I have seen 50 out of 88 Best Picture winners in my life. Some I liked and some I didn’t. There are some I love and some I hate.
Today, I’m sharing my 10 Favorite Best Picture winners.
And let me tell you, narrowing it down to ten was tough. It meant having to cut some great films I adore. Films like The Artist and The English Patient (yes, I LOVE that one!). But it also meant getting to temporarily pretend other films don’t exist. Like Million Dollar Baby.
You can see the complete list of Best Picture winners here.
(And remember, these are winners only. I have a LOT of favorites in the nominated list.)
10. Gone With the Wind
Perhaps I’m including this partly out of obligation. I do love the sweeping Civil War epic, but it’s more of a nostalgic favorite for me. I remember watching this for the first time with my mom while I was in high school. Scarlet O’Hara is the worst “heroine” ever and I secretly rejoiced upon seeing her not get her way in the end. Is that wrong?
9. Rain Man
Tom Cruise has starred in four Best Picture nomination films, but only one winner. But no, he’s not why this made my list. I first watched this with my dad when I was really too young to understand the story all that well. But Rain Man made a big impact on me, even as a kid. Maybe it sounds weird, but this is the first film I distinctly remember that taught me to treat people like people.
8. A Beautiful Mind
This was a film that sort of caught me off guard. I know people had talked about it forever, but for some reason I never got around to watching it. And then I was flying home from France in the summer of 2002 and it was one of the in-flight film selections. So I watched it. And instantly loved it. Such an inspirational story. I’m kind of a sucker for the biopics. And ones about people with mental illness that succeed in life.
7. In the Heat of the Night
My experience with the Civil Rights Movement is, obviously, limited. First, I was born in the late seventies, so I wasn’t alive for desegregation and Martin Luther King, Jr. and all of those key moments my parents lived through. Plus, I grew up in California, which has always been the most diverse part of the country. All of that is to say that this is a film I really enjoyed on a much different level than it was intended. I went into this watching Sidney Poitier slap Larry Gates on the face and thinking, “Hells, yeah!” I didn’t fully understand the impact of that moment until many years later. There are some really important social messages here.
Plus, on a surface level, it’s a pretty cool murder mystery.
6. Slumdog Millionaire
I’ve always been fascinated by India. That’s part of why I’m going this summer. When I saw Slumdog Millionaire, I wasn’t fully prepared for just how terrible and depressing this film would be. But it’s also beautiful and hopeful. Dev Patel was still more nerdy than hot, but already you could see the talent pouring from him. Plus that “Jai Ho” dance number at the end is one of my favorite things ever.
By the way, I just watched this video again. It’s been awhile. And now I’m crying. Because I’m a dork.
5. The Silence of the Lambs
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this is the only horror film ever to win Best Picture? I mean, I never saw How Green Was My Valley, so I could be off. There have been nominees, but this remains the only horror film to win the top prize. And I think that’s because it’s the perfect type of horror film. Because it’s not just about the jump scares or trying to leave the audience with nightmares. It’s about deep issues and drama and feelings of inadequacy. Top notch performances, an enduring tale, and one of the greatest film villains of all time.
4. Forrest Gump
Honestly, what can I say? I adore this movie. And Tom Hanks. At one point, I decided to read the book. While sitting on a beach in Mexico. Ideal, right? The locale was great, but the book is actually kind of awful. This is one of the rare times when the movie is much better than the book. Forrest goes through crazy experiences, which are not even as crazy as the ones in the book. But through it all, he is driven always by his love for Jenny. He is constantly underestimated, but in some ways, he’s one of the smartest people around.
3. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
My favorite of the LOTR movies is actually Two Towers. But I do really love them all. And Return of the King is full of such rich storytelling. Some characters step up and come into their own. Sam solidifies his place in my heart as my favorite character. Plus it’s just a freaking cool movie.
Confession: It’s possible this is the Best Picture I’ve seen the most. At least in parts. I don’t know what it is, but I turn this on almost every time it’s on TV. I can start from the beginning or watch the last ten minutes. So good and watchable. Although I will NEVER not be mad at Rose for throwing that dang necklace in the ocean at the end. And yes, there was totally room for Jack on that door.
1. The Sound of Music
I know every song. And while I have a lot of favorite moments, the one I love the most is not Maria and Georg’s dance or wedding. It’s not “My Favorite Things” or “Lonely Goatherder.” It’s the moment when Baroness Schroeder tells Captain Von Trapp, “And somewhere out there is a lady who I think will never be a nun.” She knows. And she’s cool with it. I love her. I love them. Love it all.