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Where do the new Oscar winners stack up with previous winners?

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Today, in an effort to combine the past and the present, I wanted to take a look at how the winners in the big eight categories of this most recent Academy Awards ceremony compare to the all time best. To try and figure this out, I’m actually going with the lists of the top 25 in each category that I put out last year. It’s an interesting exercise, since it’s impossible to know which will and which won’t stand the test of time, but there’s a few educated guesses that can be made. For my money, a few of the performances will certainly be remembered for years to come.

I don’t think it’s impossible for you to have forgotten already, but here are the big eight winners: Best Picture went to Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, Best Director went to Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, Best Actor went to Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything, Best Actress went to Julianne Moore for Still Alice, Best Supporting Actor went to J.K. Simmons for Whiplash, Best Supporting Actress went to Patricia Arquette for Boyhood, Best Adapted Screenplay went to The Imitation Game, and Best Original Screenplay went to Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance. Those are the victors in the major categories, but do any of them rank with the all time greats?

For my money, three of the four acting performances are definitely worthy of inclusion on my “greatest” lists, along with potentially Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance in Best Picture. Honestly, the only performance not worthy in my mind is Moore’s, as she’s been far better in the past. Iñárritu’s direction is borderline, but I’ll keep it off the list for now. Anyway, as a reminder, here’s how I ranked Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress:

Picture
25. Rain Man
24. Shakespeare in Love
23. The Godfather
22. Marty
21. The Godfather Part II
20. Ordinary People
19. Kramer vs Kramer
18. Forrest Gump
17. The Departed
16. Midnight Cowboy
15. The Deer Hunter
14. On the Waterfront
13. The French Connection
12. Casablanca
11. Platoon
10. Million Dollar Baby
9. Argo
8. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
7. Rocky
6. The Hurt Locker
5. American Beauty
4. The Apartment
3. Schindler’s List
2. The Silence of the Lambs
1. Annie Hall

Actor
25. Colin Firth – The King’s Speech
24. Jack Nicholson – As Good As It Gets
23. Forest Whitaker – The Last King of Scotland
22. Dustin Hoffman – Rain Man
21. Cliff Robertson – Charly
20. Ben Kingsley – Gandhi
19. Kevin Spacey – American Beauty
18. Ernest Borgnine – Marty
17. Gene Hackman – The French Connection
16. Laurence Olivier – Hamlet
15. Philip Seymour Hoffman – Capote
14. George C. Scott – Patton
13. Gregory Peck – To Kill a Mockingbird
12. Marlon Brando – The Godfather
11. Sean Penn – Milk
10. Peter Finch – Network
9. Tom Hanks – Forrest Gump
8. Anthony Hopkins – The Silence of the Lambs
7. Daniel Day-Lewis – There Will Be Blood
6. Jack Nicholson – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
5. Nicolas Cage – Leaving Las Vegas
4. Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
3. Marlon Brando – On the Waterfront
2. Robert De Niro – Raging Bull
1. Tom Hanks – Philadelphia

Supporting Actor
25. Louis Gossett Jr. – An Officer and a Gentleman
24. Walter Huston – The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
23. Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained
22. Joel Grey – Cabaret
21. Morgan Freeman – Million Dollar Baby
20. Christopher Plummer – Beginners
19. Jack Nicholson – Terms of Endearment
18. Gene Hackman – Unforgiven
17. Jack Lemmon – Mister Roberts
16. Chris Cooper – Adaptation
15. Martin Landau – Ed Wood
14. George Kennedy – Cool Hand Luke
13. Kevin Spacey – The Usual Suspects
12. Christian Bale – The Fighter
11. Michael Caine – Hannah and her Sisters
10. Benecio del Toro – Traffic
9. Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club
8. Cuba Gooding Jr. – Jerry Maguire
7. Javier Bardem – No Country for Old Men
6. Joe Pesci – Goodfellas
5. Robin Williams – Good Will Hunting
4. Christoph Waltz – Inglourious Basterds
3. Robert De Niro – The Godfather Part II
2. Kevin Kline – A Fish Called Wanda
1. Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight

Supporting Actress
25. Penelope Cruz – Vicky Cristina Barcelona
24. Olympia Dukakis – Moonstruck
23. Shelley Winters – The Diary of Anne Frank
22. Kim Basinger – L.A. Confidential
21. Josephine Hull – Harvey
20. Dianne Wiest – Bullets over Broadway
19. Hattie McDaniel – Gone with the Wind
18. Patty Duke – The Miracle Worker
17. Beatrice Straight – Network
16. Meryl Streep – Kramer vs. Kramer
15. Catherine Zeta-Jones – Chicago
14. Ruth Gordon – Rosemary’s Baby
13. Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables
12. Cate Blanchett – The Aviator
11. Angelina Jolie – Girl, Interrupted
10. Tatum O’Neal – Paper Moon
9. Mo’Nique – Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
8. Cloris Leachman – The Last Picture Show
7. Mira Sorvino – Mighty Aphrodite
6. Rita Moreno – West Side Story
5. Anna Paquin – The Piano
4. Eva Marie Saint – On the Waterfront
3. Dianne Wiest – Hannah and her Sisters
2. Kim Hunter – A Streetcar Named Desire
1. Marisa Tomei – My Cousin Vinny

Now, to figure out where the new winners would stand. I’ll start with Picture, where I’d just have Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance slip in at number 25, though I think it could easily move up or down depending on how well it ages. For now, its uniqueness has it just crack the list. As for Best Actor though, Redmayne would be an easy addition, going right to number 16, with definite upward potential. Our Supporting winners though…they’re hitting even higher levels. For my money, Simmons is all the way at number eight in Supporting Actor (yes he already cracks the stacked top ten list), while Arquette is in the top 15, coming in at number 14, specifically. High praise for them all, I know, but they certainly deserve it.

This is of course just my own personal view on the awards and the winners, so feel free to take things with a pretty large grain of salt. We can all agree or disagree on where these performances (as well as the big winner film) rank on the all time list, but I think we can all come together to praise the work as top notch all around. I look forward to seeing where next year’s winners stack up with this group, as well as with the best there ever was, so be sure to look for that in just about 365 days…

Stay tuned to see how well these winners age in the coming years!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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