Overall Rating : ★★★★★
#11 The King’s Speech
After his brother backs out of the role, England's Prince Albert (Colin Firth) must be crowned as King George VI after his father, King George V (Michael Gambon) dies. The only issue is that George has a major speech impediment. Knowing that the country needs a strong and effective leader to communicate with them, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) hires Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) as her husband’s speech therapist. Lionel uses unconventional methods to get the monarch to speak with confidence and the two men grow a life-long friendship in the process. The King’s Speech was based on a true story and this film showed me that not every leader is born a leader. In one of the last scenes where King George VI presents a speech over the radio telling the nation of Britain that they will be entering the war, seeing Lionel standing right next to him and guiding him with his cooky methods made me want to cry. Colin Firth wonderfully acted out the role of the king and nailed the awkward mannerisms and insecurities that King George VI probably possessed. So often we see the president or national figures as people who just wake up one day and decide they are going to be the most confident person in the world. It is inspiring to see that is not always the case and the issue of having a speech problem is something normal people face as well. Harvey Weinstein (unfortunately) produced this movie and after this year it seemed like he had created the formula for a perfect best picture, but it still hurt when The King’s Speech won over The Social Network by David Fincher. The Social Network is one of my favorite movies because the story it tells about the rise of Facebook and siis brilliant. Plus, I am a complete sucker for Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield. I am not going to say which movie should have won, you can decide that for yourself since they are both currently on Netflix. At least The Social Network won Best Adapted Screenplay that year. But all in all, I did not think I would fall in love with this story like I did and Lionel and King George VI are #bffgoals.
Overall Rating : ★★★★★
#10 Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
To start I had no clue that Viggo Mortensen (Tony) from The Green Book, played Aragon in LOTR until I researched it just now for this post. Totally stunned. Now moving on Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is the final movie in the LOTR trilogy based on the books written by J.R.R. Tolkien. After the culmination of ten years of work, this movie presents the final confrontation between good and evil over Middle-Earth. Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin), joined by Gollum, reach Mordor to finally destroy the ring. While, Aragon along with the help of Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and more try to defeat Suaramon (Christopher Lee) and his men in the city of Minas Tirith. At first, I was just going to watch this LOTR movie without seeing the other two because it was the last movie I had on this list and wanted to get it over with. But my mom convinced me that I’d be lost so instead I extended my challenge out to one more week. My mom, little sister Nailah and I watched all three movies within the week. LOTR tells a really dope story showing the power of everyone coming together to keep the world at peace. What I liked about LOTR is that it wasn't just battle scenes, there was so much heart to this story. The immense amount of loyalty Sam showed Frodo, Gandalf guiding Frodo through this scary journey, Aragon holding it down on the fort against Saurman and finally the ring symbolizing how much control we let little things have upon ourselves. LOTR gave me some great bonding time with my mom and Nailah would often talk about how “Gandalf was handsome but not for her,” and we would all crack up. Overall, a great series to watch in quarantine!
Overall Rating : ★★★★★
“The Best Picture Winner is La La Land! Wait …. Ok, this is not a joke. Moonlight you guys won. They read the card wrong, Moonlight you won Best picture.” If you watched the Oscars in 2017 you remember the infamous and cringe mix-up over who won the Best Picture Award. The presenters read the card wrong and announced that La La Land won when in fact Moonlight was the actual winner. While it was embarrassing for the creators of La La Land, Moonlight is a legendary film and it makes me so happy that this movie won. Moonlight looks at three different chapters in the life of Chiron, a young black man growing up in Miami, played by Alex R, Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes (in order of appearance). As Chiron struggles with being gay and his epic guide to manhood Juan (Mahershala Ali) and his wife Teresa (Janelle Monáe) take him under his wing much to his drug-addicted mother’s (Naomie Harris) protest. I think this was one of those films that stick to you after you watch it. I watched Moonlight before about a year ago and I didn’t understand it much then, but when I rewatched it at 2 am one night I understood it so much more. Moonlight did a great job of showing Chiron’s struggles with growing up with a double handicap; being black and gay. When you live in the projects, having to act like people calling you “fruity” doesn’t bother you; it feels like the whole world doesn’t want you to succeed. For many black boys, they share the same communal feeling, society does not want them to be great. The line from the movie, “In the moonlight, black boys look blue,” reaffirmed the softness black boys still have after being treated as if they are trash from the rest of the world. Seeing the effects of toxic masculinity eventually get to Chiron broke my heart and this film reiterates how important it is to be seen by your parents, community, and the world.
Overall Rating : ★★★★★
#8 Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump is one of the wildest but sweetest films I have ever seen in my entire life. Slow but kind Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) sits down on a bus bench one day and tells his life story to anyone and everyone sitting next to him. Forrest has never thought of himself as “slow” thanks to his supportive mother (Sally Field) and has completed so much in life that it’s quite remarkable. Whether it’s being a college football star, going off to fight in the Vietnam war, starting a shrimp business, or running around the entirety of America, Forest has done it. But still, something has not been complete in his life, and that is his childhood love Jenny (Robin Wright). After college Jenny has been mixed up with some bad people and as many times as Forrest has tried to save her, she keeps slipping through the cracks. What I love about Forrest Gump is the ride that it takes you on. You find yourself laughing, crying, smiling, and shaking your head all within 2 hours and 22 minutes. Some of the adventures Forrest has gone on are so ridiculous but they are beautifully depicted into showing that life is truly what you make it. Was Forrest Gump the smartest person in the world? No, but he had a good heart and that got him into farther places in life than most people. Tom Hanks did so well playing Forest and molded himself into a slow/ gullible but unbelievably loving person that Hollywood has come to know. He 100 % deserved his Oscar for Best Actor that year because he did not make a mockery of Forrest Gump, he turned him into a movie icon. When I learned Forrest Gump won over Pulp Fiction for Best Picture, I, of course, had mixed feelings. It was the start of the dark indie movies vs. the heartthrob big box office production battle. Pulp Fiction is one of my all-time favorites and Quentin Tarantino is just *chef's kiss*, but these movies are so completely different that I don’t even know how to say which one should have won. Maybe I’ll watch Pulp Fiction again and write a blog post about it ;) But Forrest Gump is such a great movie and you should watch it!
Overall Rating : ★★★★★
#7 The Departed
FINALLY, Martin Scorsese was recognized by the Academy and won the Best Director awards for one of his films. It took them long enough! The Departed tells the story of a South Boston cop, Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) who goes undercover to expose the organization of the gang leader Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). At the same time, police investigator Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) infiltrates his department and reports their activities to his boss Mr. Frank Costello. When both organizations learn they have a mole in their department, Billy and Collin have to figure out each other’s identities to save their lives. And not to mention Colin’s fiance Madolyn (Vera Farmiga) is Billy’s specialized therapist for cops and they sleep with each other. Oh, the complexities of South Boston. The Departed was incredibly good and it fulfilled my mafia movie needs. I love Martin Scorcese films because they always take the most unexpected turns and they give me life ! Jack Nicholson did such a great job as Costello and it is at this point in his career where he starts to play the sexy old man role, but he does it well. Leonardo DiCaprio did such an amazing job as Billy and it was sad to see that he wasn’t nominated for this role in the Best Actor category that year. Luckily Mark Wahlberg, who plays one of Billy’s bosses in the undercover department, was nominated for Supporting Actor. The Departed kept you on the edge of your seat, excited me, and displayed the clear theme of everyone is not what they seem.
Overall Rating : ★★★★★
#6 Ordinary People
Ordinary People brings us to the story of teenager Conrad Jarrett (Timothy Hutton), who attempted suicide after his twin brother died in a sailing accident. Returning home after time spent in a psychiatric hospital he tries to manage his mental health, mend his relationship with his cold mother Beth (Mary Tyler Moore), his sympathetic but anguished father Calvin (Donald Sutherland), with the help of his psychiatrist, Dr. Berger (Judd Hirsch). I connected a lot to Conrad in this movie, because he was battling so much in his head while trying to be a good son, friend, student and so much more. Depression is such a sensitive topic and I was surprised to see a movie like Ordinary People addressed this issue in the ’80s. Back then, I’m sure talking about mental health was a lot more difficult than it is today and I admire this movie's strength. It was devastating to watch the struggle between Conrad and Beth in this movie. Beth was always much closer to Conrad’s twin brother and she was embarrassed by the son she had left. Whenever they went to parties she would cringe at the mention of her son ever being in the hospital. For so many teenagers it feels hard to admit that you're battling with depression or other mental health issues because you simply don’t want to be rejected by your parents. It hurt to see Beth disregard her son, some parents truly don't realize how much their actions affect their children's mental health. Calvin was wonderfully played by Donald Sutherland and he understood his son’s issue and was proud that his son had made it to another year. The ending scene with the Conrad and his father made me cry because seeing Calvin stick with his son through the end was so powerful. I was really happy to learn that Timothy Hutton won Best Actor for his role as Conrad and the therapist, Judd Hirsch was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. The therapy sessions between them felt so real and added a lot to the movie. Overall, I was very moved by this film and I am glad I watched it.
Overall Rating : ★★★★★
#5 American Beauty
Depressed by his uneventful life, telesales operator Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) finally feels fresh excitement in his life when he meets his daughter, Jane’s (Thora Birch) friend Angela (Mena Suvari). Jane is grossed out about her pathetic dad being attracted to Angela and starts to hang out with her neighbor Ricky Fitts (Wes Bently), who always has a video camera around and is weirdly ominous. Lester’s wife, Carolyn (Annette Bening), is just as tired of her husband as he is of her and begins to have an affair with her #1 competitor in the real estate business. Lester and Ricky begin a friendship after they meet at a real estate event Carolyn dragged him to, and Ricky becomes Lester’s weed dealer. This movie is the epitome of dark humor and I found myself laughing a lot during this film. I’ve never seen a movie quite like American Beauty where every character is completely wrapped up in their self-loathing that they hang out with people that make them even more miserable. I’m so glad Kevin Spacey won the Best Actor award for his role as Lester because he killed it. Lester became a character that made you depressed and bored just by looking at him and it was cool to see the turning point of his character. Halfway through the movie he develops and I don’t give two *beep* anymore attitude. The funniest scene was when Carolyn and the real estate man she is having an affair with come through the driveway of a McDonald’s like fast food place and Lester is the one who serves her their meal. Carolyn didn’t know Lester had quit his job to become a fast-food chain worker and the greatest part was Lester didn’t even care that his wife was having an affair, he hated her! This movie was simply superb and the ending was a shocker, definitely, a must-watch for any movie fan.
Overall Rating : ★★★★★
#4 Rain Man
When car salesman Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) learns that his estranged father has died, he returns home to Cincinnati to find out that he has a brother who is an autistic savant, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), and his father's $3 million estate is being left to the mental institution where Raymond resides. In hopes of getting his father’s money, he takes Raymond from the institution back to his home in Los Angeles. Ove the cross-country trip the brothers learn a lot about themselves and their lives change forever. Rain Man was one of the most heartwarming films I had seen in a while and it made me cry and smile a lot. Dustin Hoffman did an incredible job as Raymond and rightfully won Best Actor that year. Raymond is an autistic savant which means that he has an autism disorder but has extraordinary skills and talents of mind and coordination that some professionals don’t even have. Raymond knows millions of baseball facts, knows how many forks fell on the floor just by looking at them, and is incredibly gifted. It was a beautiful struggle Charlie and Raymond had with adjusting to the fact that they were brothers. Charlie had the attitude of a hotshot businessman who didn’t have time for Raymond’s childish mannerism but as the movie develops we truly see him soften and accept his brother. After they arrive in Los Angeles and the mental institution worker finds Raymond and wants to bring him back, Charlie no longer wants his brother just for the money. Raymond had taught him amazing life lessons and what it meant to be patient and not have a cold exterior all the time. Rain Man is a life-changing film that I’m so glad I had the opportunity to indulge in it.
Overall Rating : ★★★★★
If you haven’t watched Parasite I don’t know what you’re waiting for because it is one of the best films ever made. The movie takes place in South Korea and Ki-woo (Choi Woo-Shik) the son of the destitute Kim family earns a job as a tutor for the daughter of the wealthy Park family. Soon he infiltrates the rest of his family as members of the help for the Park family without the Park’s knowing they were all related. Greed and class divide eat away at these two families and shows the depths of what people will do to be respected. Parasite is simply such a magnificent film that has gotten to my core both times that I have seen it. The movie is entirely in Korean and I am so happy that a foreign film finally won the best picture. A movie does not have to be from America for it to be great, and people who complain that Parasite shouldn’t have won because it is foreign need to get over themselves. Times are changing and Parasite 100% deserved this title. Bong Joon-ho is so amazing and his speech brought the whole world to tears when he said that he learned from the greats Martin Scorcese and Quentin Tarantino. All three men had films nominated for Best Picture that year and this just shows how full circle the world is. Parasite was a great ensemble film that showed the ugly truth between class divides. When Mr. Kim heard Ms. and Mr. Park talking about his distinct odor, that even hurt me. After driving Mr. Park to and fro and slaving away for this man he dared to still judge him. But in truth, we as a people judge each other all the time regardless of what they do outside of our little bubble. This film also made me want to visit South Korea and hopefully I’ll be able to one day or another. That Ram-don Ms. Kim made looked amazing. The ending was truly crazy and everyone should go watch Parasite right now!
Overall Rating : ★★★★★
Aw, I’m sad I only have two more movies to talk about : ( Well, Birdman tells the story of Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) who is directing and starring in his new Broadway play that he hopes will revive his stagnant career. It is a gamble but he hopes his production will prove that he is a creative genius and is more than just the superhero he played years ago, Birdman. As opening night approaches a cast member is injured and he hires an actor (Edward Norton) in his place, who brings a lot of new (and annoying) energy into the production. While this is going on he has to deal with his relationship with his ex-wife, girlfriend, and his daughter; who both work on the show. I remember after I finished Birdman I was left with questions as to what the ending meant (if you’ve watched it you know what I mean) but I was moved in a way that no movie has ever done before. Birdman was a satire and featured dark humor and all of these amazing special effects that melted perfectly into each other. I’m sure we can all think of one-hit wonders and ponder as to where they’ve been from time to time. Seeing Riggan trying to escape only being remembered as Birdman and trying not to look desperate while doing it was detected immediately by his daughter. I think Emma Stone did such a great job and her character was very much so, “Dad face it your lame now. But at least we got money out of your Birdman career.” The back and forth banter between Riggan and Edward Norton’s character was crazy and the scene where Riggan got locked out of the theater and had to walk naked in Times Square was simply hilarious. I think the special effects in this movie also deserved to be talked about because they were so cool. Iñárritu showing Riggan flying through New York captured these unexplainable feelings of freedom, and I wish I could just fly over the apartments and city. We don’t know if Riggan’s alter ego as Birdman, was truly flying and levitating throughout the movie or if it was in his imagination; but it showed that sometimes we let the one thing people see us as, define us. All in all, Birdman was incredible and I will be rewatching it soon!
Overall Rating : ★★★★★
And my favorite Best Picture winner is …
#1 The Shape of Water (!!)
And we have a winner! The Shape of Water is the most unique, creative, and thought-provoking film I have ever seen in my entire life. Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a mute and isolated woman who works at a high-security government laboratory in 1962 Baltimore. Her life gets interesting when she and her only other friend at the lab, Zelda (Octavia Spencer), discover a mysterious scaled amphibian-like creature living in a water tank while cleaning one day. Elisa begins a friendship with the creature and tells the only other person in her life, a failing artist Giles (Richard Jenkins), about it to his dismay. When Elisa learns that the fate of her new creature friends is at risk by the hostile government and the marine biologist, Strickland (Michael Shannon), she goes to enormous lengths to
protect him. The reason why The Shape of Water is #1 on my list is that it is weird, unique and so different from any movie I have ever seen. This film is truly one of a kind and I can’t compare it to anything because it is too beautiful to be compared upon. The theme of this movie was to realize the most “weird” things in life are often the most beautiful, and the world is too blind to care for things that they don’t understand. Many people did not understand, Elisa. She wasn’t deaf and she could hear perfectly fine, so why did she choose to stay silent. The only people that ever cared for her were Giles and Zelda, Elisa’s mother even gave her up for adoption. Elisa taught Giles and Zelda that silence speaks more than words ever can. When we talk we often don’t say anything meaningful, we just go on and on and make a muddy mess out of ourselves. Elisa connected with the amphibian creature because they were both poked and prodded by people who didn’t take the time to understand them. When Elisa fed him boiled eggs in his tank, it was weirdly calming to watch. As well as the scene where they have sex in her bathroom filled to the top with water because at the moment they were the only two people that mattered to each other. The color scheme in The Shape of Water also added to the whole eerie effect, it was as of 1962 Baltimore were washed with green and blues that were very aesthetically pleasing to my eyes. I love how we also got to see Giles struggle with his sexuality, Zelda battle her toxic husband, and how depressing it must be for Strickland to just want to make poor creatures die. Everything in The Shape of Water reminds me of how beautiful the world can be if you just take time and look in the little corners of the world.
Overall Rating : 10,000 ★'s
If you’ve made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. I know it was a lot! My love for films grew even more by doing this challenge and I would recommend that you do it as well. I learned who some of my favorite directors are, I am about to order some sick movie posters and I love seeing how different stories are reflected in beautiful pieces of art. Here’s a link to the spreadsheet I used while tracking each movie: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ABRTQjUaUSabTlok1PeQpMOmZeqVZ08oU-ilq7BX9QU/edit?usp=sharing
Now I know most people don’t have time to watch 41 one movies so you should either watch the top ten on my list or here are the movies streaming for free now !
Netflix: Moonlight, The King’s Speech and The Artist
Amazon Prime: Terms of Endearment
Happy watching! And let's keep our fingers crossed that the next Oscars will be the best one yet!