The "Best" Best Picture - Ranking the Top 10 Oscar Best Pictures
Now that I have done and watched all 95 Academy Award Best Pictures, I am pretty immersed in a lot of diversity, from war films, biographical stories, romantic comedies, mob action, etc. Some took me on a wild ride, while others slapped me with reality. Watching all 95 Best Picture winners was a treat and enjoyable.
I look forward to watching it for the next couple of years until the Academy decides to cut it off.
In my opinion, not all the winners deserve to be recognized. They may not be the worst films of all time, but others deserve it. However, a lot of them are absolute bangers. An actual cinematic experience that captivates you even if you are not in the mood to watch a movie. I looked back into all of them and took my time trying to check my initial reaction. Many times, I was wrong and may have misjudged.
Here are the top 10 Best Picture winners ranked from tenth to first.
10. Casablanca (1942)
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman
Director: Michael Curtiz
Casablanca is regarded by many as one of the greatest films of all time. It deserves its accolades and recognition despite premiering more than 80 years ago. To me, Casablanca's main strength is the excellent cinematography. It has one of the best lighting techniques that captures me even though it is shot in black and white. The characters are great, and the two main characters, Rick and Ilsa, are perfect. It does not sugarcoat the romantic aspect of the film but shouts them by using symbols throughout the plot. This is a true juggernaut movie in terms of cinematography, acting, and writing.
9. The Apartment (1960)
Starring: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine
Director: Billy Wilder
The Apartment might be Billy Wilder's magnum opus—his most outstanding work compared to his other classic, Some Like It Hot. What's truly magnificent about this film is the screenwriting and the setup of the characters. They steal each other's lines, inserting parallels and hooking you up with anticipation. Everything about the way this movie is written is a chef's kiss. It has a magnificent up-and-down structure of storytelling. It's so unique for a romantic comedy this good to be considered the best. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine stole this show from me. Their chemistry is superb, and this film is an absolute legend.
8. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Starring: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins
Director: Jonathan Demme
The Silence of the Lambs may be the only horror movie to win Best Picture, but it lived up to its standards. It excels in the way the actors portray their roles. Anthony Hopkins' performance as Hannibal Lecter is genuinely one of the best. He brings in the right psychological impact this movie brings. Needless to say, The Silence of the Lambs also has a story way ahead of its time. It redefined the horror genre to center on the story and not with its crazy spooks or jump scares. It does not have supernatural horror, but it thrives on how it has a psychological impact. After watching this movie, I felt like this brought me to a different world.
7. Parasite (2019)
Starring: Song Kang-Ho, Lee Sun-Kyun
Director: Bong Joon-Ho
Parasite is the first non-English Best Picture winner. A South Korean film that doesn't feel like the typical drama mainly shown today. When it won the Best Picture award, it shook many heads in the Academy because they thought it would always dominate English-language films. There are a lot of things to praise about this movie. The brilliant cinematography, lighting, camera angles, symbolism, characters, story, writing, and more. Parasite deserves to be recognized because this film is of world-class quality. It didn't win because it is famous but because it is one-of-a-kind. If I will be teaching in a film school, I should show them the brilliance of Parasite.
6. Schindler's List (1993)
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley
Director: Steven Spielberg
You cannot judge Schindler's List for its harsh portrayal of the times during World War II, specifically under the German Empire. This movie may be propaganda material to stop the growing anti-semitism, but it tugs your heart out and cut it to pieces. It's one of those movies you want to watch but may not want to view again because of the harsh subject matter. It's so realistic and tragic that sometimes you want to look away at your screen. The icing on the cake for this movie is the ending when the surviving Schindler Jews are shown together with the actors and actresses that portray them. I have to hand it down to all the cast of this film. It has a crazy history and is definitely one of the best.
5. Rebecca (1940)
Starring: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
The film Rebecca by the master of the thriller genre, Alfred Hitchcock, brings in a story that aged so well that it captivates me just by thinking about it. This is the perfect definition of a movie twist done right, prevalent in most Hitchcock films. Despite removing the murder plotline from the original material due to restrictions, it didn't take away much of its story. The ambiguity of the characters and their background made this film for me. Not mentioning the first name of the female lead and just Mrs. De Winter makes it more thrilling—a true legend of a movie from a legendary director.
4. The Godfather (1972)
Starring: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Diane Keaton
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
I know it's been said by many, but 1972's The Godfather is among the best of all time. A film that's so influential that it revolutionized mob or gangster movies. Everything about The Godfather is a chef's kiss from the characters, story, cinematography, screenwriting, acting, musical score, etc. Those dark shots that signify the emotional feeling of uneasiness and fear captivate you like no other. Its well-structured plot as Michael Corleone's seemingly peaceful life until he was asked for "an offer he can't refuse" was brilliant. Marlon Brando's top-notch acting is superb. The fake punches, eye acting, action, and death sequences. It's without a doubt the best of the best. If you rank this as your top movie of all time, I would not even argue.
3. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Starring: Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom
Director: Peter Jackson
Although the winner was the last of the trilogy, I felt like the whole franchise won as a whole. This movie glamorizes the use of technology to enhance the cinematic feeling further, and it worked well. It is a true spectacle that even if you judge it by today's standards, it still stands at the top. However, its greatness is not due to the use of visual effects and computer graphics. It's the perfect icing on the storyline—the perfect ending to a great movie franchise that inspired many to try and edge this one. It contains the ideal musical score, fight scenes, drama, humor, character buildup, and, most of all, worldbuilding. Some may try to outlast this gigantic movie, but none have come close.
2. It Happened One Night (1934)
Starring: Clark Gable, Claudet Colbert
Director: Frank Capra
Sometimes you need simplicity. It Happened One Night may have a short runtime compared to other Best Picture giants, but it drove me to its storyline—a romantic comedy of legendary proportions. It has a very predictable story, yet I laughed my heart out and sometimes even squeezed it slightly. Even though it has a crazy history with the lead actors hating their roles, their chemistry is superb. So many scenes stuck with me: the spanking, the hitchhiking scene, the jumping on the water, the Walls of Jericho, the eating of carrots, etc. It Happened One Night may be a very old movie, but it is a hundred years ahead of its time. The feeling I had after watching this is the same feeling I get after eating my favorite food. This is what a Hall of Fame quality film is.
1. Godfather Part II (1974)
Starring: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
The Godfather Part II picked it up a notch for me compared to the first movie. I would say this is the best of the best. This is what it means to watch something that is such a high caliber that it shoots through the roof. The way the story was told from the perspectives of Michael Corleone and a young Vito Corleone is so brilliantly effective that I never felt confused about the plot. I felt complete as it provided answers to my questions after watching the first installment. It gave a sense of fulfillment that the story is somehow complete. This movie again thrives with character development, cinematography, and screenwriting that has a more emotional connection than the first. Both The Godfather and The Godfather Part II were great movies that deserve all the accolades they won now and the praise they have today. To me, they are a testament to great filmmaking.
Some notable mentions:
Although 85 films didn't make it to the top 10, I must mention some films that deserve recognition. They may not have reached the top, but they are also significant:
All About Eve (1950)
Everything, Everywhere, All At Once (2022)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
No Country For Old Men (2007)
The Lost Weekend (1945)