I’ve been thinking and writing about movies long enough to remember a time when the selections by the Academy were actually in sync with the pulse of the people, but, if you’ve been paying attention, you know that hasn’t happened in quite some time. Box office behemoths such as “Rocky,” “Titanic,” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” have been replaced by niche passion projects such as “The Artist,” “Moonlight,” and “Parasite.” When you combine the move away from populism with the fact that Hollywood appears to be more interested in virtue-signaling than letting filmmakers operate without fear of the social media shitstorm, it’s not hard to see why the Oscars are struggling to survive.
The list you’re about to read, however, is a reminder that things weren’t always this bad. There was a time when I and millions of other people believed that the best movies could appeal to both audiences and critics alike while still making you feel like a better person for having seen them. Roger Ebert once said that cinema is “a machine that generates empathy,” which is perhaps what is missing from our current climate most of all.
As we await tonight’s 95th annual Academy Awards, here are my 10 favorite films to win Best Picture to this point:
“On the Waterfront” – Directed by Elia Kazan (1954)
“In the Heat of the Night” – Directed by Norman Jewison (1967)
“The Godfather” – Directed by Francis Ford Coppola (1972)
“The Godfather: Part II” – Directed by Francis Ford Coppola (1974)
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” – Directed by Milos Forman (1975)
“Annie Hall” – Directed by Woody Allen (1977)
“Platoon” – Directed by Oliver Stone (1986)
“Schindler’s List” – Directed by Steven Spielberg (1993)
“No Country For Old Men” – Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen (2007)
“Parasite” – Directed by Bong Joon-ho (2019)