Ranking the Oscars

Tonight’s the Academy Awards, an I’ll definitely be watching. My parents always host an Oscars Party, and growing up I’d try to stay up as late as possible to watch as much of the broadcast as I could. Unfortunately that meant I usually missed the Best Picture award, since inevitably I had to go to bed first. Of course, I eventually got old enough to stay up that late, and to this day I remain a big fan of the Oscars.

So I naturally was interested when I saw this BuzzFeed article ranking all 85 Best Picture winners. Some of the rankings are not surprising: Crash is 83; the Godfather and Casablanca are top three. Some of them are rather surprising: Forrest Gump is 62; All About Eve is ranked No. 1. Either way, like most ranking lists on the internet, there were strong opinions. (Sample comment: “To the author: You are either insane or extremely brave. Probably both”)

Well here’s more noise. Below you’ll find my top Best Pictures list. Two caveats about this list. First, it’s unclear if the BuzzFeed author, Kate Arthur, has seen all 85 movies herself, but I’m only going to rank the ones I’ve seen. Unfortunately, this is only 37 out of the 85 films, and the majority of those are from the last 35 years. (Probably the four most high-profile films I haven’t seen are American Beauty, Schindler’s List, Annie Hall and Gone with the Wind. I also haven’t seen All About Eve, so I can’t judge if that should be No. 1.) Second, this ranking does not reflect what I think the “best” Best Picture films are. It’s instead an inherently subjective list based on how much I enjoyed the film. So yes, I realize Amadeus and Gladiator are not two of the top three movies of all-time. But they definitely are two of my favorite movies.

See the list after the jump, including Arthur’s ranking, my ranking and some comments.

MOVIE BF Ranking My Ranking Comment
1972 – “The Godfather” 2 1 Great acting. Great script. Famous scenes/lines. It’s not necessarily my “favorite” film, but it’s the best.
1984 – “Amadeus” 65 2 As I wrote previously, I love classical music. Fantasia helped, but seeing this movie about Mozart’s life really inspired me to deepen my understanding of classical music. And even though the first time I saw the movie I accidentally started it on the second disk, then had to watch the start of the movie out of sequence, this has become my favorite movie of all time.
2000 – “Gladiator” 69 3 I understand the plot isn’t exactly “deep” and the Comodus stuff is downright creepy. But watch this scene and answer this question: ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!
1943 – “Casablanca” 3 4 The first time I saw this (I was about 10 years old) I was surprised by how many lines I recognized. Definitely a timeless movie.
1974 – “The Godfather Part II” 4 5 Many people say this is better than the first one. I disagree. The De Niro scenes are great, but I felt it needed one more scene connecting to the Marlon Brando Corleone era.
2007 – “No Country for Old Men” 32 6 One of the most intense movies I’ve seen.
2009 – “The Hurt Locker” 33 7 I was disappointed at the time that Avatar didn’t win, since that was the most impressive visual film I’d ever seen. But looking back, I think this was the right decision.
2006 – “The Departed” 19 8 I was quite shocked by the bloodbath at the end this. Definitely deserving for Scorsese finally winning Best Director.
1962 – “Lawrence of Arabia” 6 9 Sure it’s long, but I think that just enhances its epicness.
2008 – “Slumdog Millionaire” 34 10 Probably overrating this, but it gets a major plus for using a game show as a plot device
1991 – “The Silence of the Lambs” 5 11 I’ve never actually seen the ending of this movie, since I got uh interrupted while watching. But the first 80% of it was pretty awesome.
1992 – “Unforgiven” 10 12 This movie is fine, but I think Arthur overrates it. 3:10 to Yuma is a better Western, FWIW.
1994 – “Forrest Gump” 62 13 I get people, like Arthur, who denigrate this movie as a pastiche of baby boomer highlights. So it’s not that high on my list. Still, it’s got a killer soundtrack.
1976 – “Rocky” 28 14 GONNA FLY NOW!
1971 – “The French Connection” 17 15 Gotta feel for Popeye at the ending.
1997 – “Titanic” 31 16 When this movie came out, I rolled my eyes at Leo-mania. Flash forward to today, and DiCaprio is one of my favorite actors.
2001 – “A Beautiful Mind” 63 17 Boo Princeton
1957 – “The Bridge on the River Kwai” 7 18 The Madness Madness! Plus great use of Colonel Bogey March
1986 – “Platoon” 39 19 Pretty great cast and a realistic look at the Vietnam War.
1959 – “Ben-Hur” 48 20 Interesting fact about this movie: the character of Ben Hur was written to be gay, but Charlton Heston was kept in the dark.
1998 – “Shakespeare in Love” 38 21 Decent movie, but unforgivable it beat Saving Private Ryan.
1995 – “Braveheart” 46 22 Unlike Arthur, I’m willing to put Mel Gibson’s politics aside. That said, this movie is too long; the “slow” parts are really boring.
1967 – “In the Heat of the Night” 23 23 THEY CALL ME MR. TIBBS!
2010 – “The King’s Speech” 36 24 I preferred Inception and Social Network, but the use of Beethoven’s 7th was pretty cool.
2011 – “The Artist” 50 25 I get the nostalgia element probably pushed this through, but Midnight in Paris is my favorite Woody Allen film, and one of the best of the last 10 years.
1960 – “The Apartment” 21 26 Funny enough, but somewhat dated.
1956 – “Around the World in 80 Days” 74 27 Yay imperialism.
1981 – “Chariots of Fire” 35 28 My dad loves this movie. Me, not so much. Great musical theme though.
1961 – “West Side Story” 58 29 Not a big musical fan. Gets points since the music is catchier than American in Paris or Sound of Music.
1940 – “Rebecca” 20 30 Real shame this is the only Hitchcock film that ever won an Oscar (and an even bigger travesty is that he never won Best Director).
 1951 – “An American in Paris” 56 31 I was supposed to see Singin’ in the Rain at an outdoor movie screening, but the film reel was damaged, so they showed An American in Paris instead. The final dance scene set to Gershwin’s tone poem was neat, but the rest of it was boring.
1965 – “The Sound of Music” 43 32 If a musical has Nazis in it, I prefer The Producers.
1980 – “Ordinary People” 41 33 I saw this movie in health class when we were studying depression. Because it was summer school and I could’ve been doing much more fun activities, I dislike this movie.
2003 – “LOTR: The Return of the King” 25 34 How did this interminable movie win best editing?
2012 – “Argo” 40 35 If this movie had won the award any other year, I wouldn’t have ranked it this low. But considering Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty were two of my favorite movies of the last 10 years, Argo winning was a travesty. Hence the low ranking.
1927/1928 – “Wings” 82 36 Well something had to win the first Oscar.
2005 – “Crash” 83 37 Just terrible

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About Zach Klitzman

A History Grad student at American University

One response to “Ranking the Oscars”

  1. drdankerr says :

    A bit presentist I would say — recent films disproportionately get the top and bottom honors!

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