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Hollywood Insight 02/25/11

The Eight “Best Picture Winners” of All Time


Sunday night, the Hollywood elite gathered for the 83rd Academy Awards in Los Angeles. Actors James Franco and Anne Hathaway hosted the annual film awards event when the best of the best of last year’s movies were honored. In the best picture category, the The King's Speech, a film that was made for just $15 million dollars, upended nine other movies including Inception and The Social Network for this year's top honor.

Watching the build up to this year’s gala brought to mind great cinematic achievements of yesteryear. The following list honors the best of the best picture winners from each full decade of Oscar nights.

1930s

It Happened One Night (1934)

Unrated.
Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly
Won 5 Oscars

Socialite Ellie Andrews runs away from her wealthy father to marry a society aviator. On her escape from Florida to New York, she meets fellow bus passenger Peter Warne, a reporter who is secretly trying to get her exclusive story.

Anti-black and white movie watchers, look past the no-color factor and you'll enjoy one of the best romance classics. Legendary screen actors Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert both took home the best actor/actress in a leading role awards for their brilliant performances in It Happened One Night. This romantic standard is one of my favorite films of all time.

Note: This film is also listed on my 10 Great Date Movie Picks.
 

1940s

Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)

Unrated.
Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, John Garfield
Won 3 Oscars

Investigative reporter Philip Green pretends to be Jewish in order to cover a story on anti-Semitism in 1940s America, and discovers the hatred instilled in a wealthy community.

Truly a landmark film, Gentleman’s Agreement is the first major film to address the issue of anti-Semitism in the United States. Released after WWII, the Gregory Peck-starring picture highlights the underlying bigotry in the country. Peck was nominated for his leading role and director Elia Kazan, who brought us such classics as On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire, won for his work on the film.

1950s

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

PG for mild war violence.
William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins
Won 7 Oscars

Stuck in a POW camp, a British colonel cooperates with a Japanese commander to oversee construction of a railway bridge the prisoners are building for the enemy, all while ignorant of the Allies plans to destroy it.

“Da nah. Da da da da da da. Da nah.” This whistling march tune is the most famous bit of this Oscar-winning film from the 1950s. The Bridge on the River Kwai pits British acting royalty Sir Alec Guinness as Col. Nicholson against William Holden’s Shears in this war drama about surviving captivity and fighting for freedom.

1960s

The Sound of Music (1965)

G
Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Eleanor Parker

Won 5 Oscars

A nun-in-training, Maria leaves her Austrian convent to truly decide if she is called to holy service. Her new task is to become a governess to the children of a prominent, widowed Naval officer named Capt. Von Trapp. Eventually accepted into the family, the Von Trapps encounter the "changes" Nazi Germany brings to Austria. 

Possibly the most-beloved musical of all time, The Sound of Music is a classic families have enjoyed watching for nearly 50 years. “The Sound of Music”, “Edelweiss”, and “Do-Re-Mi” are just a few of the timeless songs this film introduced to the world. The Sound of Music is an inspiring epic, a love story, a fond look at family, and a musical masterpiece rolled into one. No generation should missed seeing it.

1970s

Rocky (1976)

PG for boxing violence and sensuality.
Sylvester Stallone, Talla Shire, Burt Young
Won 3 Oscars

Rocky Balboa is a no-name boxer with the chance of a lifetime – to fight the heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed. With the odds against him, Rocky determines to “go the distance”.

Rocky has given American film so many iconic moments. The first in a boxing film franchise, Rocky kick started actor Slyvester Stallone’s career. It’s a cinematic expression of the determination a man can have in the face of an immense obstacle. And though boxing films aren’t usually on my list of favorites, this 1970s flick stands out.

1980s

Chariots of Fire (1981)

PG
Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nicholas Farrell

Won 4 Oscars

When Eric Liddell runs, he feels God’s pleasure. His famous story coincides with another determined British athlete, a Jewish man named Abrahams. Though both religious, Liddell, a devout Christian, makes headlines during the 1924 Olympics when he refuses to run on Sunday.

Easily one of the most compelling religious films ever made, Chariots of Fire tells the incredible story of runner Eric Liddell and the faith that was more important than Olympic honors. From the memorable scene of actor Ian Charleson running on the beach with the iconic theme music to the incredible portrayal of a faithful man living to glorify God, Chariots of Fire is the best faith/sports movie around.

1990s

Braveheart (1995)

R for brutal medieval warfare
Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan
Won 5 Oscars

A commoner named William Wallace retaliates against English rule in 13th Century Scotland. Banding together with his friends and loyal countrymen, Wallace seeks to overthrow their oppressors in a fight for freedom.

Everyone knows the name of William Wallace thanks to Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. His famous line as the warrior Wallace sums up the movie's desperate and courageous tone: “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.” This history-inspired epic is one of the greatest stories told on film in modern history.

Note: This film is rated R for violence, contains sexual content and language, and should not be viewed by children. Strong caution is advised.

2000s

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences and frightening images.
Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Sean Bean, Cate Blanchett, Billy Boyd, Orlando Bloom, Bernard Hill, Ian Holm, Dominic Monaghan, John Noble, John Rhys-Davies, Miranda Otto, Liv Tyler, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Karl Urban, David Wenham
Won 11 Oscars

In a desperate attempt to rid Middle Earth of the evil besetting it, hobbits Frodo and Sam continue their perilous journey to Mount Doom where they must destroy the Ring. Friends and allies meanwhile must defend themselves against a wicked onslaught that threatens the very existence of man.

The Return of the King is the crowning achievement of director Peter Jackson’s work to bring revered, Christian author J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy to the big screen. The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers build an incredible cinematic climax to this third installment in the blockbuster franchise. Supported by an all-star cast (as you can see by the list of actors above), The Return of the King is a compelling tale of loyalty, bravery, and faith. This is one trilogy no one should miss.

Note: Watch the extended version for the best viewing experience (the original version does not explain as much as the extended).

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