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10 Oscar slam dunks

There was no denying these movies at the Oscars

"Gone with the Wind," "The Godfather Part II," "The Silence of the Lambs" and "Braveheart" were unbeatable forces at the Oscars.
"Gone with the Wind," "The Godfather Part II," "The Silence of the Lambs" and "Braveheart" were unbeatable forces at the Oscars. (MGM/Paramount/Orion/Icon)

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – As the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences prepares to hand out Oscars for the 91st time, Local10.com takes a look at 10 years that the best picture was never really in question.

1939: "Gone with the Wind"

Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in a scene from 1939 best picture winner "Gone with the Wind."
Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in a scene from 1939 best picture winner "Gone with the Wind."

Although it had legitimate competition from "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and "The Wizard of Oz," there was no standing in the way of "Gone with the Wind." Adapted from the novel by Margaret Mitchell and set against the backdrop of the Civil War, the epic romance tells the story of Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh), her pursuit of Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard), who marries his cousin, and her subsequent marriage to Rhett Butler (Clark Gable). It had star power (Gable and Leigh were heartthrobs of the classic Hollywood era), a big budget and the backing of producer David O. Selznick, all the ingredients for a Hollywood blockbuster. "Gone with the Wind" was the first all-color movie to win the Oscar (step aside, Dorothy) and remains the longest movie to ever win best picture (the runtime is 238 minutes, including the overture, intermission and entr'acte with walkout music).

Quotable moment: "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." -- Rhett Butler (Gable)

1943: "Casablanca"

Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine and Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund in a scene from 1943 best picture winner "Casablanca."
Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine and Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund in a scene from 1943 best picture winner "Casablanca."

Even 76 years later, "Casablanca" is still frequently quoted (and misquoted). It's also no doubt a big reason why lovers list the largest city in Morocco as a romantic destination, even though the movie was filmed thousands of miles away in a Hollywood studio. In real life, there is no gin joint in Casablanca called Rick's Café, but part of the thrill of movies is being transported to faraway places, even if they don't exist. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman gave an iconic portrayal of paramours pulled apart by circumstance, fate and the return of a thought-dead spouse (Paul Henreid). The American Film Institute ranked it the second-greatest movie of all time (behind 1941's "Citizen Kane") in 1998. When the AFI revised its list 10 years later, "Casablanca" flip-flopped with "The Godfather" (more on that later), dropping to No. 3. "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the King" is the only movie of the 21st century to make the list, coming in at No. 50. At that rate, it'll take a really, really long time before another movie even comes close to sniffing it. In the end, Bogart's Rick Blaine makes the selfless sacrifice, sending Bergman's Ilsa Lund out of harm's way with her husband in tow, even though it's clear to all parties where Cupid's arrow points.

Quotable moment: "Play it once, Sam, for old time's sake." -- Ilsa Lund (Bergman)

1953: "From Here to Eternity"

Burt Lancaster (second to left) and Frank Sinatra (left) in a scene from 1953 best picture winner "From Here to Eternity."
Burt Lancaster (second to left) and Frank Sinatra (left) in a scene from 1953 best picture winner "From Here to Eternity."

"From Here to Eternity" won eight Oscars, including best picture of 1953. As if there was ever a doubt. Based on the novel by James Jones, "From Here to Eternity" follows the tribulations of three U.S. Army soldiers (Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift and Frank Sinatra) stationed in Hawaii in the months leading to the attack on Pearl Harbor. The memories of World War II were still raw when "From Here to Eternity" was released, just eight years after the global conflict came to an end. "Roman Holiday" stars Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn gave "From Here to Eternity" a run for its money, but that iconic scene of Lancaster and Deborah Kerr rolling around in the sand as the waves sweep over them is the ultimate clincher.

Quotable moment: "Nobody ever kissed me the way you do." -- Karen Holmes (Kerr)

1954: "On the Waterfront"

Marlon Brandon won a best actor Oscar for his portrayal of Terry Malloy in "On the Waterfront."
Marlon Brandon won a best actor Oscar for his portrayal of Terry Malloy in "On the Waterfront."

"On the Waterfront" is arguably Marlon Brando's greatest performance, earning him his first best actor Oscar after three consecutive nominations. The movie deals with union violence, corruption, extortion and racketeering along the New Jersey waterfront. Sound familiar? "On the Waterfront" won a total of eight Oscars, including best picture. Of its 12 nominations, three were in the same category, with Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden and Rod Steiger each picking up supporting actor nominations for their roles (but losing to Edmond O'Brien for "The Barefoot Contessa"). "On the Waterfront" is an unforgettable classic, and none of the other best picture nominees -- "The Caine Mutiny," "The Country Girl," "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" and "Three Coins in the Fountain" -- can wave a fist at it.

Quotable moment: "I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am." -- Terry Malloy (Brando)

1972: "The Godfather"

Marlon Brando rejected his best actor Oscar for his turn as Vito Corleone in 1972 best picture winner "The Godfather," directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
Marlon Brando rejected his best actor Oscar for his turn as Vito Corleone in 1972 best picture winner "The Godfather," directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

"The Godfather" is more than a movie title. True to its name, it also the godfather of all Cosa Nostra films and considered the canon for all New York mob movies that followed. "The Godfather" chronicles the Corleone crime family and its transition from patriarch Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) to reluctant son Michael Corleone (Al Pacino). Brando famously refused his best actor Oscar, instead sending Sacheen Littlefeather to protest the treatment of Native Americans in the film industry. James Caan, Robert Duvall and Pacino were all nominated for best supporting actor, while Francis Ford Coppola was nominated for best director. Coppola and Mario Puzo, who wrote the bestselling novel upon which the movie was based, won Oscars for best adapted screenplay. The only other movie that could have challenged "The Godfather" was "Deliverance," but then the voters might have wound up sleeping with the fishes. 

Quotable moment: "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse." -- Vito Corleone (Brando)

1974: "The Godfather Part II"

Al Pacino was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Michael Corleone in 1974 best picture winner "The Godfather Part II," directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
Al Pacino was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Michael Corleone in 1974 best picture winner "The Godfather Part II," directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

This could be the rare instance when a sequel is held in higher regard than its predecessor. Widely considered to be one of the greatest sequels ever made, "The Godfather Part II" also has the distinction of being the first sequel to ever win best picture (unmatched until 2003's "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," the final installment in director Peter Jackson's sprawling fantasy based on J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth novels, proved that the third time is the charm). The sequel's six Oscar wins (for best picture, director, supporting actor, adapted screenplay and art direction) were twice as many as its predecessor, and it remains the last movie to have three nominees from a single category (winner Robert De Niro, Michael V. Gazzo and Lee Strasberg for best supporting actor). Al Pacino also became the only actor to be nominated in different categories for playing the same character (reprising the role of Michael Corleone fetched him a best actor nomination, having previously been nominated for best supporting actor in the first film).

Quotable moment: "I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart." -- Michael Corleone (Pacino)

1991: "The Silence of the Lambs"

Anthony Hopkins won an Oscar for best actor as the cannibalistic psychiatrist known as Hannibal Lecter in 1991 best picture winner "The Silence of the Lambs."
Anthony Hopkins won an Oscar for best actor as the cannibalistic psychiatrist known as Hannibal Lecter in 1991 best picture winner "The Silence of the Lambs."

In any other year, "The Prince of Tides" might have stood a chance. But 1991 belonged to "The Silence of the Lambs." It won all five of the major awards for which it was nominated, sweeping the categories of best picture, director (Jonathan Demme), actor (Anthony Hopkins), actress (Jodie Foster) and adapted screenplay (Ted Tally, based on the novel by Thomas Harris). It's rare that a psychological thriller is even considered for the granddaddy of all awards, so the fact that "The Silence of the Lambs" won in such sweeping fashion is that much more impressive.

Quotable moment: "A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti." -- Hannibal Lector (Hopkins)

1993: "Schindler's List"

Liam Neeson (right) stars as Oskar Schindler, opposite Ralph Fiennes, in 1993 best picture winner "Schindler's List," directed by Steven Spielberg.
Liam Neeson (right) stars as Oskar Schindler, opposite Ralph Fiennes, in 1993 best picture winner "Schindler's List," directed by Steven Spielberg.

How does an accomplished filmmaker named Steven Spielberg finally win an Oscar? He makes a movie in black and white. "Schindler's List" was a personal labor of love for Spielberg, who had been passed over for the best director Oscar three times before for "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," which had also been passed over for best picture. Two of Spielberg's other movies -- "Jaws" and "The Color Purple" -- were likewise best picture nominees, only to be relegated to also-ran status. Interestingly enough, "Schindler's List" had been attached to Martin Scorsese, who traded it to Spielberg for the right to direct the "Cape Fear" remake. That's more like it. "Schindler's List" was a hauntingly real look at the Holocaust and German businessman Oskar Schindler, who saved the lives of more than 1,000 mostly Polish-Jewish refugees by employing them in his factories during World War II. There has been nothing like it on celluloid before or after. "The Fugitive" met the same fate as "The Prince of Tides" two years earlier. An otherwise excellent best picture nominee was just the victim of bad timing.

Quotable moment: "I could have got more." -- Oskar Schindler (Neeson)

1995: "Braveheart"

Mel Gibson directed and starred as William Wallace in 1995 best picture winner "Braveheart."
Mel Gibson directed and starred as William Wallace in 1995 best picture winner "Braveheart."

A movie about a pig couldn't prevail over a movie about the Scottish fight for independence from England, could it? What about a foreign film? "Braveheart" was up against "Babe" and "Il Postino ("The Postman"), among others, for best picture of 1995. The most likely challengers were the adaptation of the Jane Austin book "Sense and Sensibility" and the real-life space drama "Apollo 13," starring recent Oscar darling Tom Hanks. Alas, Mel Gibson got to don the battle paint once more as "Braveheart" won five Oscars, including best director and best picture. The battle scenes were brutal and graphic, but Gibson, who only had one other film under his belt as director at the time, wisely chose to show that war isn't pretty. It made the nearly three-hour epic all the better.

Quotable moment: "They may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom." -- William Wallace (Gibson)

2006: "The Departed"

Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson in a scene from 2006 best picture winner "The Departed," directed by Martin Scorsese.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson in a scene from 2006 best picture winner "The Departed," directed by Martin Scorsese.

Martin Scorsese could not be denied this time. After being nominated for best director five times before, Scorsese's "The Departed" was the movie that finally clinched him the Oscar. It was also the first of his four Oscar-nominated movies to finally win best picture. Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon were shockingly passed over for nominations (DiCaprio was instead nominated for "Blood Diamond") and Mark Wahlberg lost to fellow best supporting actor nominee Alan Arkin for "Little Miss Sunshine." Although it only fetched four Oscars, "The Departed" just felt like a champion stacked against nominees "Babel," "Letters from Iwo Jima," "Little Miss Sunshine" and "The Queen." Still, for a director whose films are synonymous with New York, it seems cruel that a movie set in Boston proved to be the big winner on Oscar night.

Quotable moment: "I'm the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy." -- Sgt. Sean Dignam (Wahlberg)