6 Oscar-Winning Movies Nobody Talks About Anymore
THESE BEST PICTURE WINNERS HAVEN'T STOOD THE TEST OF TIME.
The Academy Awards are the most high-profile and most heavily scrutinized awards in filmmaking, but any movie lover will tell you that the honors don't always go to the best films of the year, or even the most popular. What's more, even when they do go to a film everyone seems to agree is pretty good, the Academy's choices always stand the test of time. In fact, one year's awards season darling can easily wind up looking middling and overrated a decade later. Read on for six Oscar-winning films that no one really talks about anymore.
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Even in 2008, when this Best Picture winner from Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) became a word-of-mouth sensation, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was hardly hardly the timeliest pop culture reference, but in 2022, it feels positively archaic. Upon first viewing, the structure—every question Jamal (Dev Patel) is asked on the show happens to relate to a pivotal event in his life story—works to smooth over the Dickensian improbabilities of his journey from growing up in the slums of Mumbai to winning fame and fortune on India's biggest game show. Upon subsequent viewings, not so much.
Additionally, the movie has been criticized for its depiction of Jamal's home country and for allegedly "exploiting" its child actors. Looking back on Slumdog Millionare in 2018, a Bustle essay argues that it "provides yet another example of a continued Hollywood tradition of condescending portrayals of developing countries like India."
That singing and dancing finale, set to the strains of the Oscar-winning song "Jai Ho," still slaps though.
Driving Miss Daisy
A movie about a racist old white lady (Jessica Tandy) who only learns that being racist is bad after decades of employing a Black man (Morgan Freeman) to drive her around was already in poor taste when Driving Miss Daisy won the Best Picture Oscar in 1990—just ask Spike Lee, whose powerful, incendiary, and challenging Do the Right Thing wasn't even nominated for top honors that year. Giving its staying power (or lack thereof) more than three decades later, it's all the more egregious that director Bruce Beresford's overly sentimental and weak-willed parable won out over Lee's magnum opus, not to mention the other nominees (including enduring classics Born on the Fourth of July, Field of Dreams, and Dead Poets Society). Anyone who was outraged when history seemed to repeat itself with Green Book's win over BlacKkKlansman in 2019 can take comfort in the fact no one really remembers Driving Miss Daisy in Best Picture conversations today.
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Warner Bros. France
A silent, black-and-white French import about an aging actor struggling to make the transition to talkies amid the Golden Age of Hollywood would hardly seem like a surefire Best Picture Oscar in 2011—yet writer/director Michel Hazanavicius' film entered the ceremony the odds-on favorite, already having won best movie honors from the Golden Globes, the French César Awards, the British Academy of Film and Television, and many more. Critics adored it—a tribute to the magic of the movies, as light and delectable as a soufflé. But for all that, when was the last time anyone watched it? Star Jean Dujardin took home a raft of Best Actor awards but hardly became an international superstar, appearing in only a handful of English-language movies in the years since. The film critic Nathan Rabin (who coined the phrase "manic pixie dream girl") called it "a true forgotbuster," and it's hard to come up with a compelling argument in response.
Perhaps it is unfair to call 2004's Crash a Best Picture winner no one talks about anymore, as it seems to come up every time someone discusses movies that unjustly won Oscar's top honor. (History would have been far kinder if fellow nominee Brokeback Mountain had come out on top). Released to decent if not laudatory reviews (it holds a 74% on Rotten Tomatoes), the backlash against it began almost as soon as a seemingly bemused Jack Nicholson announced it the winner, and its reputation has only tarnished with time. What once seemed like an intricate storyline stitched across every facet of life in Los Angeles in the early aughts now seems histrionically acted (albeit by an impressive cast, including Sandra Bullock, Thandiwe Newton, and Brendan Fraser) and narratively convoluted. Or it would, if anyone had watched in the last decade or so.
A Beautiful Mind
Oscar loves an epic, tragic biopic, and on that score, the life story of mathematician John Nash—a brilliant mind nearly ruined by mental illness, pulled back from the brink by the selfless devotion of his wife—fit the bill. Russell Crowe (who was nominated for Best Actor Oscar) and Jennifer Connelly (who won Best Supporting Actress) inhabited the central couple, imbuing their performances with genuine pathos, and director Ron Howard lent a bit of visual flourish to the proceedings, bringing the workings of Nash's mind to visual life. Yet at a remove, writer Akiva Goldsman's creaky screenplay seems only to exist to hit all the standard dramatic beats, while throwing in a bit of trickery in the form of an imaginary friend for Nash that sours a second viewing—which is probably why no one much has watched it since the 2002 Oscar ceremony. (Clearly they should have given it to Moulin Rouge!—but at least the Tonys righted that wrong.)
The Greatest Show on Earth
If the entries above made you think only more recent Oscar winners have faded from memory, consider this bloated spectacle from 1952. As the title suggests, this Cecil B. DeMille film aims to wow audiences by giving them a closer-than-front-row ticket to all the pomp and circumstance of a three-ring circus. But instead it's pretty, uh, boring, filled with endless scenes of real Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus acts (some 60 of them), but minus the energy of actually seeing them performed live, and with little in the way of plot to keep you engaged over the 152-minute runtime. The film was a huge box office hit upon initial release, but by the 1970s had already been proven a dud when it came to repeat viewings on television, according to the book TV Guide: The First 25 Years. Wait for the actual circus to roll into town instead.