“Avatar” has crushed a couple of records set by “Titanic”, but there is one record it can’t crush: the amount of Academy Awards it is going to take home. Simply because “Titanic” has won more Oscars than “Avatar” is nominated for. This fact made me realize that “Titanic” has won 11 Oscars while the public opinion about the movie is now not as praising as one might expect about a movie that won so many Oscars. On the IMDB it scores a mere 7.3, which is kind of low considering this was the best picture of 1997. Well at least according to the Academy. But it isn’t even in the top 250, so apparently the Academy and the general public differ on what was the best movie from 1997. The highest ranked movie from that year is “L.A. Confidential” scoring an 8.4 and currently holding the #63 spot in the IMDB Top 250. It was nominated for a Best Picture award but lost out to “Titanic”.

This made me curious and so I took the Best Picture winners from the last 20 years and compared them to their rating on IMDB as well as their fellow nominees from that year. I also noted the movies that are on the Top 250, yet weren’t nomatinated at all. Now of course the rating on the IMDB isn’t 100% airtight, but almost every movie does have a rating that seems to do it justice in my opinion. Most of the distortions only appear when movies are just released and fanboys and girls go wild on hitting the #10 rating.

So let’s take a look on how we, the general movie going audience, have varying opinions on what is the best movie compared to what the Academy thinks.

1990: Dances With Wolves
Dances With Wolves PosterThe epic movie that probably served as an inspiration for “Avatar” was awarded with the best Picture Academy award beating “Awakenings”, “Ghost”, “The Godfather Part III” and “GoodFellas“. The rating on IMDB is a nice 8.0 but not enough to earn a spot in the Top 250. One movie from this list does: Goodfellas, with an 8.7 and #14 spot on the list it’s the favorite movie of the general public. No other movie from 1990 is in the Top 250, and of the top rated movies of the decade “Goodfellas” is the only one of the 50 highest rated movies from 1990-1999 that was released in 1990.

1991: The Silence Of The Lambs
The Silence Of The Lambs PosterThis grim thriller was the Academy’s favorite movie above “Beauty and the Beast”, “Bugsy”, “JFK” and “The Prince of Tides”. We agree as “The Silence Of The Lambs” is on 24th spot on the IMDB with a score of 8.6. But where is “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”? The best movie from the Terminator franchise, critically acclaimed, groundbreaking special FX, a good story and a very good box office. This all didn’t impress the Academy as there was no Best Picture nomination for a Sci-Fi movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. We appreciate it though considering the rating of 8.5 and a #42 spot on the IMDB 250.

1992: Unforgiven
Unforgiven PosterThe highest rated movie from that year wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture. “Reservoir Dogs” is considered the greatest movie of that year by us, it is #64 on the Top 250, but the Academy rather seemed to stick with familiar faces to nominate rather than a new face as this was a debut by some young director named Quentin tarantino. “Unforgiven” is also on the Top 250 on #105, a good rating but not it doesn’t justify why the Academy overlooked “Reservoir Dogs”. Other movies nominated that year were: “The Crying Game”, “A Few Good Men”, “Howards End”, “Scent of a Woman”. None of them is in the Top 250.

1993: Schindler’s List
Schindler's List PosterThe Academy has a soft spot for war movies, next to biopics. So there’s no shortage of war themed movies that have been rewarded with an Oscar, and in 1993 “Schindler’s List” took home the award for Best Picture and 6 others. The competition that year consisted of “The Fugitive”, “In the Name of the Father”, “The Piano” and “The Remains of the Day”. We actually agree with this award as we’ve voted “Schindler’s List” to the 6th place on the Top 250 with a whopping 8.8. We love it as much as the Academy did. But the other nominations we rate much lower. In fact, there are two other movies from 1993 on the Top 250: “Groundhog Day” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. “Groundhog Day” received no nominations at all, while “The Nightmare Before Christmas” only got a nomination in best visual effects. The best animation award did not yet exist back then.

1994: Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump PosterA highly controversial win in my humble opinion as “Forrest Gump” beat out movies like “Pulp Fiction” and “The Shawshank Redemption”. Yes, the same “Shawshank Redemption” that currently resides on the #1 spot in the Top 250 as well as ending up on several critics’ “best movie ever” top spot. In its defense “Forrest Gump” is a good and memorable movie but is a notch down compared to Pulp and Shawshank. This was quite a good year in movies as the two other nominees were “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Quiz Show”. Sadly missing are “Léon”, “The Lion King” and “Ed Wood”, movies we all rate higher than “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Quiz Show”. Here’s how we rate these movies from top to bottom:

The Shawshank Redemption: 9.1 (#1)
Pulp Fiction: 8.9 (#5)
Léon: 8.6 (#34)
Forrest Gump: 8.5 (#37)
The Lion King: 8.1 (#147)
Ed Wood: 8.0 (#193)

1994 was a year we definitely were on different wavelengths with the Academy.

1995: Braveheart
Braveheart PosterAnother ‘war’ movie in 1st place beating out the other nominees: “Apollo 13”, “Babe”, “Il Postino” and “Sense and Sensibility”. The Academy overlooked a couple of the best movies ever this year: “The Usual Suspects”, “Se7en”, “Heat” and “Casino”. A damn shame if you ask me. Also released this year was Toy Story which was rewarded with a special achievement award which is kind of visionary of the Academy. But sadly vision was a bit lacking with them when concerning other movies. Chances are that in the average DVD/Blu-ray collection you’ll rather find a copy of “Heat”, “Se7en” or the “Usual Suspects” than “Il Postino” or “Sense and Sensibility”.
And even “Braveheart”, while firmly in the Top 250 with an 8.3 grade and #88 spot, doesn’t match up to “The Usual Suspects” (#21) and “Se7en” (#26).

1996: The English Patient
The English Patient PosterThe so called “Year of the Independents” where no big studio had a Best Picture contender. Nominees that year were: “Fargo“, “Jerry Maguire”, “Secrets and Lies”, “Shine” and “The English Patient” which took home the gold. If it was up to us “Fargo” would have won. Sadly overlooked this year was “Trainspotting” which also has been in the Top 250 since ages. While 7.2 being a decent grade we don’t like “The English Patient” as much as the Academy did. Actually, all the other nominees are given higher ratings by us than “The English Patient”. We could not disagree more with the Academy I guess.

1997: Titanic
Titanic PosterThe year that kick-started this article. The movie that took home 11 Academy Awards yet is only rewarded with a 7.3 by us. What happened? I guess the Academy was blinded by the box-office gold that it proved to be and equalled financial success to quality. Which of course is very stupid. While skillfully made “Titanic” isn’t the best movie of 1997 if it was up to us, that would be “L.A. Confidential” which holds a #63 spot on the Top 250 while “Titanic” crashed on an iceberg before it could enter that list. Other high(er) rated movies by us that year were: “La vita è bella”, “Mononoke-hime” and “Good Will Hunting”. “Titanic” beat “L.A. Confidential”, “As Good As It Gets”, “Good Will Hunting” and “The Full Monty”, but if it was up to us the Oscar would have gone to “L.A. Confidential”.

1998: Shakespeare In Love
Shakespeare In Love PosterA costume drama takes home the Oscar in a competition with “Elizabeth”, “Life is Beautiful”, “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Thin Red Line”. Costume dramas never have a wide appeal to the general public and it’s no suprise that we would rather pick “Saving Private Ryan” from this list of nominees. But there is one movie that we rate higher than all of these nominees: “American History X”. I’m not sure why it was never nominated but maybe the controversy about the director abandoning his project could have something to do with it. The movie went on to have a big following over the course of the years and is on a #38 spot in the Top 250 with an 8.5 grade. Next, and the only one from the nominees, on the list is “Saving Private Ryan” (#45, 8.5). Other movies from 1998 on the Top 250 are: “The Big Lebowski”, “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “The Truman Show”. So the taste of the general public varied widly from the Academy’s taste.

1999: American Beauty
American Beauty PosterWhile Quentin Tarantino’s debut was overlooked in 1992, Sam Mendes’ “American Beauty” certainly wasn’t. This quircky black comedy not only won the Best Picture award but even four others including Best Director and Best Actor. On the Top 250 it’s in the upper regions on #36 so we love it too, but there are some movies we love even more: “Fight Club” (#16, 8.7) and “The Matrix” (#25, 8.6). Both movies weren’t even nominated by the Academy for Best Picture. Of the other nominees, “The Cider House Rules”, “The Green Mile”, “The Insider” and “The Sixth Sense”, only “The Green Mile” and “The Sixth Sense” impressed us enough to be on the Top 250. But there are some other movies sadly overlooked also: “Magnolia” and “Toy Story 2” were nominated in smaller categories but took home nothing. We partially agree with “American Beauty”, but if it was up to us the list of nominees would have been radically different.