With this year’s Academy Awards soon upon us and our full list of nominees gathered, it seems a good time to look back and reflect on some of the greats that have swept up the most Oscars in the past twenty years.
With Titanic celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year, it felt right to feature it at the top of the list. Not only is Titanic one of only three films to have ever won eleven Academy Awards – including Best Picture and Best Director – but it’s also the most nominated film in Oscar history, with 13 nods. For a film about a sinking ship, Titanic certainly rose above the talent on show at the 70th Academy Awards. It didn’t exactly flunk at the box office either. In 1998, Titanic became the highest grossing film ever worldwide, and kept that title until Avatar came along to steal the crown in 2009.
Lord of The Rings: Return of The King
Return of the King record-ties with Titanic (and Ben-Hur) for winning eleven Academy Awards. Most notably, the 76th Academy Awards saw the third installation in Peter Jackson’s fantasy franchise win every category it was nominated for, an impressive feat to be sure. Return of the King was the most success of the three films, and is one of very few fantasy films to earn such high praise from the Academy. Unfortunately, Jackson’s multi-film adaptation of the Hobbit didn’t fare quite so well…
A sleeper hit at the time of its release, Slumdog Millionaire became an instant hit with the Academy in 2009, as well as snatching up seven of the eleven BAFTAs it was nominated for. Pulsing with energy and colour, Slumdog is renowned for it’s fresh and vibrant cinematography, as well as A.R.Rahman’s modern electronic marriage of old and contemporary Indian music that made for one of the year’s most memorable soundtracks. As well as all of this, Slumdog introduced the likes of Dev Patel and Freida Pinto to an international audience. Patel is now nominated in the Best Supporting actor category at the Oscars this year for his role in drama Lion. He’s definitely one to watch out for.
Shakespeare in Love
Starring Gwyneth Paltrow and the youngest of the Fiennes brothers, Joseph Fiennes, Shakespeare in Love imagines the inspirations for many of the Bards’s most famous plays and poems. In particular it focuses on the tale of Romeo and Juliet, with young William and Viola’s love affair providing echoes of the tragic romance we all know so well. As the tagline puts it, ‘Love is the only inspiration’, though in this case doomed love. Shakespeare in Love managed to woo the Academy with its charm and came out with seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actress for Paltrow.
The Hurt Locker
Gritty and immersive, The Hurt Locker is the first film by a female director to win Best Picture or Best Director. It won six Oscars, yet also managed to be the lowest grossing Best Picture winner in history. This may be due in part due to its controversial subject matter, and its depiction of the Iraq war which didn’t sit well with many army veterans. Far from the only Kathryn Bigelow film to rattle a few cages, Zero Dark Thirty would also receive a mixed response during its awards ceremony run in 2013.
Chicago burst onto the scene in 2002 and became the first musical to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards since 1968’s Oliver!. Chicago sees sweet and loving housewife come muderess Roxie Hart, played by a curly-haired, pouting Renée Zellweger. Feather boas, glitz, glamour and a whole host of show-stopping numbers, Chicago is often credited as one of a few films that really brought the musical back to the 21st century, and triggered the re-emergence of a much beloved genre.
Though not immediately considered a favourite to dominate at American awards shows, American Beauty ended up winning five Academy Awards. These included Best Picture, and Best Actor for Kevin Spacey in his role as Lester Burnham. In the middle of a mid-life crisis, Lester falls for his daughter’s best friend and high school student Angela (Mena Suvari). American Beauty features one of Hollywood’s most iconic moments, in which Suvari’s Angela lays seductively in a sea of rose petals, a greatly parodied scene. Unbelievably his debut feature, Sam Mendes created something unimitable with American Beauty that will live on in cinematic history, and in the darkest fantasies of every discontented surburbanite.
Gladiator was well received at the 73rd Academy Awards in 2001, and also won Russell Crowe his first Oscar for Best Actor. An action-packed revenge tale, Gladiator also features the final performance of veteran actor Oliver Reed.
The Aviator tastefully documents the great life of film-maker, entrepreneur and aircraft engineer Howard Hughes. The film spans his many business endeavors, his relationship with actress Katherine Hepburn, and the onset of his OCD. Let’s be real here though: Leo should have won an Oscar for this performance. Though he finally got the Oscar recognition he deserves last year for The Revenant, the point still stands: he should have won. It’s not all bad though, as he did at least get nominated for his role as Hughes in The Aviator. Overall five Oscars went to this film in 2005, including Best Supporting Actress for Cate Blanchett as Hepburn, and Best Cinematography.
As charming as they come, The Artist is a love letter to old Hollywood if ever there was one. The first French film in history to ever win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, it also holds the record for the most accoladed French film of all time. A black and white silent film, it focuses on the relationship between a successful silent actor, played by Jean Dujardin, and a budding starlet (Bérénice Bejo) as ‘talkies’ begin to takeover the film industry. The Artist won five Oscars including Best Actor for Dujardin, making him the first French actor to win in this category.