The first Academy Award winner for Best Picture in 1928 went to "Wings", a film made by Howard Hughes. I have never seen it. I'm not even sure where one finds a copy of the film. But I am guessing that it might have a hard time holding the interest of most people in 2013, who are more used to things like CGI effects, fast-moving action sequences, realistic dialogue, 3-D, IMAX and other advancements in film that make movies so much more interesting to watch now.
I have compiled a very subjective list of ten movies that have won the Oscar for Best Picture of the Year from 1928 to 1991). In my opinion, these films will stay relevant and remain extremely watchable for all eternity. There are some films that have won the Best Picture Oscar that are extremely dated and kind of hard to sit through. In some cases, you ask yourself, "was that REALLY the BEST movie that year?" Films like "Gentlemen's Agreement". It makes a solid case for discrimination but it's story is clunky and far too naive for the modern film-goer. Also, for me, "The Last Emperor" is three long hours of quiet panoramas of ancient China. I remember the sets and the costumes of that movie, but little else.
So I think that the films on this list have aged well. I believe that our current society can watch and appreciate these films and not cringe too much. I think they are all good examples of a well-constructed film and an entertaining one. Starting from older to newer:
1. "Gone With the Wind" (1939) There has not been any three or four hour film since that did such a good job in the areas of plot, character development and story as this film. It holds up. It's overwrought in spots. The acting styles have changed. But it's still an amazing film.
2. "Casablanca" (1943) This classic film of intrigue and complicated relationships still remains romantic, suspenseful and stirring. The lines are cliche by now but Bogie was never better and the last scene gets to me every time.
3. "On the Waterfront" (1954) This powerful film of struggle and redemption is probably Marlon Brando's finest performance. It's a gritty and uncompromising story that has tremendous emotional power. It deals with human behavior and foibles that will always be relevant.
4. "Gigi" (1958) How do you sell a story about a fledgling, underaged girl being groomed to be a professional "escort" to a studio and make it immensely entertaining and charming? It helps that the cast is impeccable, the story full of heart and the songs and that it offered characters we all care about.
5. "Ben Hur" (1959) Biblical and gladiator movies will probably always have an audience. This film has an extremely involved story line and action sequences that, without the help of CG, are thrilling. I think audiences will always enjoy this combination of expert story-telling and action.
6. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) For a film that has no women in it and an untried actor in the lead, this film absolutely stands as probably the best "epic" ever put on film. It's intelligent, realistic and mesmerizing. The only injustice of this movie is that Peter O'Toole did not win the Oscar that year for Best Actor!
7. "The Sound of Music" (1965) This is the undisputed "king" of all movie musicals and I can't name one person I know who hasn't seen it. I think it will always be that way. It's a compelling and charming story and the cast is flawless. The ending is a bit anti climatic, but great songs and scenery make up for that. The last time I was in Salzburg, Austria I took the"Sound of Music" tour. You see all the places they filmed and enthusiasm for that tour has not diminished a bit in 47 years!
8. "The Godfather" (1972) As a film, as powerful story-telling, and as a film with riveting characters, this film really stands alone. It takes us into a world unfamiliar to most of us and we were fascinated by it all. Superb cast, very Shakespearean in it's plot and drama and eloquent in it's portrayal of a real part of our history.
9. "Dances with Wolves" (1990) I think the American west will always fascinate Americans. This film does one of the best jobs of humanizing the Native Americans of any film out there. It is poetic, lyrical, fascinating, human and suspenseful. It also gives us insights about our past and for that reason alone I think it will always be something people will want to watch.
10. "Silence of the Lambs" (1991) Okay. I do not like horror films. But this film had such sheer audacity and power that it it was hard to deny it's brilliance. In this day and age when the behavior of some is so extreme we just can't get a grip on their motives or profiles, this film provides insights into the human psyche that are both fascinating and disturbing. But even in the future, I think the examination of evil will always intrigue audiences.
There are some extremely good movies that were left out here. But I really tried to pick the ones that I thought would age the best. Time will tell.