This stretch of films begins with the only Best Picture winner to get nominated for Visual Effects and not win (Patton) and ends with the first Best Picture in 57 years to win without a Best Director nomination.

This is the period that I first became aware of the Academy Awards. I remember watching in March of 1988 at age 13 when The Last Emperor swept the awards (the only Best Picture winner between 1958 and 2003 to do so). Then the next year, I had actually seen Rain Man in the theaters (because it was predicted to win) and knew it would win because I had already figured out that since it was the only one of the 5 nominees to get nominated for Picture, Director and Screenplay, it was pretty much a shoe-in.

1989 was a painful year as I watched with great anticipation only to be wrong because I was convinced Driving Miss Daisy wouldn’t win because of the whole Best Director issue. I thought Born on the Fourth of July would win. I’m usually great in an Oscar pool, sometimes sweeping every award, but sometimes Best Picture throws me for a loop (I thought Traffic was in when it won all its other awards and in 2004 I correctly predicted every award of the night except Picture and Director, which I thought were going to The Aviator).

The Seventies were interesting in terms of the actors.  It’s not all that common for any actor to be in three Best Picture winners in the course of their whole career.  However, thanks to the two Godfather films, we have three different actors in this decade who were in three winners.  And while all three were in both Godfather films, they were in three different other winners.  John Cazale gets mentioned first because he was not only in winners The Godfather (both) and The Deer Hunter, but also in nominees The Conversation and Dog Day Afternoon.  Then there are Talia Shire (also in Rocky) and Diane Keaton (also in Annie Hall).  Also in both Godfather’s is Robert Duvall, and while he wasn’t in another winner that decade, he was in four other nominees (M*A*S*H, The Conversation, Network, Apocalypse Now).  Also, for the first time in 40 years we have someone in back to back winners, first Christopher Walken in Annie Hall and The Deer Hunter, then Meryl Streep in The Deer Hunter and Kramer vs. Kramer.  Then, a couple of years later we have John Gielgud in Chariots of Fire and Gandhi.  Then there’s William Hurt, in a Best Picture nominee in four straight years, from 85 to 88 (Kiss of the Spider Woman, Children of a Lesser God, Broadcast News, The Accidental Tourist).

Best Year: 1973 – four excellent films with one film that was okay. That also describes 1980 and 1984, while 1976 became the first year in which I give at least ***.5 stars to every nominee.

Worst Year: 1970 by far. Three great films, yes, but the other two are the second and third worst films ever nominated for Best Picture.

Most Bizarre Snub: Fanny and Alexander had been widely acclaimed and was nominated for Director, Screenplay. It won 4 Oscars. Yet somehow they nominated three films ahead of it with fewer overall nominations.

Most Surprising Win: The Sting. People may look back on it now as a classic, but it was hardly a convincing win. It’s the only film between 1955 and 2005 to win Best Picture without a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture.

Since I have seen all of these films, the order I chose to list them is that I list the Best Picture winner first, then list them in the order I feel they deserve to be ranked. The numbers after each film is my ranking of that film of all the films I have seen from that year. If a film is particularly low, I try to note how many films I have seen from that year (such as #55 of 57).

Since all of these films were nominated for Best Picture, the ones in red are the ones that were nominated for Picture and Director.

Grades (70-89 only): Winners: B+ / Nominations: A- / Seen: 100%

1970 AA: Patton (#2)

  • M*A*S*H (#1)
  • Five Easy Pieces (#3)
  • Airport (#54)
  • Love Story (#55 of 57)

me: M*A*S*H

  • Patton
  • Five Easy Pieces
  • The Twelve Chairs
  • Women in Love

1971 AA: The French Connection (#2)

  • A Clockwork Orange (#1)
  • The Last Picture Show (#4)
  • Fiddler on the Roof (#30)
  • Nicholas and Alexandra (#57 of 59)

me: A Clockwork Orange

  • The French Connection
  • McCabe and Mrs. Miller
  • The Last Picture Show
  • Sunday, Bloody Sunday

1972 AA: The Godfather (#1)

  • Cabaret (#4)
  • Deliverance (#5)
  • The Emigrants (#6)
  • Sounder (#22)

me: The Godfather

  • The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
  • Sleuth
  • Cabaret
  • Deliverance

note:  This was actually beginning to look like a longshot by the time the winner was announced.  Cabaret had won 8 Oscars and beaten The Godfather head to head in 4 out of 5 categories including Best Director.  If Cabaret had won, would people remember it for being brilliant or for beating The Godfather, in the way How Green Was My Valley is remembered for beating Citizen Kane?

1973 AA: The Sting (#6)

  • Cries and Whispers (#1)
  • The Exorcist (#3)
  • American Graffiti (#4)
  • A Touch of Class (#39)

me: Cries and Whispers

  • Mean Streets
  • The Exorcist
  • American Graffiti
  • Serpico

1974 AA: The Godfather Part II (#2)

  • Chinatown (#1)
  • The Conversation (#5)
  • Lenny (#11)
  • The Towering Inferno (#48)

me: Chinatown

  • The Godfather Part II
  • Scenes from a Marriage
  • Day for Night
  • The Conversation

1975 AA: One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (#2)

  • Jaws (#1)
  • Dog Day Afternoon (#3)
  • Barry Lyndon (#15)
  • Nashville (#42)

me: Jaws

  • One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • Dog Day Afternoon
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • The Man Who Would Be King

note:  Widely talked about for being the first film since 1934 to win the big 5, but it was also the first Best Picture winner since 1942 to also win Best Actress.

1976 AA: Rocky (#12)

  • All the President’s Men (#1)
  • Network (#2)
  • Taxi Driver (#3)
  • Bound for Glory (#14)

me: All the President’s Men

  • Network
  • Taxi Driver
  • Solyaris
  • Face to Face

note:  The first Best Picture winner to get nominated for an Original Screenplay and not win since 1936 (when it was still called Story).

1977 AA: Annie Hall (#2)

  • Star Wars (#1)
  • The Goodbye Girl (#9)
  • Julia (#16)
  • The Turning Point (#37)

me: Star Wars

  • Annie Hall
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Aguirre – The Wrath of God
  • That Obscure Object of Desire

note:  The first Best Picture winner without any technical nominations since 1934.

1978 AA: The Deer Hunter (#1)

  • Midnight Express (#2)
  • Heaven Can Wait (#6)
  • Coming Home (#7)
  • An Unmarried Woman (#25)

me: The Deer Hunter

  • Midnight Express
  • Autumn Sonata
  • Watership Down
  • Interiors

1979 AA: Kramer vs. Kramer (#9)

  • Apocalypse Now (#1)
  • All That Jazz (#5)
  • Breaking Away (#7)
  • Norma Rae (#40)

me: Apocalypse Now

  • Alien
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock
  • Manhattan
  • All That Jazz

note:  The only Best Picture winner to win Best Supporting Actress between 1961 and 1996.

1980 AA: Ordinary People (#8)

  • Raging Bull (#1)
  • The Elephant Man (#2)
  • Tess (#9)
  • Coal Miner’s Daughter (#23)

me: Raging Bull

  • The Elephant Man
  • Breaker Morant
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Kagemusha

note:  Ordinary People is well known now for being the last film to win Best Picture without getting a Best Editing nomination.  It was also the first film since 1965 to win without a Best Actor nomination and the first non-musical to do so since 1956.

1981 AA: Chariots of Fire (#13)

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (#1)
  • Reds (#3)
  • Atlantic City (#4)
  • On Golden Pond (#29)

me: Raiders of the Lost Ark

  • Gallipoli
  • Reds
  • Atlantic City
  • Excalibur

1982 AA: Gandhi (#19)

  • The Verdict (#3)
  • Tootsie (#5)
  • Missing (#7)
  • E.T. (#9)

me: Sophie’s Choice

  • Das Boot
  • The Verdict
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • Tootsie

1983 AA: Terms of Endearment (#2)

  • The Big Chill (#3)
  • The Right Stuff (#4)
  • The Dresser (#27)
  • Tender Mercies (#40)

me: Fanny and Alexander

  • Terms of Endearment
  • The Big Chill
  • The Right Stuff
  • Zelig

1984 AA: Amadeus (#1)

  • A Passage to India (#2)
  • The Killing Fields (#3)
  • A Soldier’s Story (#8)
  • Places in the Heart (#30)

me: Amadeus

  • A Passage to India
  • The Killing Fields
  • This is Spinal Tap
  • Ghostbusters

1985 AA: Out of Africa (#63)

  • Kiss of the Spider Woman (#2)
  • The Color Purple (#7)
  • Prizzi’s Honor (#10)
  • Witness (#11)

me: Ran

  • Kiss of the Spider Woman
  • Blood Simple
  • The Purple Rose of Cairo
  • Brazil

1986 AA: Platoon (#1)

  • Hannah and Her Sisters (#2)
  • A Room with a View (#3)
  • Children of a Lesser God (#20)
  • The Mission (#22)

me: Platoon

  • Hannah and Her Sisters
  • A Room with a View
  • Stand by Me
  • Blue Velvet

1987 AA: The Last Emperor (#7)

  • Hope and Glory (#3)
  • Broadcast News (#4)
  • Moonstruck (#27)
  • Fatal Attraction (#86)

me: The Princess Bride

  • Au Revoir, Les Enfants
  • Hope and Glory
  • Broadcast News
  • Empire of the Sun

note:  Three films since 1934 have swept all of their nominations: Gigi, The Last Emperor and The Return of the King.  None of them had any acting nominations.

1988 AA: Rain Man (#9)

  • Dangerous Liaisons (#2)
  • Mississippi Burning (#7)
  • The Accidental Tourist (#11)
  • Working Girl (#54)

me: Who Framed Roger Rabbit

  • Dangerous Liaisons
  • Running on Empty
  • A Fish Called Wanda
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being

note:  How easy was it for me to predict this?  Only three times in Oscar history has one single film managed to get nominated for Picture, Director and Screenplay.  In all three of those years, that film (The Best Years of Our Lives, Marty, Rain Man) won all three awards.

1989 AA: Driving Miss Daisy (#40)

  • Field of Dreams (#2)
  • Born on the Fourth of July (#4)
  • My Left Foot (#11)
  • Dead Poets Society (#15)

me: Glory

  • Field of Dreams
  • Henry V
  • Born on the Fourth of July
  • Crimes and Misdemeanors

Honorary Mentions:

  • 1973: The Sting
  • 1974: Badlands
  • 1979: Being There
  • 1989: Say Anything
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