The Cream of the Crop

By: Andrew Clay


The Academy Awards, better known to some as the Oscars, are the most famous awards of their kind in America. The Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards are just two examples of awards shows that are second class when it comes to getting that little golden man.

Since these little golden men are the best, it made the choices of picking my top five from the winners of Best Picture all that more difficult. These films are the greatest of their year and have been awarded since the 1920s. Now I consume far more media than your average person but there are still numerous Best Picture winners I haven’t seen. This means that if your favorite film is left off of this list then maybe it isn’t that “good” or I haven’t been privileged enough to devour its media goodness.

Now enough of the pandering, it is time to my top five Academy Award winners for best picture of the year, and as always in alphabetical order.

1) “All Quiet on the Western Front” (Winner of 1929/1930)

Starring Lew Ayres as Paul Baumer as a young German boy indoctrinated by his teachers into joining the army with his friends and fighting in World War I.

Paul is taken under the wing of Kat, the old hand in his regiment. Kat tries to teach the boys the ways of war and how to become men.

The movie is essentially the maturation of men set against the backdrop of the horrors of a war never duplicated. The movie may be eighty years old but if one can watch the closing moments of that movie and not be moved to think of a more peaceful and happier time in your life, then you are a colder person than I.

2) “Amadeus” (Winner of 1984)

F. Murray Abraham stars as Antonio Salieri, a great composer whose biggest crime was living in the era of the greatest of all time in his chosen field, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. A story of pride set against some of the most beautiful music ever composed and in the end the result is insanity and death.

The story begins as an old man tells a story of how he killed Mozart. Salieri is an Italian composer who is at the top of his game when a young savant named Mozart enters the arena. Excruciatingly jealous of this child and of how he treats the gift, as the movie continues you see the characters relationship grow and how their paths diverge. See this movie not as the boring film you were forced to watch in a beginner’s music class, but as the silver screen’s rendition of the beauty of the human experience mixed with the disastrous darkness of pride and self-expectations.

3) “Braveheart” (Winner of 1995)

Mel Gibson is known for his crazy antics more so than most actors, but one thing the man definitely got right was “Braveheart.” The legendary story of William Wallace, the man who led the Scottish to their freedom, “Braveheart” has everything you need in a movie. There is action and gore, love and romance, moral perpetuity, vigilance and all of it is for the idea of freedom. There are two scenes that stick out most when one thinks of “Braveheart.” The first is the iconic battle where William Wallace inspires the Scots to face down the dastardly British. He leads a rag tag army against the better manned, armed, and paid forces in order to gain something intangible and asks one essential question.

“Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you’ll live… at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin’ to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM,” William Wallace said.

The second climactic scene is when Wallace is strung up on the rack and all has to do is mutter words and instead he shouts FREEDOM and is promptly beheaded.

The movie is unforgettable so if you haven’t watched it, do better.

4)  “Rocky” (Winner of 1976)

The ultimate story of going the distance, “Rocky,” is the movie that launched the immortal franchise that has captivated us all. To avoid the “Lord of the Rings” syndrome in which one movie gets the credit for how amazing the entire series has been. “Rocky” stands alone in its franchise because it set the tone for the remainder of the series and it is the undisputed original. It is the best boxing movie of all time. The audience follows “The Italian Stallion,” Rocky Balboa as he goes from a no-name leg breaker on the streets of Philadelphia and transforms into a fighter with a shot at the champ. Apollo Creed loses his original opponent and searches for the perfect man to have a chance. The fight is an exhibition, of course but the training montages are real. That type of motivational montage will get any man or woman jacked up to kick the crap out of an opponent. That is undisputed and why this movie made it on the list.

5) “The Godfather” (Winner of 1972) and “The Godfather Part II” (Winner of 1974)

Yes, I know that these are two separate films but “The Godfather” and  “The Godfather Part II” are so excellent that this exception must be made. These two movies set the standard for all movies in the gangster genre. They are cold, romantic, lethal, deep, gritty, original and most important realistic. These movies are both display enormous quantities of the “X factor” that makes things just better. Marlin Brando, Al Pacino, and Robert Duval live lives above the law and do it with such style. The general story map follows the end of Don Vito Corleone’s reign as the Godfather and the rise of his son Michael. Michael originally wants no part of the criminal enterprises his family is mixed up in, but soon realizes that innocence is weakness. Follow Michael’s journey from innocence to darkness and have a better understanding of how choices affect us all.

Related posts