Sometimes movies age like wine. We come to admire them more with time. Often when we look back, it is only the very best movies, and the very best movies, that are remembered from the past. However, other times movies do not age well. Movies that were considered great in their time, end up looking less so. It could also be the case, that movies that were never good end up winning the Best Picture Award. The Academy does not always get it right. They make mistakes and are influenced by things beyond the quality of the film. One movie may launch a bigger campaign, they can be wrapped up in timely issues that cause a movie to not age well, etc. So here are what I see as the worst Best Picture Winners and the movies that should have won instead. Take note, I am limited by what movies I saw. There may be some examples from the 1940’s that would git on this list, but if I did not see them, I can not put them on the list.
5. Driving Miss Daisy (1984)
Driving Miss Daisy is a fine movie. I certainly would not say it is bad, in fact, I like it. But it is just so, blah. It is well acted, and charming, but it is also kind of boring at times. It fails to push the envelope. It has a message about racism, but nothing that was new. The movie doesn’t really bring anything to the table that should be highly regarded.
The story is flat, the central conflict is flat, everything, besides the acting, is flat. The movie does not have very much life, everything that happens exists only to be resolved. It is safe. It pretends to make a statement about race, but dances around the subject and stops short of showing the real horrors of racism. It is a type of racism, that will not make white audiences uncomfortable. And those are not my words, they are the words of Spike Lee, whose movie about Racism, “Do The Right Thing,” came out the same year as Driving Miss Daisy. Is playing it safe, and pandering to the audience, really the trait we want to award.
Driving Miss Daisy is not bad, it is just not deserving of any acclaim. It is a light movie to watch if you want to feel good, not a great piece of art that represents the best film has to offer. It was quickly forgotten after winning. And forgettable is another trait that we should not be rewarding.
What Should have Won- Do the Right Thing or Dead Poet’s Society
4. Forrest Gump (1994)
Forrest Gump is okay. it has some funny moments, but overall, it is just so sappy. Like Driving Mrs. Daisy, it panders to the audience and tries to act important, when in reality, it is not. The plot is over the top, but also kind of a mess. The titular character goes through his life and does a ton of crazy things, but there does not really seem to be a point to it. It goes from wacky random adventure to random sad moment, back to wacky random adventure, with no real point. They frame it as Forrest telling a story, but it still needs a through line, something this movie lacks.
There is also another issue, the way women, and African Americans are portrayed in the movie. The Black Panthers are portrayed as constantly angry in violent people, when, in reality, they were moderates, who carried guns to defend themselves. I mean the stereotype of the violent and racist black panthers is common, but that does not excuse the film for falling for it. Women are constantly being beaten up, raped, and whored out in the movie. And it passes it all off as a joke. If it were going for drama, fine, but it akes these dark subjects, and glosses over them? Even if it were going for dark humor it could work, but it tries to be light-hearted while haphazardly tackling serious issues. It is tonal whiplash.
What makes the win even worse, is what it beat out. Pulp Fiction came out the same year. One of the greatest movies of all time, and it lost to Forrest Gump. Also, both Quiz Show and Shawshank Redemption came out that year. But they gave Best Picture, to the mediocre at best, Forrest Gump. What a shame.
What Should Have Won– Pulp Fiction
3. Gladiator (2000)
This is like if Kong Skull Island won the Oscars last year. Is Gladiator an entertaining movie? Sure, but that is all. It is a mindless, B movie, with okay acting, good effects, and fun action. It is a summer blockbuster, that somehow won. The writing is subpar, and the movie does not really have any character outside of the protagonist and the antagonist.
I ask people who like the movie, why they like it. The answer is usually something about how ‘badass’ the movie is. And, while I will not deny the movie is badass, what else does it have to offer? There are no character arcs. No one grows in the movie. The plot is incredibly straightforward. The dialogue is incredibly cliche. While none of these problems make the movie awful, they do prevent it from being great.
It is the definition of a popcorn flick. Severely flawed, but fun to watch. But this type of movie does not deserve an Oscar. It was not the best year for film, but there were certainly better options. memento came out the same year and was a fantastic movie. Requiem for A Dream came out the same season. American Psycho is a classic and came out that year.
What Should Have Won– Memento
2. Crash (2004)
Crash wasn’t even a good movie when it came out. No one cared about it in 2005, and no one cares about it now. It is a forgettable movie. Does it have some redeeming qualities? Sure, the cast is very strong, and all give good performances.
Like Driving Mrs. Diasy, it gets by through pandering. It is Racism For Dummies. It wants to be a powerful picture that makes a statement, but it doesn’t. Everything in the movie is incredibly surface level. It spoon-feeds everything to the audience because it is afraid we would not understand if anything had complexity. One thing that annoys me in movies more than anything, is when a movie treats us like we are stupid. Blatant pandering undercuts the message.
Crash is an ok movie, but I have no clue how it one. Did it have something to do with it filming in the same neighborhood many of the voters live in? Perhaps. Maybe it had a huge campaign. Maybe it won only because it tackled race issues, even if it did so lazily. But because it won, Brokeback Mountian was robbed. I feel like Brokeback Mountain was hurt because it was a gay romance film, and people were still super uncomfortable about that in 2005. I mean the fact this movie was not rated NC-17 was actually controversial. Nothing in this movie implies it should be NC-17. No one would question if it should be NC-17 if the same movie was about a man and a woman. So instead of picking Brokeback Mountian, they picked Crash, because it is super safe.
What Should Have Won– Brokeback Mountian
1. Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
This movie isn’t even good. How did it win? For those who have not seen it, it is very much like Ready Player One. It relies on cameos, and references, rather than actual storytelling and filmmaking. The movie is just a rotation of stereotypical representations of different cultures, with some celebrity cameos. That is all there is to the movie.
The acting is, okay. Not great, but not distractingly bad. The story is non-existent. The scenery is pretty but flat. The production value is okay. It is just a mediocre movie, that is kind of fun if you turn your brain off.
I mean it is kind of important to the industry, in that at the time it was a massive film. It broke records for cast size, costumes, number and size of sets, and other production-related categories. But none of these features were actually good, they were just big and flashy. This movie is actually pretty bad. It is a comedy that isn’t even funny. There were much better films in 1956. Such as Ten Commandments, or The King and I.
What Should Have Won- The King and I