With the Oscars looming, this is a time when we not only look forward to the Oscars but we also look back at past winners. We lament the movies that were robbed and celebrate the movies that won. We are eternally surprised by the movies that won Best Picture (Chicago? Really?) and find ourselves reappraising them with the benefit of hindsight. However, most of the time we don’t look far back enough. So, with that in mind, here are the three earliest Best Picture winners available on Netflix now. See how it was done in the ’20s and ’50s and, if the mood takes you, you can always be the guy at the party who says, ‘Shakespeare in Love? Oh, take me back to a time when Wings was the winner. Now that was a real movie.’
The first ever Best Picture winner and the first ever movie to feature a same sex kiss, Wings was the last silent movie to win the little gold man until The Artist in 2012. The movie is the story of two men from different classes and backgrounds who fall for the same woman, played by Clara Bow, and become pilots in the First World War. The movie is a fun, epic romance with some fantastic acting and camerawork, so much so that if it wasn’t for the silence and sepia toned images you could be mistaken for thinking this wasn’t a 90-year-old movie. It also has that incredible thing with old movies where the crazy stunts were most definitely happening with no CGI assistance and people were risking life and limb for the perfect shot.
The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
The Greatest Show on Earth is one of few films from the genre of epic circus movie. It is the story of circus performers, trapeze artists, clowns, and an elephant trainer and their lives and loves on the road. It is a gorgeous, bright, technicolour spectacle full of dashing actors and glamourous actresses. Interestingly, this movie is one of the earliest movies considered to have robbed the Best Picture from another film, in this case the anti-Joseph McCarthy themed High Noon, which was rumoured to have been shunned by Academy voters fearing McCarthy’s wrath. Still, as far as Best Picture thieves go, this one is a hell of a lot better than Crash.
Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
It is amazing to think a movie as fluffy and fun as Around the World would win Best Picture. It is practically unimaginable for such a feat to occur in this day and age. It is stiff upper lip, Keystone Kops, throw everything at the wall, madness. It is filled with cameos by actors I’m too young to have heard of, exotic locales filmed in Hollywood backlots, and David Niven just being the most British person who ever British-ed. It is silly and slight nonsense and also fun as hell and a joy to watch. It is a shame that we’ve come to the point where the most serious movies are the only ones in contention for the big awards because sometimes the Best Picture should be the one that makes you feel the best.