erik lundegaard

From 'Godfather' to 'Crash': My Rankings of Most Every Best Picture Winner Since 1927

Meh.

That's what surprised me most. Not that I loved or hated most of the best picture winners since 1927 but that I didn't have much feeling one way or another. “The Departed”? “The English Patient”? “Rain Man”? “The Deer Hunter”? “In the Heat of the Night”? “From Here to Eternity”? “Lost Weekend”? Did I even see “Lost Weekend”? What do I really remember about it? Maybe better put that in the NOT SEEN group. Only fair.

In his discussion yesterday on the New Yorker site, critic Richard Brody said the switch from five best picture nominees to 10, or 9, or what have you, was a good thing, because it inspired passion among moviegoers. Which is something the Academy is generally good at tamping down. These films are sometimes an example of that.

I certainly have passion for my top 10. I have a different kind of passion for my bottom five. But the middle took a lot of rejiggering and soul-searching. How to rank this movie? By my feeling upon first watching it? By my feelings now? By how much I'd like to watch it again? By how deep it is, or how well it tells its story, or exemplifies its genre?

I wound up choosing an awkward mix of all of these criteria and it was still tough. I kept going back and forth. Am I putting this one low because so many people like it? Am I putting this one high because so many people don't? It's hard to separate your feelings from society's but you give it a go. In the end I thought “Would I rather watch 'Lord of the Rings: Return of the King' right now or 'Driving Miss Daisy'?” I may be the only person this side of Bruce Beresford who would answer the latter. Probably not him, either.

Revelation: I like big and boldly drawn: “My Fair Lady” and “Gone with the Wind” and “Patton” and “Titanic.” Yes, “Titanic.” A friend of mine, a songwriter, always runs across contemporaries who disparage middle-of-the-road work, but he says that's what he strives for. He thinks of it like a mountain, where the middle is the highest point, and the hardest to attain. Some of these big movies do that.

Lesser revelation: I dig the '70s. It was the glory period of American filmmaking, easy riders and raging bulls and all that. It was also the period I first became aware of the Oscars. I was coming of age then. The Academy seemed important then. Maybe it was. Maybe it honored more important movies. And even when it didn't, as in '76, choosing “Rocky” over “All the President's Men,” “Network” and “Taxi Driver,” well, its choice was still a good movie. “Rocky” is another boldly drawn story but finely defined along the edges. It has patience and grit. It tells its tale really, really well. It's not its fault it had so many awful children.

Sometimes the titles get in the way. They're so storied, I think, “Shouldn't this be higher?” Then I think about what the film is, what it lacks, and go, “Meh.”

But, really, you can make your argument for No.s 25 through 60 and I'll probably buy it. To do this properly, I'd have to watch all of these movies again but who wants to do that? They're only best pictures.

Final note: I've also included a column on the greatest disparities between my opinion and the mass opinion on IMDb. No surprise: The movies I love and they didn't tend to be musicals. There's a +63 variance for “An American in Paris,” +41 for “West Side Story,” and +35 for “My Fair Lady.” The next one is “Titanic,” which feels like a musical. On the other side of the equation, movies they loved and I didn't, we have the recent and the blockbusty: “Forrest Gump” at -57, “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” at -52, and “Braveheart” at -50. We agreed on exactly two: “The Godfather” and “Cuckoo's Nest.”

Enjoy. Your results will vary.

MY RANK
MOVIE IMDb RANK IMDb RATING IMDb VOTES ME v. IMDb
1 The Godfather (1972) 1 9.2 535,083 0
2 Annie Hall (1977) 25 8.2 87,916 23
3 Casablanca (1943) 6 8.7 209,989 3
4 The Godfather, Part II (1974) 2 9.0 336,575 -2
5 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) 5 8.8 300,314 0
6 On the Waterfront (1954) 12 8.4 52,369 6
7 Amadeus (1984) 12 8.4 128,078 5
8 Lawrence of Arabia (1962) 11 8.5 98,407 3
9 All About Eve (1950) 12 8.4 43,955 3
10 An American In Paris (1951) 73 7.2 11,808 63






11 Unforgiven (1992) 22 8.3 135,496 11
12 My Fair Lady (1964) 47 7.9 35,262 35
13 Gone With the Wind (1939) 25 8.2 106,428 12
14 The Bridge On the River Kwai (1957) 12 8.4 76,003 -2
15 No Country For Old Men (2007) 25 8.2 274,692 10
16 West Side Story (1961) 57 7.7 37,371 41
17 The Sting (1973) 12 8.4 85,891 -5
18 Rocky (1976) 34 8.1 143,362 16
19 The Silence of the Lambs (1991) 6 8.7 344,094 -13
20 Patton (1970) 38 8.0 49,384 18






21 The Sound of Music (1965) 47 7.9 68,810 26
22 The Last Emperor (1987) 54 7.8 33,160 32
23 American Beauty (1999) 10 8.5 389,392 -13
24 Schindler's List (1993) 3 8.9 375,193 -21
25 Hamlet (1948) 47 7.9 6,557 22
26 The French Connection (1971) 47 7.9 42,667 21
27 All Quiet On the Western Front (1930) 34 8.1 28,205 7
28 The Deer Hunter (1978) 25 8.2 117,540 -3
29 Midnight Cowboy (1969) 38 8.0 42,805 9
30 It Happened One Night (1934) 22 8.3 32,375 -8






31 Titanic (1997) 64 7.5 336,027 33
32 The Apartment (1960) 12 8.4 49,785 -20
33 Dances With Wolves (1990) 38 8.0 94,144 5
34 All the King's Men (1949) 62 7.6 5,597 28
35 A Man For All Seasons (1966) 38 8.0 14,614 3
36 Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979) 57 7.7 40,353 21
37 Platoon (1986) 25 8.2 145,818 -12
38 The Hurt Locker (2009) 57 7.7 137,683 19
39 In the Heat of the Night (1967) 38 8.0 26,928 -1
40 Rain Man (1988) 38 8.0 165,428 -2






41 Driving Miss Daisy (1989) 66 7.4 30,411 25
42 Gandhi (1982) 34 8.1 71,833 -8
43 Rebecca (1940) 12 8.4 45,011 -31
44 Million Dollar Baby (2004) 25 8.2 204,335 -19
45 Slumdog Millionaire (2008) 25 8.2 269,582 -20
46 Chariots of Fire (1981) 73 7.2 20,114 27
47 Chicago (2002) 73 7.2 99,936 26
48 Terms of Endearment (1983) 70 7.3 21,085 22
49 The English Patient (1996) 70 7.3 72,322 21
50 Gladiator (2000) 12 8.4 397,268 -38






51 You Can't Take It With You (1938) 38 8.0 10,500 -13
52 Shakespeare In Love (1998) 70 7.3 97,391 18
53 The Departed (2006) 9 8.5 368,308 -44
54 The King's Speech (2010) 25 8.2 155,972 -29
55 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) 3 8.9 501,289 -52
56 How Green Was My Valley (1941) 47 7.9 8,993 -9
57 Ordinary People (1980) 54 7.8 20,192 -3
58 The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) 22 8.3 21,793 -36
59 From Here To Eternity (1953) 47 7.9 19,141 -12
60 A Beautiful Mind (2001) 38 8.0 202,651 -22






61 Gentleman's Agreement (1947) 66 7.4 5,688 5
62 Braveheart (1995) 12 8.4 327,548 -50
63 Forrest Gump (1994) 6 8.7 446,991 -57
64 Out of Africa (1985) 76 7.0 25,363 12
65 Going My Way (1944) 66 7.4 4,143 1
66 Tom Jones (1963) 77 6.9 4,857 11
67 Oliver! (1968) 64 7.5 12,026 -3
68 Around the World In 80 Days (1956) 80 6.8 9,129 12
69 The Greatest Show On Earth (1952) 81 6.7 5,186 12
70 Crash (2005) 38 8.0 217,777 -32







HAVEN'T SEEN IMDb RANK IMDb RATING IMDb VOTES

Wings (1927) 54 7.8 3,792

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1928) 12 8.4 15,384

The Broadway Melody (1929) 82 6.4 2,466

Cimarron (1931) 84 6.1 1,744

Grand Hotel (1932) 62 7.6 7,300

Cavalcade (1933) 83 6.3 1,426

Mutiny On the Bounty (1935) 47 7.9 9,276

The Great Ziegfeld (1936) 77 6.9 2,583

The Life of Emile Zola (1937) 66 7.4 2,376

Mrs. Miniver (1942) 57 7.7 6,058

The Lost Weekend (1945) 34 8.1 14,287

Marty (1955) 57 7.7 8,028

Gigi (1958) 77 6.9 7,472

Ben-Hur (1959) 25 8.2 76,925

Posted at 08:10 AM on Fri. Feb 24, 2012 in category Movies - The Oscars  
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COMMENTS

Reed wrote:

I may have to do this as well... (but will I be embarrassed if the list of not-seen is too high?)

Re: the 1970s. I often think about how it was such an incredible time for American film. But what I can't get to (so far) is why. Was it because studios were willing to take risks like we've never seen before or after? Surely, but why did they take those risks? Was it a cultural sea change within the industry that simply attracted incredibly creative people? Or was it audience demand that drove the excellence?

The Oscars are probably a tough way to analyze anything. There are so many factors that motivate the votes. Forrest Gump was chosen over at least three better movies, and did so for various reasons. So we can say that even though there were great options that year, Oscar botched it. But they didn't vote perfectly in the 70s either. Art Carney taking his cat on a road trip beat out Pacino in Godfather Part II, Nicholson in Chinatown, Hoffman in Lenny, and Finney as Poroit.

Comment posted on Fri. Feb 24, 2012 at 10:16 AM

Erik wrote:

RE: The 1970s: From what I understand, the movie industry was dying, the old hands didn't know how to appeal to moviegoers anymore, and, for a time, the young bucks did, or positioned themselves so it appeared that they did. “Easy Rider” helped. Made cheap, made bucks. This formula worked for a while.

Two things happened. Some directors went overboard ... and “Jaws” and “Star Wars” (and “Rocky”) happened. The execs went, “Oh, this is how you make money again. Thank you!”

I've always felt “Rocky” was a good demarkation point. It begins like a '70s movie (gritty, down on its luck) and ends like an '80s movie (triumphant).

Comment posted on Fri. Feb 24, 2012 at 02:55 PM

Erik wrote:

And, yes, I'm not commenting upon the movie industry as a whole. The opposite.

In some sense I think critics spend so much time forecasting the Oscars that they lose perspective and a great sense of what's out there. The movie year becomes depressing because they've narrowed their vision to the Academy's vision. But there's always good stuff out there. Sometimes the Academy recognizes it. Sometimes it doesn't.

Comment posted on Fri. Feb 24, 2012 at 03:06 PM

Becephalus wrote:

Bucephalus Rank Erik Rank Title
1 4 The Godfather, Part II (1974)
2 1 The Godfather (1972)
3 8 Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
3.5 X McCabe and Mrs. Miller
4 6 On the Waterfront (1954)
5 28 The Deer Hunter (1978)
6 29 Midnight Cowboy (1969)
7 35 A Man For All Seasons (1966)
8 3 Casablanca (1943)
9 37 Platoon (1986)
10 43 Rebecca (1940)
20 5 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
21 19 The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
22 25 Hamlet (1948)
23 17 The Sting (1973)
24 10 An American In Paris (1951)
26 11 Unforgiven (1992)
27 55 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
99 23 American Beauty (1999)
99 52 Shakespeare In Love (1998)
99 60 A Beautiful Mind (2001)

There's a gap between 10 and 20 because those films don't really belong in the same category. And then the “99”s are simply there to shame the Academy: films that never should have been nominated, let alone given a prize.

The other dozens of films made no especial impression on me (or I haven't seen), and are best left unmentioned.

This is fun! Can we do Best Actor/Actress next?

Comment posted on Thu. Feb 07, 2013 at 09:08 PM

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