Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Philip Sledge

The Best And Worst Thing About 32 Best Picture Winners

Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All At Once.

Over the course of the past century, there have been a total of 95 Best Picture winners at the Academy Awards, with some of the greatest movies of all time receiving all kinds of praise (and hardware) along the way. However, though they are near-perfect films, not even The Godfather, Everything Everywhere All At Once, or Casablanca are free from various issues and faults. This is not to say they’re bad movies, because history has told us these are absolute masterpieces, but these big-picture spectacles got some things wrong in addition to doing so much right.

Here are the best and worst things about 32 of the greatest movies to earn Best Picture

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

The Godfather (1972) 

Best Thing: Marlon Brando's Performance - Marlon Brandon earned his second Academy Award for his portrayal of Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 Best Picture winner, The Godfather, and rightfully so. He simply steals the show.

Worst Thing: The Pacing - The Godfather may be a masterpiece, but the pacing, especially after Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) goes into hiding in Sicily is all over the place.  

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (2003)

Best Thing: The Battle Of Pelennor Fields - In terms of movie battle sequences, the Battle of Pelennor is in a league of its own with its scope, scale, and technical wizardry.

Worst Thing: The Multiple Endings - Yeah, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is the closing chapter of Peter Jackson’s epic trilogy, but all the endings to this three-hour movie get out of hand. 

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The Departed (2006) 

Best Thing: Matt Damon's Performance - Martin Scorsese’s 2006 crime epic features one of Matt Damon’s best performances with the actor’s portrayal of crooked cop, Colin Sullivan, a menacing, self-serving, and unsympathetic character.

Worst Thing: The CGI Rat - However, The Departed also has that terrible and not very subtle CGI rat during the ending. In fact, there was even a campaign to have it removed

(Image credit: Open Road Films)

Spotlight (2015)

Best Thing: The "They Knew" Speech - Mark Ruffalo’s “They knew and they let it happen” speech in Spotlight is simply the best delivery of a line in the past decade.

Worst Thing: The Subject Matter Is Triggering - This isn’t a knock on Tom McCarthy’s amazing journalism movie, but the Catholic priest scandal at the center of Spotlight may be way too big of a trigger for some.

(Image credit: Orion)

Amadeus (1984) 

Best Thing: F. Murray Abraham's Performance - F. Murray Abraham won an Oscar for his take on Antonio Salieri, probably the most effective villainous protagonist in the history of cinema.

Worst Thing: The Length - Like a lot of biographical dramas, Miloš Forman’s Amadeus, which won eight Oscars, including Best Picture, is way too long at 161 minutes. 

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Titanic (1997)

Best Thing: Rose and Jack - The story of Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) and Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) is one of the all-time great love affairs and anchors James Cameron’s 1997 epic, Titanic.

Worst Thing: The CGI - CGI in 1997 hasn't aged all too well, and those underdeveloped visual effects plague numerous shots in Titanic, including that one scene of passengers from the uncanny valley walking on the deck. 

(Image credit: DreamWorks PIctures)

Gladiator (2000)

Best Thing: Maximus' Speech -  Maximus Decimus Meridius’ speech in Gladiator sums up Russell Crowe’s character’s story and motivations in a few lines, and gives Ridley Scott’s movie its best moment.

Worst Thing: The Pacing - While Gladiator has action sequences that still hold up nearly a quarter-century later, the pacing of the movie between those set pieces is cumbersome, to say the least. 

(Image credit: United Artists)

West Side Story (1961)

Best Thing: The Choreography - Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’s West Side Story is still one of the best musicals more than 60 years after its release, and that’s partially due to the lights-out choreography, especially during the first interaction between the Jets and Sharks.

Worst Thing: The Brownface Makeup - A lot has changed since its release, but the use of brownface makeup in West Side Story is off-putting, to say the least.

(Image credit: MGM)

Ben-Hur (1959)

Best Thing: The Chariot Scene - The chariot scene in the 1959 version of Ben-Hur is still considered one of the best action sequences of all time. This set piece is a wild ride.

Worst Thing: Charlton Heston's Performance - Charlton Heston was a Hollywood heavyweight in his time, but his portrayal of Judah Ben-Hur feels so out of place and is like every other character he played over the years. 

(Image credit: Miramax Films)

No Country For Old Men (2007)

Best Thing: Anton Chigurh -  Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh is not only the best thing about No Country for Old Men, but he’s also one of the best on-screen villains of this century.

Worst Thing: A Major Character's Off-Screen Death - One of the major differences between the movie and the book is the death of Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), which isn’t shown in the Coen Brothers’ adaptation. The decision makes sense, but still isn’t the best of decisions. 

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

Best Thing: The Chemistry - The chemistry between Daisy Werthan (Jessica Tandy) and Hoke Colburn (Morgan Freeman) is, without a doubt, the anchor and best thing about Driving Miss Daisy.

Worst Thing: The Story - Let’s be real for a minute, the story isn’t really what this Best Picture winner is remembered for, besides the basic premise.

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Schindler's List (1993)

Best Thing: The Story - Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List is undoubtedly one of the director’s most personal and overall best films, thanks in no small part to its incredible story of overcoming tragedy and finding redemption.

Worst Thing: The Depictions Of Cruelty - That being said, the 1993 Best Picture winner is an absolute gut-punch with depictions of cruelty so extreme it’s hard to watch a second time.

(Image credit: Icon Intl Entertainment)

Braveheart (1994)

Best Thing: Those Battles - Mel Gibson’s overly-long historical epic, Braveheart, is remembered mostly for its incredible and absurdly brutal battle sequences, which stand up nearly 30 years later.

Worst Thing: No Real Character Development - However, everything outside the battles is kind of whatever, especially the character development, which is essentially nonexistent for most.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Forrest Gump (1994)

Best Thing: The Decades-Spanning Story -  Truth be told, Forrest Gump features one of the best stories found in ‘90s cinema, one that sees Tom Hanks’ titular character grow into an American folktale.

Worst Thing: Jenny's Treatment Of Forrest - But come on, the way Jenny (Robin Wright) treats Forrest for most of the movie is horrible. Taking advantage of his kindness and continually hurting him is not a good move.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Unforgiven (1992)

Best Thing: The Ending - The final 20 to 30 minutes of Unforgiven is one the greatest stretches of time in a Western bar none. It’s bloody, it’s violent, and most of all, justified.

Worst Thing: Getting To The Ending - The nearly two hours getting to that point in Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, however, is a different story. It’s slow, drawn out, and takes its dang time, even for a slow burn.

(Image credit: Orion Pictures)

Dances With Wolves (1990)

Best Thing: The Story - Kevin Costner’s Dances with Wolves features a remarkable story of redemption, rebirth, and finding beauty amidst death and violence, which makes it more than deserving of its Best Picture Oscar.

Worst Thing: The Length - The theatrical cut of Dances with Wolves is way too long at three hours, but the director’s cut is nearly an hour longer. Wild! 

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Casablanca (1943)

Best Thing: The Final Scene - The final shot of Casablanca where Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and Renault (Claude Rains) walk into the fog with an uncertain yet hopeful future is absolutely brilliant.

Worst Thing: The Flashbacks - The movie relies heavily on flashbacks to paint the story of Rick and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), but there are so many and Rick is constantly saying his “Here’s looking at you, kid,” line so much it takes away from the impact of his words.

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures Corporation)

On The Waterfront (1954)

Best Thing: The "Coulda Been A Contender" Speech - There’s a fair chance more people have heard Marlon Brando’s “Contender” speech from On the Waterfront than have seen the 1954 Best Picture winner, but that’s not a bad thing.

Worst Thing: The Love Story - While the story of Terry Malloy (Brando) dealing with the mob and his own past are both outstanding, the love story in this classic black-and-white film is a little undercooked and unnecessary.

(Image credit: Universal)

Argo (2012)

Best Thing: The Pacing - Ben Affleck’s Argo starts hot and doesn’t really let off the gas, which makes this 2012 Best Picture winner fly by.

Worst Thing: The Ending - However, the overly intense final act, which takes some liberties with the real-life story of the hostage situation, makes for an exciting conclusion, but really takes some unnecessary steps.

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

The Sound Of Music (1965)

Best Thing: The Songs - One of the top musicals to win Best Picture, The Sound of Music features one incredible song-and-dance number after another.

Worst Thing: The Length - Though it doesn’t hurt the movie all that much, The Sound of Music’s nearly three-hour runtime can be taxing, especially for younger viewers. 

(Image credit: Searchlight Pictures)

Nomadland (2020)

Best Thing: Frances McDormand’s Performance - Frances McDormand gave the performance of a lifetime as Fern, a woman who sells her belongings and becomes a nomad.

Worst Thing: The Lack Of Structure - Though there is a loose plot in Nomadland, sometimes Chloé Zhao’s Best Picture winner feels as aimless as its transient characters. 

(Image credit: Disney / Fox)

Birdman (2014)

Best Thing: The Long Takes - Alejandro G. Inarritu’s Birdman is essentially one continuous sequence with only a few noticeable camera cuts, which really adds to the intensity and beauty of its story.

Worst Thing: The Ending - Up until the final moments, the movie is a wonderful exploration of the human spirit, but the Birdman ending is a bit of a head-scratcher.

(Image credit: MGM)

Platoon (1985)

Best Thing: The Adagio For Strings Scene - Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” turns one of Platoon’s best moments from a good scene to an all-time great. 

Worst Thing: The Narration - Narration rarely works in movies, and it’s sad to say Oliver Stone’s Platoon is not one of those cases. 

(Image credit: MGM)

Gone With The Wind (1939)

Best Thing: The Story -  One of the highest-grossing movies of all time, Gone with the Wind tells a tremendous love story with an epic scope and scale. And that story is enough to make this a movie that has to be watched.

Worst Thing: The Racism - There’s no way to get around it, Gone with the Wind depicts a great deal of racism, which is triggering. 

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Wings (1927)

Best Thing: That Tracking Shot - The incredible tracking shot from Wings is enough to make this 1927 silent film a must-watch, and it happens to be the best thing about this nearly 100-year-old military epic.

Worst Thing: Primitive Special Effects - However, there are several examples of primitive special effects that are just so off-putting. But if that’s the worst thing we can find, it means this is a gem.

(Image credit: A24)

Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)

Best Thing: The Visuals - The Daniels’ Everything Everywhere All at Once is a once-in-a-generation movie that won pretty much all the major Oscars, including Best Picture. This is partially due to the visuals, which range from eye-popping to mesmerizing.

Worst Thing: The Plot Is Sometimes Hard To Follow - This is just picking nits, but sometimes the plot can be a little convoluted and hard to follow.

(Image credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

12 Years A Slave (2013)

Best Thing: Lupita Nyong'o’s Performance -  12 Years a Slave features one of Lupita Nyong’o’s best performances, one that steals the scene whenever she’s on screen.

Worst Thing: Michael Fassbender's Brutality - Michael Fassbender is absolutely terrifying as Edwin Epps, so much so that it might turn some off to this Best Picture winner.

(Image credit: United Artists)

Rocky (1976)

Best Thing: Rocky's Story - Rocky is one of the best sports underdog stories of all time, and this is one of the main reasons this movie put Sylvester Stallone on the map in addition to earning Best Picture.

Worst Thing: The Title Fight's Length - The championship match between Rocky Balboa (Sylvest Stallone) and Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) is an undeniable classic, but it’s only 10 minutes of the movie’s runtime. We want more!

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

The French Connection (1971) 

Best Thing:  The Car Chase -  You can’t have The French Connection without the epic car chase, which probably helped William Friedkin’s crime thriller win Best Picture.

Worst Thing: The Ending - After all of the drama, action, and intrigue, the movie just kind of ends with a lot of the details being provided through title cards.

(Image credit: United Artists)

Annie Hall (1977) 

Best Thing: Diane Keaton’s Performance - There’s no denying the fact that Diane Keaton’s titular character in Annie Hall is the best thing about this 1977 Woody Allen classic. She’s a triumph through and through.

Worst Thing: Alvy Singer's Neurosis - Allen’s Alvy Singer, on the other hand, is hard to root for, grating, and has a certain level of neurosis that is a bit too much at times.

(Image credit: DreamWorks Pictures)

American Beauty (1999) 

Best Thing: Thomas Newman's Score - We can’t say that Thomas Newman’s score was the reason Sam Mendes’ 1999 drama, American Beauty, earned Best Picture, but this masterful composition didn’t hurt either.

Worst Thing: The Creepiness Factor - All these years later, it’s admittedly kind of hard to watch American Beauty and not be left feeling icky because of the creepiness. 

(Image credit: Yari Film Group)

Crash (2006)

Best Thing: The Cast - Though Crash isn’t the best movie to win Best Picture, it does have an outstanding cast including Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Thandiwe Newton, and Brendan Fraser.

Worst Thing: The Lack Of Nuance - Crash had no business winning Best Picture, especially when you consider the movie is about as subtle as a hammer when it comes to its themes. 

Again, all of these movies are in the category of “Greatest of all Time,” and it’s hard to find better choices that exemplify the greatest of cinema better than these. 

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.