Best Picture – 1983

Official Nominations: Terms Of Endearment. The Big Chill. The Dresser. The Right Stuff. Tender Mercies.

To be honest, even being outside of my own personal tastes this was a big of a junk year for the Academy in this category and beyond. There isn’t a single film here with the vital rewatch factor, and there’s only one which I would personally consider watching again. Everyone’s different though, and there’s no doubting that all five are interesting films and at least two border on iconic status.

Terms Of Endearment was the winner this year, a smash hit weepy with a stellar cast. I don’t have much against it beyond the fact that it was the winner here. As you’ll see below, it’s not something I would have nominated, but based on the star power, the money made, and the performances within, you can’t avoid it. For me, like many of the big Oscar winners, it’s just a better made Hallmark movie.

The Right Stuff should have been the winner here – not only was it also a hit with the critics and is just as well acted as Terms Of Endearment, it’s also one you can get plenty of value from on a rewatch. It inexplicably didn’t make much money, perhaps the only reason it didn’t get the official win. It gets my vote.

The Big Chill is one of those post/latter day coming of age movies following a group of old friends getting together when they’re older. Like many hangout movies it’s less about the plot and more about the characters, the issue being that the characters and their interactions are about as interesting as the meandering, aimless story. The best of these movies make us care about the people and has a poignant and funny script – this struggles on both accounts but isn’t without merit.

The Dresser is an adaptation of an earlier play. As such… I always struggle with these unless the play was meant to be exuberant. It’s theatre on screen, rather than cinema. It’s not the most original or exciting story – it follows the relationship between an unhinged and handless actor (not literally) who is brilliant on stage but essentially useless off it, and his ‘dresser’ who cleans up his messes, babysits him, and makes sure he can make it on to the stage. You could watch the original play or this and get the same from it – but we do have strong performances here.

Finally, Tender Mercies is the small-not-small movie, starring Robert Duvall as a Country Singer who enjoys the bottle just as much as the mic and whose life is a mess after a string of tragedies and unhealthy behaviours. He meets a nice lady and begins to turn his life around. You’ve seen plenty of films just like this. It’s incredibly on the nose but poignant enough thanks to Duvall’s notable skills.

My Winner: The Right Stuff

The Right Stuff (1983) - IMDb

My Nominations: Return Of The Jedi. La Dernier Combat. The Outsiders. Rumble Fish. Scarface. Videodrome. The King Of Comedy.

None of the official nominations make it to my list. I instead select a variety of smash hits, and cult favourites. Return Of The Jedi was the biggest film of the year, closing out the original Star Wars trilogy. Known among critics and most fans as the weakest of the original three movies, Jedi was always my favourite thanks to the frenetic pace, the resolution of the major storylines, and because Luke finally becomes a badass. It’s about as pleasing an end to a multi-film saga as you could hope for.

Staying loosely in the realm of Science Fiction, Videodrome sees David Cronenberg with a bigger palette to play with, inviting Debbie Harry and James Woods to enter his mad world. As with many Cronenberg movies, it’s visionary, has startling unforgettable imagery, and was ahead of its time only becoming more prescient with each passing year. The main difference between this and his earlier work is the quality of actor and the budget, allowing him to pinpoint the mainstream. It’s a film with a lot to say, even if much of it is buried in violence and confusion – such is Cronenberg’s way of presenting his ideas, but it’s a film everyone should experience.

Going even looser on the outskirts of Sci Fi is La Dernier Combat, Luc Besson’s debut is a near silent exploration of a post apocalyptic future in which one particular survivor encounters various other individuals and groups and… well… there’s not a lot in the way of plot. It’s like an even quieter Mad Max, with a lower budget and no stunts, but is just as visually pleasing and intriguing.

Keeping in the indie sphere and moving beyond Sci-Fi, if movies by Francis Ford Coppola can ever be classed as ‘Indie’ is Rumble Fish and The Outsiders. The Outsiders is a coming of age movie more catered to my tastes than The Big Chill, following a group of poor and disaffected teens who, while good-hearted, have been dealt several bad hands and have seemingly no bright lights on the horizon. It’s a solid adaptation of one of the few stories which nails angst and teen relationships, helped by a superb cast of future stars. Rumble Fish is a similar enough story and film – hardly surprising given both were novels by S.E Hinton and that both were filmed back to back by Coppola with the same crew. Rumble Fish differs mainly in a stylistic way, with Copolla opting for an experimental approach from the music to the unusual black and white look.

Never one to be outdone by Coppola, Martin Scorsese returns with The King Of Comedy, an amusing, surprising, and disturbing film led by a storming Robert De Niro performance in which he plays a shadow-mirror version of Travis Bickle known as Rupert Pupkin. It remains one of both De Niro and Scorsese’s most underrated films even after it received a modern boost when The Joker spent much of its run time ripping it off.

Finally, and not one to be outdone by De Niro, is Al Pacino in Brian De Palma’s peerless remake of Scarface. Normally this would be my winner and would be fully deserving of that title given the talent involved, the money made, the end result, and the iconic visuals and dialogue, but Return Of The Jedi edges it for me in terms of its importance both to me and to cinema as a whole.

My Winner: Return Of The Jedi.

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Picture – 1982

Official Nominations: Gandhi. ET. The Verdict. Missing. Tootsie

Gandhi is your official winner this year, and it’s difficult to argue otherwise. It’s a masterwork on an impressive scale, reminiscent in colour and scope of Kurosawa’s later work, and with a brilliant lead performance. It’s not a film I ever feel the need to revisit, but it’s one everyone should see. I feel the same way about each of the official nominations – Tootsie is not my cup of tea but is held together by a level of charm, humour, and good performances, Missing is tense but Costas Garvas doesn’t go for the throat as much as I would have liked, while The Verdict is about as good a Courtroom Drama as you’ll ever see but is not a genre I care for, propped up by a stellar cast and script. My winner then, as much as I’m not the biggest fan of it, is ET as it remains a beautiful family friendly film and further showcased Spielberg’s ability to mix entertainment and art like few others can.

My Winner: ET

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) - IMDb

My Nominations: Poltergeist. Blade Runner. Conan The Barbarian. The Wall. The Thing.

While I’m not always a fan of simply including my personal favourites in this (or any) category, it just so happens that my personal picks are strong enough to warrant inclusion here. Of course, it would be difficult for me to avoid arguably my favourite Musical of all time, two of my favourite Sci-Fi movies ever, and my favourite Fantasy movie. Poltergeist is Tobe Hooper/Steven Spielberg and is more fun for me than ET. It’s family friendly-ish, and a wonderful introduction to Horror with a fair share of both gore, lore, and scares. The Wall is the film adaptation of one of my all time favourite albums, and as troubled an end product as it is, the fact that it exists and isn’t a complete mess is something of a miracle. Rather than being a mess, it’s a tortured trawl through the fictional and real minds of those involved.

Conan The Barbarian is severely underrated – or maybe it’s simply elevated beyond what anyone would expect from its genre. When you measure it against any Fantasy movie made till 1982, there is no comparison in terms of scope, invention, script, and beauty, and it wasn’t surpassed until LOTR. Blade Runner was sorely misunderstood upon release but is now rightly held up as a pinnacle – groundbreaking in its visuals and in pushing the genre forwards as a serious art form. Finally, The Thing is John Carpenter’s masterwork – horrible, tense, with breathtaking effects work, an ambiguous script, and a story which has echoed through the ages.

My Winner: The Thing

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Picture – 1981

Official Nominations: Chariots Of Fire. On Golden Pond. Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Reds. Atlantic City.

With this list, there’s only one sure winner for me. That winner is the only film in the list I would choose to return to and while the others have obvious merits they pale significantly in terms of entertainment value and significance. You can almost taste The Academy clutching at straws about how to hold on to the past with respect to the turn towards the Blockbuster, selecting a very traditional set of films with established names and well-worn themes. Every film here is 100% worth watching, well directed, well acted, but Raiders is the MVP. In the forty years since its release, it’s still as entertaining as ever and caters to any viewer of any age.

Chariots Of Fire. You know it for the music, and because it has something to do with running? It’s certainly inspirational and features a who’s who of British stars, but it lacks any real rewatchability – something an Oscar winner surely demands. On Golden Pond excels through its two main stars, and appears on the official list mainly down to their names and performances – Hepburn and Fonda (senior) leading a heartwarming enough tale of love near the end of life. On one hand I don’t think there’s enough focus on veteran performers and this kind of story these days, but on the other hand those types of films rarely do much for me on an emotional level.

Reds is fine – I like any film which challenges the US mainstream view of Communism – but it’s also a very standard, straight-laced Warren Beatty movie which probably wouldn’t have gained the same recognition had he not been in the hot seat. It’s a serviceable historical drama. Atlantic City shouldn’t be here given it was a 1980 film, but it’s slice of realism makes it seem more like an early to mid 70s movie. Again it’s perfectly fine but I feel it doesn’t say much more than any of its counterparts from years earlier did.

My Winner: Raiders Of The Lost Ark

20 Adventurous Facts About 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' | Mental Floss

My Nominations: Raiders Of The Lost Ark. An American Werewolf In London. Escape From New York. The Evil Dead. Gallipoli. For Your Eyes Only. The Road Warrior.

Only Raiders makes it over to my personal nominations, joining an admittedly skewed list; you’re going to see a lot of that from me in the 80s. There’s honestly only one film here I could see maybe being nominated in an alternate version of history – Gallipoli hits plenty of the notes you tend to see The Academy fawning over – an Anti War War movie, beautifully shot, and directed by an established favourite in Peter Weir. It’s one of Australia’s best films and one of the best War movies of the last forty years. And yet, it’s not the best Australian movie of the year. The Road Warrior may be Australia’s finest moment, with Mel Gibson and George Miller’s follow-up improving upon every aspect of the original. Even with the glitz and modern spectacle of Fury Road, Road Warrior has it beat for me in terms of scope and visceral action. The practical set pieces and stunts are some of the best you’ll ever see and the world the story is set in is almost unrecognizable to what we know and retains the unearthly atmosphere and tone of the original. It’s Gibson’s true breakthrough, barely uttering a word as he traverses a dying world in search of petrol, helping the needy against warring punk overlords.

An American Werewolf In London is probably the finest Horror Comedy ever made – I would make a case for Scream being superior, but the balance is different. Maybe the only thing holding it back is the lack of star power – even as there are recognizable faces making brief appearances. This is John Landis at the height of his powers and he wouldn’t make as strong a film as this again. Thankfully the film’s importance was recognized, forcing through a new Academy category. The Evil Dead, I feel people forget, is much more of a horror movie than its sequel/remake. There is more innovation, energy, and vitality in single scenes of this movie than there are in many of the Official Nominations entire running time. It’s essentially the original cabin in the woods story, following a bunch of friends heading off for a weekend of debauchery and getting more than they bargained for upon stumbling upon the dreaded Necronomicon. Not only did it launch Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, but it became endlessly influential within the Horror genre and beyond.

Escape From New York continued John Carpenter’s ludicrous run of quality and introduced the world to Snake Plissken, one of genre film’s most iconic anti-heroes and cemented Kurt Russell’s change from teen heart-throb to genuine force. While the effects are well past dated now, they still oddly hold up now in keeping in the film’s nihilistic vision of a fallen, corrupt world. The New York remains a unique vision, the soundtrack is as impactful as it was at release, and the cast is fantastic – Donald Pleasance, Lee Van Cleef, Isaac Hayes, Adrian Barbeau, Ernest Borgnine, Harry Dean Stanton to name a few. Finally, one of the most underrated James Bond outings but an undoubted personal favourite due to its cold realism and down to earth approach (given it was a Moore movie), For Your Eyes Only has it all – big stunts, romance, one-liners, emotion, laughs, and a terrific cast of characters and performers. One of the series’ best songs too.

My Winner: Raiders Of The Lost Ark

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Picture – 1980

Official Nominations: Ordinary People. The Coal Miner’s Daughter. Raging Bull. The Elephant Man. Tess.

This should be easy. Forget all of the nonsense about what The Academy wants to vote for, forget all of the nonsense about campaigning and politics and how simple it is to predict what will win based on the rest of Awards Season – all you should focus on is what deserves to win. Naturally that’s about as subjective as things come, which is why I’m a fan of Awards like this either being based on concrete metrics and data, or being made retroactively. I’d be much happier if The Oscars took place at a 2-3 years distance from release date as by that time you would see some of the influence and staying power of a particular film coming through.

Remember The Nightman Scoring System? If you don’t, click that link. That is roughly how films should be evaluated and scored. It’s a little simplistic but you can play around with the categories and make it fit. The system works. If you put these five films through that System, looking at how much money a movie made, looking at performance, directing, music, everything else – I’m fairly certain one movie would be the clear winner. Raging Bull is your clear winner for this year. An artistic, cinematic, and personal achievement, one which changed how we expect actors to perform, and one which acts as straightforward entertainment while not cheapening itself for mass consumption. It’s one of the best movies of the decade, and one of the best movies ever made.

Your second place choice is something you could make most of the same arguments for – The Elephant Man is also a stunning achievement but perhaps less accessible than Raging Bull if only for its subject matter. It’s a shame these came out in the same year – put The Elephant Man out in 1981 and that’s your winner. It’s about as accessible and mainstream as David Lynch gets. We’re left with the also rans. Tess is mainly here on the strength of Polanski’s other work – good film, just not Best Of The Year good. The Coal Miner’s Daughter is Oscar-bait – biography, musical, American Dream stuff. Similar almost to The Elephant Man and Raging Bull except those both upend the fist-pumping American Dream story and format. Again, good film, great lead performance – not year best worthy.

Which leads us to one of the divisive wins in Oscars history – Ordinary People. It’s not exactly spoken in the same breath as Raging Bull these days, but when it is it’s along the lines of ‘how the hell did this beat Raging Bull’. There’s one simple reason, and that reason is that The Academy loves Robert Redford. I’m not going to sit here and bad mouth the movie though – it’s a very good movie. Take Raging Bull and The Elephant Man out and this is your clear winner. It’s another incisive slice-down through, not the American Dream but the American Norm – an affluent family rocked and failing to cope with the death of a family member. It doesn’t need to be two hours long and while Redford’s first time directing is mature and assured, it doesn’t have the immediate or long-lasting impact of Lynch or Scorsese.

My Winner: Raging Bull

Original Raging Bull Movie Poster - Jake La Motta - Martin Scorsese

My Nominations: Raging Bull. The Elephant Man. The Empire Strikes Back. The Shining. The Blues Brothers. Cannibal Holocaust.

Only two of the true nominations make it over to my list, joining an all time infant terrible, an all time horror masterpiece, an all time cult classic, and one of the all time greats regardless of genre. Cannibal Holocaust – there’s no way anyone in their right mind would ever nominate this – it’s cheap, nasty, badly dubbed, and features real life animal cruelty and death. I am clearly not in my right mind, so it goes on the list. The film is unforgettable and parts of it will sneak up on you years later, like a trigger. How many films have had the impact this one had? Not only did it essentially create the Found Footage genre (regardless of whether you feel that’s a positive or negative, it remains a fact) but it also led to a genuine public outcry and Criminal Proceedings where the director had to prove he didn’t murder his cast. No other film on either list, or in 1980 can say the same.

The Blues Brothers is my idea of the perfect musical – the music is actually good, the musical interludes make sense, it doesn’t take itself seriously, plus it’s actually funny and mostly avoids any romance nonsense. Is it Best Of The Year quality…. probably not, but it has taken on that quality of transcending its release and remains a well loved cult favourite. If any Horror movie of the 1980s deserved Academy recognition it was surely The Shining. Frequently at or near the top of any serious list of the Best Horror Movies ever made, plus it was directed by Academy favourite Kubrick and starred Academy favourite Nicholson. This is maybe the glaring omission of the year – did we really need The Coal Miner’s daughter when we already had two better biopics this year? The Shining didn’t receive a single nomination, a travesty with hindsight and giving some weight to the argument that you need some time before trying to aware the best for something as subjective as film.

The final nomination from my side is what most people call ‘the best Star Wars movie’. I prefer Jedi, but I’m in the minority. It ups the ante from A New Hope, expanding the universe and the interweaving stories of each character, it blurs its own narrative constructs of morality and takes the tale far beyond the typical heroic journey, plus it has bad-ass action, a great soundtrack, and has arguably the most impressive and iconic visuals in the entire franchise. As Raging Bull already has my Official Win, I’m handing this one to Empire.

 My Winner: The Empire Strikes Back

Let us know in the comments which movies you would nominate and what your winner would be!

Best Picture – 1979

Official Nominations: Kramer vs Kramer. All That Jazz. Apocalypse Now. Breaking Away. Norma Rae.

1979. You have the film fan’s favourite; the other film fan’s favourite; and the audience favourite. Then two other ones no-one cares about. Apocalypse Now is the winner here for me, and it’s not even close. I like Kramer Vs Kramer but it feels too much like a TV movie – I’ve always felt that way about court movies, no matter how cinematic they may be. Of course it isn’t strictly a court movie, but you understand my meaning. All That Jazz  – you can already anticipate my feelings on this one given that it’s a musical. Surprisingly though, it’s not as distasteful to me as other musicals and a fine end to Fosse’s career, with as much darkness as any of his other work. It’s just a pity it has all that singing and dancing crap. Roy Scheider has rarely been better, and yet the film’s attempts at the surreal don’t always work.

The final two films are Norma Rae  – Erin Brockovich for the 70s in which Sally Field stands up to The Man, and Breaking Away, in which a bunch of friends leave school and have no clue what to do with their lives. It’s fantastic, and probably my second favourite here, but then I’ve always had a thing for coming of age movies. So two undisputed classics, and three very good movies to round off the decade. Still though, only one winner.

My Winner: Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now Final Cut'Trailer: The Horror Returns – /Film

My Nominations: Apocalypse Now. Alien. Mad Max. Scum. The Warriors.

I add four personal favourites to my list. Of these, Alien is the only one who could have genuinely seen The Oscars nominate. It made a tonne of money, critics loved it, and was nominated for two Oscars – winning one. It’s every bit as chilling and epic now as it was then, with a set and sound design few films since have rivalled. It’s the perfect streamlined horror plot – people are trapped with an unknown and seemingly unstoppable killer – with just enough mystery to let our imaginations create a wider world and internal horrors. Unfortunately the Prometheus side of things has taken the mythology in ludicrous directions and slightly soured the impact of the original. As it stands, it’s undoubtedly one of the best horror movies ever made.

Mad Max is a film which, as I’ve mentioned before, has an unearthly atmosphere which I’ve rarely encountered in Cinema. Part of that is what I bring to it as a viewer, but much of it is just the weirdness of it all – it truly does feel ugly and apocalyptic and genuine – a world away from most modern Cinema’s attempts at depicting a world in collapse. The Warriors also takes place in a world, or a city, in a state of decay and acts like a road movie without cars – a chase movie on foot, a siege movie where the besieged are constantly moving. Finally, Scum is the least likely of my picks to ever have been nominated – it’s a British movie filled with gritty violence and peppered with controversy to the extent that it was one of famous needless busy body Brit Mary Whitehouse’s personal crusades – she wanted it banned and never spoken of again. Featuring future stars giving terrific performances – Ray Winstone, Phil Daniels, Julian Firth, it’s neither a pretty nor pleasant watch as it follows the glamour-free Scarface-esque rise of one troubled youth within the walls of a Borstal (pretty much a prison for kids).

My Winner: Alien

Let us know in the comments which film you would choose as the Best of 1979!

Best Picture – 1978

Official Nominations: The Deer Hunter. Coming Home. Heaven Can Wait. Midnight Express. An Unmarried Woman.

The late 70s saw an uptake in realistic war movies – thanks to the grit and realism which filmmakers had sought to provide since the start of the decade, and when merged with the injustices of the Vietnam war, Hollywood and audiences were ready for such films. The Deer Hunter is one of the greatest War movies ever made – impeccably directed and acted, and with any number of iconic scenes. It’s incredibly tense, tragic, and draining, but also beautifully shot. For anyone not in the know, it follows a group of friends from a small industrial town who are all heading to Vietnam – we meet them before heading off and see their relationships and personalities. One gets married, they have a final bonding Deer Hunt, and then the film abruptly jumps to ‘Nam. The rest of the film deals with their part in the war, coming home to find out how the world has moved on, and each dealing with their personal changes.

Coming Home has been overshadowed by The Deer Hunter, but it’s great too and shares a lot of similarities with Cimino’s movie. There is Vietnamthere is a paralyzed guy, there’s a girl waiting at home, there’s a guy with PTSD – it’s a very strong movie but lacks the overall power of The Deer Hunter. Heaven Can Wait is another one of those ‘guy dies before his time and argues with the powers that be to send him back to Earth’ movies. We’ve all seen one of them, and this is the best version, charming, sweet, funny. On the other end of the scale is Midnight Express – as stark and chilling a prison movie as you’ll ever see. It’s not an easy watch, the direction as cold as the unfolding events – it’s about a college student buying some cheap dope in Turkey while on holiday and trying to get home. He gets caught and goes through a lot of bullshit before being imprisoned. Prison life is tough, but he meets other friendly inmates. When he gets decades added on to his sentence he decides to escape, but more terrible things happen and he eventually loses his mind. It’s one of those movies everyone should see once, but once will be enough for most.

Finally, An Unmarried Woman lightens the tone. It’s an important film for the evolution of the roles women get on screen and touches on subjects such as the sexual liberation of the time. Basically it shows a wife who has a more or less perfect American life losing it all after her husband decides to leave her. She is thrown into the world of singles again, confused and angry, but as the film progresses she learns to stand on her own. It’s good, but it has no chance of winning.

My Winner: The Deer Hunter

My Nominations: The Deer Hunter. Midnight Express. Superman. Halloween. The Driver. Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers. Dawn Of The Dead. Big Wednesday. Animal House.

So, when I created my lovely top 250 films on IMDB many many years ago, no fewer than five of my nominations this year made an appearance. I don’t think I’d seen Big Wednesday at that point, or at seen it too recently to rank it. You wouldn’t think it is a John Milius film, it’s certainly his most personal, and it’s understandable that it didn’t do as well as it should have going up against the similarish Deer Hunter and Coming Home. At least Milius would get his surfing love into Apocalypse Now. Big Wednesday is a great coming of age drama about friendship – even though it is from a place and era I have no affiliation with, it still reminds you of your own youth and experience in a bittersweet way, its universal themes compatible with anyone.

Animal House wasn’t on my list either but as far as comedies go they don’t get much better or anarchic or influential. Frat Houses are not something we have any experience of in my country, and while I actually lived at home during my University years, I stayed with friends long enough to get a glimpse, a tiny glimpse of the sorts of antics the film presents – like the previous film there is a universal sense of camaraderie here which ensures the film keeps hitting the right notes with each generation. You’re unlikely to find many more comedies with as much energy and great performers as this. Superman was long seen as the greatest comic book movie ever – compare it was Marvel and DC’s efforts today and, well, there isn’t really much comparison. As much as I love it, I’ve always been more of a Burton’s Batman kind of guy – it appeared on my list, Superman didn’t. Reeve creates or restores an icon, the world had a new hero, everyone loved Lois, hated Luthor, and laughed at Jimmy, and Brando even pops up.

The Driver was on my Top 250 IMDB list, Walter Hill’s film as minimalist as it is cool – Ryan O’Neal has never been better while Bruce Dern is comically manic. I still say it’s the best car movie ever made, not that I know or care much about cars. Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers is the most acclaimed version of the story, though Abel Ferrara’s retelling remains my personal favourite. This one has the best cast and the best twist, with Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy, Veronica Cartright all excelling, along with Brooke Adams and Jeff Goldblum. There’s just something about this idea of soulless copies, of being hunted down and not knowing who to trust or who is an alien which resonates with me and I love this version.

That leaves us with two of the greatest horror movies of all time. How do you choose between two seminal classics – Halloween essentially created the slasher genre and the teen horror genre, while Dawn Of The Dead perfected every zombie cliché. I could watch both of these movies every day for the rest of my life and never get sick of them. Both are scary – in the immediate and lingering sense, both are technically brilliant, both have great performances, great music, and are defining moments for both directors. Halloween is a must watch every Halloween – no other film has nailed that sense, or essence of the season, and I’d go so far as saying no film about any season, Christmas included, has got it right. Dawn Of The Dead though… I’m not sure any other horror film has ever grabbed me so instantly and filled me with so many thoughts and ideas and questions to the extent that I’ll be thinking about it at least once a week. I love everything about this movie, even the stuff that doesn’t work, and for me it is never less than perfect.

My Winner: Dawn Of The Dead

What is your pick for the Best Film of 1978? Anything not mentioned above? Let us know in the comments!

Best Picture – 1977

Official Nominations: Star Wars. Annie Hall. The Goodbye Girl. Julia. The Turning Point.

This year was all about Star Wars and Annie Hall – one movie about a bunch of weird-talking, hair-covered, funny-looking characters, and the other about Luke Skywalker and chums. Annie Hall picked up the win and is generally considered Woody Allen’s finest work, honing his dialogue, quirks, and romantic plot into something palatable for the masses. Star Wars meanwhile, is possibly the single most significant film ever, single-handedly changing the movie landscape, the movie business, for ever more. I think you already know what my winner is.

Your average movie goer won’t know the other three even though each is worth seeing, depending on your preferences. The Turning Point was incredibly, and inexplicably, nominated for 11 Oscars, but didn’t win any setting a record. It’s about ballet – all these former dancers and lovers and new dancers and lovers and all of the drama between them, and based on a true life story. The Goodbye Girl is about the relationship between dancer and actor and is held together by an Oscar winnig Richard Dreyfuss performance – it’s another unusual choice for Best Picture nomination, but it’s still good. Finally, Julia sees Jane Fonda Vanessa Redgrave’s friendship divide into separate lives and journeys, with Nazi drama and Jason Robards and Meryl Streep all popping up – again a good film but an odd choice in the category.

My Winner: Star Wars


My Nominations: Star Wars. Eraserhead. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. The Duellists. High Anxiety. Sorceror. Suspiria.

You know, for such an important year in Cinema – namely due to the release of Star Wars – there aren’t many genuine contenders for the top prize. Therefore Star Wars is the only one which makes it to my list and joins a handful of personal favourites and some which you feel could have been nominated. Eraserhead was, and still is, too bizarre to have ever received a nomination in this category, but it is a singular film, a unique vision, and is just as powerful today as it was then – people are still talking about it and being influenced by it. Close Encounters feels like the one that could have been nominated, and the more conservative voter may have gone for it over Star Wars. The Duellists also feels like a film which could have been nominated, though maybe Ridley Scott needed another film under his belt before its release; it has all the hallmarks of the sort of film the Academy loves to nominate, with the caveat being that this one is actually good. My final trio had no chance of being nominated – Friedkin’s Sorceror mostly ignored upon release and only receiving its due credit in recent years as a pure exercise in tension, Argento’s Susperia is gory horror so wasn’t going to be mentioned at all, even if it is one of the most visually stunning movies ever made, and High Anxiety wasn’t topical enough while being one of the most clever and funny Brooks efforts.

My Winner: Star Wars

Let us know your picks and thoughts in the comments!

Best Picture – 1976

Official Nominations: Rocky. Taxi Driver. All The President’s Men. Bound For Glory. Network.

The mid-seventies were incredibly impressive from a quality perspective, with The Academy largely nominating the correct films. 1976 is mostly no different – there are four films here which you would be happy to pic as winner, and another which is all but forgotten. Bound For Glory is the outcast – a biography of Woody Guthrie. It’s the sort of thing The Academy always nominates, but this one while fine is oddly stale and uneventful. Sidney Lumet gets another nod after missing out the previous year, this time for the brilliant and satirical Network – a film which seems to grow in value with every passing scandal and generation. Speaking of scandals, All The President’s Men is probably still the most famous ‘media’ movie focusing on real life events, inspirational and pertinent.

As important and great as those movies are, the final two are by far the more adored and have enjoyed that status since release. Taxi Driver firmly positioned De Niro and Scorsese as greats and is one of the seminal movies of the decade, a grim and darkly comedic look at New York, and by extension, North America’s underbelly. It’s another film whose power hasn’t diminished. Finally, it’s Rocky. Say what you will about the sequels (I personally love them all), but the original remains one of the most inspiring movies ever, filled with love, hope, determination, and remains the best American Dream movie since the time it was released. Stallone, Shire, Avildson, Meredith, Young, Weathers – the music, the training, the fight, the dialogue – from a commercial, cultural, and critical standpoint one of the most important movies ever made.

My Winner: Rocky


My Nominations: Rocky. Taxi Driver. The Omen. All The President’s Men. Network. Marathon Man.

As proof again of how strong the mid-seventies were, four of the five official nominees make my list. There are plenty of others to choose from though. In terms of critically acclaimed horror movies, The Omen seems to be one which gets forgotten alongside The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby – but it’s no less vital. Certainly more visceral in its approach thanks to the use of some spectacular, gory setpieces, Richard Donner’s classic still holds up. Finally, Marathon Man brings equally insidious thrills as Dustin Hoffman gets embroiled in the hunt for Nazi diamonds, with Schlesinger barely shying away from some of the most notoriously uncomfortable, squirming scenes of torture ever. Lovely.

My Winner: Rocky

Let us know in the comments which film of 1976 you pick as winner!

Best Picture – 1975

Official Nominations: One Flew Over The Cukoo’s Nest. Jaws. Dog Day Afternoon. Barry Lyndon. Nashville

Jeepers, what do you do with this category? Five undisputed classics including three which have been personal favourites for most of my life. Anything you pick here is a worthy winner, but lets go through them anyway. One Flew Over The Cukoo’s Nest was the official winner and only the second movie ever to win the five major categories. If you’re here then you already know the story, but just in case – Jack Nicholson’s character RP McMurphy (who people forget is actually a scumbag criminal) is moved from prison to a mental institution because he thinks he’ll have an easier time. He meets the other inmates, has a lot of fun bending the rules, and clashes with the vicious lead Nurse. It’s iconic, filled with great scenes and performances, and runs the gamut from side-splitting laughs, to shocks, and tragedy. It’s a must see.

Next up is Jaws. Don’t even try to tell me you haven’t seen Jaws. Brody, Quint, Hooper, Orca, ‘we’re gonna need a bigger boat’ etc. Even if you don’t watch movies, you watch Jaws. Dog Day Afternoon also features iconic moments and is led by a blistering Al Pacino performance – when people begin watching Pacino movies, this film is one you’ll want to see as soon as possible, but it’s great for other reasons too – funny moments, an air of inevitability, and the general anti-establishment tone controlled by Sidney Lumet mean it’s a cult classic.

Barry Lyndon is Stanley Kubrick’s return, this time a period piece about the adventures of the titular character. Perhaps overlong and not as controversial or immediately engaging as some of his more popular work, it is nevertheless one of the most beautifully shot films ever. Finally, it’s Nashville. Possibly my least favourite film here, but when you look at the other four that isn’t a negative statement – it’s another masterstroke by Altman. In any other year any of these films would be in contention for a win, the fact that I enjoy it even though it’s a musical is a testament to its quality. It’s hilarious with a touch of the surreal, and bolstered by a bunch of good performances. For my win, I go with the one I know and love best.

My Winner: Jaws

My Nominations: One Flew Over The Cukoo’s Nest. Jaws. Dog Day Afternoon. Barry Lyndon. Nashville. The Holy Grail. Picnic At Hanging Rock

As great as the nominations are this year, there aren’t too many obvious choices to add or replace. Having said that, I add two personal favourites which never stood a chance of ever getting nominated. Monty Python And The Holy Grail is sheer British anarchy at its finest, turning comedy, and film, on its head in a parade of songs, violence, silliness, fourth wall breaking, and general inspired nonsense while Picnic At Hanging Rock is another symbol of the creativity emerging from Oz in the 70s. It’s an ambiguous mystery with definite beauty, a haunting score and the sort of tension only experienced inside the heart of darkness.

My Winner: Jaws

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Picture – 1974

Official Nominations: The Godfather Part 2. Chinatown. The Conversation. Lenny. The Towering Inferno.

One the most renowned and brilliant years for the Best Picture, you would think that any year any of those nominated could be winner. The Godfather Part 2 got the official win, and how can you possibly argue against it? Coppola, Pacino, De Niro, the survivors from the first film, ‘you broke my heart’, ‘just enough to wet my beak’ etc. It’s glorious.

Chinatown is glorious too, just slightly less so. Polanski, Nicholson, Dunaway, Robert Towne – all doing career best work. It doesn’t even sound remotely interesting on the surface – a private investigator is hired to look into a man who is an engineer for some LA water company. As the plot unravels more and more mysteries emerge, leading to threat, violence, sex… it’s Chinatown. The Conversation is interesting primarily because Coppola made and released it in the same year as he did The Godfather II – how is that even possible? To be honest I’m not a huge fan of The Conversation – Hackman is good, his character is interesting, but the plot and repetition leave me mostly cold. I’m in the minority.

Lenny is Bob Fosse’s least regarded major work, but my favourite of his, probably to do with the lack of singing and dancing. It still deals with a lot of dark subject matter like his other movies do – the price of fame, addiction, relationships – and it features a terrific Dustin Hoffman performance as the great comedian. We finish with one of the finest disaster movies ever, and arguably the most tense and action packed. As was the case with these, the cast is packed with stars – Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Fred Astaire, Robert Vaughn etc are among those trapped or involved with the world’s tallest building going up in flames. As difficulty as the category is, there’s still a clear winner.

My Winner: The Godfather Part 2

My Nominations: The Godfather Part 2. Chinatown. Blazing Saddles. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Young Frankenstein.

The Mid-Seventies choices are difficult to argue with, but nevertheless there are a few films I feel deserved a nomination too. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is primary among those, but it’s a films which stood zero chance of garnering a single nomination – the film was simply too brutal, too shocking for its time, going beyond even what The Exorcist achieved. It is a film which retains that quality even today, in a world where more extreme, more bloody, more disgusting films are released yearly, yet few if any of those match the sheer force which surrounds The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. From the all too real performances, the grainy , gritty look, the crawling, uncomfortable soundtrack, it’s a film which doesn’t beg to be recognised – it kicks down your door, lashes you to a hook, and forces you to watch. Blazing Saddles is an altogether lighter affair, yet it’s equally groundbreaking, a satirical affair which is both whip smart and blazingly funny, while Mel Brooks somehow achieves a double nomination with Young Frankenstein – a film which drops the satire and heightens the farce.

My Winner: The Godfather Part 2

Let us know in the comments what you pick as the Best Film of 1974!