Entertainment Movies The Oscars’ Oscars: Best cinema of the past 20 years
Updated:

The Oscars’ Oscars: Best cinema of the past 20 years

Share
Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

 

Looking back over the past 20 years of Oscar winners – from the award ceremonies of 1995 through to 2014 – reminds us how hard it is for The Academy to get it right year in, year out.

• The Oscars 2015: our top tips revealed
• Stan, Presto and Quickflix: which one is best?
• Cool: Richard Linklater’s road to Oscar glory

There have been some magnificent films and performances in that time, as well as some odd choices for best picture winner: Shakespeare in Love?

With the 2015 winners set to be announced on Monday Australian time, we decided to look back at the past two decades of major award winners to find the best of the best – the Oscars’ Oscars.

From the 20 years of winners, we picked five nominees from the following categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay and Best Foreign Language Film.

Then we turned the list over to critic Patrick James to choose the best in each category. The envelope please…

Best Picture

Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor in the 2014 Oscar winning Film Twelve Years A Slave.
Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor in the 2014 Oscar winning Film 12 Years A Slave.

Winner: 12 Years A Slave (2014)

Runners up: 

Titanic (1998)

Lord of The Rings: Return of the King (2004)

Titanic was a tour de force of a film, deservedly winning the Best Picture Oscar in 1998.
Titanic was a tour de force of a film, deservedly winning the Best Picture Oscar in 1998.

The Departed (2007)

No Country For Old Men (2008)

Verdict: 

There are difficult choices here as so few of the Best Picture nominees appear ‘great’ a few years after their release (Chicago, Forrest Gump and Crash to name a few).

One exception is 2014’s winner, 12 Years a Slave.

An unflinching depiction of Solomon Northrop’s (Chiwetel Ejiofor) life as a plantation slave in Louisiana during the 1840’s, 12 Years A Slave was an unlikely choice for Best Picture.

Illustrating the brutality, humiliation and inhumanity of the life of slave, it was unlike the typical, escapist confection generally associated with Hollywood – it was preceded by Argo, The Artist and The King’s Speech in the 2010s.

Twelve Years a Slave was the first mainstream Hollywood film to tackle the dark history of slavery and its win marked a significant cultural moment in the United States.

See a clip of the film here.

Other Best Film winners in the past 20 years included:

Forrest Gump (1995), Braveheart (1996), The English Patient (1997), Shakespeare in Love (1999), American Beauty (2000)Gladiator (2001), A Beautiful Mind (2002), Chicago (2003)Million Dollar Baby (2005), Crash (2006), Slumdog Millionaire (2009), The Hurt Locker (2010), The King’s Speech (2011), The Artist (2012), Argo (2013).

Best Director

Ang Lee was a worthy Oscar winner for Brokeback Mountain, starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gylenhaal
Ang Lee was a worthy Oscar winner for directing Brokeback Mountain, starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Winner: Ang Lee (2005) Brokeback Mountain

Runners up: 

Stephen Soderbergh (2001) Traffic

Martin Scorsese (2007) The Departed 

The Coen Brothers (2008) No Country for Old Men

Kathryn Bigelow (2010) – The Hurt Locker

Katheryn Bigelow was the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar in history in 2010.
Katheryn Bigelow was the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar in history in 2010.

Verdict:

Each director on this list has an impressive backlog of credits, but Ang Lee has shown himself to be truly versatile in tackling wildly different subject matter.

Brokeback Mountain is steeped in the lore of American working class as the doomed love story of two gay ranchmen of the American west.

With Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal putting in breathtaking performances, Lee brings graceful rendering of his story and deep sensitivity to his characters.  

Watch a clip from the film here.

Other Best Directors from the past 20 years:

Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby), Roman Polanski (The Pianist), Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind), Sam Mendes (American Beauty), Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan), Anthony Minghella (The English Patient), Mel Gibson (Braveheart), Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump), Ang Lee (Life of Pi), Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist), Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity).

Best Actor

Daniel Day Lewis has been the most successful actor in modern Oscar history. His gritty performance in There Will Be Blood was mesmerising.
Daniel Day Lewis has been the most successful actor in modern Oscar history. His gritty performance as an oil man in There Will Be Blood was mesmerising.

Winner: Daniel Day Lewis (2008) There Will be Blood

Runners up:

Geoffrey Rush (1997) Shine

Sean Penn (2004) Mystic River

Philip Seymour Hoffman
Hoffman in his award-winning role as Truman Capote.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman (2006) Capote

Forrest Whitaker (2007) The Last King of Scotland

Verdict:

Daniel Day-Lewis, a three-time Oscar winner, brings a full blooded intensity to the part of Daniel Plainview, the rapacious oil prospector who can barely contain his disgust at the world.

Lurking just beneath the surface of his salesman’s persona is the constant threat of violence – something that explodes to life in the film’s incredible final scene – where the wretched Plainview finally loses his soul.

Even if you subscribe to the belief that Day-Lewis’ recent roles, such as Lincoln, are made for Oscar glory, it is an incredible performance, from an incredible actor – one that makes full use of his formidable talent.

Watch a clip from his performance here.

Other Best Actor Nominees from the past 20 years:

Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln), Jean Dujardin (The Artist), Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart), Jamie Foxx (Ray), Sean Penn (Milk), Adrien Brody (The Pianist), Denzel Washington (Training Day), Roberto Benigni (Life Is Beautiful) Nicholas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas), Jack Nicholson (As Good as It Gets), Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump).

Best Actress 

Marion Cottilard made her international name as one of the best actresses in history for her spine tingling turn as Edith Piaf in la Vie En Rose.
Marion Cotillard earned her place as one of the best actresses in history for her spine tingling turn as Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose.

Winner: Marion Cotillard (2008) – La Vie En Rose

Runners up:

Frances McDormand (1997) – Fargo

Helen Mirren (2007) – The Queen

Cate Blanchett was mindblowing in Blue Jasmine.
Cate Blanchett was mindblowing in Blue Jasmine.

Kate Winslet (2009) – The Reader

Cate Blanchett (2014) Blue Jasmine

Verdict:

The film that introduced French actress Marion Cotillard to the wider world and the role that kick started her path to becoming the best actress in world cinema.

Cotillard transforms completely into the role of famed singer Edith Piaf, flawlessly capturing her personality at every stage of her life – as a bratty street kid, as the tempestuous and fiery superstar and as the frail elderly woman racked with illness.

Cotillard was truly humbled when she won, beating out Cate Blanchett for Elizabeth: The Golden Age, giving one of the most emotional speeches in recent memory.

Watch her in full flight in the role here.

Other Best Actress winners from the past 20 years:

Jessica Lang (Blue Sky), Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking), Helen Hunt (As Good as It Gets), Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love), Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry), Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich), Halle Berry (Monster’s Ball), Nicole Kidman (The Hours), Charlize Theron (Monster), Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby), Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line), Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady), Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook).

Best Supporting Actress 

Tilda Swinton
Tilda Swinton in her Oscar winning role for Michael Clayton.

Winner: Tilda Swinton (2008) – Michael Clayton

Runners up: 

Kim Basinger (1998)– L.A. Confidential

Judi Dench (1999) – Shakespeare in Love

Kim Basinger had a career boosting comeback in LA Confidential.
Kim Basinger had a career boosting comeback in LA Confidential.

Cate Blanchet (2005) The Aviator

Penelope Cruz (2009) Vicky Christina Barcelona

Verdict: 

Tilda Swinton has made a career out of appearing in wildly different and experimental films, so it is ironic that her best performance comes from playing a corporate everywoman in Michael Clayton.

She plays the pharmaceutical executive, way in over head trying to handle a renegade lawyer – her polished, ultra composed exterior concealing her intense self doubt and anxiety as she moves towards personal and professional disaster.

Here’s a clip of Swinton in the trailer for the film here.

Other Best Supporting Actress nominees from the past 20 years:

Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite), Juliette Binoche (The English Patient), Angelina Jolie (Girl, Interrupted), Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock), Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago), Renée Zellweger (Cold Mountain), Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardner), Jennifer Hudson (Dream Girls), Mo’Nique (Precious), Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Octavia Spencer (The Help), Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave).

Best Supporting Actor

Heath Ledger gave one of the greatest performances of all time in The Dark Knight, winning a posthumous Oscar in 2009.
Heath Ledger gave one of the greatest performances of all time in The Dark Knight, winning a posthumous Oscar in 2009.

Winner: Heath Ledger (2009) The Dark Knight

Runners up: 

Benicio Del Toro (2001) Traffic

George Clooney (2006) Syrianna

Benecio del Toro lead an all-star cast in the 2000 Oscar winning film Traffic.
Benecio Del Toro lead an all-star cast in the 2000 Oscar winning film Traffic.

Javier Bardem (2008) No Country for Old Men

Christian Bale (2011) The Fighter

Verdict: 

The death of Australian star Heath Ledger cast a shadow over The Dark Knight upon its release in 2008 and the film showcased an amazing final performance by the Australian star.

With his off-kilter voice and sloppy make up and scarring, Ledger is unrecognisable as ‘The Joker’, tearing up the screen with explosive intensity in every scene he appears.

Perhaps one of the greatest performances of all time, all the more remarkable for having emerged from a superhero movie, it was a bittersweet end to the actor’s career – he died a year before his Oscar win was announced.

Watch him in action here.

Other Best Supporting Actor winners from the past 20 years:

Martin Landau (Ed Wood), Kevin Spacey (The Usual Suspects), Cuba Gooding, Jr. (Jerry Maguire), Robin Williams (Good Will Hunting), James Coburn (Affliction), Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules), Jim Broadbent (Iris), Chris Cooper (Adaptation), Tim Robbins (Mystic River), Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby), Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine), Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds), Christopher Plummer (Beginners), Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained), Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club).

Best Foreign Language Film

The Lives of Others is considered a masterpiece.
The Lives of Others is considered a masterpiece.

Winner: The Lives of Others (2007) – Germany

Runners up: 

All About My Mother (2000) Spain

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2001) Taiwan

The Counterfeiters (2008)

A Separation (2012) – Iran

Verdict: 

German political thriller The Lives of Others, set in the world of 1980’s Berlin, was hailed a ‘masterpiece’ when it was released in 2006 and won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in early 2007.

A cynical political operative is sent to spy on a playwright and his girlfriend, but is improbably moved by the couple’s idealism and begins to protect them from the state authorities he works for.

Although set in a very particular time and place, The Lives of Others tells a moving, universal story.

Watch a scene from the film here.

Other Best Foreign Language film winners from the past 20 years:

Burnt by the Sun (1995), Antonia’s Line (1996), Kolya (1997), Character (1998), Life Is Beautiful (1999), No Man’s Land (2002), Nowhere in Africa (2003), The Barbarian Invasions (2004), The Sea Inside (2005), Tsotsi (2006), Departures (2009), The Secret in Their Eyes (2010), In a Better World (2011), Amour (2013), The Great Beauty (2014).

Best Original Screenplay

Directors and screenwriters Joel and Ethan Coen
Directors and screenwriters Joel and Ethan Coen

Winner: Fargo (1997) – The Coen Brothers

Runners up: 

Good Will Hunting (1998) Ben Affleck & Matt Damon

Lost in Translation won Best Original Screenplay at the XXX Academy Awards.
Lost in Translation won Best Original Screenplay at the 2004 Academy Awards.

Lost in Translation (2004) – Sofia Coppola

Juno (2009) – Diablo Cody

Midnight in Paris (2012) – Woody Allen

Verdict: 

A down on his luck car salesman (William H Macy) arranges the kidnapping of his wife in order to secure ransom from her wealthy father – but the plan gets botched, introducing a determined and heavily pregnant detective (Frances McDormand) onto the case, before more and more disaster strikes for everyone.

Fargo combines the Coen brothers’ flair for thriller noir films with off beat humour about small town America and is arguably their best ever film.

Watch a clip of the film here.

Other Best Original Screenplay winners from the past 20 years:

Pulp Fiction (1995), The Usual Suspects (1996), Shakespeare in Love (1999), American Beauty (2000), Almost Famous (2001), Gosford Park (2002), Talk to Her (2003), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2005), Crash (2006), Little Miss Sunshine (2007), Milk (2009), The Hurt Locker (2010), The King’s Speech (2011), Django Unchained (2013), Her (2014).

(This article has been corrected. Amelie did not win an Oscar for Best Foreign Film.)

Comments
View Comments