From November to the end of February, all anyone can really talk about is which film is going to be a Best Picture winner at the Oscars. But, for some movies, that’s all the buzz they’ll ever get.
It’s not uncommon for Best Picture-winning films to completely fall out of the public eye. To disappear into obscurity. In fact, it happens more than you’d think. But they’re deemed Best Picture for a reason, so how could they ever fade away?
Well, sometimes the films are chosen because they’re “Oscar-bait-y” (meaning they have all of the components of what you’d think an Oscar-winning film would have) but don’t have a lot to say. Sometimes, they’re about Hollywood or filmmaking itself (which the Academy has been known to like). Other times, they’re the best of their year but maybe the year isn’t that great (or maybe the actual best films weren’t nominated).
A good measure of whether or not a Best Picture winner has been forgotten by the general public is if another film (or films, in some winners’ cases) has eclipsed the winner in popularity and reverence since the day it won the Oscar.
It could very well be that Spotlight goes the way of the forgotten Best Pictures, what with Mad Max: Fury Road being one of the most popular and well-liked films of the year. It could even be that people are already starting to forget about Spotlight (but I seriously hope not because it’s one of my personal favorite movies of the last year or so, as well as some of our staff members’). But, we won’t know until the 2017 Academy Awards roll around.
Anyway, while we’re all waiting to see whether or not Spotlight fades into obscurity, here are some of the most commonly forgotten Best Picture winners from the last 20 years. They all had the buzz leading up to the awards, but have many of us thought of them since? Probably not.
‘Shakespeare in Love’ (1998)
So Shakespeare in Love isn’t really a film that has been forgotten forgotten (because, after all, it seems like it’s almost always on TV), but it’s one that people have a hard time remembering as a Best Picture Winner. Mostly because it’s not a typical Best Picture film. It’s a romantic comedy. Plus, it tops a lot of lists of worst Best Pictures, so perhaps people have tried to forget about this one on purpose. One thing’s for sure: It’s still a mystery how this movie beat out Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture.
‘A Beautiful Mind’ (2001)
Do you remember what this one’s about? Neither can I. It’s not like I don’t recognize the name of the film when I read or hear it, but it isn’t one that I’ve ever felt like pop culture has pressured me to see. People still think of it highly, but it just isn’t a Best Picture winner that has carved out a place in pop culture. This movie was a pretty big deal when it came out (which could have had something to do with its post-9/11 premiere), but hasn’t had much buzz since.
‘Million Dollar Baby’ (2004)
When this movie first came out, it was all anyone could talk about. The next Karate Kid was kicking ass and taking names. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing people talk about Hillary Swank and her amazing work in this movie. Also, apparently there was some sort of twist or huge thing at the end that people were spoiling for others. However, you can tell that this movie was never The Empire Strikes Back or The Sixth Sense-big because that spoiler isn’t something people talk about or enjoy ruining for people. In fact, people don’t really talk about this movie at all anymore. Period.
‘Slumdog Millionaire’ (2008)
Slumdog Millionaire used to be a must-see movie. Now? Not so much. That could have something to do with the fact that Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? isn’t a popular thing anymore, but it also could just be that while people sympathized with the characters and felt for them, they couldn’t empathize with them. So the movie slowly started being forgotten. However, if there’s one Best Picture film that deserves a comeback in the public’s eye, it’s this one. It’s too brilliant to fade away.
Does anyone actually remember this movie? What it’s about, who’s in it, etc.? You’ll be hard-pressed to find a handful of people who do. If anything, Crash is remembered for the controversy it caused when it first came out and during the awards season (due to the way it dealt with racial tensions and its theme of wavering morality) instead of its plot. Well, that and it’s remembered for beating out Brokeback Mountain for Best Picture.
‘The King’s Speech’ (2010)
Colin Firth is a wonderful actor. I’ll give you that. But there aren’t many people still talking about his performance or about this film. You don’t hear people saying “You know what we should do today? Watch The King’s Speech.” Sure, it’s a beautiful movie and is quite moving at parts, but it just never impacted our culture the way that, say, one of its fellow nominees, Inception, has. (We all use the term “inception” in our everyday language. That’s what I call an impact.)
‘The Artist’ (2011)
I’ll admit it: I loved The Artist when I saw it. I was hardcore pulling for it to win Best Picture in 2011. And it did. And you know what? I haven’t watched it since. I haven’t wanted to yet. The immediate return value isn’t high for me for that film. The novelty in the movie is watching the spectacle and with fresh eyes and no preconceptions. This, along with the fact that not a lot of people saw this movie in the first place, has caused The Artist to (sadly) fade away.
If you would’ve told me after the 2012 Oscars that people would stop talking about Argo soon after it won Best Picture, I would have told you to “Ar-Go fuck yourself.” The buzz around this movie was huge at the time of the Oscars, mainly because Ben Affleck was cruelly snubbed for Best Director. But who would have known that it was that buzz keeping the film alive in the public’s eye rather than its masterfully crafted story and execution itself? I still love Argo but I’ll be the first to tell you that I haven’t thought about it for a while. (And I know you probably haven’t either until reading this. Be honest.)
Okay, okay. So it’s only been one year since Birdman won the Oscar. I get that, but this is coming from someone who has seen the movie multiple times and really likes it: Nobody is watching this movie anymore. They’re not watching it because the Oscars pressure is off and it was just a little too weird and self-indulgent. Heck, nobody even mentions this movie anymore except when talking about Alejandro González Iñárritu and his work on The Revenant (which will be forgotten too, just you watch). It’s a shame, really.
Okay, I know what you might be thinking. These movies are all so recent, so it’s hard to judge them on their status as “classics” just yet. I get that. But also, people should still be talking about these movies. We’re always talking about other Best Picture winners (as well previous Best Picture nominees *cough*Inception*cough*) and yet we say nothing about these movies. Sure, they’re all so recent and we can’t judge their long-term success just yet. But that doesn’t mean we can’t discuss how we’re forgetting about them.
If the thought of nine Best Pictures from the last 20 years being unpopular or forgotten seems a bit high, go back through the years of Oscar winners and see just how many titles you recognize (let alone the ones you’ve seen). The forgotten Best Pictures is an unfortunate trend, but an interesting one at that!
What do you think? Which Best Picture winners would you add or remove from this list?
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