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Film Studies 101
Empire & Sky Movies present coverage of the Academy Awards
A Guide To All The Oscar Best Picture Winners
An in-depth look at every winner, what it's about, why it won and did it deserve to


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AMERICAN BEAUTY (1999)

What is it? Theatre director Sam Mendes turned to cinema and scored a home run straight out of the gate with this tale of suburban ennui, starring Kevin Spacey as disaffected husband and father Lester Burnham, and a plastic bag that actually induced tears.


Why did it win? Well, there wasn't much competition among the main nominees: The Cider House Rules (meh), The Green Mile (has aged well, but felt a bit Shawshank-Lite at the time), The Insider (too serious) and The Sixth Sense (too scary). This is one of those years where Oscar ignored most of the more enduring or innovative films of the year.


Did it deserve to win? While there's been a bit of a backlash against it since its win, it probably was the best among the nominees. Beauty combines glorious cinematography, great performances and a pin-sharp script to great effect - but in a year that also saw the release of Magnolia, Fight Club, The Matrix and Toy Story 2, the nominees were not the best films of the year. So on the other hand, no.


Worth a look? Yes, and remembering why you liked it in the first place. But watch Magnolia, Fight Club and The Matrix first.

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THE BEST PICTURE WINNERS

1. (Best Production) Wings (1927-1928)2. The Broadway Melody (1928-1929)
3. All Quiet on the Western Front (1929-1930)4. Cimarron (1930-1931)
5. Grand Hotel (1931-1932)6. Cavalcade (1932-1933)
7. It Happened One Night (1934)8. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
9. The Great Ziegfeld (1936)10. The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
11. You Can't Take It with You (1938)12. Gone with the Wind (1939)
13. Rebecca (1940)14. How Green Was My Valley (1941)
15. Mrs. Miniver (1942)16. Casablanca (1943)
17. Going My Way (1944)18. The Lost Weekend (1945)
19. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)20. Gentleman's Agreement (1947)
21. Hamlet (1948)22. All the King's Men (1949)
23. All About Eve (1950)24. An American in Paris (1951)
25. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)26. From Here to Eternity (1953)
27. On the Waterfront (1954)28. Marty (1955)
29. Around the World in Eighty Days (1956)30. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
31. Gigi (1958)32. Ben-Hur (1959)
33. The Apartment (1960)34. West Side Story (1961)
35. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)36. Tom Jones (1963)
37. My Fair Lady (1964)38. The Sound of Music (1965)
39. A Man for All Seasons (1966)40. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
41. Oliver! (1968)42. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
43. Patton (1970)44. The French Connection (1971)
45. The Godfather (1972)46. The Sting (1973)
47. The Godfather Part II (1974)48. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
49. Rocky (1976)50. Annie Hall (1977)
51. The Deer Hunter (1978)52. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
53. Ordinary People (1980)54. Chariots of Fire (1981)
55. Gandhi (1982)56. Terms of Endearment (1983)
57. Amadeus (1984)58. Out of Africa (1985)
59. Platoon (1986)60. The Last Emperor (1987)
61. Rain Man (1988)62. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
63. Dances with Wolves (1990)64. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
65. Unforgiven (1992)66. Schindler's List (1993)
67. Forrest Gump (1994)68. Braveheart (1995)
69. The English Patient (1996)70. Titanic (1997)
71. Shakespeare in Love (1998)72. American Beauty (1999)
73. Gladiator (2000)74. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
75. Chicago (2002)76. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
77. Million Dollar Baby (2004)78. Crash (2005)
79. The Departed (2006)80. No Country For Old Men (2007)
81. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)82. The Hurt Locker (2009)
83. The King's Speech (2010)84. The Artist (2011)
85. Argo (2012)86. 12 Years A Slave (2013)


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