Once in a while, a film that truly is the best of its year wins the coveted Best Picture Oscar: Casablanca, On the Waterfront, The Godfather, The Silence of the Lambs. Then there are other films that, while good, have proven not to be the classics that other eligible films in their year of release turned out to be (Going My Way over Double Indemnity? The Apartment over Psycho?) But with increasing regularity, after the passing of just a few short years the question "What were they thinking?" inevitably comes up. Here are the more glaring examples of Academy short-sightedness:
- Out of Africa, 1985. This year, Brazil, Back to the Future, Witness, and Blood Simple all came out.
- Driving Miss Daisy, 1989. This beat out My Left Foot, Do the Right Thing, sex, lies & videotape, and Crimes and Misdemeanors, among many other fine films.
- The Greatest Show on Earth, 1952. This dumb Charlton Heston circus movie has been almost completely forgotten. You can't quite say the same for some of 1952's other releases, namely High Noon and Singin' in the Rain.
- Oliver!, 1968. One of the big-screen musicals' last gasps, Oliver! won Best Picture for the year that also gave us 2001: A Space Odyssey, Rosemary's Baby, and Planet of the Apes.
- The Sting, 1973. That this disposable froth about con men won the Oscar must have been due to the phenomenal popularity of its leads, Paul Newman and Robert Redford, at the time. It's almost hard to imagine that kind of star power today, but The Sting was an enormous financial success as well. But in terms of quality and significance, it doesn't hold a candle to the year's other notable entries: American Graffiti, Mean Streets, Last Tango in Paris, Amarcord, Serpico, even The Exorcist.
- Forrest Gump, 1994. Robert Zemeckis's beloved paean to doing what you're told was a huge hit, but best picture? Compare it to Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, Heavenly Creatures, Chungking Express, and Three Colors: Red, then get back to me.
- A Beautiful Mind, 2001. This forgettable studio biopic won mucho Oscar gold in the year of Memento, In the Mood for Love, Amélie, Moulin Rouge!, and Ghost World.
- Around the World in Eighty Days, 1956. A stale adventure comedy, this beat out The Seven Samurai, La Strada, Giant, The King and I, The Ladykillers, and The Man Who Knew Too Much.
- Gigi, 1958. I know some people love this musical. I personally found it strident and annoying - and I usually like musicals. (And I like Leslie Caron.) In any event, it's hard to argue that this picture was a better choice to represent the year than Vertigo or Touch of Evil.