Every year, movie lovers await the highly anticipated Academy Awards, for which audiences come together to celebrate the highest achievements in film that year. Actors, directors, cinematographers, editors, producers, and tons of other professionals working in cinema can be nominated for their work. Out of all 27 awards presented at the Oscars the most respected and anticipated award of the night is undoubtedly Best Picture. The award for Best Picture is notoriously the final award presented of the night. Various factors go into what makes a film Best Picture worthy, but one thing all the winners have in common is the incredible storytelling and screenplay, acting and portrayal of characters, multiple developed and interesting themes, and the overall composition of a film. The Academy votes on which films will be awarded the honor and, per Vanity Fair, if a movie does receive over 50% of votes, which is highly unlikely, it will automatically win Best Picture.
From James Cameron’s epic film Titanic to The Silence of the Lambs, starring Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster, Braveheart, Shakespeare in Love, Dances With Wolves, The English Patient, Driving Miss Daisy, Unforgiven, Forrest Gump, and, of course, Schindler’s List, the Best Picture winners from the 90s are all incredible. Not only do a lot of the plots make for great cinema, but many of them pay homage and shed light on real historical events. Here are all ten of the Best Picture winners from the 1990s, ranked.
10 The English Patient
This romance/war period piece The English Patient is centered around passion, love, and tragedy. Laszlo de Almasy, played by the talented Ralph Fiennes, is our main character, a badly-burned plane crash victim in need of help during the end of World War II. A nurse named Hana, played by Juliette Binoche, tends to his wounds and the two fight to heal one another during this grueling time. Almasy’s past is shown in flashbacks throughout the film, which also stars Kristin Scott Thomas and Willem Dafoe. The English Patient won Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 1997 and received seven other Oscars in addition to its big win.
9 Shakespeare in Love
When you think of Shakespeare in Love and the Oscars, you probably think of Gwyneth Paltrow’s acceptance speech for Best Actress. During the 1990s, Miramax was the top place to be making movies in terms of success and nominations. They distributed not only Shakespeare in Love but The English Patient among many other films that received Best Picture nominations throughout the decade. In addition to Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Judi Dench, Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, and Tom Wilkinson all star in the film, which earned its Best Picture win in 1999.
Mel Gibson not only starred in but directed and produced the war/drama film Braveheart. Coming in at almost three hours, Braveheart is an epic film about a medieval Scottish patriot who leads his people into a brutal battle with the English after they murdered the love of his life. There are so many parts that make up a great film and one of those aspects is the score. James Horner was a brilliant composer who created some of the most beloved film scores of all time, including the music for Braveheart and, of course, his most famous work the iconic score for James Cameron’s Titanic. Braveheart received the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1996.
7 Dances With Wolves
Another classic film on our list is the 1990 western/drama Dances With Wolves starring Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene, and Rodney A. Grant. Costner directed the film as well, which, in addition to its Best Picture win, was nominated for 11 other Academy Awards, taking home Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing, Best Cinematography, and Best Film Editing.
6 Driving Miss Daisy
It’s pretty safe to say that any film starring Morgan Freeman is going to be worth watching solely because of how incredible an actor he is. In the case of Driving Miss Daisy, though, there are so many other reasons to watch this film too. Daisy Werthan and Hoke Colburn, an older Jewish woman and an African-American man, are the most unlikely of friends, but in the film we see them formulate a relationship that tests Atlanta’s society at the time and prompts people to look at social norms differently.
Unforgiven is just one of the countless incredible films the legendary Clint Eastwood has worked on. The actor and director has created some of the most iconic and beloved films since the very beginning of his career in the mid-1950s and has become somewhat of a symbol of American cinema. At the age of 91, it’s remarkable that he is still actively working in the business and just released the film Cry Macho, which he starred in and directed in 2021. Unforgiven is just one of Eastwood’s collaborations with Morgan Freeman, who also starred in Eastwood’s other Best Picture winner Million Dollar Baby.
4 Forrest Gump
Tom Hanks has been in some incredible films such as Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile, Cast Away, Philadelphia, and even Toy Story, but his most iconic and beloved role is undoubtedly that of Forrest Gump in director Robert Zemeckis’s drama/romance Forrest Gump. The story of Forrest Gump’s life is beyond inspiring and his determination, persistence, and optimism are what have kept people gravitating toward this film for almost 30 years now. In addition to its Best Picture win, Hanks also took home the Oscar for Best Actor in 1995 for his iconic portrayal.
James Cameron’s Titanic is the definition of epic. There is no love story quite like that of Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet star as the ill-fated lovers, who, despite their differences in social classes, find their way to each other aboard the Titanic and become the loves of each other’s lives. The friendship the two leads developed off-screen was evident in their performances, creating some of the most iconic scenes in movie history. Titanic received 13 Academy Award nominations, winning ten of them, including Best Picture.
2 The Silence of the Lambs
Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster star as the iconic Hannibal Lector and Clarice Starling, respectively, in the 1991 psychological horror film The Silence of the Lambs. In addition to its Best Picture win, Hopkins and Foster also took home the Oscars for Best Actor and Best Actress, making The Silence of the Lambs only the third film in the history of the Oscars to win the “Big Five,” referring to taking home Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Actress. Each time you watch this film, you discover something new about the actors’ performances that take your experience with the story to an entirely new level.
1 Schindler’s List
Coming in at number one on our list for every Best Picture winner from the 1990s, ranked is Steven Spielberg’s war/drama Schindler’s List, starring Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, and Embeth Davidtz. This film is epic, heartbreaking, and passionate from start to finish. Set during World War II, a businessman named Oskar Schindler is determined to keep his factory open after his Jewish workers are being removed and exterminated by the Nazi party. Schindler soon comes to the realization that in his attempt to save his business, he is also the reason why so many innocent Jews have been able to stay protected from the Nazi party. This film is a must-watch for everyone and won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture in 1994.
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