Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Ranking all 88 (!) best picture winners

I promised you a wrap-up of my Audient Auscars series in the form of a ranking of all 88 best picture winners, and now I've delivered.

And Memorial Day in the U.S. seemed like a good time to do it, as I will certainly be looking back on -- remembering -- the experience of watching a lot of highly regarded movies.

Because there's a lot to say about the films in the blurbs that follow, I'll limit my up-front commentary to a couple quick bits:

1. The order of the films is based on my rankings in Flickchart, not an organic order chosen specifically by me for this purpose. I probably could have done that, but I implicitly trust Flickchart to do it for me, even if it's not "perfect." I'll try to note the films that I think are too high or too low as they come up.

2. Not wanting to spoil the surprise about my #1, nor have the poster for my #88 appearing up at the top of this post, I've decided to go with the poster in the exact middle of my rankings. Since there are an even number of films, I had another choice for the middle of the rankings, but went with this one because a) it has a picture of an Oscar statue on the poster, and b) the title seems to speak perfectly to a project involving good movies watched over a number of years. (I'd say that the years I've spent watching movies are the best of my life, except I think that makes me sound a bit pathetic.) Also, it's Memorial Day and that's a movie about World War II.

3. The number listed next to each film is its ranking on Flickchart out of 4289 films. (Which is nearly 250 fewer films that I've actually seen -- I am just very behind in adding them.) I thought about listing each film as xxxx/4289, before I realized I'd be writing 4289 88 times, 87 of which would be redundant. However, I have included a percentile, to give you another quick way to assess where this film sits relative to all 4289 I've seen (or, er, ranked).

Suggestion: If you get overwhelmed, just note the order of the titles and skip the blurbs. If something really shocks you, read the blurb.

Don't think we need to delay any more, do you? Let's get into it:

88. Gigi (1958, Vicente Minnelli) - 3838 (11%)

This would not have been my guess for worst best picture, but I certainly did not like it. There's one song in it that I think kind of redeems it (no, not the creepy "Thank Heaven for Little Girls"), but overall, this is a morally suspect piece of patriarchal bullshit -- simultaneously frivolous and damaging to social progress.

87. Around the World in 80 Days (1956, Michael Anderson) - 3656 (15%)

The fifties were just awful for best picture winners, weren't they? This was what I thought might be a leading contender for worst best when I saw it last year as part of this series. (In fact, my bottom three were all ones I had neglected until this series.) I found this movie dramatically inert, culturally insensitive, and in all other ways full of meaningless bluster. The remake is like ten times better, and it's not even all that good.

86. Tom Jones (1963, Tony Richardson) - 3628 (15%)

Probably the worst looking best picture winner, and one of the oddest. As I said in my post about it, it reminded me more of an episode of Benny Hill than a period piece with some pretensions toward seriousness. Even my love for Albert Finney could not lead me to consider this as any more than a strange tonal misfire and one of the more improbable best picture winners of all time.

85. The Lost Weekend (1945, Billy Wilder) - 3586 (16%)

Another that I thought was a likely contender for my least favorite. What was Billy Wilder thinking? I probably need to heed my own advice about movies from other eras, remembering that certain things that seem cliche were actually brand new back then, and this story about alcoholism is probably a shining example of that. But my goodness is it heavy-handed, and oh so overwrought.

84. Crash (2005, Paul Haggis) - 3213 (25%)

From one type of shining example to another, this is the shining example of the movie everyone agrees should never have won best picture. The weirdest thing about Crash is that I remember stumbling out into the daylight and saying to my wife (then girlfriend) that it was probably the best movie I'd seen so far that year. That was in the summer so it wasn't saying as much, but what a thought to have about a movie you would grow to hate upon the slightest consideration of it after the fact. (The huge amounts of backlash certainly helped in that regard.)

83. How Green Was My Valley (1941, John Ford) - 3209 (25%)

The first movie on this list that earns its spot just by boring me. Before I ever saw this, an ex-girlfriend referred to it as "How Long Was My Movie," and I don't think I ever fully got that pre-damning out of my head. It is indeed a long slow movie that ultimately just left me shrugging. (Interestingly, it's less than two hours long.)

82. The Life of Emile Zola (1937, William Dieterle) - 3054 (29%)

One of the other worst-looking best picture winners, this one is pretty much totally lacking in artfulness and dynamism. It's basically the meeting of a courtroom movie and a biopic, and it's kind of the worst of both. Yawn.

81. The Broadway Melody (1929, Harry Beaumont) - 2659 (38%)

I graded this one majorly on a curve, giving it points for the era in which it was made (or rather, not subtracting points from it for that reason). It's not really a good movie but I found it appealing enough. This is the one that prompted them to change the rules, as one of the producers of the film was intimately involved in the selection of best picture (or something like that, I can't remember and I can't be bothered to look it up).

80. Cavalcade (1933, Frank Lloyd) - 2583 (40%)

Another somewhat boring choice from Oscar's first ten years, this movie at least has a certain grandiose quality as it charts a British family through some four or five decades of British history. I had a limited fondness for it.

79. The Great Ziegfeld (1936, Robert Z. Leonard) - 2544 (41%)

This is one of those you'd have thought I wouldn't have seen until this series, but in actuality I caught this about ten years ago (on the same day that I saw another best picture winner, From Here to Eternity, for the first time). It's pretty dull but at least it has some good dance numbers. Probably should be ranked right around the same spot as Emile Zola -- I kind of think of these as similar films, even though they aren't.

78. Marty (1955, Delbert Mann) - 2516 (41%)

The first movie on this list that I know a lot of people love. People I respect, too. But I just couldn't get into this story of a schlub falling in love. I probably should see it again. The thing I still remember about this movie most is the thing I knew about it before I even saw it -- that it was the answer to one of the questions in Robert Redford's Quiz Show.

77. An American in Paris (1951, Vincente Minnelli) - 2510 (41%)

The first of two movies on this list that I ranked in my other ranking post this past week. As I said there, I just don't like Vincente Minnelli. (Who also directed my least favorite best picture winner, Gigi.) I probably owe this one a rewatch, but I already know I still won't be impressed by the fact that the movie just abandons its narrative for an extended expressionistic dance number at the end. Should definitely be below Marty (but is only six spots above it).

76. Going My Way (1944, Leo McCarey) - 2327 (46%)

Corny and well-meaning. Definitely the first movie on the list I feel considerably more positively than negatively toward, but pretty forgettable nonetheless. But it did give us the song "Would You Like to Swing on a Star?", so there's that.

75. The Hurt Locker (2009, Kathryn Bigelow) - 2233 (48%)

This is too low. Plain and simple. However, I do still have considerable problems with the narrative of this film, changing protagonists as it does and going in a generally unsatisfying direction over a series of vignettes. It deserves better than being in my bottom 15 best picture winners ... but maybe not much better.

74. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930, Lewis Milestone) - 2218 (48%)

This barely counts because I barely remember watching it in junior high, or some unfathomably long time ago. In fact, this could be the first best picture winner I ever saw. But barely does count on my movie list, because I did indeed watch it. And I barely remember being bored. Methinks I have been ranking it on reputation rather than actual enjoyment.

73. No Country for Old Men (2007, Joel & Ethan Coen) - 2199 (49%)

I admire the heck out of many aspects of this movie, more so after I saw it a second time. But I still don't like the choices the Coens make in the final third of this movie, what to show and what not to show, and how not to really end. Some people think the third act of this movie is perfect. Well, they can choose to rank it higher than I do.

72. Platoon (1986, Oliver Stone) - 2008 (53%)

This movie didn't do all that much for me, honestly, when I saw it in March. I can probably blame having seen a bunch of movies about Vietnam already, but I still have a hard time figuring out why this was such a hit. I also think the death seen of [spoiler alert] is laughably melodramatic.

71. It Happened One Night (1934, Frank Capra) - 1967 (54%)

This has all the hallmarks of a movie I should see again, especially since I've seen (and loved) several other Frank Capra movies since I saw this. But even as much as I love Clark Gable, this one was pretty unmemorable for me.

70. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952, Cecil B. DeMille) - 1964 (54%)

This was one of the bigger surprises of Audient Auscars. It's still not a particularly high ranking, but I was far more entertained by this than I expected to be. It was cheesy in a good way.

69. Mrs. Miniver (1942, William Wyler) - 1909 (55%)

Law & Order might have thought it invented "ripped from the headlines," but Mrs. Miniver got there some five decades earlier. I suppose there were a number of World War II movies that were actually released during World War II, but this still seemed like a pretty bold stroke. Not that memorable otherwise, though.

68. Million Dollar Baby (2004, Clint Eastwood) - 1893 (56%)

I was probably more grumpy about this winning than No Country winning, but for some reason I rate it higher -- perhaps because No Country beat one of my favorite movies of the past 15 years, There Will Be Blood, while Baby only beat the still-very-good The Aviator. It's a good movie, it's just not my good movie. Didn't connect with it emotionally. I do like to make fun of it by saying "mo chuisle" at random times, as though that Irish phrase is some indication of its unconvincing sentimentality.

67. Gentleman's Agreement (1947, Elia Kazan) - 1875 (56%)

This one came to me with a lot of negative attention upfront. Someone (my wife?) characterized it as didactic and overwrought. Given that kind of introduction, I don't remember all that much about it, even though I saw it within the last ten years. Liked it better than I thought I would, given the advanced billing. The subject is anti-semitism, an important topic especially for that time.

66. The Sting (1973, George Roy Hill) - 1770 (59%)

One of the first best picture winners I saw that I remember being disappointed by. (Also, the best picture winner from the year I was born.) The story of a complicated long-con just wasn't that long for my memory, despite the star wattage of Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

65. All the King's Men (1949, Robert Rossen) - 1727 (60%)

This seems to have gotten ranked a little higher than I meant to rank it. I liked this movie fine, but even less than a year after seeing it I remember very little about it.

64. Out of Africa (1985, Sydney Pollack) - 1671 (61%)

I don't think I really thought all that much of this movie when I saw it, but I'm also pretty sure I thought I missed something, or that I was too dense to figure out why it was so good. Its reputation has come to be that of one of the more forgettable best picture winners, so I was probably right on in the first place. For some reason, I'm still ranking this at a very respectable percentile.

63. Oliver! (1968, Carol Reed) - 1523 (64%)

This is one of the others I saw prior to becoming a cinephile. I have a real fondness for it, even if I don't know if that fondness is based on anything real. I should probably have some "more!!" of this before I know how I really feel about it.

62. Forrest Gump (1994, Robert Zemeckis) - 1513 (65%)

I like Forrest Gump pretty well. I think I'd even see it a second time, if only to marvel at some of the technical tricks they pull off. But it's hard to avoid the backlash on this one.

61. Gladiator (2000, Ridley Scott) - 1450 (66%)

Gladiator might deserve to be ranked a bit higher, but not a lot higher. I know one Flickcharter who has this ranked at #1, which is obviously too high. But it's a pretty rousing spectacle. Side note: Russell Crowe, who looks kind of like me, has never looked more like me than in some of the scenes of this movie.

60. My Fair Lady (1964, George Cukor) - 1410 (67%)

A pretty highly ranked movie from this past year's challenge ... but not quite as highly ranked as I thought it might be. I was really charmed by this, especially coming off the awful Gigi, which has some of the same dynamics (and the same composer and lyricist, Lerner and Loewe). One of those movies that further awakened me to the talents of the great Audrey Hepburn.

59. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979, Robert Benton) - 1371 (68%)

If you can believe it I actually reviewed this movie. No, not in 1979 -- I was six then. I reviewed it in helping flesh out the review section of All Movie Guide. This is a really solid film if not for one factor that really gives me pause -- it's much more his story than hers. The title promised something more balanced. I'd rank My Fair Lady above it at the very least.

58. Terms of Endearment (1983, James L. Brooks) - 1329 (69%)

I have to assume I'm ranking this on reputation as a best picture winner because I'm not particularly stirred by this movie. Pretty maudlin. Jack Nicholson is fun though.

57. Gandhi (1981, Richard Attenborough) - 1276 (70%)

One of the last films I watched for the challenge, and I really liked it. I suppose it suffers some of the problems with your typical bloated Oscar biopic, but Kingsley is great and the key moments in his life were filmed expertly (and were real eye openers to me in some cases).

56. A Man for All Seasons (1966, Fred Zinnemann) (72%) - 1222

I don't remember a lot about this film, which I saw maybe 15 years ago, except that I really, really liked it. Would like to see this one again. Fifty-sixth does not really seem like a suitable position for this, though the percentile is decent.

55. Chariots of Fire (1981, Hugh Hudson) - 1210 (72%)

Here's a film that would be ranked lower if I had re-ranked it after watching it again five years ago. Thinking I loved it (because I always loved the score), I discovered in 2011 that it's at least somewhat pedestrian. But it still holds that comparatively lofty rank because I never re-ranked it. Might drop ten spots on a re-rank.

54. Ordinary People (1980, Robert Redford) - 1186 (72%)

Here's another one I am probably ranking on the general prestige of having won best picture. It's probably not as overwrought as I remember it ... but I remember it as pretty overwrought.

53. 12 Years a Slave (2013, Steve McQueen) - 1155 (73%)

I wanted to like 12 Years a Slave more than this. Some of the aesthetic and dramatic choices are absolutely enthralling, and there are immensely powerful moments. But I remain bothered by the structure of the film, which switches from Solomon's story to Patsy's story. That doesn't quite work.

52. In the Heat of the Night (1967, Norman Jewison) - 1101 (74%)

A really incendiary examination of racism in the south among fellow police officers. Should be ranked higher.

51. Cimarron (1931, Wesley Ruggles) - 1077 (75%)

Okay, here's a major ranking anomaly. I do count Cimarron as one of my bigger surprises in Audient Auscars, but this is ridiculous. Like Chariots of Fire, should probably be at least ten spots lower. But this is a surprisingly good early frontier epic. And it still doesn't make my top 50 best picture winners, so ... yeah, maybe it's ranked alright.

50. West Side Story (1961, Jerome Robbins & Robert Wise) - 1053 (75%)

At first blush I thought this classic musical was a bit small-scale, but its heartfelt performances ultimately won me over. One of the more pleasing viewings from Audient Auscars.

49. Casablanca (1942, Michael Curtiz) - 1034 (76%)

The film most desperately in need of a revisit on the whole list. I saw it for the first time about ten years ago, and it just didn't really grab me. I need to have a second Casablanca reckoning, stat.

48. The Last Emperor (1987, Bernardo Bertolucci) - 1002 (77%)

Was quite taken with this, my last viewing in Audient Auscars. Seems like it should be higher, especially than the next couple ahead of it on the list.

47. The French Connection (1971, William Friedkin) - 994 (77%)

Since my overriding takeaway from The French Connection was a feeling of disappointment, it should not be ranked this high. I love the 1970s and I love that car chase and I love the film's aesthetic, so I think I think I should like this more than I do. It would benefit from either a revisit or a reranking.

46. Wings (1927, William A. Wellmann) - 981 (77%)

Like Cimarron, this has an inflated ranking, but I did quite like it when I watched it in a month of Clara Bow movies a couple years back. It's fun and rousing and quite an accomplishment for the era in which it was made. It deserves a high ranking ... just maybe not this high.

45. You Can't Take It With You (1938, Frank Capra) - 976 (77%)

I don't remember this film all that well but I remember finding it joyously satisfying. Capra does that to me generally, I guess. Would like to see this again.

44. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946, William Wyler) - 916 (79%)

This one had a pretty big impact on me. Not only was it a profound consideration of men returning from war, but what about that incredible performance by Harold Russell -- who really lost his hands in World War II.

43. Midnight Cowboy (1969, John Schlesinger) - 895 (79%)

I respect this movie a lot more than I actually like it. Music and setting and an elegiac ending go far.

42. Spotlight (2016, Thomas McCarthy) - 806 (81%)

Last year's best picture winner is an incredibly solid film that I probably fall just short of loving. I may watch it again, but I may not watch it again. I do cherish it, though.

41. Amadeus (1984, Milos Forman) - 763 (82%)

I saw Amadeus so long ago that I really only still carry snippets of it with me. But those snippets are very positive. Been meaning to rewatch this one for some time.

40. The King's Speech (2010, Tom Hooper) - 754 (82%)

I think of myself as anti-King's Speech because I so badly wanted The Social Network to win that year. But really, it's quite good. Satisfying.

39. Shakespeare in Love (1998, John Madden) - 746 (83%)

Very much like The King's Speech in that I clearly wanted another film to win that year (Saving Private Ryan), but could not deny the affection I felt for the eventual winner. Perhaps slightly less affection than this, but I stand by the ranking.

38. From Here to Eternity (1953, Fred Zinnemman) - 738 (83%)

Really solid wartime romance. I visited the beach in Hawaii where "the scene" was filmed. Good on Fred Zinnemann -- he directed two best picture winners (also A Man for All Seasons).

37. Ben-Hur (1959, William Wyler) - 731 (83%)

I watched Ben-Hur over four nights a couple years ago ... but the cumulative effect of it was still pretty powerful. One of the classic grandiose epics, with amazing chariot scenes. Will be really curious to see Timur Bekmambetov's remake this year. At the very least it should be visually audacious. (Good on William Wyler for directing three best picture winners -- also The Best Years of Our Lives and Mrs. Miniver).

36. American Beauty (1999, Sam Mendes) - 703 (84%)

As discussed in last week's post ranking movies with "American" in the title, this made my top ten of 1999, but I haven't been eager to get back to it. Suspect it dated pretty quickly. But still retain very positive memories from that one viewing.

35. Patton (1970, Franklin J. Schaffner) - 688 (84%)

My favorite of Audient Auscars. Thorough and enthralling biopic that rarely went where I thought it would go.

34. Grand Hotel (1932, Edmund Goulding) - 669 (84%)

I don't know why but Grand Hotel really stuck with me. Love the conceit of following the different stories within the day-to-day life of an ornate and bustling hotel. There isn't an older best picture winner I've ranked higher.

33. The Artist (2011, Michel Hazanavicius) - 643 (85%)

I thought The Artist was delightful, but it does seem like it could have been a bit tighter. There are lower ranked movies on this list I like better.

32. The Deer Hunter (1978, Michael Cimino) - 623 (85%)

Really unsettling and memorable, but I think I have always been ranking this a bit higher than my true feelings about it. Unconvincing ending.

31. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935, Frank Lloyd) - 613 (86%)

I got a little carried away with ranking this one, which I watched during my Decades series in a month devoted to the 1930s. It's really good, but probably not this really good. Good on Frank Lloyd, he also directed Cavalcade.

30. The Godfather Part II (1974, Francis Ford Coppola) - 543 (87%)

I don't know how to rank The Godfather Part II because the only time I watched it I watched the discs out of sequence. Yes, this is actually a thing that happened. Embarrassing as hell, but at least my wife was a co-sponsor of this egregious error. I will watch it again soon.

29. The Apartment (1960, Billy Wilder) - 523 (88%)

This is a great film, one of Wilder's best. Feels like it should be higher than 29th. Manages to balance tones perfectly, as it alternates between funny and sad, and ends up just being profound.

28. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003, Peter Jackson) - 472 (89%)

A rousing conclusion to Jackson's trilogy, and a fitting way to reward his three-film achievement. I still like The Two Towers better though.

27. Driving Miss Daisy (1989, Bruce Beresford) - 466 (89%)

This does not seem like it should be this high, but every time I think about it I think about how much it surprised me -- how much more I liked it than I expected to like it, especially since it beat out the movie I was supporting, Born on the Fourth of July. I still have that ranked higher on Flickchart, but not a lot higher.

26. On the Waterfront (1954, Elia Kazan) - 455 (89%)

Classic Elia Kazan film with a classic Marlon Brando performance. Maybe not a personal favorite, but a damn good film that came along at the perfect time for me -- just as I was becoming a cinephile. (We watched it in my Art of the Film class senior year in high school.)

25. Slumdog Millionaire (2008, Danny Boyle) - 454 (89%)

This film would probably go even higher on this list -- it was my #3 film of the 2008 -- but for the fact that there's been enough backlash about it that I have caused myself to reconsider it slightly. I've only seen it that once, and probably won't be in a hurry to change that, but come on, it's a really good film. This and On the Waterfront mark the first of three sets of best picture winners ranked consecutively.

24. The Sound of Music (1965, Robert Wise) - 450 (90%)

Just watched this again last year, and if I made a practice of reranking movies after I see them, this would almost certainly shoot into my top ten. Love this movie. Love it.

23. Gone With the Wind (1939, Victor Fleming) - 438 (90%)

This is a deliriously ambitious and incredibly long epic that I will probably never watch again, though I may. It's a stunning achievement and I think I have been rewarding it for that more than for a strong personal affection for it.

22. Argo (2012, Ben Affleck) - 418 (90%)

My #5 of 2012 is a really solid and satisfying movie. Have not revisited it and not sure how well it stands up to scrutiny, but I'm still a big fan.

21. Hamlet (1948, Laurence Olivier) - 414 (90%)

This is probably a little high for this movie, especially since I don't think it really sticks the landing -- the climax is kind of a disappointment compared to other stagings I've seen of Hamlet. My ranking just goes to show how great the rest of it is.

20. A Beautiful Mind (2001, Ron Howard) - 374 (91%)

Sort of like Driving Miss Daisy in that I never expected to like it as much as I did. The ending really gets me. What can I say? The movie works.

19. The Godfather (1972, Francis Ford Coppola) - 370 (91%)

I have now seen The Godfather twice. It still has not made a full convert of me. There are parts of it I love, but overall, it doesn't work for me as well as a number of the more recent gangster movies that are certainly indebted to it. This is a very high ranking for me, given these feelings, but a shockingly low one to most readers. I guess we're meeting somewhere in the middle.

18. The English Patient (1996, Anthony Minghella) - 369 (91%)

The second of two best pictures ranked consecutively (with The Godfather). Another case of expectations exceeded. Not only is this epic, but it's incredibly romantic. It's the second one that's harder to do, in my opinion.

17. Braveheart (1995, Mel Gibson) - 314 (93%)

I'd say that now we are getting into the absolute personal favorites. There are good reasons to nitpick at Braveheart, I'm sure, but at the time it came along, it was just what I needed. Intensely satisfying, and again, incredibly romantic. Felt like an unlikely winner at the time, but is one of my favorite winners -- and I even continue to think fondly of it despite knowing what a shithead Mel Gibson is.

16. Rebecca (1940, Alfred Hitchcock) - 297 (93%)

Another discovery from Art of the Film, my senior year class, this persists as one of my favorite Hitchocks. I think I've only seen it that one time, but formally and thematically, it had a huge impact on me. Need to get a rewatch of this on the docket ASAP.

15. Lawrence of Arabia (1962, David Lean) - 296 (93%)

This is probably my highest ranked film on sheer spectacle. In the sense that it probably doesn't totally qualify as a personal favorite -- despite what I said a couple films ago about entering that territory of my list -- it has definitely encroached farther in my rankings than I thought it might. But that spectacle ... my is it impressive. The third of two best pictures ranked consecutively (with Rebecca).

14. Rocky (1976, John G. Avildsen) - 280 (93%)

I may not be able to articulate what I loved so much about Rocky when I first saw it a few years ago, but I gave it five stars on Letterboxd without hesitation. Something about this movie just rises above.

13. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) - 215 (95%)

An unusually high ranking for such a recent best picture winner, but it was also one of only two best picture winners to be my #1 movie of the year (since I started keeping lists in 1996), which certainly played into my ranking enthusiasm. I'm just a tad cooler on the film after a second viewing, but it's still a stunning achievement that I love.

12. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975, Milos Forman) - 199 (95%)

I may have a slightly romanticized notion of how great this movie is, but I rank it as one of the greats, and until I see it again to be convinced otherwise, will continue to do so. Good on Milos Forman, he also directed Amadeus.

11. Annie Hall (1977, Woody Allen) - 193 (96%)

A rewatch of this left me a bit wanting a few years ago, but only relative to how I had previously ranked it, which was probably 50 spots higher on Flickchart. Still my favorite Allen, and with the kind of career he's had -- making enough movies so that the good ones overwhelm the bad ones -- that's saying something.

10. Rain Man (1988, Barry Levinson) - 142 (97%)

Perhaps the greatest discrepancy among best picture winners between how good I thought something was going to be, based on its advertising, and how good it actually was. I still think I've only seen this once, but man is it good.

9. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957, David Lean) - 124 (97%)

Good on David Lean. As good as Lawrence of Arabia is, this is even better. A flat-out masterpiece.

8. The Departed (2006, Martin Scorsese) - 122 (97%)

Has one of the worst final shots of any film I've ever seen. That just tells you how good the rest of The Departed is. My #2 of 2006.

7. Chicago (2002, Rob Marshall) - 105 (98%)

I would never have guessed how bananas I'd go over Chicago. Nothing in my history would have really predicted it. But bananas I went. It was my #2 of 2002.

6. The Silence of the Lambs (1991, Jonathan Demme) - 93 (98%)

Say hello to the 1990s for most of the rest of the list. It was a great decade for film, and also a formative decade for me within film. The Silence of the Lambs is one of the unlikeliest best picture winners of all time in terms of subject matter, which just shows you how great it is -- even a conventionally inclined voting body could not deny it. My wife often names this as her favorite movie of all time.

5. Dances With Wolves (1990, Kevin Costner) - 85 (98%)

I still remember grumbling about this beating out the other stalwart contenders from 1990 (Goodfellas, Ghost and Awakenings) as the awards were going on ... and then I finally saw it. An emotional powerhouse of a movie. Simply unforgettable.

4. Titanic (1997, James Cameron) - 73 (98%)

Spectacle, romance ... few best picture winners combine them as well as Titantc does. I was obsessed with this film for a good year or two after it came out, and vestiges of that clearly still remain. I won't apologize for it. My #1 movie of 1997 is unique cinematic achievement, and rightly considered a masterpiece by some.

3. All About Eve (1950, Joseph L, Mankiewicz) - 61 (99%)

The movie I always think of when I occasionally doubt whether older movies can have the same impact on me as contemporary ones. This is a note-perfect movie and I love every goddamn second of it.

2. Schindler's List (1993, Steven Spielberg) - 10 (100%)

I've still only seen this once, but it is in my top ten of all time. It jumped there by winning a duel against a movie that was starting to fall for me, so perhaps it should be a tad lower, but it's an astounding document of the darkest chapter in human history, made with superlative artistic vision and a gut-punching level of emotional resonance. I should see it again, of course ... I just don't know if I can bare it.

1. Unforgiven - (1992, Clint Eastwood) - 6 (100%)

And numbers 1 and 2 come in consecutive years. What else can a person say about Clint Eastwood's revisionist western masterpiece? It's got everything, but perhaps the best proof of its absolute artistic dominance is that it is my favorite best picture winner despite the fact that westerns are one of my less favorite genres. A perfect movie.

Could I have done this differently? Could I have used my Flickchart rankings as a jumping off point, and made the necessary tweaks to get the films in an order that feels like it more genuinely reflects my feelings about them?

Probably. But it has taken ages just to write this up, and barely squeeze it into the month of May (as I promised I'd do, but otherwise have no real reason for the deadline). I'm comfortable with it existing as is ... and moving on to the next thing.

Happy Memorial Day!


Wendell Ottley said...

I've only watched about half of these. I have so far to go. I love Unforgiven. What a terrific movie. My only real gripe is how high Titanic comes in. It would probably wind up in my lower half.

Derek Armstrong said...

Thanks Wendell. I had a lot of comments when I shared this with a movie group on Facebook, and the consensus among them was that Titanic was too high. I had nearly an out-of-body experience when I saw Titanic in the theater and I tend not to forget those types of things. It doesn't work for everyone, but it works for me.

Unforgiven. Yeah, it's great. I'm due for a rewatch I think.