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:Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction

Quentin Tarantino

With the knockout one-two punch of 1992’s Reservoir Dogs and 1994’s Pulp Fiction writer-director Quentin Tarantino stunned the filmmaking world, exploding into prominence as a cinematic heavyweight contender. But Pulp Fiction was more than just the follow-up to an impressive first feature, or the winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival, or a script stuffed with the sort of juicy bubblegum dialogue actors just love to chew, or the vehicle that reestablished John Travolta on the A-list, or the relatively low-budget ($8 million)…

Film:Titanic

Titanic

James Cameron

When the theatrical release of James Cameron’s Titanic was delayed from July to December of 1997, media pundits speculated that Cameron’s $200 million disaster epic would cause the director’s downfall, signal the end of the blockbuster era and sink Paramount Studios as quickly as the ill-fated luxury liner had sunk on that fateful night of April 14, 1912. Some studio executives were confident, others horrified, but the clarity of hindsight turned Cameron into an Oscar-winning genius, a shrewd businessman and one of the most successful directors in the…

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: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:Shakespeare in Love

Shakespeare in Love

John Madden

One of the most endearing and intelligent romantic comedies of the ‘90s, the Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love is filled with such good will, sunny romance, snappy one-liners, and devilish cleverness that it’s absolutely irresistible. With tongue placed firmly in cheek, at its outset the film tracks young Will Shakespeare’s overwrought battle with writer’s block and the efforts of theater owner Philip Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush, in rare form) to stage Will’s latest comedy, Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter. Jokey comedy, though, soon takes a…

Film:Schindler's List

Schindler's List

Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg had a banner year in 1993. He scored one of his biggest commercial hits that summer with the mega-hit Jurassic Park, but it was the artistic and critical triumph of Schindler’s List that Spielberg called “the most satisfying experience of my career.” Adapted from the best-selling book by Thomas Keneally and filmed in Poland with an emphasis on absolute authenticity, Spielberg’s masterpiece ranks among the greatest films ever made about the Holocaust during World War II. It’s a film about heroism with an unlikely hero at its…

Film:Fargo

Fargo

Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Leave it to the wildly inventive Coen brothers (Joel directs, Ethan produces, they both write) to concoct a fiendishly clever kidnap caper that’s simultaneously a comedy of errors, a Midwestern satire, a taut suspense thriller, and a violent tale of criminal misfortune. It all begins when a hapless car salesman (played to perfection by William H. Macy) ineptly orchestrates the kidnapping of his own wife. The plan goes horribly awry in the hands of bumbling bad guys Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare (one of them being described by a local girl as “kinda funny…

Film:Babe (Chris Noonan)

Babe

Chris Noonan

The surprise hit of 1995, this splendidly entertaining family film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture, director, and screenplay, and deservedly won the Oscar for its subtly ingenious visual effects. Babe is all about the title character, a heroic little pig who’s been taken in by the friendly farmer Hoggett (Oscar nominee James Cromwell), who senses that he and the pig share “a common destiny.” Babe, a popular mischief-maker the Australian farm, is adopted by the resident border collie and raised as a puppy, befriended by…

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