Ghosts of Oscars past

Screen grab from A Beautiful Mind
Screen grab from A Beautiful Mind

A look back at previous Best Picture winners

By Mercedes Deutscher, Staff Writer

As the 87th Academy Awards draw near, there will be plenty of speculation on which film will win the coveted title of Best Picture. However, since the awards (and Neil Patrick Harris) won’t air until February 22, it allows for plenty of time to revisit some of the great films that have won the title at Oscars past.

Slumdog Millionaire (2009)

In this modern day fairytale, 18-year-old Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) gets his chance at fame when he competes on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The film is like a darker, South Asian-influenced Forrest Gump and it leaves you feeling love and compassion for the main character. However, Slumdog Millionaire takes some dark turns for what is supposed to be a feel-good movie, including child torture and prostitution. There is a ton of culture in this film that is absolutely fascinating and the story is engaging.

A Beautiful Mind (2002)

This biographical drama is based on the life of John Nash (Russell Crowe), an economics mastermind who is struggling with schizophrenia and delusion. While relatively relaxed in the first part of the film, tension builds as Nash is driven to near-disaster and conflicts with his loved ones. While this film has received some negative feedback for not being completely accurate on Nash’s real life, it is the tension of this film—true or not—that makes it able to stand out in the way it does. Playing Nash was a significant role in Crowe’s career, as he does an excellent job portraying a character with mental challenges, which is no easy feat.

Braveheart (1996)

Scotsman William Wallace (Mel Gibson) becomes a warrior out of tragedy in this historical drama that takes place during a period of political unrest between England and Scotland. He later leads the Scots in the First War of Scottish Independence. Although chock-full of excellent action, it is the raw emotion in this film that makes it great. Wallace’s battle cries and motivational speeches remain dialogues that are still referenced nearly 20 years after the movie’s release. It is the standout film in Mel Gibson’s career, as well as one of the most popular films from the 1990s.

Dances With Wolves (1991)

US Union soldier Lieutenant John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) is forced to coexist with a village of Lakota aboriginals in this western film. The movie is rooted in a sense of change, taking place in a time when attitudes towards aboriginals were extremely violent. While most of the action takes place off-screen, the drama and characters make up for it. This is an excellent film that takes a very respectful stance in portraying aboriginal heritage and culture, and gives a strong message of coexistence that isn’t found in many films.

Rain Man (1989)

Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise), a pretentious young man, meets his autistic older brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) for the first time after their millionaire father passes away. Although originally only trying to get Raymond’s portion of the inheritance, Charlie eventually grows to love his brother. This film contains some of the greatest acting in both Tom Cruise’s and Dustin Hoffman’s careers, and leaves the audience with a wide range of heart and warm feelings. It is a vivid and powerful movie that is a gem amongst some rather forgettable ‘80s films.