The Best of the Best: Oscar Winners of the Past Two Decades

Francis showcases their Oscar winner favourites of the last 20 years

The last 20 years of cinema have showcased films that are destined to become classics, and with this year’s Oscar’s having just occurred, Impact’s Francis though it to be the perfect time to highlight their personal favourite winners from the past two decades.


Best Adapted Screenplay

My Choice: Adam McKay & Charles Randolph – The Big Short (2015)
Honourable Mention: William Monahan – The Departed (2006)

The pitch for this film must have been unbelievable – a study of the 2007/8 financial collapse co-written by the man most famous for directing Anchorman? But the levity is essential in crafting what is surely one of the most original screenplays in recent cinematic memory.

Cutting to figures like Margot Robbie explain terms like ‘collateralized debt obligations’ from a bathtub keeps the pace of the script exceedingly high. Yet it is the unexpected emotional gut-punch delivered in the film’s final minutes that set this apart as a script that knows exactly how to toy with its audiences’ expectations in a way that is almost as cruel as the reality of the crisis itself.


Best Original Screenplay 

My Choice: Quentin Tarantino – Django Unchained (2012)
Honourable Mention: Alan Ball – American Beauty (1999)

The plot is, on the surface, simple – Django, a black slave, is freed by King Schultz, a German bounty hunter, and both pair up to rescue Django’s wife from detestable slave owner Calvin Candie. It’s a fun idea, but in the wrong hands could easily fall into cliché or superficiality. Thankfully, Tarantino proved that he still had the ability to weave electric dialogue between compelling character arcs to create something wholly original.

Tarantino isn’t afraid to be self-referential. Django and Schultz frequently discuss a German fairytale bearing direct similarities to the plot of the film, which in any other film would be seen as heavy-handed symbolism. But with Tarantino, this scene sees him toying with convention and reminds viewers that the film is much more intricate than its foundations would suggest. His understanding of film conventions and his subsequent ability to subvert these set him apart from his contemporaries as a screenwriter as imaginative as he is meticulous.


Best Supporting Actress

My Choice: Viola Davis – Fences (2016)
Honourable Mention: Octavia Spencer – The Help (2011)

Davis has a difficult role in Fences, and there is some debate as to whether the performance belonged in the Supporting or Lead Actress category. What is indisputable, however, is how incredibly deserving she is of the award.

Reprising her Tony-award winning role, Davis slots into the role with an air of naturalism absent from even some of cinema’s best performances. Her constant believability, as well as her chemistry with Denzel Washington, allow the audience to become fully invested in her troubled character arc, and the emotional payoff of this proves that Davis truly is one of this generations’ finest actresses


Best Supporting Actor

My Choice: Javier Bardem – No Country for Old Men (2007)
Honourable Mention: Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight (2008)

The standout feature in a film composed of standout features, Javier Bardem is simply perfect. Mastering the inhuman dead stare, his rendering of Anton Chigurh is as impressive as it is unsettling. The relentless hitman never demonstrates a glimpse of humanity in his physicality nor his voice, making his interactions throughout the film nail-bitingly tense. Despite his supporting role, Bardem absolutely owns the film for his subdued, understated and terrifying performance.


Best Actress

My Choice: Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
Honourable Mention: Hilary Swank – Million Dollar Baby (2004)

The 2018 Oscars were dominated by incredibly worthy performances, but McDormand’s performance really does set her apart. Staring a one-woman war against her local police force in an attempt to find her daughter’s killers, McDormand is sublime.

Catching the darkly comedic tone perfectly, she displays a full emotional range throughout the film while providing a wonderfully informative insight into Mildred Hayes’ thought process. 22 years after her win for Fargo, McDormand proves not only that she has developed wonderfully as an actress, but that she shows no signs of letting up soon.


Best Actor

My Choice: Daniel Day-Lewis – There Will Be Blood (2007)
Honourable Mention: Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Day-Lewis is the most gifted actor in this category, and with this performance it is not difficult to see why.

As Daniel Plainview, he is the dark heart of the film, and disappears completely into the role. Part-oil tycoon, part-devoted father, the conflict between the two aspects of his life are played out with unmistakable subtly, and Day-Lewis truly brings the intensity when it is required. A touching and terrifying portrayal that you won’t be able to stop watching.


Best Director

My Choice: The Coen Brothers – No Country for Old Men (2007)
Honourable Mention: Alejandro G. Iñárritu – The Revenant (2015)


Trading in their signature blend of quirky humour for meticulous suspense, the Coen Brothers crafted their masterpiece. With storytelling as relentless as its central villain, every frame, cut and shot feels carefully considered to draw out tension until it is no longer bearable – and then draw out a little bit more. As with all great directors, the non-verbal scenes speak volumes, utilising shadow, long-takes and some pitch-perfect performances to create an experience that lingers long after your first viewing.


Best Picture

My Choice: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Honourable Mention: The Departed (2006)

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is, for sure, one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all times, and so it is fitting that it’s final entry quite spectacularly swept the 2003 Oscars with 11 trophies, including the coveted Best Picture. It’s a fitting tribute to a film that understands Tolkien’s original novels and characters with a sensitivity, while also enacting major action scenes to their fullest potential. The performances are all fantastic, the cinematography gorgeous, and ending provides a perfect farewell to Middle Earth – it’s possibly the most watchable 4 hours in cinema’s history.

Francis Simmons

Featured Image courtesy of @nerdflicks007 via Instagram.

Article images courtesy of Paramount Pictures, The Weinstein Company, BRON Studios, Blueprint PicturesParamount Vantage, and New Line Cinema, via IMDb. No changes were made to these images.

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