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Stream These Best Picture Winners Ahead Of the 2016 Academy Awards

Stream These Best Picture Winners Ahead Of the 2016 Academy Awards: Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

With the Academy Awards taking place this weekend, it might be time for you to bone up on just what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences considers Best Picture material. Sure, you’ve probably seen the most recent winners of the coveted award — Birdman, 12 Years A Slave, Argo — but what about more historical winners of the little golden dude?

Turns out it’s actually surprisingly difficult to watch Best Picture winners online without shelling out money to individually purchase each movie. Is this a ploy to ensure that quality earns the studios more money, or simply one of the many seemingly random holes of streaming movie availability? Either way, here are the only nine Best Picture winners currently available on Netflix or Hulu for you to study in time to make an educated guess for that Oscars pool this Sunday.


THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (1952)
Available on Netflix
Director Cecil B. DeMille brings the big top to the big screen in this circus-set spectacular which features two trapeze artists vying for the center ring, and Charlton Heston as the manager who has to make the difficult choice. As if that wasn’t enough, there are also the combined casts (and animals) of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circuses to be enjoyed — and James Stewart playing a clown.


AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (1956)
Available on Netflix
Ignore the lack of fidelity to the source material and enjoy the sight of David Niven’s Phileas Fogg traversing the world like there are only seventy-nine tomorrows! (Wait. Seventy-eight. Timezones are tricky.) Actually, the real joy of this movie is in the cameos, which include John Gielgud, Noel Coward, Marlene Dietrich, Edward R. Murrow and Frank Sinatra. Rarely has one film been quite so star-studded.


AMADEUS (1984)
Available on Netflix
Return to the latter half of the 18th Century — although admittedly, a very 1980s version, complete with F. Murray Abraham’s scenery chewing Salieri and Tom Hulce’s similarly flamboyant Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — in this suitably baroque retelling of the composers’ lives and relationship. A factoid that makes any rewatch more enjoyable is that Hulce reportedly based his performance on John McEnroe, then in the print of his enfant terrible days on the tennis court.


THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991)
Available on Hulu
A movie that genuinely bears a rewatch for almost any reason, try to ignore how oddly dated it initially seems — this movie is, after all, a quarter century old as of this year — and pay attention to the way that director Jonathan Demme uses the POV shot at various spots to heighten the audience’s emotional connection to proceedings. Yes, we’re all in love with Bryan Fuller’s take on the mythology these days (and with good reason), but this movie remains a genuine high point of the whole Hannibal Lecter scene.


FORREST GUMP (1994)
Available on Netflix
Life really is like a box of chocolates — which might explain why this nutty confection won Best Picture in a year when it was up against both Quiz Show and The Shawshank Redemption. (Also in the running that year was Pulp Fiction, but that was never going to get it.) Tom Hanks leads a cast of many doing their best, but there’s really something disturbingly conservative (with a small c, everyone) about this one. Maybe it was a bad year for the Academy.


BRAVEHEART (1995)
Available on Hulu
It never fails: appealing to the patriotic fervor of Academy members is a sure way to win favor, even if the patriotism is that of an Australian pretending to be a Scot. Don’t ask, just enjoy the sight of pre-disgrace Mel Gibson at his arguable finest, bringing 13th-Century warrior William Wallace to life, alongside a cast that includes The Prisoner’s Patrick McGoohan and that-guy-who-always-plays-a-muscular-Scot-but-you-can-never-remember-his-name James Cosmo.


THE ENGLISH PATIENT (1996)
Available on Netflix
Michael Ondaatje’s lyrical novel seemed almost impossible to adapt, but Anthony Minghella (who both wrote and directed the movie version) somehow managed it, with Ralph Fiennes never better as the protagonist, managing to avoid any tendency towards overacting thanks to the dual presence of the radiant Kristin Scott Thomas and Julette Binoche.


SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (1998)
Available on Netflix
For your own sanity, don’t look to John Madden’s historical romance for any kind of honesty about the truth about the life of Britain’s most favorite bard of all; as charming as Joseph Fiennes may be as William, this film is far more interested in making the audience feel good than telling the truth, should a conflict arise. Instead, just enjoy the gentle, heartwarming romance with the pre-GOOP Gwyneth Paltrow (and the chance to see Judi Dench do the best Elizabeth I in cinema history).


AMERICAN BEAUTY (1999)
Available on Netflix
Would that all midlife crises were are beautifully constructed as Kevin Spacey’s in this somewhat-surreal fantasy of what a man’s internal collapse looks like. If only we could all fall in love with mean Suvari, get high with Wes Bentley and… okay, maybe no-one really wants everything to end the way things end for Spacey’s character, come to think of it. But everything else…? That’s almost idealized, creepily. Director Sam Mendes, you’re up to something with this movie. I just can’t work out what.


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