National Society of Film Critics at 50: Best Picture, 1966-Present

The National Society of Film Critics (NSFC) is celebrating this year its 50th anniversary.  Of the various critics groups (NYFCC, LAFCA), the NSFC is the last to vote–in the first weekend of January–the best achievements of the year.

(Disclosure: I have been a member of NSFC since 1995).


Photo: Blow-Up, first Best Picture winner from NSFC, 1966


Year               Winner                    Director                 Director Nationality

1966                  Blow-Up                     M. Antonioni            Italian (in English)

1967                  Persona                       I. Bergman                Swedish

1968                  Shame                         I. Bergman                Swedish

1969                  Z                                   Costa-Gavras            Greek (in French)

1970                  MASH                          R. Altman                 US

1971                   Claire’s Knee              E. Rohmer                 France

1972                  Discreet Charm          L. Bunuel                   Spanish (in French)

of Bourgeoisie

1973                  Day for Night             F. Truffaut                 France

1974                  Scenes from a             I. Bergman                Swedish


1975                   Nashville                     R. Altman                  US

1976                  All the President’s     A. Pakula                    US


1977                 Annie Hall                   W. Allen                       US

1978                 Get Out Your              B. Blier                         France


1979                Breaking Away          P. Yates                          US (British director)

1980               Melvin and Howard J. Demme                       US

1981               Atlantic City               L. Malle                          US (French director)

1982               Tootsie                        S. Pollack                       US

1983               The Night of the       Taviani Brothers          Italy

Shooting Stars

1984               Stranger Than Paradise     J. Jarmusch          US

1985                Ran                            A. Kurosawa                  Japan

1986                Blue Velvet               D. Lynch                        US

1987                The Dead                   J. Huston                      US

1988               The Unbearable        P. Kaufman                  US

Lightness of Being

1989               Drugstore Cowboy   G. Van Sant                 US

1990               GoodFellas                 M. Scorsese                 US

1991               Life Is Sweet               M. Leigh                      UK

1992               Unforgiven                 C. Eastwood                US

1993               Schindler’s List          S. Spielberg                US

1994               Pulp Fiction                Q. Tarantino              US

1995               Babe                              C. Noonan                 US

1996               Breaking the Waves   L. Von Trier              Danish (in English)

1997               L.A. Confidential        C. Hanson                  US

1998              Out of Sight                  S. Soderbergh            US

1999    Tie    Being John Malkovich S. Jonze                    US

Topsy-Turvy                   M. Leigh                   UK

2000              Yi Yi (A One and a Two)   E. Yang               Taiwan

2001             Mulholland Drive          D. Lynch                    US

2002            The Pianist                      R. Polanski                Polish (in French)

2003            American Splendor       R. Pulcini/S. Springer US

2004            Million Dollar Baby      C. Eastwood                  US

2005             Capote                            B. Miller                         US

2006             Pan’s Labyrinth            G. del Toro                     Mexican (in Spanish)

2007             There Will Be Blood    P.T. Anderson               US

2008             Waltz With Bashir       A. Folman                      Israel

2009             The Hurt Locker          K. Bigelow                      US

2010              The Social Network    D. Fincher                       US

2011               Melancholia                 L. Von Trier                    Danish (in English)director)

2012               Amour                           M. Haneke                      Austrian (in French)

2013               Inside Llewyn Davis  J. and E. Coen                US

2014              Goodbye Language     J.L. Godard                     France

2015              Spotlight                       Tom McCarthy               US





*Only one director, the late Ingmar Bergman, had won the Best Picture Award three times: in 1967, 1968, and 1974.

*Six directors had won the top award twice: Robert Altman, in 1970 and 1974; David Lynch in 1986 and 2001; Mike Leigh in 1991 and 1999 (in a tie), Clint Eastwood, in 1992 and 1994, and Lars von Trier, in 1996 and 2011.

*In 50 years, there has been only one tie, in 1999, when Mike Leigh ans Spike Jonze shared the top award.

*Only 6 of the 50 winning films (voted in early January) went on to win the Best Picture Oscar (voted in late March before switching to late February):

Woody Allen’s Annie Hall in 1977;

Eastwood’s Unforgiven in 1992;

Spielberg’s Schindler’s List in 1993;

Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby in 2004;

Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker in 2009;

Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight in 2015

*The number of Best Picture winners from the NSFC  is much higher (about half) among the nominees of the Best Picture Oscar.

*Five winners of the NSFC Best Picture went on to receive the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar:

Z in 1969;

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie in 1972;

Day for Night in 1973;

Get Out Your Handkerchiefs in 1978;

Amour in 2012.

*Only one animated films had won the Best Picture of the NSFC:

Waltz with Bashir by the Israeli director Ari Folman in 2008.

*Of the 50 films that had won the NSFC Best Picture, 8 were foreign-language, most recently Amour, a French production directed by Austrian-born filmmaker Michael Haneke.

Nonetheless, several English-speaking films were helmed by foreign-born or foreign-based directors, such as Louis Malle’s Atlantic City in 1981, or Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves in 1996 and Melancholia in 2010.

*Only one woman had won the top award, Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker, in 2009.

*French productions (often by non-French directors, such as Bunuel or Polanski or Haneke) dominate the foreign language films that won the NSFC Best Picture, and the foreign directors who helmed English-speaking films.

*More than half (30 out of 50) of the NSFC top pictures were made by American directors, though in the first decade of the group, only two US films had won the top award, both by Altman, MASH in 1970 and Nashville in 1975.

*The strongest domination of US films among the top NSFC winners was in the 1990s, when six of the ten winners were helmed by American filmmakers.  The exceptions were Mike Leigh’s Life Is Sweet, Chris Noonan’s Babe, and Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves. It should be noted that all three films were in English, by British, Australian, and Danish.

*Of the 30 US films, about half were independent features, made and/or distributed outside of the mainstream Hollywood studios, such as Stranger Than Paradise, Mulholland Drive, American Splendor, and There Will Be Blood.