From How Green Was My Valley (courtesy 20th Century Studios)

The 92nd Academy Awards ceremony is not too far away. Naturally, the roster of nominations has drawn no small amount of criticism. Such is the way with the Oscars. And they mostly deserve it, for being consistently terrible. But that is not always the case! Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and sometimes the Academy makes a good choice. Here we take a break from disparaging the awards to acknowledge a few movies they properly recognized in their time (and also tell you where you can watch them right now).

How Green Was My Valley (1941)

To most lay viewers today, this is primarily known as the film which beat Citizen Kane for Best Picture and Best Director in 1942 (it also won three other awards). Which is grossly unfair to John Ford’s epic drama of growing up in a Welsh mining community, which is extraordinarily beautiful and thrillingly melodramatic. It is definitely worth a watch on its own terms, separate from the Kane drama.

On various services.

The Shop on Main Street (1965)

These days, the Holocaust drama is a staple of Oscar bait. But in 1966, this little Czechoslovak film netted a Best Actress nomination for lead Ida Kamińska, and won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Kamińska plays an elderly Jewish shopkeep who is completely oblivious to the Nazi pogrom taking place in her small town. Jozef Kroner plays the gentile given ownership of her shop, who can’t bring himself to break the truth to her. What follows is a heartbreaking, indelible look at the mechanics of fascism and genocide.

On Fubo.

From Z (courtesy Criterion Collection)

Z (1969)

This year, the sensational Parasite has nabbed nominations for both Best Picture and Best International Film (formerly Best Foreign Language Film). Z was the first movie to pull off that feat (and getting three other nominations besides), ultimately winning the latter in 1970. An Algerian-French production but a massive roman à clef against recent events surrounding the authoritarian government in Greece, it remains an urgent, electrifying political thriller.

On Criterion Channel and Amazon Prime.

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)

Martin Scorsese’s long streak of directing Academy-nominated films he himself wouldn’t be rewarded for began here. In 1975, Diane Ladd was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, Robert Getchell was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, and Ellen Burstyn won Best Actress. Scorsese has oft been criticized (both fairly and unfairly) for the mostly masculine obsessions of his work, but this warm, lived-in depiction of a single mother shouldn’t go overlooked.

On various services.

From Purple Rain (courtesy Warner Bros.)

Purple Rain (1984)

The Oscars for score have gone through a series of changes that is completely impossible to summarize succinctly. In 1985, there were separate categories for Best Original Score and Best Original Song Score, and Prince won the latter. The winner of the mainline category was the score for A Passage to India. Today no one remembers that fondly, while Prince is revered as a god. History has clearly spoken.

On various services.

The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)

Trailblazing gay politician Harvey Milk gets the biographical treatment in this 1985 winner for Best Documentary Feature. It also serves to sum up a turning point in queer life and politics in the United States, the fervor of activism in the post-Stonewall period, and the corresponding backlash from mainstream culture.

On Criterion Channel and other services.

From Babe (courtesy Universal Pictures)

Babe (1995)

Babe is pure. Babe is good. Before Paddington Brown, there was Babe the polite sheep-pig. This movie was nominated for seven Oscars in 1996. Seven Oscars! For Babe! Including Best Picture! Incredible. It ultimately won Best Visual Effects. Last year they did a live-action remake of Lady and the Tramp and the talking animals looked far, far less convincing than the ones here. That more than anything else is the true indicator of the decline of mainstream American cinema.

On various services.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

An antecedent to Parasite‘s mini-sensation, this lyrical martial arts masterpiece was a surprise phenomenon in its own right, and remains the highest-grossing foreign film at the US box office. It capped this off with a staggering 10 Oscar nominations, of which it won four, including Best Foreign Language Film. It was a huge boost for wuxia, objectively one of the best genres, and for that we must be eternally thankful.

On Netflix and other services.

From Spirited Away (courtesy GKIDS)

Spirited Away (2002)

For my money this is the best, most surprising single Oscar pick of the ’00s. IN 2003, the then-young award for Best Animated Feature was used to recognize one of animation’s greatest craftsmen for one of his crowning achievements. Of course, since then the Academy has gone on to decide that Frozen was better than The Wind Rises, but that doesn’t erase this good thing!

On various services.

Moonlight (2016)

Of course this was going to be on here. It took a roundabout time to hand the right people the statuette for Best Picture (presenter Warren Beatty announced that La La Land won after being handed the wrong envelope), but they got there eventually! A tender, lovingly crafted look at subsumed, aching desire, it’s unquestionably one of the best films to win the top prize.

On Netflix and other services.

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Dan Schindel

Dan Schindel is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Brooklyn, and a former associate editor at Hyperallergic. His portfolio and links are here.

One reply on “Stream the Films That the Oscars Got Right”

  1. Thank you for sticking up for HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY. While CITIZEN KANE was undoubtedly the most innovative film of that year, in my opinion Ford’s film is better. When I was invited to participate in the latest SIGHT & SOUND poll of the ten best films ever made, I put HOW GREEN on, and I stick by that. I was disappointed not to see THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS not mentioned.

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