Remember Crash?: Past Best Picture Winners That Time Forgot

1996's The English Patient
1996's The English Patient

Each year, there are Best Picture winners at the Oscars. Some of them go down in history as some of the most beloved and re-watched films of all-time, like Forrest Gump, The Silence of the Lambs, Rain Man, Rocky, Annie Hall, the first two Godfather pictures and even Gone with the Wind.

But then there are the films that enjoy a white-hot intensity of critical love and box office success, only to fall by the wayside as the years go on. Two thousand nine's techno-marvel Avatar would go on to make nearly three billion dollars worldwide, but I do not personally know anyone who has seen it since its release, or even owns it.

It was nominated for Best Picture in 2010, but lost out to The Hurt Locker. There was a point that year when Avatar was almost a lock to win Best Picture honors too, but Locker's gritty war story won the day.

This phenomenon is probably a reflection on what some would call our short-attention-span society, which can only explain why films with obvious merit -- and a great studio campaign -- can win top honors and devolve into afternoon broadcast station fodder, the kind of movies that you know were good but don't remember why.


This feel-good weeper enchanted viewers at the time of its release, and did even better on DVD, but a second glance proves it to be simplistic, corny and formulaic, though it's not without its thrills. The racial tolerance message -- however needed -- came off as Hollywood trying to preach from a gilded pulpit to middle America.

Slumdog Millionaire

As life-affirming as this one may have been, with the underdog tale and the mainstreaming of Bollywood, it just doesn't hold up to repeated viewings. Director Danny Boyle took a great leap here, and that should be applauded.


Even as Broadway adaptations go, which are notorious for getting a long shelf life after home release, this one sank. Among the other films nominated for Best Picture in 2003, only Gangs of New York and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers are still catalog favorites. Maybe it just needs another decade to marinate, once things like Glee run their course.

Million Dollar Baby

Once the ending of this Clint Eastwood and Hilary Swank boxing flick was spoiled for everyone, it wasn't as fun, and sort of cheapened the rest of the movie for some. Damned Internets.  

A Beautiful Mind

This one is a favorite of mine, and I revisited it just last week on DVD. It's definitely a great showcase for stars Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly, but it may have been lost in the shuffle because of the disputed source material.

In the wake of the film's release, people took umbrage to the artistic license used with John Nash's life and the depiction of mental disorders. In the post-9/11 world, the tale of a man overcoming such afflictions as schizophrenia with the help of his wife took our minds off of terrorist attacks and fear.

American Beauty

I might be totally off base on this one, but I think American Beauty is pretty dated now compared to its Clinton-era release. At the time it was a tawdry and darkly comic look at the suburbs, but in 2012, it seems like a soon-to-be-canceled ABC family drama. Or maybe that's because it was so close to real life in 1999 that we can't stand it.

Shakespeare In Love

One of the best things this one had going for it was a great cast of Oscar bait, including Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Judi Dench and Tom Wilkinson. Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes are pretty enough, but few could currently pull the younger Fiennes brother out of a police lineup. This one would probably be required viewing for high school English classes learning about Shakespeare were it not for Paltrow's dirty pillows.

The English Patient

This was late director Anthony Minghella's most acclaimed film, winning nine Oscars, including Best Cinematography, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and his own Best Director trophy. At the time, and since its release, it was marketed not as a war epic but as a female-friendly weeper. This rightfully deserves a second look, especially by those who sadly only know Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort.

BONUS: Titanic

Hollywood ain't letting you forget about this one. It's coming in 3D this April in time for the centennial of the sinking of the ship of dreams. Show of hands, er, comments: How many of you either saw this one more than once, cried at the end or made out with a date during it? Extra points if you have watched it since you walked out the theater sobbing in 1998.

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