Re-Awarding the Academy Award for Best Picture (1980-1984)

“And the Oscar goes to…white men running on a beach in slow-motion? Oh sorry, we mean, uh, Chariots of Fire! Wait, really, they chose that?”

~Loretta Young in 1982


This week we have shared with you two articles that went through every Best Picture winner in the Academy Awards in the 1970s to determine which films get to keep their trophy, and which have to give them up to another film. How did we determine this? Hindsight and our own extremely arbitrary opinions, of course. Frankly, we were a bit surprised and disappointed that there wasn’t more chaos in reassigning the awards from the 70’s.

Five movies kept their Oscars and with the exception of one year, the highest IMDB user rating came away with the revised award. Today, we continue our “oh shit, this is taking a lot more work than we expected when we pitched it” series by delving into the first half of the 1980s, year-by-year, with the expectation that the 1980s’ increase in film production quality (and, you know, cocaine) will lead to more insanity.

And here we again will remind you what to expect from this article. We list each year by the actual year of the Academy Award ceremony (meaning that for each year, we are talking about films released the prior year. The 1980 award, for example, covers only films that came out in 1979).

We will also say what other films were nominated, and will show the IMDB user rating next to each film’s name. We are aware that IMDB users are not necessarily the most logical bunch, and the rating doesn’t necessarily dictate what films we choose, but it is a factor, albeit one of many. In some instances, we will have found that the Academy got it right the first time, but more often than not we’ll be giving the award to another film, be that film previously nominated or not.

So let’s dive in, nose first, to the 1980s and take away some hard-earned Oscars!

Re-Awarding the Academy Award for Best Picture (1980-1984)


What Won 

Kramer vs. Kramer (7.8)

kramer vs kramer

We would not have blamed you for forgetting that Kramer vs. Kramer once won the Oscar for Best Picture. You’re more likely to remember that Hoffman won for Best Actor, or that this was Meryl Streep’s second Oscar nomination (after The Deer Hunter) and first win. But at the end of the day, it’s a well-acted movie about a custody battle that aged pretty decently because it tried to focus on both the male and female perspective of the situation. Which, you know, is cool and all. Like, it’s a fine movie, we guess. But it must not have been up against any like, all-time great movies or anything, right?

What Else Was Nominated

Apocalypse Now (8.5, 50th top rated movie all time)

apocalypse now

Oh are you shitting us? Only one of the best films of all time, depicting the horrors of the Vietnam War as a retelling of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness? The film that Roger Ebert called “the best Vietnam film, one of the greatest of all films”? Yeah, like, we don’t need to rehash the cultural significance of this film, we’re just going to give them their statue.

All That Jazz (7.8)

all that jazz

Bob Fosse only directed five movies, but was nominated for Best Director for three of them (All That Jazz, Cabaret and Lenny, the last one being a movie you hadn’t heard of until we mentioned it in the second article in this series). While Cabaret is probably his best known film, many still consider All That Jazz a pretty important cultural film. It received four Oscars, winning the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and got added to the National Film Registry in 2001. Stanley Kubrick called it “the best film I think I have ever seen” which, like, calm down there buddy. While it’s definitely a worthwhile nominee, it’s not coming close to taking the statue away from Apocalypse at this point.

Breaking Away (7.7)

breaking away

This is a coming-of-age dramedy that puts a lot of focus on a Midwestern 19-year old becoming obsessed with an Italian cycling team and pretending to be an Italian exchange student, which is…interesting? It got pretty good reviews, but like, come on there’s a reason this is the first time you’re hearing about this movie. It’s not exactly required watching these days.

Norma Rae (7.4)

norma rae

Just about every year there’s going to be some film that no one really watches, but they still know about it because of an iconic performance that won an Academy Award (sometimes, this category includes forgettable films that featured just-pretty-good performances that finally won a beloved actor their Academy Award, but it’s the same concept.)

This year, that movie was Norma Rae, which like, is fine? Like, it’s about Unions and stuff, but mostly this is the movie of Sally Field busting her ass for an Oscar and getting it. It was her first nomination, and win (she would go on to be nominated twice more, winning once.) It’s a well done film, but again, people don’t know it for the film itself, just the performance.

And the Revised Winner is…

Apocalypse Now

apocalypse now

This one is a straight up injustice that must be righted. It’s crazy that Kramer won out, and even crazier when you consider that other films that were not nominated that came out in 1979 include The Life of Brian and fuckin’ Alien. We could be assholes and joke that Caligula should have won an Oscar here, but yeah, we’re giving this one to Coppola to reimburse him for the film that literally almost killed him.


What Won 

Ordinary People (7.8)

ordinary people

This movie looks and sounds like it should be insanely boring, but it actually ages pretty well. It’s got some great performances, and for being a very Sad Drama, it’s well executed. Not quite something you’d watch and assume, “Yup, best picture, give it the statue” but it’s fine, you know? Hell, even its name tells you not to get your hopes up. “Listen, this is gonna be a movie about people, but like, ordinary people, okay? So like, don’t get, like, don’t get too crazy about it.”

Full disclosure, our movie guy on staff actually watched Ordinary People while playing the Antenna Cradle level of GoldenEye on his N64 on an adjacent TV (we know that’s way too many TVs for a room, we’ve tried telling him that), so when he started telling the rest of us his synopsis of the movie, he for a half second thought that the kid had a gun and was on some jobsite and his dad had to chase him down and like, talk him out of it or something. Which honestly sounds like a more entertaining movie than what we actually ended up with, which was like “teen tried suicide once, it didn’t take, everyone cries, and the shitty mom leaves at the end.”

What Else Was Nominated

Coal Miner’s Daughter (7.5)

coal miner's daughter

This is one of those movies you’ve heard of, but probably haven’t seen. It’s a biopic of Loretta Lynn, and Sissy Spacek got an Oscar for it. Like, it’s frankly rude to ask us to try to talk about every “biopic that only won an Oscar for acting” because that’s like, three movies every damn year. Anyway, as far as musician-based biographical films go, this one is fine.

Raging Bull (8.2, 124th top rated movie all time)

raging bull

Speaking of biopics that only got Oscars for Acting (technically not true here, while De Niro won for Best Actor, it also won for Best Film Editing), here’s a film that is so good most people don’t even view it as a biopic. Roger Ebert called it the best film of the 1980s, and one of the ten greatest films of all time. Numerous lists and publications have it listed as one of the best films ever. Granted, a lot of the narrative behind the legacy of Raging Bull was that it got beaten by Ordinary People, and back when Martin Scorsese had a handful of classics under his belt but no statue, this was one of the films that “should have” won.

But should it have won? So far, this is the best film of all the nominations we’ve seen. Let’s see what else it was up against.

Tess (7.3)


So okay, this is a post-rape-guilty-plea Roman Polanski movie that is about, and we quote, “A strong-willed young peasant girl [who] becomes the affection of two men.” It stars basically no one you have heard of, its lead actress met Roman Polanski when she was 15, and worked on the film as a 17-year-old and her love interests were in their late 20s and early 30s. And again, this is Roman Polanski Don’t Click This Link Please we’re talking about here. So yeah, not a lot about this movie aged well. The costumes were nice, we hear?

The Elephant Man (8.2, 147th top rated movie all time)

 elephant man

David Lynch has never won an Academy Award, which is both kind of surprising and also the least surprising thing ever. The Elephant Man is probably the most “oh this makes sense” thing that David Lynch has ever done, which makes it the least Lynchian film imaginable.

That said, it is an endearing classic, and it also left its mark on Hollywood by being the impetus behind the creation of the Best Makeup and Hairstyling category the following year. It’s a worthy film for the Academy Award, and it’s a shame that it did not win any of its eight Academy Award nominations. But that’s not going to change, as Raging Bull is still the best nominated film this year by a large margin.

And the Revised Winner is…

Star Wars Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (8.8, 13th top rated movie all time)


Ha ha! Surprise, bitches! Yes! Finally, a dose of anarchy! Not only did 1980 see the release if Empire, it also gave us The Shining (which, stupidly, actually was nominated for Razzie awards). Considering the extremely mediocre nominations we see represented in the Oscar race, it’s crazy that neither of those films got any noms. So we’re making an extremely non-Academy-like movie and giving this to Empire Strikes Back, which, come on, is the best Star Wars film that will ever be made.

Yes, it’s hard to overlook Raging Bull, and no, we’re not going to give David Lynch an Oscar, no matter how much you Twin Peaks devotees demand it. But can you really deny that any of those films were more important overall than The Empire Strikes Back? Sure, you could deny it if you’re one of those people who loves being wrong all the time, but most sane Americans can comprehend this decision, even if they don’t like it.

So yes, the Star Wars original trilogy ends up with two Academy Awards for Best Picture under AFFotD’s Oscar management. Spoiler alert, there’s no way in hell we’re giving a statue to the damn Ewoks.


What Won

Chariots of Fire (7.2)

chariots of fire

It’s a movie about white British people running competitively. Pass. Like, the only reason we still remember this movie is because of it’s theme song. Literally everyone who has seen this movie and was born after the year of 1980 has only seen it because their history teacher was hungover one day. Again, pass.

What Else Was Nominated

Atlantic City (7.4)

atlantic city

Here we have one of eight films to be nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay to lose every nomination. So that’s something? It’s a romantic crime film starring Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon, which we feel we needed to point out because we know we sure as hell have never heard anything about this movie. It did well with critics (it has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with 31 reviews in, which is a fairly high number for a movie released this long ago), but isn’t really a cultural cornerstone or anything. Like, you see Susan Sarandon’s boobs in it we think? Anyway, next film.

On Golden Pond (7.7)

on golden pond

On Golden Pond is best remembered as the last film role of Henry Fonda’s career (for which he won his only Academy Award) as well as for being the last nomination and win for Katharine Hepburn. Some also know it for the whole “Jane Fonda playing Henry Fonda’s daughter, but guess what, they’re father-and-daughter in real life too.” Otherwise, it’s your typical Sad Drama. We don’t need to be handing out statues to any more Sad Dramas.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (8.5, 41st top ranked movie all time)


We keep forgetting that Raiders actually got nominated for Best Picture, because not nominating a movie that would end up becoming one of the most important cultural films of the decade is a very Academy move. But it was nominated! It won four Oscars, all of which were technical awards, but also got nominations for Best Director, Cinematography and Music. If we have to explain this movie to you, well, we’d be very puzzled as to why you’re reading this article to begin with. It’s widely considered one of, if not the, the best action-adventure ever, and it’s definitely one of the crowning achievements in Spielberg’s impressive career.

Reds (7.5)


Reds won Warren Beatty an Oscar for Best Director and also confirmed for your grandfather that Warren Beatty is a “goddamn Commie lover.” It’s based on the life of John Reed, a journalist who chronicled the Russian Revolution, and it’s definitely one of those movies that could not be made today. It cost the equivalent of $95 million dollars (making back $40 million, or $120 million when adjusted for inflation), but it also ran three hours and fifteen minutes, including an intermission. Yikes. No wonder we’ve been meaning to see it for years but just haven’t found the time yet.

And the Revised Winner is…

Raiders of the Lost Ark


Second place here probably belongs to Das Boot, which also came out in 1981, but come on, it’s got to be Raiders. If we asked you to choose between watching Chariots of Fire again or Raiders of the Lost Ark you would say, “That’s a trick question, only one of those is an actual movie, oh right, wait, is that the ‘do dodo do dooo dooo’ movie?” We’d have picked Raiders even if it hadn’t been nominated, but by nominating it in the first place, the Academy basically made the decision for us.


What Won

Gandhi (8.1, 226th top rated movie all time)


We’ve literally seen this kind of movie like, forty times, only nowadays no one casts English actors in brown face pretending to be Indian. Like, admittedly, he was born Krishna Pandit Bhanji, and Ben Kingsley is just what he chose to give himself the whitest, most British stage name ever, but like, this is the kind of movie you see On Demand and go, “Oh wow, a Best Picture Oscar winner. What’s that? It’s a three hour long biopic? Oh shit, nevermind, John Wick: Chapter Two got added to HBO Go, let’s watch that!”

What Else Was Nominated

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (7.9)


Another iconic Spielberg film that would go on to hold the mantle of highest grossing film of all time, it’s listed as the greatest science fiction film of all time according to a Rotten Tomatoes survey (so, hardly scientific). Still, everyone knows this movie, everyone loves this movie, it definitely could make a strong case to take home a statue here.

Missing (7.8)


So this movie, if you haven’t seen it (you haven’t, it made $14 million off a $9.5 million budget back in the day, but hey, it did win the Palme d’Or at Cannes) is basically Taken, only with Liam Neeson replaced with Jack Lemmon, the “sex trade” aspect replaced with “shady politics in Chile” and all violence replaced with “going around trying to ask people in the government what really happened.” It won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, and both Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek were nominated for their efforts, but this is another one of those films that remains relatively forgotten.

The Verdict (7.8)

the verdict

The Verdict saw Paul Newman receive his seventh losing Academy Award nomination (he wouldn’t win until 1987’s The Color of Money) and that’s pretty much what it’s best known for these days. It’s a courtroom drama, which, yawn, about a medical malpractice case, which, like, not to be insensitive to all those affected by medical malpractice, but double-yawn. It did well in the box office, and among critics, and it’s a movie you probably have heard of or even seen. Like, it’s no E.T. but it’s a solid film in its own right.

Tootsie (7.4)


It’s funny that a movie that was, essentially, the spiritual ancestor of Juwanna Mann got a Best Picture nomination, but hey it was the 80’s and Dustin Hoffman in the 1980’s was the Academy Award equivalent of basically how Merryl Streep has been her whole career.

Tootsie centers itself on one daring, Earth-shattering question: “Lol, what if this feller had to dress like a lady?” You’d be within your rights to think it would age about as well as a tuna sandwich made in the 1980s by coked out Hollywood assholes, but once you set aside the problematic aspects at play, it actually isn’t a bad comedic film. It also was the second highest grossing film of that year, making $177 million and selling nearly 57 million tickets in the box office, so it was a cultural as well as a critical smash hit. And it does pass the ”do you know about this movie” test.

But are we actually going to consider giving Tootsie the Academy Award here? Hell no.

And the Revised Winner is…

Blade Runner (8.2, 150th top rated movie all time)


This one is close. It’s honestly between Blade Runner and E.T. But we think we’ve got to stick to our guns on this one, mainly because Blade Runner 2049 is already making lists of “movies that should have won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2018.”

We’re fully expecting to get some blowback on this one, but we feel pretty happy about our decision here. E.T. is one of the best science fiction films of all time, but Blade Runner actually changed how filmmakers handle dark, broody science fiction. Despite being a bomb at the box office originally, it was added to the National Film Registry in 1993 (a year before E.T. would be added), and has influenced television shows such as Battlestar Galactica (the newer one, obviously), films such as Ghost in the Shell, and even the general genre of cyberpunk.

So we’re going with Blade Runner. We can’t see the look on your faces right now but we’re pretty sure you’re mad. Well, nothing you can do about it! Onto the last award ceremony of this article!


What Won

Terms of Endearment (7.4)

terms of endearment

Are we the only ones who consistently get this movie and Ordinary People mixed up? It’s like the Bill Paxton/Bill Pullman problem most people have, only somehow even whiter. Anyway, this is a Sad Drama written, directed and produced by James L. Brooks, who won three Oscars this year, but is a man you still know best for his role producing and developing The Simpsons. Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson also won Academy Awards for this (Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor), but this is one of those movies that you only really watch these days if you’re a completist who wants to see every movie that’s won Best Picture.

But we’re sick of Sad Dramas coming in and taking Oscars, so this one is probably going to go away. But to who?

What Else Was Nominated

Tender Mercies (7.4)

tender mercies

Welp, it’s not gonna be this one. Robert Duvall won the Academy Award for Best Actor in this movie, which is neat we guess? Frankly we’re surprised this is the only movie he’s won for, because, again, we haven’t heard of it. Though it does have Wilford Brimley in it, which always makes us laugh to think about the time we took Wilford Brimley seriously as an actor.

The Big Chill (7.2)

big chill

You know how some movies are almost better known for their soundtrack? Like, your Garden States where like, it’s a film that occurs around a funeral, and a lot of “adults trying to figure it out” stuff happens, but everyone’s like, “Man, killer soundtrack.” Actually, in describing Garden State we 100% described The Big Chill. Literally, people liked the music in this so much they released two soundtracks. And it went 6X Platinum. But yeah, so it’s old friends reuniting at the funeral of their friend who committed suicide, and it’s not going to win. But yeah. Good soundtrack, we hear.

The Dresser (7.7)

the dresser

Come on now, you can’t just pick a random noun and expect us to believe it’s an Oscar nominated movie. Wait, what? This is a real movie that actually was nominated? Well at least tell us that this isn’t the plot. “An effeminate personal assistant of a deteriorating veteran actor struggles to get him through a difficult performance of King Lear.”

What? That is what the movie is about? Wait, the dresser in The Dresser is the dude who handles quick-changes for the actor? We honestly thought it was a piece of furniture that like, contains secrets to a hidden dark past or some Oscary-y shit. What the hell is this movie?

Anyway, it got five Oscar nominations, including two for Best Actor in a Leading Role (for Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay) and we did not know it existed until this very moment.

The Right Stuff (7.9)

the right stuff

On one hand, The Right Stuff  definitely falls into the category of “movies you’ve heard of, unlike that fucking Dresser movie.” Roger Ebert picked it as his top film of 1983, and one of his top films of the decade. And it ages well, faithfully adapting Tom Wolf’s fascinating account describing America’s experimental rocket programs and, eventually, the Mercury space program.

On the other hand, the movie lost money at the box office and its studio went bankrupt shortly after. Though financial success doesn’t really have too much influence on our arbitrary Oscar rules. The real question is, does The Right Stuff (stops ourselves from making the horribly obvious joke) warrant the Academy Award for 1984?

And the Revised Winner is…

Scarface (8.3, 105th top rated movie all time)


This year was…kind of a dud. Like, there were a few good movies but nothing really historic feeling, you know? Most of the movies that we remember from this year were good, but not exactly Best Picture-worthy. 1983 had Return of the Jedi which, listen, we’ve given the Star Wars series a lot of love in these revisions, but giving Jedi an Oscar is a bridge too far. Other movies from this year are Cujo, A Christmas Story, Risky Business, Flashdance and Trading Places.

But then again, none of the nominations really feel like slam dunks. Of the films, The Right Stuff is probably the most deserving. But we’re going to go with the “dude” approach and pick Scarface, a frankly imperfect movie that still has cast the largest cultural shadow of any film from the year. After all, there has to a be a reason why posters of this movie have been on Freshman dorm room walls for the past 30+ years, right?

So screw it. While critics initially panned the movie, time has been kind to it, and now it gets an Oscar.

So what other movies are we going award in a shallow attempt to build up our credibility among our fraternity readers out there? Stay tuned next for part four of our Academy Awards, Re-Awarded series as we finish out the 1980’s.


5 responses to “Re-Awarding the Academy Award for Best Picture (1980-1984)

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