Let’s be honest: the Oscars are boring. Who really wants to sit through a stuffy, four-hour awards show just to watch the climax where some movie that no one had even heard of until it got nominated win Best Picture? The opening monologue is sometimes funny, but after that it’s just a long stretch of rich jerks patting each other on the back for a job well done.
As ratings continue to drop, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (“The Academy”) recently announced a bold decision in an attempt to appeal to a broader audience — they are adding an Academy Award for “achievement in a popular movie.” Despite not actually detailing any of the criteria for how a winner would be picked, they are basically trying to throw the movie-going public a bone by saying they’ll throw an Oscar statue at whatever popular movie didn’t suck the most over the last 12 months.
Dubbed the “Popcorn Oscar,” this new category is an attempt to appease fans who (rightfully) felt like a movie such as The Dark Knight deserved more recognition, but was shunned by the Oscars because no movie featuring a comic book character could ever be truly taken seriously.
It remains to be seen whether the Popcorn Oscar will have any serious impact on helping the Academy Awards get some of their pop culture relevance back. But while we wait to find out, we started thinking about movies from that past that would have benefited from being eligible for this award. Our criteria for these hypothetical awards are as follows:
-The movie can’t have already won “real” Oscar awards, like Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, or any acting awards. That defeat the purpose
-Was the movie popular? Box office numbers are an easy way to judge this (we’re using gross domestic numbers from BoxOfficeMojo for our calculations).
-Was the movie good? Aggregate ratings sites like Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes will suffice here.
If the answer is yes to both, then a retroactive Popcorn Oscar is coming to these movies!
We weren’t sure how far to go back, but 1990 seemed far enough. Some of the top box office draws that year actually did get Oscar attention, as both Ghost (No. 2 that year, with $217M) and Dances With Wolves (No. 3 with $184M) were nominated for a handful of Academy Awards, with the latter actually taking home seven golden statues that year. Even the fourth ranked Pretty Woman (No. 4 with $179M) picked up a Best Actress nod for Julia Roberts.
So which movies are left that qualify as both popular and good? We think the nominees would have been the now-classic Home Alone, Tom Cruise’s NASCAR adventure Days of Thunder, and the conclusion of one of the best sci-fi trilogies of all-time, Back to the Future III.
Much like the final Lord of the Rings film would eventually win a Best Picture award that was probably a result of the culmination of three epic fantasy films, we think Back to the Future III would have taken home the Popcorn Oscar back in 1990. It grossed $87 million at box office (good for 11th place on the year) and is universally loved for its Western-styled conclusion to Marty McFly and Doc Brown’s meddling adventures with time travel.
Winner: Back to the Future III