by Public Service Associate Luke
Roll out the red carpet, tailor your suit, and pour the drinks! The Academy Awards have arrived, and the Oscar campaign season has begun. What movies will walk away with the biggest awards of the night? What actors will be snubbed? What blockbuster movie will win the technical categories but be ignored in the “Big Six” (my guess this year is Dune). The Oscars have been the most prestigious awards in the film industry for nearly a century. Movies from all over the visual medium have taken home some sort of recognition, and there is never a bad time to catch up or rewatch on the best films from the past decades.
There are so many Oscar-winning movies to choose from. Rather than try and bring attention to each Best Picture winner or loop in the dozens of movies by theme, I decided to select some notable movies from each decade. While there are plenty of movies to borrow and watch, these are my favorites.
The Thirties were the first full decade to celebrate the Oscars, and has no shortage of great hits. While the obvious pick is 1939’s Gone with the Wind, I would like to highlight the Clark Gable classic It Happened One Night. Gable and co-star Claudette Colbert are fantastic in this pre-Hays Code romantic comedy, playing on typical relationship roles with unforgettable and hilarious dialogue.
The Forties began with a Best Picture win for Rebecca, Alfred Hitchcock’s only Oscar win. Based on the classic Daphne du Maurier novel, Rebecca is a thrilling Gothic romance, and Hitchcock brings the book to life with his trademark suspenseful direction. Ghosts and mystery plague the characters and the viewer, who question everything right to the end.
In 1957, Bridge on the River Kwai took home the Best Picture win. One of the greatest war movies ever made, Bridge on the River Kwai has an unforgettable cast and is directed by the master of the epic, David Lean, who would also win a few years later for Lawrence of Arabia. The film examines themes such as honor, individual survival, and shifting belief systems in the face of wartime terror.
The Sixties was the decade of musicals winning the top prize, with three taking away the Oscar. My pick of the three is Sound of Music, if just on music and memorable scenes alone. Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews co-star in this tale of family and hope in the time of the terrible Nazi push into Austria. Just by typing “The hills are alive..”, I guarantee your brain sings along.
The Seventies is a juggernaut decade. Both Godfather movies, Paul Newman and Robert Redford’s second outing as film history’s best bromance, underdog Rocky, French Connection’s car chase and the exceptional Jack Nicholson performance in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest all graced movie theatre screens during the decade. My pick for these years is, of course, Godfather Part Two. One of the greatest movies ever made and the greatest sequel ever made, Godfather Part Two surpasses its already impressive original with career performances from Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, and masterful direction from Francis Ford Coppola. This movie changed film for the better, and gave gangster movies a hold on the American moviegoing public.
1986 saw the Oscar go to Platoon. A semi-autobiographical account of writer-director Oliver Stone’s time as a soldier in Vietnam, this movie has an all-star cast and tells the harrowing story of a group of soldiers who reevaluate what their purpose is, whether in Vietnam or life itself. Morality and the conduct of the war are brought to question by two very different men, leaders of their platoon and opposites when it comes to the idea of being a soldier.
The Nineties gives us another difficult year, with huge hits in Forrest Gump, Unforgiven, and the emotionally-crushing Schindler’s List. My pick for this section however goes to Silence of the Lambs. Sweeping the awards up during its run, Silence of the Lambs took home five awards in all of the “big” categories, and is the only horror movie to win Best Picture. Jonathan Demme’s direction makes watching the film a terrifying experience, and Anthony Hopkins controls the film, even with his limited screen time.
The early aughts began with Gladiator, one of Ridley Scott’s and Russell Crowe’s best movies, and Crowe would prove to be the actor of the next few years, with his movies nominated for three years in a row, two of them winning. However, this is also the decade of Lord of the Rings, with the third installment, Return of the King, sweeping the entire awards show and taking home a record 11 Oscars, winning every category for which it was nominated. The ending of one of the greatest fantasy stories ever created, Return of the King still holds up as an example of how to properly conclude a saga (ahem…Disney).
The last decade finally began to see a push to recognize the work of international artists, and in 2019, the Korean film Parasite took home the Best Picture award, becoming the first non-English language film to do so. Bong Joon-Ho’s tale of class struggle and family is as horrifying as it is hilarious. Saying any more than that would dampen the experience, so if you haven’t checked out this masterpiece, make sure to grab it when you can.
All of the movies I mentioned have been awarded the greatest prize in the movie industry. However, many of them would not be possible without stuntmen and women putting their bodies on the line for our entertainment. Stunt work is an area of the film industry that does not have an award, and yet many movies would not happen without them. The people who work in these types of roles would be deserving of Oscars recognition. The book that brought this underrated field to my attention is The True Adventures of the World’s Greatest Stuntman by Vic Armstrong, the man who filmed stunts for Indiana Jones, James Bond, Superman, and more.
I have obviously skipped over plenty of movies, and the Oscars are more relevant than just their Best Picture winners. I highlighted a few of the dozens of films to be nominated, and they are some of my favorite movies. The library has these films and more, so if you want more Oscar winners, feel free to browse through our movie section.
- Gone with the Wind dir. by Victor Fleming | dvd
- It Happened One Night dir. by Frank Capra | dvd
- Rebecca dir. by Alfred Hitchcock | dvd
- The Bridge on the River Kwai dir. by David Lean | dvd
- The Sound of Music dir. by Robert Wise | dvd
- The Godfather Part II dir. by Francis Ford Coppola | dvd
- Platoon dir. by Oliver Stone | dvd
- The Silence Lambs dir. by Jonathan Demme | dvd
- Gladiator dir. by Ridley Scott | dvd
- Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King dir. by Peter Jackson | dvd
- Parasite dir. by Bong Joon Ho | dvd
- The True Adventures of the World’s Greatest Stuntman by Vic Armstrong | print