As 2022 draws to a close, it means one thing in cinemaland: awards season has begun, and we’re hurtling toward the Oscar ceremony to celebrate the best in film. After several years of being “host-less” and having things switched around due to Covid, the 95th Academy Awards will be going back to the regular format of having one single host for the night, with Jimmy Kimmel coming back for his third time fronting the event and cracking jokes.
Expect the usual gags about the films and their stars (and probably a reference to last year’s infamous slap), along with plenty of gongs given out on the way to the Best Picture award. Will it be predictable, or an upset that is talked about for years to come? We don’t know, and nor do we know exactly who and what will be nominated – though there’s been Oscar buzz around films like The Banshees of Inisherin, Tar, She Said and The Fablemans. In the meantime, to get into the award season mood, we’ve made a list of our favourite Best Picture Winners (and nominees), picked by The Handbook team.
Elly Stancliffe, CEO
A Star Is Born (2018) – Nominated
Director: Bradley Cooper
We all know her as one of the biggest pop stars around, but Lady Gaga proved that she can also act in a leading role with 2018’s A Star Is Born. A new version of a story that’s had three other film versions, it follows a musician (Bradley Cooper) struggling with alcoholism, meeting and falling in love with a young singer (Gaga). It became a global success, making over $430 million at the box office and being nominated for Best Picture and several awards, picking up one for Best Original Song for “Shallow”. Cooper also directed, and the raw and emotional story will have you falling in love with its characters in no time. Sam Elliot, Andrew Dice Clay and Dave Chapelle also star.
Fun fact: Only six films have been awarded Best Picture without also receiving a Best Director nomination.
Lauren O’Callaghan, Editor
Titanic (1997) – Won
Director: James Cameron
When it released in 1997, Titanic was a true phenomenon, becoming the highest-grossing film ever and the first to pass $ 1 billion at the box office – and it’s still the third biggest money maker ever today. Pretty much everyone knows the story of both the film and its tragic namesake, but if you’ve still somehow not seen it yet, you’re missing out – Kate Winslet and Leonardo Dicaprio’s performances are still unforgettable 25 years later. And with Avatar: Way of the Water coming out soon, it’s a great time to revisit James Cameron’s arguably most iconic film. Lauren said: “I was 10 when this film hit cinemas, and I’ve spent a sizeable portion of my life watching it over and over again. Is it hammy? Sure. But the lavish costumes, tragic story and let’s face it, Leo, captured my imagination and well, didn’t let go. And for those wondering, yes, there was room for Jack on that door!”
Lottie Woodrow, Deputy Editor
Parasite (2019) – Won
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Something of a modern classic, Parasite certainly wasn’t Bong Joon-ho’s first film – he’s had an impressive career with films like Memories of Murder, The Host and Snowpiercer – but it’s the film that truly gave him worldwide status. After years of foreign language films only winning the specific Best International Film category, Parasite made Oscar history by being the first to win Best Picture. A film that satirises the class divide in South Korea (and elsewhere), it’s definitely best enjoyed knowing as little as possible about the plot, other than that it focuses on a poor family living in Seoul. It’s truly fantastic with twists and turns you don’t expect, as well as sharply funny. Parasite is truly deserving of the Best Picture award.
Robyn Upton, Managing Director
Schindler’s List (1993) – Won
Director: Steven Spielberg
Schindler’s List saw Spielberg vividly portray the horrors and brutality of the Holocaust, much as he would later encapsulate the D-Day landings in Saving Private Ryan. Entirely in black and white, the film sweeps you away and almost feels like watching documentary footage of life in Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Liam Neeson stars as the heroic Oskar Schindler, who decides to save over a thousand Polish-Jewish from the genocide by employing them in his factories during the Second World War. Also featuring Ralph Fiennes as SS officer Amon Goth, as well as Ben Kingsley and Caroline Goodall, the film is a hard but necessary watch, laying out the true horrors of fascism and war. Robyn said: “Nothing beats this film in terms of cutting into the soul of humanity. I have only been able to watch it once and it still haunts me. The black and white format and raw portrayal of bravery in the face of such real-life horror is utterly stark in contrast to the red coat of the little Jewish girl, Spielberg’s only touch of colour throughout. Gripping and devastating in equal measure.”
Fun fact: The very first film to win Best Picture was 1929’s Wings, and was the only silent film to win the award until The Artist (2011), a pastiche of the silent format.
Astrid Carter, Contributing Fashion & Lifestyle Editor
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) – Won
Director: Milos Forman
Jack Nicholson has received more nominations for acting at the Oscars than any other male actor – and of his three acting wins, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest was his first, for Best Actor. A truly seminal film, Cuckoo’s Nest is one of those films everyone should watch at least once in their life. Nicholson plays Randle Murphy, a new patient at a mental institution and becomes a rebel in the system, getting to know his fellow patients and defying the strict Nurse Ratched. The film tells a darkly funny psychological tale that deals with themes of mental illness and the deeply flawed mental health institutions of 1960s America. Astrid said: “What a film! One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is pretty much near-perfect for me. Jack Nicholson is totally magnetic – I don’t think there’s another actor who could have pulled off the complex character better. The film is funny and deeply sad in equal measure and asks so many questions from mental health to health systems and care and human dignity. Plus, it’s spawned some of the greatest one liners in film history. I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched it but it never gets old.”
Ashling McCoy, Contributing Style & Interiors Editor
All About Eve (1950) – Won
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
A successful but ageing Broadway star finds herself crossing paths with an ambitious and keen young fan who is trying to insert herself into her social circles and life. Bette Davis plays the recently-turned-40 Margo Channing, while Anne Baxter plays the besotted Eve Harrington. While Margo initially befriends Eve, she increasingly finds that she’s having a detrimental effect on her life and relationships, and begins to realise that she’s trying to angle her way to stardom. All About Eve also features an appearance from a young Marilyn Monroe. Ashling said: “As someone who loves the Academy Awards… for the spectacle, the stars and the fashion, this is a tall ask to pick just one favourite film. But, thanks to my mum making me watch classic movies as a kid, I’m going to go old school. All About Eve had a lasting impact and introduced me to the ultimate leading lady in the formidable Bette Davis. It was witty yet dark; it was irrefutably stylish. And gave us some iconic one-liners… fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”
Shu-Fang Cheng, Creative
Her (2013) – Nominated
Director: Spike Jonze
The sci-fi romantic drama film Her stars Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombley, a man living in the near future in Los Angeles. Lonely and depressed, he works as a professional “personal letter writer”. With a divorce from his wife looming, Theodore buys himself a new upgrade for his operating system that includes an AI assistant, that names itself Samantha after Theodore decides to give it a female voice. As Samantha begins to learn and grow and adapt, Theodore becomes fascinated by her, and the two bond over discussions about life and love. The two slowly begin a relationship, but things of course don’t run smoothly. Scarlett Johansson stars as Samantha, alongside Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde, Chris Pratt and Rooney Mara. Dealing with themes about AI and how human a robot can get, Her remains a great watch nearly a decade later. Shu-Fang said: “Love the dialogue, music and the colour in the movie.”
Fun fact: The shortest Best Picture Winner is Marty (1955) at 91 minutes, while Lawrence of Arabia (1962) is the longest at 3 hours 38 minutes. If you count the extended edition (released later) of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003) the longest is 4 hours and 10 minutes.
Nicole Duret, Creative
Little Miss Sunshine (2006) – Nominated
Director: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
2006’s Little Miss Sunshine is a tragicomedy road trip, focusing on a dysfunctional family as they make their way to a child beauty pageant that their youngest is featuring in. Acclaimed for the performances and screenplay, as well as the direction of husband and wife duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the film became a success on release at the box office and earned a Best Picture nomination. It stars an impressive cast, with Steve Carrell, Toni Colette, Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin and Alan Arkin all featuring, and is a great watch. Nicole said: “I love how it portrays a dysfunctional family and their struggles, and how they all come together and find a way to work things out despite them. It’s also quite wacky in some aspects, so I’ve always found that entertaining.”
Charlene Teressa, Editorial Assistant
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)- Won
Director: Peter Jackson
The final part in Peter Jackson’s acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy, Return of the King swept the board at the Oscars, winning a huge eleven different awards and tying it with Titanic and Ben Hur. After travelling far and wide across Middle Earth on his quest to destroy the One Ring, Frodo Baggins heads toward Mount Doom with his devoted companion Samwise Gamgee. While his allies including Gandalf and Aragorn advance on Mordor, Frodo is close to finishing his mission- and everything set up during The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers comes to a head in an epic final battle, that will change Middle Earth forever. It’s up for debate among Rings fans which is the best film, but Return of the King is certainly the longest and most epic in scale as it concludes JRR Tolkien’s beloved tale. Charlene said: “The CGI was ahead of its time with an unforgettable story, character development and music score.”
Rufus Punt, Contributing Entertainment Writer
Unforgiven (1992)- Won
Director: Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood said goodbye to the Western genre in this 1992 Best Picture winner, and has been synonymous with it since the 1960s with films like the Dollars Trilogy and High Plains Drifter. It tells the story of criminal William Munny (Eastwood) who after retiring to become a farmer, returns to the world of killing for money when he’s asked to track down several cowboys with a bounty on their head, along with his old friend Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) and a boastful young man claiming to be known as “The Schofield Kid.” As well as starring in, directing and producing the film, Eastwood also composed its main music theme, “Claudia’s Theme.” The film was widely acclaimed for its acting, story and subversion of Western tropes, and won several Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor for Gene Hackman’s widely praised performance as the villainous and corrupt Sheriff “Little” Big Dagget. It also stars Richard Harris as aged British gunfighter English Bob, Francis Fisher, Saul Rubinek and Jaimz Woolvett. Emotional, pensive and more somber than traditional gunslinging Westerns, Unforgiven has influenced countless films in the genre since its release.