This is the set of 18 Best Picture winners on DVD that Warner Home Video controlled the rights to as of Feb. 2005, and spans the time period 1929-1992. Some of them hold up over time, and others were given the award because of technical achievements that no longer seem important. I'll go through each one and give my opinion:
Broadway Melody of 1929 - This was the first "talkie" to win the award. The screenplay is a mediocre love story, but the song and dance numbers are good. There's even a musical number in Technicolor - "Wedding of the Painted Doll".
Grand Hotel - Won in 1932 and contained a great ensemble cast about the personal lives of guests in a fancy Berlin hotel. This is a great one that still is worthy viewing today.
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) - Probably the best of all the pictures about the famous mutiny. Still good viewing today. An odd aside - all of the nominees for best actor that did not win were from this film - Clark Gable, Franchot Tone, and Charles Laughton.
The Great Ziegfield (1936) - After the Hays code was fully in effect, the personal aspects of Ziegfield's life had to be modified for the screen. Still, a great movie with a great performance by William Powell as the famous showman.
The Life of Emile Zola (1937) - One of those period pieces that just didn't grab me. It is a very skillfully done film, very artistic, and Paul Muni gives a tremendous performance in the title role. It's hard to believe the articulate and gentile Emile Zola is being portrayed by the same actor who was equally convincing in "Scarface".
Gone with the Wind (1939) - This movie charts the life of a Southern belle who always wanted what she didn't have and took for granted what she did have as she lives through the Civil War and reconstruction. It is the most popular film of all time and probably the biggest money-maker if you factor in inflation. It was shown in movie theatres until it made its TV debut in 1976.
Mrs. Miniver (1942) - This is a good film, and it has great acting, but it is one of those films that probably won because of the times. It depicts how the British coped while under seige during World War II as experienced by one British family headed by Mrs. Miniver.
Casablanca (1943) - This one probably won because of the wartime theme, but it is a great piece of moviemaking that just gets better with time. The chemistry between Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart just oozes off the screen. It's more what's not said than what is in this film. The fact that Bogart didn't win best actor was one of the great injustices of all time.
An American in Paris (1951) - Of course the point of this film not the plot, it is Gene Kelly's dancing, which is fabulous as always. It inspired the quickly thrown together and even more popular "Singin In the Rain".
Around the World in 80 Days (1956) - A fun adventure, David Niven is great, and how they got all of those stars to play bit parts I'll never know. However, it really doesn't hold up as a great movie 50 years after the fact.
Gigi (1958) - The academy award winner in the year of my birth just does not inspire today. There are a couple of good songs, but not many. Plus the screenplay is antiquated and outright campy by today's standards.
Ben-Hur (1959) - One of those great Bible-era epics of the 50's. Even though it is a story on a large scale, it is all of the small scale stories going on that make it great - revenge, love, loyalty, loss.
My Fair Lady (1964) - One of the great musicals starring Rex Harrison in one of his greatest and most amusing roles. Nobody did stuffy British low-key comedy like Rex. He was robbed when it came to best actor, but fortunately the Academy rectified the situation a few years later.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) - Jack Nicholson is a rebel confined to a mental institution. When he doesn't conform, the evil nurse Ratchett has him lobotimized. A great film that will stir emotions even today.
Chariots of Fire (1981) - I personally love this film about the 1924 Olympic games and the conflict between God, country, and conscience seen through the eyes of two men - one a Christian who wants to be a missionary, the other Jewish who wants to be an insider in British society. It's a love it or hate it kind of film - either you find the internal struggles of these men compelling, or you'll find it torture to sit through.
Amadeus (1984) - Another of the modern era Oscars where you either love the message and love the film, or it puts you to sleep. I really loved this one too, partly because Mozart has always interested me, and partly because Salieri was such a ridiculous creature thinking he could best God by destroying Mozart. Didn't he ever realize that the fact that he recognized Mozart's talent before everyone else did was a talent in itself? If you can't build Microsoft yourself, then the next best thing was to have bought stock in it in 1975.
Driving Miss Daisy (1989) - The story of a wealthy elderly woman and her driver from 1948 up to the mid-70's. In spite of the difference in their races and the place - Georgia - they have much in common and slowly become friends. She is Jewish and he is Black in a time and place that wasn't ordinarily welcoming to either group of people. This is a sentimental favorite of mine, plus there's some good comic one-liners in it too.
Unforgiven (1992) - A different kind of Western in which Clint Eastwood wins his first award for Best Director. Eastwood is out to avenge the scarring of a prostitute in return for money when the justice the sheriff metes out on the offending cowboy is just not satisfactory to the prostitute or her friends. Eastwood plays an ex-criminal widower trying to make a go of farming when this assignment lands in his lap. In the end, he doesn't have a hard time finding his "inner killer". A really great film. Who'd have thought in 1965 that Ramrod Rowdy Yates had it in him?
This package is a good value at eleven dollars per Oscar winner, especially when you consider one of those Oscar winners is Gone with the Wind. Plus it has a good sampling of Oscar winners from all genres up to 1992. Depending on how you feel about the more modern Oscar winners (post 1965) that are usually slower, more thoughtful films, you may or may not feel the same. To me the only real dud is Gigi.
Also note that if you buy this set, "Studio Classics Best Picture Collection", and the new "Best Picture Collection", you'll have 29 of the soon to be 79 best picture winners. Not a bad start on your collection.
My only real complaints are that there have been four changes that should be incorporated into the pack to really make it complete as of Spring 2007 based on what is available, although it might require a price increase.
1. Ben-Hur is now available in a 4 disc special edition that includes the silent version of the film.
2. Cimarron, Best Picture 1930-1931, was released on DVD in 2006 by Warner Home Video and should be included.
3. After this pack was released "Million Dollar Baby" and "The Departed" won Best Picture for 2004 and 2006, respectively. These films are not included.
I'm really just pointing out minor flaws because, compared to all of the other studios, Warners has done the best job of putting all of the Best Picture winners they control into one attractively priced package.