With the Oscars fast approaching, we thought we'd run down a list of some of our favourite Oscar-winning films of recent years. Here's 10 Oscar-winning films you need to see before you die...
10. THE KING'S SPEECH (2010)
A film like The King's Speech is interesting because, for the most part, the story itself is rather uninteresting. King George VI, played by Colin Firth, ascends to the throne after his impulsive brother abdicates in favour of marrying an American divorcee. Racked with doubts and a stammer, he must learn to master his voice and his fears in order to be the leader the kingdom needs in time of war. The film rests on Colin Firth's shoulders and, unsurprisingly, he won Best Actor for it.
Oscars Won: 4
9. THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007)
There Will Be Blood isn't really a film about oil. Daniel Day-Lewis' portrayal of Daniel Plainview, a psychopathic prospector who's hell-bent on beating everyone around him comes from something truly dark. He's not a man, he's a monster. And that's what There Will Be Blood is – a monster movie. Day-Lewis stomps and howls across the screen, eating people up and spitting then out along his way and it's riveting to watch. Coupled that with Paul Dano's snivelling, gormless “false prophet” and you have one of the greatest on-screen rivalries in recent years.
Oscars Won: 2
8. THE HURT LOCKER (2008)
Although it has suffered from being maligned in the intervening years, The Hurt Locker still stands as a tense thriller with a riveting performance from Jeremy Renner. Playing a bomb technician in war-torn Iraq, the film takes a different approach to recent war films. Here, instead of being traumatised by what he sees, Renner's character is addicted to it. He's drawn in for the rush and the adrenaline of putting himself in harms way. It has been viewed as pro-war and propagandist, but it also shows the consequences of war as well. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, she would later go on to direct Zero Dark Thirty four years later.
Oscars Won: 6
7. DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990)
Kevin Costner's magnum opus, Dances With Wolves can be credited with making Westerns relevant again and is often seen as a revisionist take on the genre, much like Unforgiven did two years later. Costner plays John Dunbar, a Union officer who disappears into the American frontier after near-death to commune with the wild and establish relations with the Sioux Indians. Running at close to three hours, it's a sprawling epic that takes in themes of violence, redemption, the fall of the Indian nations, cultural identity and more.
Oscars Won: 7
6. ANNIE HALL (1977)
If you can separate Woody Allen from the recent revelations about him, Annie Hall is a charming romantic comedy that's served as a template for most romantic comedies since then. Diane Keaton is the titular character who has a relationship with Alvy Singer, a neurotic comedian-writer played by – you guessed it – Woody Allen. The film blends real-life situations we've all encountered with screwball comedy that the likes of New Girl, (500) Days Of Summer and many more have since copied.
Oscars Won: 4
5. THE AVIATOR (2004)
When you think Martin Scorsese, films like Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, The Wolf of Wall Street and Mean Streets pop into your mind. A sprawling biopic of America's greatest industrialist doesn't immediately stand out and yet, it's one of Scorsese's most accomplished films. Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his often-turbulent life is played out with huge amounts of gusto by both DiCaprio and Scorsese's direction. It captures the wild talent and the maddening perfection Hughes strove for in his life without seeming like it's taking his side. The film clearly shows his recklessness, his obsessions and what they would eventually cost him.
Oscars Won: 5
4. TITANIC (1997)
Say what you like about Titanic, the fact is that it was a hugely successful film in both box-office records and Oscar wins. It launched the careers of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, made Celine Dion relevant again for like five minutes and showed the capabilities of CGI and what could be done with it. Funny to think that it all came about because director James Cameron wanted a Hollywood studio to pay for an expedition to see the Titantic. No, really. He only made the film on the condition that 20th Century Fox / Paramount funded his deep-sea expedition to the actual wreckage of the Titanic, the footage of which was used at the start of the film.
Oscars Won: 11
3. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007)
As near as the Coen Brothers' ever got to an action film, it's also the closest they ever got to perfection. Expertly cast, beautifully shot and with a cracking story to boot, No Country For Old Men is one of the best thrillers ever made. A hapless everyman (Josh Brolin) stumbles onto a fortune and with it, a relentless chase ensues. Hunting him is Anton Chigurh, played by Javier Bardem. Almost alien-like in his speech and appearance, Bardem's character is tasked with finding the money and Brolin along with it. However, as the film progresses, it becomes clear that he's less concerned with the money and more about killing everything in his path. Tommy Lee Jones' gives his best performance in, well, ever as the world-weary sheriff who “over-matched” by the horrors he sees and is helpless to stop them.
Oscars Won: 4
2. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (1975)
For a film that, on the surface at least, is a tense battle of wills between an unstoppable object and immoveable force, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest has some really funny moments. That's all thanks to Jack Nicholson's unique sense of levity that he brings to every film. Playing a shiftless criminal who's conned his way out of a prison sentence and into a mental hospital, he squares off against dead-eyed Nurse Ratched and brings chaos to the regimented lives of his fellow inmate-patients. One of Nicholson's all-time performances, it won the major categories – Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay – at that year's Oscars, a feat that's only happened three times in Oscar history.
Oscars Won: 5
1. UNFORGIVEN (1992)
Unforgiven featured in our Top 5 Clint Eastwood Scenes feature not too long ago. For our money, it's the best film Eastwood starred / directed. His final Western, Eastwood said it encapsulated everything he thought about the genre and all he learned from working under the greats of the genre. Playing a retired gunslinger who's lured out for the “one final job”, it not only plays with this notion but pretty much all of the Western genre itself. It works as a swansong to both Eastwood's work in the genre and the genre itself. It hasn't been topped since.
Oscars Won: 4