Roll out the red carpet and brush up on your best pretentious hot takes, it’s time that we talk about the Oscars. All of them.
Maybe you’ve been crafting your personal all-time ranking your whole life, chasing down every year’s Best Picture noms in theatres and meticulously crafting a categorical bracket for your betting ring with your old Tisch crew. Or, maybe you’re just a film buff who knows everything from Wings to Parasite.
Whether you’re here to expand your cinematic palette entirely, or just here for a bit of an amuse bouche of gems you might have missed, we’ve gathered some crème de la crème picks for all kinds of moviegoers. These are the best Oscar-winning films of all time.
The 2020 Oscar sweep heard ‘round the world, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite is a dark dramedy thriller arguably unmatched in last year’s Oscar race, thanks to its innovative storytelling. Illustrating an ideological meditation on capitalism, the film follows a lower-income family in South Korea as they steadily invade a wealthy family’s home via household jobs.
12 Years a Slave
Adapted from the 1853 memoir of Solomon Northup, 12 Years a Slave follows Northup’s journey from his birth as a free Black man in New York through his eventual kidnapping and enslavement in 1841. Director Steve McQueen became the first Black filmmaker to ever win Best Picture with this period drama.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
No, not La La Land. Best Picture winner Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins, has cemented itself as a monumental title in American cinema both for its captivating storytelling and gripping subject matter. The film follows Chiron, a Black gay man, from his childhood in Miami to his adulthood, as he struggles with his identity.
Arguably the most acclaimed title from the godfather of film himself, Francis Ford Coppolla, The Godfather is the first installment of the American crime trilogy based on Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name. The film’s star-studded ensemble portrays the family of mafia boss Vito Corleone, whose “family business” is in the midst of being passed down to his isolated son.
The Silence of the Lambs
On the Waterfront
It Happened One Night
In the true rom-com style of beloved American filmmaker Frank Capra, It Happened One Night is the screwball yet sensible story of one young woman’s disobedient evasion from her stifling father and journey to love. Disgruntled by his daughter’s recent marriage, the father takes off with her on his yacht. However, when she jumps ship, she washes up with her sights upon new horizons… and an unexpected lover.
Kramer vs. Kramer
Before Streep and Hoffman were two of the most notable names in Hollywood, the duo were Ted and Joanna Kramer: a New York City couple facing the harsh trials of lost love in this heart-wrenching story of their custody battle. If Marriage Story pulled on your heart strings, this classic will rip them out.
West Side Story
Scored by Leonard Bernstein with lyrics from Stephen Sondheim, Broadway adaptation West Side Story is the peak of musical cinema. A modern-day spin on Romeo and Juliet, the musical follows the romance of Maria, a Puerto Rican immigrant, and Tony, a white American in the rival gang of Maria’s family and friends. Amidst battles between the Sharks and the Jets, Maria and Tony battle for their right to love in peace.
Often lauded as one of the greatest and most referenced films in history, Casablanca stars Humphrey Bogart as an American expatriate residing in the Morroccan city of Casablanca during World War II. When his old flame, played by Ingrid Bergman, comes back into town with her new husband, a Czech resistance leader, the expat must make the sacrifice of deciding whether to aid the couple in their escape from the city.
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Our modern day Wizard of Oz, Peter Jackson’s adaptation of the fantasy classic is a masterclass in epic storytelling. With unparalleled special effects, touching performances, and large-scale battle sequences, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King took home Best Picture for the entirety of this nine-hour trilogy. It was also the first fantasy film to ever be awarded the Academy’s highest honor.
No Country For Old Men
For filmmakers as beloved and acclaimed as Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, it is high praise to say No Country For Old men is their greatest achievement so far. The pitch-perfect adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name is a modern American classic. Along with Best Picture and Best Director(s), Javier Bardem became the first Spanish actor to win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role of the terrifying assassin Anton Chigurh.
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