Sunday, February 10, 2013

How would you rank the Academy Award Best Picture winners from the 1980s

Well over a year ago, I first talked about how I had set out to watch all of the Academy Award winners for Best Picture. (As of this writing, I’ve only got two movies left to go!) I’m pleased to announce today that I recently finished watching all of the winners from the 1980s.

Winners from that decade included “Ordinary People” (1980), “Chariots of Fire” (1981), “Gandhi” (1982), “Terms of Endearment” (1983), “Amadeus” (1984), “Out of Africa” (1985), “Platoon” (1986), “The Last Emporer” (1987), “Rain Man” (1988) and “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989).

This group of 10 movies includes more than a few that I had never seen before, and, as you might have imagined, they were all very good. Which of these movies is the best is a hard question to answer, but what follows is my ranking of the Best Picture winners from 1980 to 1999.

No. 10 – “Terms of Endearment” (1983): Based on the novel “Terms of Endearment” by Larry McMurtry, this movie was written, produced and directed by James L. Brooks. In a nutshell, this movie is about the relationship between a mother and a daughter over a 30-year period. Starring Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, Jeff Daniels and John Lithgow, this movie won five Academy Awards.

No. 9 – “Ordinary People” (1980): Based on the 1976 novel “Ordinary People” by Judith Guest, this Oscar-winning movie was directed by Robert Redford. It mostly shows how an upper class Illinois family deals with the death of a son. Starring Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore and Timothy Hutton, this movie won three Oscars in addition to Best Picture and was nominated for two more.

No. 8 – “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989): Based on the play “Driving Miss Daisy” by Alfred Uhry, this movie’s about an old widow woman in Georgia and her relationship with her chauffer. Directed by Bruce Beresford, this movie starred Morgan Freeman, Jessica Tandy and Dan Aykroyd. This movie won four Academy Awards and was nominated for five others.

No. 7 – “Out of Africa” (1985): Based on the books “Out of Africa” and “Shadows on the Grass” by Isak Dinesen, this movie is about the fortunes (and misfortunes) of a wealthy plantation owner in Africa during the early 1900s. Written and produced by Sydney Pollack, this movie starred Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. In all, it won seven Academy Awards.

No. 6 – “The Last Emperor” (1987): Based on the life of Puyi, the last Chinese emperor, this movie was directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. The cast included John Lone, Peter O’Toole and Joan Chen. Much of it was filmed inside Beijing’s Forbidden City, and the movie went on to win nine Academy Awards.

No. 5 – “Rain Man” (1988): Directed by Barry Levinson, this movie is about an autistic man and his brother, who are dealing with the aftermath of their wealthy father’s recent death. The cast included Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman and Valeria Golino. In all, it went on to win four Academy Awards.

No. 4 – “Gandhi” (1982): Based on the life of Indian activist Mohandas Gandhi, this movie starred Ben Kingsley as Gandhi. If you’ve never seen it, be prepared. It’s over three hours long. In the end, it was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won eight.

No. 3 – “Amadeus” (1984): Based on the play “Amadeus” by Peter Shaffer, this movie details the relationship between famous 18th century composers, Mozart and Salieri. Directed by Milos Forman, this movie stars Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham. In all, it won eight Academy Awards.

No. 2 – “Chariots of Fire” (1981): Based on the true life performances of two British runners in the 1924 Olympics, this movie was ranked No. 19 on the British Film Institute’s list of Top 100 British Films. Directed by Hugh Hudson, this movie starred Ben Cross and Ian Charleson. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four.

No. 1 – “Platoon” (1986): Ranked No. 83 on the American Film Institute’s List of “100 Years… 100 Movies,” this movie is about the experiences of a U.S. Army infantryman during the Vietnam War. Written and directed by Oliver Stone, this movie starred Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker. It won four Academy Awards, including the Oscar for Best Picture.

Half the fun of doing a ranking like this is hearing how readers in the audience would have ranked the same movies? Which of the movies listed above is you favorite and why? How would you rank them one through ten? Let us know in the comments section below.

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