“Don’t you take away my Academy Award you dirty goddamn j…”
~Mel Gibson Right Before We Hung Up the Phone On Him
We feel like we don’t really need to rehash this another time. The Oscars are sometimes wrong, so we went ahead and made them right. Go here, here, here, here or here for the first five segments of this feature. Once again, the years listed are for the year the ceremony took place, not the year the winning film was released. And the number in the parentheses after each name is just the IMDB user rating, which is one of many factors we take into consideration when doling out the final prizes.
So strap in, once again, for AFFotD’s…
Re-Awarding the Academy Award for Best Picture (1995-1999)
Forrest Gump (8.8, 12th top rated movie all time)
Okay, so according to IMDB users, Forrest Gump is the 12th best movie of all time, which is laughable. The same Forrest Gump that has a 72% on Rotten Tomatoes? Like, it’s a fine movie, even though it shares the mantle with Rain Man for peak “Actor pretends to be mentally challenged to get an Oscar.” It’s overly-sentimental Baby Boomer nostalgia fish food, but it’s a fine movie. It won six Academy Awards and was nominated for seven more, which at the time seemed like the right call. As time has passed though, the movie increasingly seems like a parody of the entire Baby Boomer generation, from it’s “Oh back in the days when music was good” soundtrack (don’t get us wrong, it’s a good soundtrack, in the same way that an Oldies station playing songs from the 60s and 70s is a good radio station, but how the fuck did that “dad’s mix tape of songs he liked in college” compilation sell 12 million copies?) to the whole “man, back in Nam” section to all the “here’s a cultural reference you know, and a made up origin story for it” gags littered throughout.
That said, this movie is a cultural powerhouse. Centuries from now, people will be spouting “Life is like a box of chocolate” and you still can’t start running down a semi-crowded sidewalk without some asshole (and if you are the person who still does this, be aware, you actively ARE a huge asshole) shouting, “Run, Forrest, run!” But is it the 12th best film of all time? We’d respectfully disagree.
What Else Was Nominated
Four Weddings and a Funeral (7.1)
Ah yes, the beginning of our brief but intense infatuation with the charmingly befuddled Hugh Grant, the lead character of this film who attends five social events (*in the most dry sarcastic British voice* “oh my whatever could those be”) and blah blah the search for love, all that. This was a little quirky movie that ended up blowing up unexpectedly, kind of the Juno of the mid-90s, which is a comparison we immediately regret making. Honestly, it’s a strong Best Picture nomination, in that it’s a good movie that everyone still knows. In fact, this year had a lot of insanely good movies coming out. Including the next nominee…
Pulp Fiction (8.9, 8th top rated movie all time)
Pulp Fiction came out of nowhere to become a phenomenon. We don’t need to remind you of that, but we would like to point out that it’s the first Indie film to ever gross $100 million at the box office, it won the Palme d’Or, and earned Academy Award nominations for Quentin Tarantino, John Travolta, and the only career nominations for Uma Thurman and Samuel L. Jackson (yeah we know it’s weird that Travolta has another nomination to his name, but we forget how much people liked Saturday Night Fever in the 70s).
Anyway, we’re torn on whether we should give the Oscar to this movie. On one hand, sometimes it’s best not to encourage Quentin Tarantino. On the other, this is probably still his masterpiece, a movie that ages decently well (with the exception of the scene where Tarantino uses the n-word like a million times) and it definitely is a cultural touchstone. Like, this movie is one of those prestigious movies that feels like it should have an Oscar (well, it has one for Best Screenplay, but you know what we mean). It’s definitely better than a good 75% of the movies that have won Best Picture, including Forrest Gump, but is it the strongest contender of this year?
Quiz Show (7.5)
Ralph Fiennes really had a strong mid-90s, with Quiz Show coming a year off of Schindler’s List and with his second (and most recent) Academy Award nomination coming up with The English Patient in 1997. It’s a strong enough stretch to let you forget he was kind of phoning it in the early 00s (Maid in Manhattan, anyone?). Quiz Show was a perfectly enjoyable movie about the quiz show scandal surrounding the show Twenty One in the 1950s (basically, it turned out the shows were giving contestants answers to help them cheat, and people lost their shit about it).
It didn’t particularly perform at the box office (making only $25 million off a $31 million budget), but garnered solid reviews (it’s 96% on Rotten Tomatoes). It’s a very entertaining movie, and definitely the most enjoyable film Robert Redford has directed (Ordinary People is arguably his best, but it’s not exactly a day at the zoo. He’s also directed, yeesh, The Horse Whisperer and The Legend of Bagger Vance. Woof). This is a film that would get nominated any year it came out, but would never really win.
The Shawshank Redemption (9.3, #1 top rated movie all time)
Crap, now we got a tough decision on our hands. Shawshank Redemption is probably the best prison drama in American history. Granted, it’s held in better regarded now than it was when it was released (and no, IMBD users, this is not the best movie ever made, handle your shit guys). Shawshank was actually a bomb when it came out, making only $16 million on a $25 million budget. It still was able to get seven Academy Award nominations (for everyone who was all “Lady Bird is the best movie to never win an Oscar” keep in mind that Shawshank went o-fer itself) including Best Actor for Morgan Freeman. The award season buzz helped make Shawshank the most rented film of 1995, and in 1997 TNT picked up the rights to the film and aired it almost daily, which is part of the reason pretty much everyone has seen this movie. And now it’s one of those iconic movies that make people look at you like a crazy person if you say you’ve never seen it.
And the Revised Winner is…
The Shawshank Redemption
Jesus film screening Christ. 1994 was an insane year for movies. Like absolutely killer. You know what else came out this year that didn’t get nominated? Leon: The Professional (IMDB’s 27th top film all time), The Lion King (47th), Clerks, Natural Born Killers, Interview with the Vampire, Hoop Dreams, Ed Wood, and, of course, D2: The Mighty Ducks. What a fucking year.
This was an insanely difficult one to decide on. As much as we ragged on Forrest Gump, it still is, in its own sappy sentimental way, a classic. And the fact that Pulp Fiction still doesn’t end up with an Oscar even in hindsight is a tough bone to swallow. But if it really does come down to Pulp Fiction’s series of loosely connected vignettes and Shawshank’s uplifting decades-long linear story. And if we really want to try to justify it through arbitrary methods (who are we kidding everything about this article series is arbitrary) the most recent Top Films list from the American Film Institute has Shawshank at 72, Forrest Gump at 76, and Pulp Fiction at 94. But whatever, this is a gut call, and our gut is giving it to the guy who got fired from The Walking Dead.
Braveheart (8.4, 74th top rated movie all time [but only a 68/100 on Metascore])
What Else Was Nominated
Apollo 13 (7.6)
You can’t ever really tell when a film has been directed by Ron Howard, but the moment you are told he directed it you’re like, oh yeah that explains it. He’s not what you’d call a showy director, he just gets the story out and stands out of the way. We’re not trying to say he’s white bread, but like, maybe a tasteful light wheat? One that doesn’t really overpower the sandwich’s filling? It sounds like we’re being harsh, but honestly Howard’s touch works wonders for Apollo 13, where you don’t spend time wondering “oh how did they do those effects” or “wow look at that subtle cinematography.” There’s a story, and it’s a gripping one, of Apollo 13’s failed moon landing, and Howard tells it to you like it is. Straightforward, entertaining, and with the pretty solid philosophy of “we’ve got Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton and Ed Harris at the helm, let’s let them drive the ship.”
Honestly, if this won Best Picture, we wouldn’t be mad about it. It’s one of those films based on true events that, even though you know exactly how it turns out, you still are on the edge of your seat the whole time. That does take some skill and finesse.
What’s funnier, that Babe was nominated for seven Academy Awards, or that its screenplay was written by George Miller, a.k.a. the man who brought you Mad Max? It’s gotta be the latter, right? Also, Babe lost any chance of getting a re-awarded Oscar the second they released Babe: Pig in the City.
Il Postino (7.7)
It’s very rare for a foreign film to get nominated for Best Picture, so we don’t know the rules on the nomination process. Like, was The Postman not allowed to get nominated for Best Foreign Language Film because it got a Best Picture nomination? Because of its five nominations, Best Foreign Language Film was not one of them. Anyway, if you haven’t seen it, it’s about a postman who forms a relationship with Pablo Neruda through delivering his mail, and in their conversations he develops a love for poetry, which he uses to win the affections of a local woman. It’s very Italian, and was released to universal acclaim.
One crazy story about this film, though, is that its star (Massimo Troisi, who was nominated for Best Leading Actor) who co-wrote and co-directed the film, needed to have heart surgery because of a chronic heart condition he had after bouts of rheumatic fever in his younger years. He put off the surgery to complete the film, and died of a massive heart attack the day after filming was finished. That doesn’t really affect our consideration for whether this film takes Braveheart’s Oscar or not, but we still think that’s pretty wild.
Sense and Sensibility (7.7)
It’s a Jane Austen adaptation directed by Ang Lee with a cast filled with Oscar winners. Like, it was going to get nominated, and we were going to not bother to talk about the plot or production since it’s a Jane Austen movie, so we know the answer was “it’s about people trying to get married in Victorian England, and we want to take a nap just thinking about it.” This might sound like a joke, but we honestly believe it– every Jane Austen adaptation uses the same script, only with the names changed so no one can pick up on it.
And the Revised Winner is…
Toy Story (8.3, 94th top rated movie all time)
This one was amazingly difficult, even though none of the movies actually nominated were even in the discussion. And this is an aside but, be honest, don’t you sometimes get Braveheart and Dances with Wolves mixed up? Like, there’s really no reason why you should confuse the two, but they both kind of feel like the same movie in their own weird way, right? Anyway, this year also saw the release of Se7en (22nd), The Usual Suspects (26th), Heat (123rd), Casino (145th), Before Sunrise (208th), Twelve Monkeys (242nd), Leaving Las Vegas, and Showgirls. Er, we mean Mortal Kombat. Er, we mean Congo. Er, we mean The Net. Okay, listen, a lot of really good and really shitty movies came out in 1995 (oh God, remember how problematic While You Were Sleeping was, and how everyone just like, let it happen anyway?)
Once we said fuck off to Braveheart, it was a three-way race between Toy Story, The Usual Suspects and Se7en, three classic films that somehow got did not get nominated because the Academy needed to recognize a movie where this fucking happens. And in a series of articles where we’ve had to make a lot of hard decisions, this might be the hardest decision we’ve had to make so far. Both Se7en and The Usual Suspects have iconic endings (you’re currently shouting “WHAT’S IN THE BOX” right about…now) but…
Pixar’s gotta get an Oscar that counts, right? Consider the following—no animated movie ever has won an Academy Award for Best Picture. In fact, only three have even been nominated—Beauty and the Beast, Up and Toy Story 3. Toy Story literally changed how we do animated films. When was the last time you saw a hand-drawn animated film? Like, The Simpsons Movie maybe? Everything is CGI animated now, and that’s largely due to the success of Toy Story and of Pixar in general. And also, look at this clip. This is the opening scene of a movie that is literally 23 years old, and it looks like something that could have been animated today. Meanwhile, here’s a special-effects scene from the SAME YEAR. Keep in mind, when this movie came out, the Oscar for Best Animated Feature didn’t exist. It’s only a thing because Pixar was making movie so good that people were like, “give those fuckers some statues.” So we’re calling it here. Give those fuckers a statue. Toy Story, congratulations, you’re the first animated film in history to win an Academy Award.
The English Patient (7.4)
Fun fact—roughly 75% of people watching The English Patient have also fallen asleep while watching The English Patient. They’re definitely not keeping their Oscar.
What Else Was Nominated
Fargo (8.1, 160th top rated movie all time)
Is Fargo the best Cohen brothers movie? They won Best Picture for No Country For Old Men and it felt like the right call at the time, but, real talk, is Fargo better? It only won two Oscars this year, a Screenplay award for the Cohen brothers and a Best Leading Actress win for Frances McDormand, but a lot about this movie this year seemed like one of those “well, these guys are young and new to the scene, they’ll have plenty of chances to get Oscars later.” Which, granted, did happen (they’ve won a total of four Oscars, with 14 nominations to their names. Well, 13 for Joel Coen, who randomly wasn’t included in the Best Picture nomination for Fargo.)
But still, this might just be, top to bottom, the best movie they’ve done. Is that enough to get them a statue this year?
Jerry Maguire (7.3)
Every time a popular movie like this that is more on the comedy side of things gets nominated for an Academy Award, it feels extremely out of place, when really, we should have more lighthearted and comedic films nominated. We’d much rather see Jerry Maguire get a statue than another generic Sad Drama about a thin white lady getting cancer, you know?
This Cameron Crowe romance is famous for Cuba Gooding Jr. (who won the film’s only Oscar, which is just our daily reminder to you that Cuba Gooding Jr. won an Oscar, and now he’s the guy from Snow Dogs) shouting, “Show me the money,” and for Renee Zellweger’s, “You had me at hello.” Tom Cruise even got an Oscar nomination for this movie, and as far as romantic dramedies go, this is probably one of the most timeless.
So yeah, you know what, this totally deserved to get a nomination this year. Probably won’t win, but it at least earned some consideration.
Secrets & Lies (8.0)
Okay so we have no idea what this movie is, but that be because A- it’s hella British and B- we’ve literally never seen a Mike Leigh movie. It’s like 95% on Rotten Tomatoes? So that’s something? It’s about a successful black woman who find out that her birth mother is a poor white woman. We really have nothing to add here? Like, you know it’s not going to win.
Why are there so many Oscar films about piano players? Shine, The Piano, The Pianist, hell there was even a piano player in that nominated film from the 70s Five Easy Pieces that we’d never heard of until writing this article. Like, is there a reason for this? Did a bunch of people watch Amadeus and go “yup, that’s the key to award season success. Sex it up with a piano!” Okay really of those movies we mentioned, only one of them involved, you know, sexing it up, but still. Anyway, most people only remember this movie for the fact that Geoffrey Rush got an Oscar for Best Actor for this film, which allowed Pirates of the Caribbean to claim they had an Oscar winner on their cast.
And the Revised Winner is…
You could make a case about giving this to Trainspotting (8.1, 155th top rated movie all time), Primal Fear, Jerry Maguire or even That Thing You Do!(just because comedy films should be represented more in the Academy Awards, and also our staff loved that film growing up), but we’re going to hand this to the Cohen brother’s darkly comedic murder story, which currently is considered a classic piece of cinema, while The English Patient is used to help drug users come down off their meth high.
By the way, 1996 was a super weird year for enjoyable but kind of good-bad movies. Like, none of these would or should ever be considered for an Academy Award but this year saw the release of Independence Day, Twister, Mission: Impossible, The Rock, Space Jam, Kingpin, Mars Attacks!, The Cable Guy, Happy Gilmore, and Swingers. It’s basically a copy of Anchorman and Old School away from being the bookcase shelf reserved for DVDs of every frat room in 2006.
God, this movie was a phenomenon when it came out. Eleven Oscars. Fourteen nominations. Somehow managing to show Kate Winslet’s boobs (well, one of them) while keeping a PG-13 rating, thus effecting the puberty of an entire generation of kids too chicken-shit to sneak into R-rated features. It was the highest grossing film of all time when it came out, and no one really discusses how weird that is. Like, it was a 190 minute movie about a rich woman fucking a poor guy on a boat that sank. And people saw it dozens of times in theaters, even though you know exactly zero people who ever bought it on DVD. We could tell you “Oh yeah, Titanic is at least streaming on Netflix currently” and you’d probably believe us because no one has bothered to re-watch that movie in ten years. Hell, we didn’t even bother to check to see if it is on Netflix before writing that joke! Is it? We don’t care!
It currently sits at 88% positive on Rotten Tomatoes, which is both higher and lower than you expected it to be, and ultimately feels about right? Like, this is an 88% movie. It’s good, it’s a spectacle to watch, there’s that scene where that dude BONKS off the propeller which always sticks with a person, but a lot of the movie does fade away once you watch it, leaving you with a handful of moments, like the sex-car-hand, or just Billy Zane in general. It honestly doesn’t feel wrong that this is a Best Picture winner. But let’s take a look at the rest of the field.
What Else Was Nominated
As Good as It Gets (7.7)
Helen Hunt and Jack Nicholson won Oscars for Best Actor and Actress in this movie, which is that specific kind of comedy that the Academy actually allows themselves to acknowledge. It’s directed by James L. Brooks, it involves an obsessive-compulsive writer, a gay neighbor (who, *tugs at collar* gets beaten, which is like, the impetus for most of the movie), and a single-mother waitress. Sure, it’s a comedy, but also it has sad things, which the Academy demands. Oh, and it has Jack Nicholson playing an asshole who you learn to love. Who has…like a romantic plot with Helen Hunt who is literally 25 years younger than him?
Anyway, um. The performances are good, and any non-Sad-Drama getting an Oscar nomination is something we can always support.
Good Will Hunting (8.3, 101st top rated movie all time)
Good Will Hunting gave us many gifts. The “It’s not your fault” speech. “How about them apples.” Robin William’s first (and only) Academy Award, which sounds like such a surprising sentence until you look at all the Oscar-worthy performances he gave in the previous decade. The careers of Matt Damen and Ben Affleck. This is a Sad Drama, sure, but it’s one of those Sad Dramas that is filled with literally dozens of speeches and monologues that still resonate today (read as: college drama students are still using them for play auditions to this day). It also earned $225 million on a $10 budget, and is one of only two films that Gus Van Sant has received an Oscar nomination for (the other was Milk). In a year where the biggest film of all time won the Academy Award, is it possible that this little film that could was actually the best movie of the year?
L.A. Confidential (8.3, 106th top rated movie all time)
The cast for L.A. Confidential, a 1950’s neo-noir classic, was insane. You had Kevin Spacey a good ten years before he became a known pariah, Russell Crowe when he was still skinny, Guy Pierce shortly before he peaked in Memento, Kim Basinger at her most femme fatale (in an Oscar-winning turn) and Danny DeVito, who is reliable in any decade.
When done correctly, suspenseful crime thrillers tend to hold up pretty well, and L.A. Confidential is no exception. It currently has a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and has been added to the National Film Registry. Also, the shoot-out at the end remains one of the most exciting shoot-out scenes in recent cinematic history (non-John Wick division), so props where props are due.
The Full Monty (7.2)
Oh yes, the movie famous for having a bunch of male strippers (but not like, Magic Mike male strippers. Pudgy ones) that everyone assumed has dicks in it, but which doesn’t actually have dicks in it. By the way, in our research to confirm that there were no dicks in the movie, we came across this lovely list of parental guide issues from IMDB which range from hilarious (“A man is seen in a telephone box with what is implied to be a penis enlarger”) to kind of “um…bigoted much?” (“2 men stair at each other lovingly it is implied that they are gay and later you see the same 2 men holding hands.”)
Anyway, it’s the British dick movie.
And the Revised Winner is…
Good Will Hunting
The crazy “people seeing it dozens of times in theaters” success of Titanic and Avatar have led us to believe that at some point James Cameron sold his soul to ensure that all his movies make all the money in the world. That’s not to say that Titanic isn’t, like, fine, but [insert 90’s stand up bit of “come on, the movie took longer than the boat did to sink, hyuck hyuck huck”]. But that doesn’t mean that our choice of Good Will Hunting wasn’t a difficult one to make, since we had to leave out a lot of worthwhile movies (all together now “IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.”) This year saw the release of Princess Mononoke (63rd) as well as (serious suggestions) Boogie Nights, Jackie Brown, Amistad, Gattaca and (non-serious suggestions), Face/Off, Men in Black, Chasing Amy, Con Air, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Starship Troopers, and Air Force One. Actually, shit, should we give this to Air Force One?
No, no we shouldn’t. Titanic is losing its award because it’s Rose’s fault Jack died. Shout out to Jude Law, who should have been at least nominated for Best Supporting Actor in Gattaca (he wouldn’t have won it though, because that year was the year that Robin Williams finally got what was his). Also, man, action films in the 90’s were kind of great, huh?
Shakespeare in Love (7.2)
We’re still angry about this.
What Else Was Nominated
God 1998 really was a big year for British period pieces with Joseph Fiennes. Listen, this movie was good, but literally no one cares about the movie now. The driving force of Elizabeth was 100% about trying (unsuccessfully ☹) to get Cate Blanchett an Academy Award. You know why we think that? Because in 2008 they made a sequel to this movie, which was hot garbage (like, 35% on Rotten Tomatoes) and Blanchett still got an Academy Award nomination for the role (She’s one of only 6 people, and the only actress, to be nominated twice for playing the same part).
But no one remembers anything about this film, other than, “Oh yeah, Blanchett was really good in that.”
Life is Beautiful (8.6, 25th top rated movie all time)
Okay, so now we’re even more confused about the fact that Il Postino didn’t get nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, because Life is Beautiful won that award (as it should have) while still getting a Best Picture nomination (as it should have). It’s a Holocaust film that toes that line between “let’s have some humor here” and “but like, it’s…it’s the holocaust, yo.” Most remember it for Robert Benigni’s over-the-top acceptance speech…which you mistakenly thought was for his Best Actor speech. It wasn’t. He was pretty gracious when he won Best Actor (beating out Edward Norton for American History X and Tom Hanks for Tom Hanks Should Have Won a Fucking Oscar for Saving Private Ryan), but he went all “jump around like a crazy person” when he won Best Foreign Film (which he should have assumed he’d win, since the movie was nominated for Best freaking Picture). But you remember that whole thing. That was when he got all “I want to kiss all of you, look at me climb these chairs!”
Anyway, this would have been a better pick than Shakespeare in Love. Just saying.
Saving Private Ryan (8.6, 29th top rated movie all time)
Here’s why the Oscars are bullshit. Stephen Spielberg was riding a twenty year streak of absolutely crushing it, but had never won an Academy Award until 1993 when he made, arguably, the greatest film depicting the Holocaust of all time. Then, just five years later, he comes out with arguably the best World War II film of all time, and (despite winning Best Director) he lost out on Best Picture because A- you just know Academy voters were like “Well we just gave him for an Oscar about stuff in the 40s”) and B- Harvey Weinstein ran a huge campaign for Shakespeare in Love which felt gross at the time and only feels grosser now.
The Thin Red Line (7.6)
Wait, so every film nominated this year was either about World War II or Elizabethan England? That’s…unusual, right?
Anyway, The Thin Red Line is probably the most well-known and well-received Terrence Malick movie, and it was his first in twenty years. You know it’s a Malick because it’s super pretty and super long and opens with like, a fucking alligator awash in sunbeams or some shit. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and if you haven’t seen it there’s a fair likelihood you thought it was about the Vietnam War until you read that sentence about it being set in World War II. For some, it’s the best war movie ever made, for others it’s a bit too schizophrenic to be a real classic.
And the Revised Winner is…
Saving Private Ryan
Yes, American History X (32nd) should have been nominated this year, and The Big Lebowski (166th) and The Truman Show (202nd) got fucking robbed, but nothing is more outrageous than Shakespeare in Love, which, like, we aren’t going to make another Weinstein joke here because, well, you know, but the fact that this movie beat out one of the greatest World War II movies of all time is insane. Insane! This has long been viewed as one of the greatest injustices in Academy Award history, so here’s where we’re going to make things right.
Oh, and also, Jim Carrey’s performance in The Truman Show gets Robert Benigni’s Oscar for Best Actor. That’s his now. He deserved it.
Anyway, we’ve only got one more decade of 20/20 hindsight to dole out, so get yourselves ready for some re-awarding of some Oscars in the naughty aughties.