- Pulp Fiction, Best Picture, 1995:
Pulp Fiction was nominated for Best Picture at the 1995 ceremony, but lost out on the award to Forrest Gump. Yes, Gump is a classic, but it is no Pulp Fiction. Quentin Tarantino’s second and perhaps most definitive film, Pulp Fiction eschewed traditional storytelling, introduced us to startlingly memorable characters, and had one of the most dynamic and straight-up cool screenplays of all time. Forest Gump’s love letter to Americana is sweet, but nowhere as groundbreaking.
- Goodfellas, Best Picture, 1991:
Disclaimer: Goodfellas is my favorite movie so I might be a little biased in this pick. However, this fanfare is with good reason. The first hour or so of Goodfellas is everything going to the movies is all about; exhilaration, escape, artistic mastery in design and performance, and a damn good, fun story. The score is subtly but still grandly brilliant. Goodfellas is so good that it is the defining work of pretty much everyone involved, from director Martin Scorsese to Ray Liotta to Robert De Niro. Dancing with Wolves won that year- really?
- Jack Nicholson, The Shining, Best Actor, 1980:
The result of a holy horror trifecta, The Shining sees Stanley Kubrick adapt Stephen King’s novel of the same name in a jarring work starring Jack Nicholson. Nicholson perfectly sets the mood of the hypnotic dread which fills the film with his masterful depiction of a declining mental state. Even though the film took time to gain the acclaim it has, the lack of even a nomination for Nicholson is simply inexcusable.
- Citizen Kane, Best Picture, 1941:
Citizen Kane lost out to How Green Was My Valley for Best Picture in 1941. I have never heard of the latter film, but anybody who likes cinema understands what Citizen Kane meant for the future of film. The archetypical courtroom drama, the scope and sheer quality of the film pushed the bar for the entire film industry, creating the modern standard for storytelling.
- Saving Private Ryan, Best Picture, 1999:
Probably the most widely regarded war film of all time, Saving Private Ryan is an exhibition of Steven Spielberg’s ability to strike the perfect tone no matter the subject. He escapes the overly dramatic tendencies which dog many war films while still painting a picture of the gut-wrenching realities of combat. The winner that year was Shakespeare in Love, which is indeed a good film, but most assuredly in a completely lower tier.
Image: Pulp Fiction screen grab