Best Picture: 1994
Looking Back: Should “Forrest Gump” Have Won?
They say that for The Academy to properly award the true “best” of the movies from any particular year, there is one thing missing in their criteria: time.
I heard someone once say that in order to properly judge the true Best Picture of each year, the award should be given out ten years later. To take in time, perspective, if that film was more influential than another that came out that year, does it hold up under more scrutiny over time than the limited time between it’s release date and the Oscars…etc. So let’s do that. Let’s give out Oscars to the movies that “should have won” the Oscars. But where to start? I mentioned ten years of perspective earlier, so we can’t start any sooner than 2005. So let’s take a look at 1994…
We’ve already tackled three Oscar years. Check those posts out and cast your vote in our Who Should Have Won polls:
Best Picture Nominees for 1994:
Forrest Gump – Best Picture Winner
Four Weddings and a Funeral
The Shawshank Redemption
*to be fair and to limit the argument, for this we must only look at the five actual Best Picture nominees, not movies that SHOULD HAVE been nominated; that’s a whole other argument for another day, or perhaps, for the comment section… 🙂
*also, of course we could go back and look at who won at the Golden Globes, SAG, and every other award show that year, but we’re not doing that…way too much work really…
*one last footnote; Harvey Weinstein has no vote here…
I’m guessing this is going to be a close one. “Forrest Gump” was a crowd-pleaser and also a technological triumph. “Pulp Fiction” was the art-house juggernaut that changed all the rules. And “Shawshank Redemption” has become, seemingly, everyone’s favorite film. But there were two other films in contention too, although I doubt either one will be much of a factor.
The Best Picture Winner, “Gump”, had the hottest actor as it’s lead, Tom Hanks coming off “Philadelphia”, with Robert Zemeckis as director coming off “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” I remember seeing this movie twice in theaters, watching in wonder at how they put Hanks in scenes with John Lennon and JFK, and how they took away Gary Sinise’ legs. But the VFX used wasn’t for a gimmick, it helped the story along, something most movies today can’t say. It was an epic, message film that takes place over several decades, with lots of makeup and wardrobe changes; in other words, lots of chances for winning little gold statues.
Quentin Tarantino was the toast of Hollywood, coming off his script for “True Romance” and his directorial debut “Reservoir Dogs”. Harvey Weinstein made him a star, arguably more famous than the stars of his films. His dialogue and lack of a linear storyline has been copied (or “homage-d”) in countless films ever since. John Travolta used this as a way to re-start his career, something he could use these days. Samuel L. Jackson became a household name. And stabbing someone in the chest with a needle became a thing.
But a funny thing happened in the twenty-one years since these films release. At the time, people liked “Shawshank” but didn’t think much of it. But after years of being shown continually on cable, this film’s reputation has grown and grown, so much so that as the time of this writing, “Shawshank” is #1 on the IMDB Top 250 listings. So that means, according to that list, this is the best movie OF ALL TIME. So basically, it’s better than “The Godfather”, “City Lights” and “Citizen Kane” and every other movie ever made, especially “Pulp”, which is #5 on the list and “Forrest” which is #13.
“Four Weddings and a Funeral” is a great British comedy, one that I enjoy watching whenever I see it on cable. The five act structure of the film is great, the chemistry of the British ensemble cast is wonderful and only Andie McDowell stands in the way of this being one of the all time greatest rom-coms.
“Quiz Show” is a morality tale about corruption in the television quiz shows of the 1950’s. It’s a great film but nothing I’d need to watch over and over, so I don’t own a copy. I own copies of “Pulp” and “Shawshank”, don’t need to own a copy of “Four” as it’s always on cable and have never felt the need to see “Forrest” again after seeing it twice in the theatres.
Pulp Fiction Tomatometer:
All Critics: 94%
Top Critics: 91%
Audience Score: 96%
Average Score 94%
The Shawshank Redemption Tomatometer:
All Critics: 91%
Top Critics: 93%
Audience Score: 98%
Average Score 94%
Quiz Show Tomatometer:
All Critics: 96%
Top Critics: 100%
Audience Score: 86%
Average Score 94%
Four Weddings and a Funeral Tomatometer:
All Critics: 95%
Top Critics: 87%
Audience Score: 74%
Average Score 85%
Forrest Gump Tomatometer:
All Critics: 72%
Top Critics: 70%
Audience Score: 95%
Average Score 79%
Total Oscars that year:
Forrest Gump: 6
Pulp Fiction: 1
Four Weddings and a Funeral: 0
Quiz Show: 0
The Shawshank Redemption: 0
Forrest Gump: $678 million
Four Weddings and a Funeral: $247 million
Pulp Fiction: $214 million
The Shawshank Redemption: $28 million
Quiz Show: $24 million
Roger Ebert’s Best Film of 1994 was…”Hoop Dreams”
*Of the films nominated, “Pulp Fiction” and “Shawshank Redemption” ended up on Ebert’s “Great Movies” list
Looking back, it’s hard to fathom that not one but two box office bombs ended up as nominees for Best Picture, and that one of them was THE BEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME “The Shawshank Redemption”. “Shawshank” only made $28 million at the box office off of a budget of $25 million. “Quiz” fared even worse, making $24 million off of a budget of $31 million. This is odd as Hollywood rarely rewards it’s ‘failures’; quality doesn’t matter, only if the movie made money.
To the critics, it’s a 3-way race but with “Quiz” replacing “Forrest” in a tie with “Pulp” and “Shawshank” with an overall 94% Tomatometer. But “Forrest” made a ton of money at the box office so that evens things out. But it must sting a little ending up last on the Tomatometer of the five, getting worse reviews than the rom-com on the list.
Coming into this I thought it would still be, after all these years, still a stand off between “Forrest Gump” and “Pulp Fiction”, the ultimate battle between big budget mainstream movies and independent filmmaking. But with “Shawshank Redemption” becoming legend, it’s a tight race. “Forrest Gump” is a movie that makes you smile, and that goes a long way. And then “Shawshank” has Morgan Freeman doing his signature voiceover, which back then wasn’t a thing, talking about a river of shit. Oh and it’s a movie about never giving up, life in a prison being a metaphor…that too. Sarcasm aside, I do really like “Shawshank” but is it the #1 movie of all time? I don’t like it that much. I personally go with “Pulp Fiction”; it’s influence on directors and writers since then (in some good and bad ways admittedly) can’t be denied. It’s not perfect, as some would claim (the whole Bruce Willis storyline is often FF’ed when I watch it these days) but the move is just…one bad motherf***er.
Agree or disagree? Or give us your write-in vote in the comments section. What other 1994 movie is your favorite? “The Lion King”, or “Ed Wood” or “Bullets over Broadway”? Or blockbuster films like “Speed” or “True Lies”? Or one of Jim Carrey’s comedic trilogy; “Ace Ventura” or “The Mask” or “Dumb and Dumber”? Let us know! And vote!