It seems that each year, fewer and fewer people take the Academy Awards seriously as the great night in entertainment it is incessantly promoted as. One could suggest that the lack of viewer enthusiasm is due to the films that ultimately win the Best Picture prize. It doesn’t help that the choices from the last five ceremonies were not crowd-pleasers: the lowest-grossing Best Picture winner of all time (The Hurt Locker); a silent film that never found its way into the Top 10 at the weekend box office (The Artist); a raw glimpse at American slavery (12 Years a Slave).
I don’t expect viewership to increase this year, even though the Best Picture race is actually a race. Due to a producers’ and directors’ guild victory for Birdman, Boyhood is no longer the frontrunner it had been a month ago. Regardless of which of those two films win – and it is quite unlikely that anything else triumphs – there is bound to be some eye rolling from the public.
The day after the ceremony, there is the inevitable backlash directed toward any winner. “I cannot believe that Film X won Best Picture! Nobody is going to remember Film X in five years, while Film Y will go down in history as a classic!” angered moviegoers will say, seething into whichever Internet forum he or she selects. These online prophets can try looking into the future to make themselves feel better, but they really do not know the lasting effects of a film’s legacy.
Regardless, we can look back at history and argue whether the Academy’s top choices have stood the test of time. Often, the choices were poor. Anyone who thinks Crash was the most egregious winner in Oscar history probably hasn’t slogged through Broadway Melody of 1929. Meanwhile, there is often a tendency to award the grandest films (1956’s Around the World in Eighty Days, for instance) than the greater ones (Giant won Best Director that year but lost the top prize.)
However, there are still many fantastic Best Picture winners from the first few decades of Academy Awards ceremonies. It makes one optimistic that several of the most recent winners will be looked at admirably, too. So, for those interested in catching up with some championed titles on Turner Classic Movies or from your local video store (if you still have a local video store), here are nine classic, formidable Best Picture winners you may not have seen.