The Academy Awards may have ended, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to finally watch some of the big winners or get around to watching the big winners of years past. If you’re interested in expanding some of your Academy film knowledge, here are some of the Award winners from the last several decades you should check out:
Chariots of Fire (1981)
This British historical drama follows the 1924 Olympic athletes Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, who compete as track and field runners. Liddell, a Scottish Christian, is set in his religious ways and runs for the glory of God. Abrahams, on the other hand, is an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice because of his experiences with anti-Semitism in England. Both athletes must work through their issues with religion and confront their family histories in order to succeed in the Olympics. This poetic recounting of the Olympics won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Costume Design, and Best Original Music Score.
On Golden Pond (1981)
On Golden Pond is a drama directed by Mark Rydell and adapted from Ernest Thompson’s screenplay of the same name. The story is about an older couple (played by Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda) who summer at their vacation home in New England. The scene is painted as a halcyon, and the couple rests on the shores of Golden Pond. The narrative centers their relationship on their visiting daughter, Chelsea, and how they want to repair their tension-filled relationship together. Both Hepburn and Fonda won Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Actress at the time, and Thompson won for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film went on to become the second highest grossing film of that year. Its heartfelt story and message, set against a serene landscape of water, makes this movie on the top of the revisit list.
The Sting (1973)
The Sting, which stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford, is a heist film that takes places during the Great Depression. The film features an incredible cast, a memorable score (which includes “The Entertainer”), and one of the most famous poker scenes in film history, which has an important role in the film’s larger plot: for our two leads to take down a crime boss. This film has a family vibe to it, as George Roy Hill directed both Newman and Redford in the popular western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The proof is in the awards. It won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Original Song Score, and Best Production Design. This makes The Sting at the top of the films to revisit.
Ben Kingsley, although he went on to play many more famous roles, will always be most remembered for his Academy Award winning portrayal of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. During the 20th century, the United Kingdom had rule of India, and Gandhi was the leader of India’s non-violent, non-cooperative independence movement. The film covers over five decades of Gandhi’s life, starting in 1893 and concluding with his assassination in 1948. The film was applauded by many, and even premiered at the Odeon Leicester Square in London where Prince Charles and Princess Diana both attended. Kingsley gives Gandhi (one of the most profound revolutionaries in history) a well-rounded narrative and persona, which won him an Academy Award for his portrayal. It also won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, and Best Art Direction.
Dances with Wolves (1990)
Kevin Costner’s epic Western revitalized the Western film genre in Hollywood through this historical fiction drama following the life of Lieutenant John Dunbar during the Civil War. It’s a whopping 3 hours and 56 minutes long, but well worth the watch. Dunbar accidentally develops a strong relationship with a group of Lakota Indians, and decides to pursue this new life and is anointed the name “Dances with Wolves” because of his spirited personality. Much of the film is spoken in Lakota, adding to the authenticity. Time and time again, the film is remembered and honored, and was nominated for twelve Academy Awards. It won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and Best Sound Mixing.