Honor roll: Academy Award® for Best Motion Picture

Each of these films has been nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Motion Picture. They are ranked by honors received.

Film:Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump

Robert Zemeckis

The Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Best Director Robert Zemeckis, and Best Actor Tom Hanks, this unlikely story of a slow-witted but good-hearted man somehow at the center of the pivotal events of the 20th century is a funny and heartwarming epic. Hanks plays the title character, a shy Southern boy in love with his childhood best friend (Robin Wright) who finds that his ability to run fast takes him places. As an All-Star football player he meets John F. Kennedy; as a soldier in Vietnam he’s a war hero; and as a world champion Ping-Pong player he’s hailed…

Film:The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs

Jonathan Demme

Based on Thomas Harris’s novel, this terrifying film by Jonathan Demme really only contains a couple of genuinely shocking moments (one involving an autopsy, the other a prison break). The rest of the film is a splatter-free visual and psychological descent into the hell of madness, redeemed astonishingly by an unlikely connection between a monster and a haunted young woman. Anthony Hopkins is extraordinary as the cannibalistic psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter, virtually entombed in a subterranean prison for the criminally insane. At the behest of the FBI,…

Film:The Departed

The Departed

Martin Scorsese

Rookie cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) grew up in crime. That makes him the perfect mole, the man on the inside of the mob run by boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). It’s his job to win Costello’s trust and help his detective handlers (Mark Wahlberg and Martin Sheen) bring Costello down. Meanwhile, SIU officer Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) has everyone’s trust. No one suspects he’s Costello’s mole. How these covert lives cross, double-cross and collide is at the ferocious core of the widely acclaimed The Departed. Martin Scorsese directs, guiding a cast for the ages in a visceral tale of crime and consequences. This is searing, can’t-look-away filmmaking: like staring into the eyes of a con—or a cop—with a gun.

Film:Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Ang Lee

Hong Kong wuxia films, or martial arts fantasies, traditionally squeeze poor acting, slapstick humor, and silly story lines between elaborate fight scenes in which characters can literally fly. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has no shortage of breathtaking battles, but it also has the dramatic soul of a Greek tragedy and the sweep of an epic romance. This is the work of director Ang Lee, who fell in love with movies while watching wuxia films as a youngster and made Crouching Tiger as a tribute to the form. To elevate the genre above…

Film:Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan

Steven Spielberg

When Steven Spielberg was an adolescent, his first home movie was a backyard war film. When he toured Europe with Duel in his 20s, he saw old men crumble in front of headstones at Omaha Beach. That image became the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, his film of a mission following the D-day invasion that many have called the most realistic—and maybe the best—war film ever. With 1998 production standards, Spielberg has been able to create a stunning, unparalleled view of war as hell. We are at Omaha Beach as troops are slaughtered by Germans yet…

Film:L.A. Confidential

L.A. Confidential

Curtis Hanson

In a time when it seems that every other movie makes some claim to being a film noir, L.A. Confidential is the real thing—a gritty, sordid tale of sex, scandal, betrayal, and corruption of all sorts (police, political, press—and, of course, very personal) in 1940s Hollywood. The Oscar-winning screenplay is actually based on several titles in James Ellroy’s series of chronological thriller novels (including the title volume, The Big Nowhere, and White Jazz)—a compelling blend of L.A. history and pulp fiction that has earned it…

Film:Argo (2012)

Argo

Ben Affleck

Based on true events, Argo chronicles the life-or-death covert operation to rescue six Americans, which unfolded behind the scenes of the Iran hostage crisis-the truth of which was unknown by the public for decades.

On November 4, 1979, as the Iranian revolution reaches its boiling point, militants storm the U.S. embassy in Tehran, taking 52 Americans hostage. But, in the midst of the chaos, six Americans manage to slip away and find refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador. Knowing it is only a matter of time before the six are found out and likely killed, a CIA “exfiltration” specialist named Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) comes up with a risky plan to get them safely out of the country. A plan so incredible, it could only happen in the movies.

Film:Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire

Danny Boyle

Slumdog Millionaire is the story of Jamal Malik (Patel), an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, who is about to experience the biggest day of his life. With the whole nation watching, he is just one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India’s “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”

But when the show breaks for the night, police arrest him on suspicion of cheating; how could a street kid know so much? Desperate to prove his innocence, Jamal tells the story of his life in the slum where he and his brother grew up, of their adventures together on the road, of vicious encounters with local gangs, and of Latika (Pinto), the girl he loved and lost. Each chapter of his story reveals the key to the answer to one of the game show’s questions.

Each chapter of Jamal’s increasingly layered story reveals where he learned the answers to the show’s seemingly impossible…[more]

Film:Chicago (2002)

Chicago

Rob Marshall

Bob Fosse’s sexy cynicism still shines in Chicago, a faithful movie adaptation of the choreographer-director’s 1975 Broadway musical. Of course the story, all about merry murderesses and tabloid fame, is set in the Roaring ‘20s, but Chicago reeks of ‘70s disenchantment—this isn’t just Fosse’s material, it’s his attitude, too. That’s probably why the movie’s breathless observations on fleeting fame and fickle public taste already seem dated. However, Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones are beautifully matched as Jazz Age vixens, and Richard Gere…

Film:American Beauty

American Beauty

Sam Mendes

From its first gliding aerial shot of a generic suburban street, American Beauty moves with a mesmerizing confidence and acuity epitomized by Kevin Spacey’s calm narration. Spacey is Lester Burnham, a harried Everyman whose midlife awakening is the spine of the story, and his very first lines hook us with their teasing fatalism—like Sunset Boulevard’s Joe Gillis, Burnham tells us his story from beyond the grave.

It’s an audacious start for a film that justifies that audacity. Weaving social satire, domestic tragedy, and whodunit into a single…

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