A few days ago, a friend (and fellow Oscar buff) was telling me how upset she was that most of the Best Picture nominees (not just the winners) are not ones she would want her two daughters (one in Middle School, the other in High School) to see.
While I am not a parent, I can see the concern. Most of the best picture nominees these days are not exactly going to be “family friendly” (the last Best Picture winner that was not rated R was The Artist in 2011).
There are, of course, many other winners (and nominees) of the past nine decades that Hollywood has given these awards. Here are my views on all of them (while many are some I can watch time and time again, some are still question marks to this day).
And the Oscar went to…
It is not the longest film to ever win best picture, but The English Patient (1996) easily seems like the longest. The story of a nurse (Juliette Binoche, who won an oscar for Supporting Actress and does a fine job here) who hears the story of a love story between a man (Ralph Fiennes) and a married woman (Kristen Scott Thomas) is beyond boring (unlike films it beat, mainly Fargo) and completely drawn out. Elaine Benes from “Seinfeld” was right about this film. True, the film does give sort of flashback vibe to old school Hollywood epics, but you are better off watching them.
Parents: Not for kids. Sexuality and violence.
One of the first musicals (and talkies), The Broadway Melody (1929) suffers mainly because it was in the first years of talkies, when Hollywood was still working with the new technology. It reminds me a little too much of the film they were failing to make in the film Singin’ in the Rain. Of all the winners of the Best Picture award, this is the film that is hands down the most dated.
Parents: Nothing bad for kids, but I doubt they will enjoy it.
Even before the career downfall of Kevin Spacey, I didn’t feel like American Beauty (1999) has aged entirely as well as some would have hoped. It has great acting, but the film about a man having a mid-life crisis has far too many creepy moments in it that makes you feel a little uncomfortable, unlike better movies like The Green Mile. Now with the end of Kevin Spacey’s career, the film is very hard to watch.
Parents: Not, I repeat, NOT for kids. A lot of sexual stuff.
Considered one of the worst Best Picture winners, The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) does look nice, but the story of a circus behind the scenes is anything but great (yes, that is James Stewart next to Charlton Heston as a clown). It is certainly not better than High Noon, The Quiet Man, or (even though it was sadly not even nominated) Singin’ in the Rain. Director Cecil B. Demille has many more films that are far better.
Parents: It is okay for kids, but nothing they will really get out of it.
A nice looking movie, with nice costumes, surrounded by a creepy story, Gigi (1958) is like a nice looking apple with worms on the inside. It is a musical, but with only one song that is sub par.
Parents: I guess if you kids really like costumes?
The first Western to win Best Picture, Cimarron (1931) tells an somewhat decent story, but is easily forgettable. It is nowhere near as good as another film from 1931 (even though it was not nominated), Charlie Chaplin’s uncanny masterpiece City Lights.
Parents: Kids can see it, though I can’t promise they would like it.
The late great Albert Finney does fine work here as the title character, but Tom Jones (1963) is supposed to be funny and (while I know comedy is subjective) it really isn’t. It is a tad creepy. Unlike Lillies of the Field.
Parents: Not really for kids.
Out of Africa (1985) does give us a decent Robert Redford performance and a wonderful performance by Meryl Streep (no surprise). What is a surprise is how bland the movie feels. It is no match nowadays for Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple, which was left empty-handed at the Oscars, still a travesty. Still, the film does have a gorgeous film score.
Parents: Nothing too bad, but I doubt kids would like it.
David Niven is pitch perfect as the man who wants to go on a huge expedition, but Around the World in 80 Days (1956) is full of wonderful sights with too simple a story to take seriously. Also, as a fan of Frank Sinatra, it was a big downer to see him in the film for nearly seven seconds. Perhaps the reason this beat out Cecil B. Demille’s The Ten Commandments (which I would argue is still the best biblical film ever made) is the academy was still questioning the win of The Greatest Show on Earth four years prior. That is my best guess, anyway.
Parents: Nothing bad for kids, if they can pay attention that long.
Despite being long and a little predictable, The Great Ziegfeld (1936) is worth watching for the performances, mainly Best Actress winner Luise Rainer, who is glamorous and transcendent. Still, San Fransisco has stood the test of time better
Parents: Again, it is okay for kids if they can stand the length.
The first half is very hard to sit through, but the second half of The Life of Emile Zola (1937) has the actual story to it. Paul Muni also does a wonderful job in the title role.
Parents: Nothing wrong here for kids.
You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who likes Shakespeare in Love (1998) more than Saving Private Ryan (or even Life is Beautiful), but it does not make the film any worse. Paltrow is very good here as well in the role that got her an Oscar. Still, a horrible shame it won over Saving Private Ryan. It also has the stench over it of Harvey Weinstein.
Parents: Not for kids.
A basic melodrama, Calvalcade (1933) does tend to drag at times, but the performances of the time do a nice job.
Parents: Ok for kids.
One of the strangest on this list, Midnight Cowboy (1969) does feature career performances (mainly Dustin Hoffman), but I still admit to being a huge fan of Butch Cassidey and the Sundance Kid.
Parents: NOT FOR KIDS (At the time of this film, it was rated X, though today it would be a solid rated R).
Though it is very slow at times, A Man for all Seasons (1966) has fine acting. The stand out is Paul Scofield (who won the Oscar for Best Actor) as a man who puts his loyalty to God over that of his to the King (Robert Shaw).
Parents: If your kids can endure the length, they are fine.
Despite a great feel of the period and being a great example of an actor (Laurence Olivier) directing himself, Hamlet (1948) does not live up to another movie from the same year, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which is far superior.
Parents: Okay for kids
Another example of beauty over substance, The Last Emperor (1987) is a grand looking flick with lots of eye-popping visuals. Too bad the story is on one level, unlike other films that year like The Untouchables or Moonstruck.
Parents: Not for kids (some nudity, plus they will be bored)
A nice portrayal of the beginning of World War Two, Mrs. Miniver (1942) is mainly known not for its performances (which include Oscar winners Greer Garson and the always lovable Teresa Wright), but for what happened on Oscar night. Garson gave the longest speech in Oscar history, nearly six minutes long. Because of this, the time limit was invented for future speeches of Oscar winners.
Parents: Decent for kids.
While it is not the best movie ever made about politics (that will always be Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in 1939), All the King’s Men (1949) is still one every politician should see. The acting is stellar, and it is a reminder that corruption is as easy to pick up in politics as ever.
Parents: Okay for kids
There is no doubt in my mind that Gandhi (1982) gives a stellar Ben Kingsley performance that makes you think it is actually the real life activist has come back to life. Still, it does drag on at times, and is nowhere near as engrossing (let alone popular) as E.T. is.
Parents: Fine for kids, if they can stand the run time (should be watched in High School).
The original best picture winner, Wings (1927) does drag on at times. Still, it does have some really nicely done fight scenes (especially considering the time it was made). Also, it is the first Best Picture winner, so that alone is still kind of cool.
Parents: One (very brief) glimpse of nudity, but that is it.
I will probably get colorful feedback for this one. Afterall, I was in middle school when Gladiator (2000) came out, and I loved it back then. Now, a decade and a half later, it still has its moments (meaning yes, Maximus, I am still somewhat entertained), but it wears thin after a while. Admittedly, it is not as good as the years other nominees, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Traffic.
Parents: This is one of the cases where a middle schooler would be fine watching an R rated film.
Coming out at just the right time, The Deer Hunter (1978) does go on a bit long. However, it does have great scenes including a wedding scene to inspire all wedding scenes, and, of course, Russian Roulette.
Parents: Not for kids, in any way shape or form.
Gentlemen’s Agreement (1947) does give us great performances by Gregory Peck and (Oscar winner) Celeste Holm. It is also one of the best films made about anti-Semitism. Still, it is probably not as well-known now as Miracle on 34th Street.
Parents: Okay for kids
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance (2014) is definitely a film for the ages (the first to seem like it was done in a long take since Hitchcock’s Rope). The performances are uncanny throughout, though I still feel Boyhood is the better movie.
Parents: Not really for kids, though High Schoolers may be fine.
While it is certainly not the director’s best film, Rebecca (1940) is the only film of Alfred Hitchcock to win Best Picture. It does build suspense, provides acting greats like Olivier and Fontaine, and has a delicious villain in Mrs. Danvers.
Parents: Suspenseful (of course) but not too bad for kids.
Despite only winning two Oscars (Best Picture and Best Screenplay), what makes Spotlight (2015) so engrossing is how tightly sealed the script is (as well as every actor on their A game). Sure, it is not as good as All the President’s Men (the Citizen Kane of journalism movies), but it ranks up there.
Parents: The subject matter is far too intense for kids. High School and above.
Still the best film made about drinking, The Lost Weekend (1945) shows one of the best examples of a character battling their desires ever shown on film (thanks, of course, to the Oscar-winning performance by Ray Milland). The imagery he sees are rather frightening.
Parents: May be a bit intense for kids.
While it was not the first war film ever made, the invention of sound in movies did help All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) stand the test of time. I would argue it is still the best film ever made about World War One, and still has images that will make you quiver.
Parents: It is a war film, but because of when it was made, it is not terribly violent.
I am still a bigger fan of Dead Poets Society, Field of Dreams, and My Left Foot, yet there is still something endearing about Driving Miss Daisy (1989). It must be the undeniable chemistry between Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman.
Parents: Okay for kids, though there is some swearing.
Although Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) only won Best Picture and nothing else, it still does a nice job of being entertaining thanks to Gable and Laughton as one of cinema’s best bad guys. Still, I would rather watch Top Hat.
Parents: Passable for kids
Parents: The film is definitely not for kids.
Going My Way (1944) may not be the main thing Bing Crosby is known for nowadays, but he definitely shines as Father O’Malley for which he won an Oscar for Best Actor. His co-star Barry Fitzgerald was also nominated in that category, but won for the same performance in the supporting actor category. I still need to find out how that worked out.
Parents: It is okay for kids.
I can’t help but feel sorry for How Green was my Valley (1941). Truly, it is a rather good movie. The problem is that it beat out competition at the Oscars that are far better than it. Films like The Maltese Falcon, considered the first (and best) film noir in history. Or that other movie, Citizen Kane.
Parents: Fine for kids.
Oliver! (1968) was the last musical to win Best Picture in the 20th Century, and does not get the praise I feel it deserves. It is funny, charming, scary (Bill Sykes is creepy as heck), and delivers great numbers. Also, I would say how bad it is that this film beat 2001: A Space Odyssey, but the Kubrick masterpiece was not even nominated, which is beyond silly.
Parents: Okay for kids.
Their next film, Singin’ in the Rain (this is the third time I mentioned it so I think it is obvious I am fan), is far better. Still, An American in Paris (1951) has director Stanley Donen and star Gene Kelly giving great visuals and masterful dancing. Not bad, even though A Streetcar named Desire and The African Queen (not nominated) were better.
Parents: Okay for kids.
In a way, Grand Hotel (1932) was a trend setter. It was the original all-star cast film (Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, John and Lionel Barrymore) that did not just rely on star power. It relied on stellar acting and a wonderful story.
Parents: Kid friendly
It is still a shock to me how the Oscars managed to make a mess up of announcing Best Picture (which I still felt La La Land deserved). Still, it is hard to deny the poetic power of Moonlight (not to mention the solid acting of everyone involved).
Parents: Too intense for kids
Even if Goodfellas and Raging Bull are better movies in the long run, it was The Departed (2006) that finally brought Martin Scorsese the Oscar for Best Director. The story of mobsters has multiple layers and top-notch acting by all in the cast.
Parents: The film is definitely not for kids.
Even though I would prefer The Right Stuff and Tender Mercies, there is no denying the emotional power of Terms of Endearment (1983). Shirley Maclaine and Debra Winger are perfect as mother and daughter, and no womanizing neighbor could be played better than anyone not named Jack Nicholson. It also has a tear-jerker scene for the ages.
Parents: Not really for kids
While others prefered The Social Network (a very good film) , The King’s Speech (2010) was more entertaining for me. No small part goes to the acting (Colin Firth is spellbinding, and Geoffrey Rush is equally brilliant), about a simple story of someone who has a stuttering problem (mind you, he is a king).
Parents: There is one 30 second scene of swearing, and another of 5-10 seconds, but that is it. Really, just fast forward through it, and you are ok.
One of the more heart pounding films on this list, The French Connection (1971) is what shot Gene Hackman to film immortality. His Popeye Doyle is one character you better not have against you, especially in a car chase.
Parents: Not for kids.
Weird, original, and as outside the box as most films, The Shape of Water (2017) was far from a typical Best Picture winner (minus the fact of great direction and sublime performances). Nevertheless, it remains one of the most moving love stories of recent memory.
Parents: Not for kids, as it has much sexual content.
12 Years a Slave (2013) is easily one of the hardest films to watch on this list, but also one of the most important. It is one of those films you don’t watch as much as you can, but it is one that stays with you for the remainder of your life. All the actors are masterful here (mainly Oscar winner Lupita N’Yongo in her first film role).
Parents: Quite a bit of nudity, and the subject matter clearly makes it not for kids. Still, when you children get mature enough (High School or College) they should see the film.
Rain Man (1988) is what most people think of when they think of autism. Dustin Hoffman is the one with the showier role (he won his second Oscar for the performance), but Tom Cruise does equally fine work as his brother. It is a hard call for me between this and Mississippi Burning.
Parents,: Despite one minor sex scene, middle schoolers should be okay seeing this.
Russell Crowe may have won the Oscar for Gladiator, but I have yet to meet anyone who thinks it was a better performance than the one he gave in A Beautiful Mind (2001). The film is centered mainly on his performance (as well as Oscar Winner Jennifer Connelly’s as his wife). Now a random question: He is obviously a genius, but how on earth did he get those biceps? Just wondering.
Parents: Some sexual talk and swearing, but nothing else. Middle School and above would be okay.
Yes, I really did like the film Crash (2005). I know a lot of people don’t like it, but I do. It has great acting (which no one can deny), and it is about the characters more so than the story. I still like it more than Brokeback Mountain (which I still feel is a little overrated, though Heath Ledger was magnificent).
Parents: A sex scene (with nudity), a ton of swearing, and violence. High School and above.
Winning over films like Guess who’s coming to Dinner and The Graduate, In the Heat of the Night (1967) was a film for its time, a film about the tensions of racism (which, of course, still resonates today. While Rod Steiger won the Best Actor Oscar, it is easily Sidney Poitier you will remember as Virgil Tibbs.
Parents: High School and above, as this is when nudity started showing up more and more in movies.
I was in my preteens when Titanic (1997) came out (though I never saw it in theaters). I knew it was a big film when I saw it (and that there was a drawing scene). It was also what truly got me into the Oscars in the first place, so I owe it that.
Parents: There is the famous nude scene to avoid, and some swearing. Only High School and above.
Next to Raging Bull, Ordinary People (1980) is obviously not the clear winner. Still, the film by Robert Redford does tell a very intriguing story with acting you will remember. Mainly, it is Oscar Winner Timothy Hutton who gives a performance almost as perfect as Raging Bull‘s Robert De Niro. Almost.
Parents: The film is R rated for swearing. High School and above.
I can’t say how much I liked Chicago (2002) when it came out in theaters. I loved it. It is one of a few movies I have seen four times in the theater (my personal record). True, The Pianist was a better film, but seldom has a movie come out in theaters that I had a lot of true fun at. That surpasses the fact that Harvey Weinstein was involved. Barely.
Parents: It is a musical, but not for kids. High School and above.
The Artist (2011) made my job of telling people what movies to see and not see a lot easier. It reminded us all that films are not just about what you may or may not hear, but about what you feel. That, plus the movie has one heck of an awesome dog.
Parents: This has one “obscene gesture” (someone uses the middle finger) but that is it. The film is perfectly fine for kids.
If you bring up the name Alec Guinness to anyone nowadays, they would most likely remember him at Obi-Wan Kenobi from the original Star Wars. After that, it would be his Oscar-winning role as Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). It will be difficult seeing anyone else in the role. As for the film itself, while I do like 12 Angry Men better, there is no denying the gravity epic scope of this film.
Parents: May be a bit long for kids, but nothing too horrible.
Easily one of the best war films ever made, Platoon (1986) has about more grit than almost any film every made. This is thanks to director Oliver Stone (who was in the Vietnam War), and sums up the film perfectly with the line on the poster: The first casualty of war is innocence.
Parents: definitely not for kids (some nudity is shown but not for long), but should be watched at some point when they are in High School.
In one of the best years for film, it was Argo (2012) that took the prize. It was a story that (at least for me) was not well-known (at least compared to other movies that year like Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty), it was directed by an actor (which the Oscars like to reward a lot, despite the director not getting a nomination which is still a big question mark today), and it was (most importantly) entertaining as can be.
Parents: High School and above only.
It is hard for one actor/actress to carry a film, but George C. Scott does that and more as the title character of Patton (1970). It does go on long, but every time Scott is on-screen, you can’t help but smile.
Parents: Some violence but nothing bad. Middle schoolers and above, provided they can stand a long movie.
At the first Academy Awards, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1929) won Best Picture in the category of Unique and Artistic Production, the only time that category existed. Still, these days critics and film goers tend to like it more because of its authentic artistry that is standing the test of time a little better than Wings. I have to agree.
Parents: Okay for kids
I never read the books till I saw the first film, but I had a feeling that Peter Jackson was saving the best for last. That is exactly what happened with The Lord of the Rings; The Return of the King (2003). It is a spectacle that is hard to ignore (even if great performances by Sean Astin and Viggo Mortensen were). Some could argue it won all of its 11 nominations (a record for a perfect score) for the trilogy as a whole, but the film is still easily the best of the whole series (including The Hobbit films, which I thought were just so so).
Parents: Some scary moments, but films your kids would want to see. Still, start with the first films or they will definitely be confused.
There are few filmmakers as diverse as the Coen brothers, and it was their film No Country for Old Men (2007) that brought them each three Oscars (for directing, writing, and producing). It is terrifying (Javier Bardem gives us one of the best villains of the 21st century), enticing (Bardem is the scene stealer, but every actor is on their A game here), and thought-provoking (I still have yet to find out what I feel about the ending). Also, don’t forget some of that awkward humor.
Parents: Another film not for kids. No real nudity (some talk about sex) but it is a really dark, violent film. High School and above.
It is the lowest money-maker of all Best Picture winners (its competition that year was Avatar, which is still the biggest world-wide money-maker), but The Hurt Locker (2009) is a better film. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (who was once married to James Cameron), it is as real a war film as you will ever see. I still feel like it is the type of film fans of first person shooter games would love. It is a film that should be shown to anyone even remotely interested in enlisting.
Parents: High School and above only.
Although Apollo 13 is a better movie, Braveheart (1995) still holds a nice place in my heart. It was the first hard rated R film I saw (though obviously not in the theater, as I was only eight at the time). True, it is known to have historical inaccuracies (a lot of movies do), but it is still entertaining as ever. It is also proof that, regardless of his personal life, Mel Gibson knows how to make a movie.
Parents: High School and above only. There is one scene of nudity, but nothing explicit. Lots of violence.
Unforgiven (1992) is Clint Eastwood’s love letter to the Western. Like all of the films Eastwood directs, it is a simple story with multiple layers that have unforgettable characters. There are a lot of tough guy actors, but seldom have there been any as memorable as Clint Eastwood. No man on-screen has ever looked as scary holding a gun.
Parents: Not for kids, but should be okayfor High Schoolers (a brief sex scene at the start, but no nudity).
Probably my favorite thing about the first time I saw Slumdog Millionaire (2008) was that I knew next to nothing about the film. It is almost Capra-like in the way it tells the fairy tale story of how fighting for the one you love, no matter what, is really wonderful. That, and an awesome ending dance number.
Parents: There is no real sex scenes, just swearing and some violence. I would think Middle School and above.
The Sting (1973) was the first encounter I had with its two stars, Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Each are as charming as ever, and it is their presence alone that makes the film worth watching. That, and awesome music.
Parents: There is some swearing, and one scene of nudity (a strip show type of thing), but that is it. Skip that scene, and middle school and above.
Ben-Hur (1959) is a remake of a 1925 film that is easily more remembered. It is long, but it is carried by a performance by Charlton Heston, great sweeping images, and a chariot race that has never been matched. The scene where he first meets Jesus is the best biblical scene ever put on film.
Parents: It is long, and full of some violence, but middle school and above are fine. Just keep them far away from the 2016 remake.
I am going out on a limb here: I think Dustin Hoffman gives his best performance in Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). He plays one of the most relatable fathers in movie history, and Meryl Streep is equally good as his ex-wife. Of course, there is no doubt it is not as good a movie as Apocalypse Now.
Parents: There is a scene of nudity, a little violence, and swearing. High School and above.
Movies are not the best source for accurate details (except for Documentaries), but are awesome at entertaining. That is what makes Amadeus (1984) so wonderful. If you are looking for accurate facts, you won’t find many. If you want entertainment, you sure as heck will.
Parents: The extended version has nudity, while the normal (PG) version does not. Either way, I would say High Schoolers and above.
When I saw the preview for the 2001 film Pearl Harbor, I thought it looked like sure oscar bait (I was 14 and stupid). Later, I discovered From Here to Eternity (1953), and what a good movie about Pearl Harbor can be.
Parents: Aside from the beach scene (which is not that bad at all), middle schoolers and above would be fine.
I am a bigger fan of Raiders of the Lost Ark and On Golden Pond. Still, there is something very uplifting about Chariots of Fire (1981). Mainly, it is the way the story is told, and that immortal music that has been parodied to death.
Parents: Okay for kids.
JFK is one of my all time favorite movies, but the Academy went instead with another masterpiece, The Silence of the Lambs (1991). One of three films to win the top five Oscars (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay), it set a new standard for horror that many these days are trying to duplicate but none really have (to be fair, it is hard to top a villain like Hannibal Lecter).
Parents: High School and above. No one else under that age group.
Regardless of whether you agree with the ending. you have to love how Clint Eastwood got there. His Million Dollar Baby (2004) is one of the best sports films ever made. Each of the three main actors are at the top of their games, and it gives us the best Morgan Freeman scene ever.
Parents: It is difficult to watch at times, so I would think High School and above (or at least really mature Middle Schoolers).
First, the obvious. Goodfellas is far better of a movie. Even so, Dances with Wolves (1990) gets bad raps for beating it. It is still glorious to behold, and deserves more love. It is gritty, realistic, and deserving of respect.
Parents: Middle Schoolers would be fine as long as they don’t mind a long run time.
In one of the best years for movies, it must have been difficult to pick Forrest Gump (1994) over better flicks like Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption. Still, the Tom Hanks film (which he is remembered for most) was the first real “drama” I had seen in my life. It still touches the heart every time I watch it.
Parents: Middle School and above.
It must have been a hard choice to choose between All about Eve (1950) and Sunset Blvd. I do prefer the latter, but the former is still wonderful entertainment. With stars like Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, and Marilyn Monroe, it indeed is a bumpy night of enjoyment.
Parents: Middle School and above. Any younger would get bored.
It’s a Wonderful Life is loved by pretty much anyone who has seen it, but it lost to another great movie, The Best Years of our Lives (1946). No film about return soldiers has topped it, and while all the actors are great, the best is Harold Russell, an actual war veteran.
Parents: Fine for kids
Bette Davis was wonderful in Jezebel, as was Spencer Tracy in the wonderful Boys Town. Also, color films were in the arena with films like The Adventures of Robin Hood. Still, You Can’t Take it with You (1938) is definitely one of Frank Capra’s best. I smiled the whole way through. It gives you a warm fuzzy feeling you won’t forget.
Parents: Okay for kids.
Although it was dubbed “the sound of mucus” by film critic Pauline Kael, The Sound of Music (1965) is one of the most loved films ever made. Even the hardest hearted person can’t help but get the songs in their head.
Parents: Easily, this is the first Best Picture any kid should start with.
extravagant is the best word to describe My Fair Lady (1964). Even if Audrey Hepburn does not do her own singing, she give a beautiful performance. Also, no one can ever be Henry Higgins like Rex Harrison. No one. It is hard to find a favorite song here, but mine would be “I could have danced all night”. Not bad for a movie that beat Mary Poppins and Dr. Strangelove.
Parents: A little long, but okay for kids.
When one looks at One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), one sees how it would have been a totally different movie. Heck, it would have been horrible without Jack Nicholson and Louise Rainer. It became the second film to win all five top Oscars, and is also what every movie should be in the first place: Enjoyable.
Parents: High School and above.
West Side Story (1961) was the first musical film I saw after seeing the stage version. It was my chance at seeing how a movie musical could, in a way, be better than the stage version. The choreography is stellar, and the songs are left in your mind, whether you want them to be or not.
Parents: Okay for kids, despite some violence.
Network won three acting Oscars (only the second one to do so), Taxi Driver gave us Travis Bickle, and All the President’s Men was the best newspaper movie ever made. Still, like the character it is showing us, Rocky (1976) was the underdog winner for Best Picture. Despite how you may feel about the sequels, the first was inspiring to everyone, including Charles Chaplin, who said he loved this as it was one of the last films he saw before he died.
Parents: Some violence, but middle schoolers and above are okay.
I apologize to all my fellow fans of Star Wars, but Annie Hall (1977) was the better movie. I have not seen all of Woody Allen’s films (yet), but I can’t see them being better than this. His writing, directing, and acting are all top notch.It has truly earned its place as one of the top three or four best rom coms ever made.
Parents: There is swearing, and some sexuality. I would say (mature) Middle Schoolers and above.
The title character of Marty (1955) is one of the most realistic characters you will see in any movie, as well as one of the most relatable. It is the shortest Best Picture winner (90 minutes), but it packs in as much warmth, humor, romance, and realism as any film I have ever seen. Oh, how I wish this film was longer.
Parents: Okay for kids.
A year after his comic masterpiece Some Like it Hot, Billy Wilder came up with The Apartment (1960), equally as fantastic. Jack Lemmon gives possibly his best performance as a man who is as kind-hearted as ever, even if he rents his apartment out to his co workers. It is probably the best “dramedy” ever made.
Parents: The subject matter is a little adult, but nothing is ever shown. Middle Schoolers and above would be ok.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) is the number one movie to show that movies should be shown on big screens, not on hand-held devices (I have yet to see it in theaters). It is spellbinding, action packed, and gorgeous beyond belief. Only this movie could have stopped To Kill a Mockingbird from winning Best Picture (though Peter O’Toole lost Best Actor to Gregory Peck, which is pretty much impossible to argue).
Parents: Middle School and above.
The first real sweep of the Oscars happened with It Happend One Night (1934), one of the funniest films ever made. Everything about the film has not aged, even over eight years later. Gable and Colbert are perfectly cast, and it set the standard for road comedies that none have been able to match. Actually, they have not even gotten close.
Parents: One of the best old school classics you can enjoy with your kids.
At the time On the Waterfront (1954) was released, it was a statement that director Elia Kazan used as showing his stance for out communists in Hollywood. Thankfully, the movie is so great that all of that controversy is not even a factor these days. This is thanks to the storytelling, the music, but mainly the acting. While Eva Marie Saint, Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger, and Karl Malden are fantastic, it is Marlon Brando who leaves the biggest mark on the film. His performance is the best in film history.
Parents: A little violent, but okay for kids. Middle Schoolers and above.
Chinatown is one of history’s best film noirs, but it does not compare to The Godfather, Part Two (1974), arguably the best sequel ever made. Pacino gets more time to shine, and De Niro is mesmerizing as his younger father. Those last ten minutes are as haunting as anything you will see on film.
Parents: Not for kids. High Schoolers and above (though they better see the first one before hand).
Apparently, screen legend Gary Cooper once said that Gone with the Wind (1939) would be the biggest bomb ever. I doubt he has said much more that could be more wrong. Just shy of four hours (the longest of any Best Picture winner), it never drags at all. In what many consider the best year for movies (other nominees included The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Wuthering Heights, and Stagecoach), GWTW swept (most of) the awards. It is also (when adjusted for inflation) the biggest money-maker domestically and worldwide. Add in the acting, the music (my personal favorite of all movies), and the epic scope, and, frankly, you should give…well, you know.
Parents: Despite the length (and some minor violence, plus the obvious swear word), it is ok for kids. Middle Schoolers and above.
Schindler’s List (1993) is easily one of the most difficult films to sit through, as well as one of the most important. Director Steven Spielberg films the movie in black and white (had it been done in color, it would not have been good) to suck the life out of one of the worst times in human history. Nazis have always made memorable villains in movies, but not like this. They are not just evil-looking like in The Sound of Music or being stopped by Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Here, they are human beings, doing unspeakable crimes. Except for one, who did the unthinkable act of saving nearly 1100 Jews.
Parents: Easily not for kids, though High Schoolers most definetly should see the film at some point.
It is hard to believe, but The Godfather (1972) almost did not win Best Picture. It only won three Oscars (the main culprit was Cabaret, which, although a good film, could never compare with Coppola’s masterpiece). A friend of mine says it is the best film about family ever made, and I could not agree more. When one thinks of the mafia, this film is the first to come up in every mind. Even those who never have seen it. Although there are few roles for women in the movie, it is clear why it is one of the best movies ever made in so many people’s hearts.
Parents: High Schoolers and above.
Time has always been the best judge of movies, and no film has ever aged better than Casablanca (1943). There has never been a better romance, a better cast (especially the supporting), or (most of all) a better script (seriously, I have seen the movie a number of times, and still don’t know how many quotable lines there are). It is like wine: it gets better with age, and with every viewing. It is cliché to say so, but it will always get better, as time goes by.
Parents: Okay for kids.