ON THE WATERFRONT (1954)
What is it? A tale of corruption and courage amid the docks of New York - a former fighter and longshoreman (Marlon Brando) attempts to stand up to corrupt Union bosses with the help of a tough priest (Karl Malden).
Why did it win? Having ignored Streetcar in the Best Picture race two years before, and nominated but not rewarded Brando and director Elia Kazan, the Academy was beginning to be aware that it had made a mistake - so splurged on awards for all three this time around. After all, flowers are good, but if you really mean it, say it with Oscars.
Did it deserve to win? Yes - it's a heck of a film. That said, Rear Window and Seven Samurai and the Judy Garland version of A Star Is Born came out and weren't nominated, so the playing field was flatter than it might have been. Other nominees were War drama The Caine Mutiny; romance Three Coins In A Fountain; musical Seven Brides For Seven Brothers and alcoholism drama The Country Girl - all of which you can take or leave.
Worth a look? Hell yes. It has the iconic "coulda been a contender" speech.