Each week this column will highlight one winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, progressing chronologically until all winners have been discussed. There will be a brief discussion of the film itself followed by a mention of what we wish won from the nominees in the given year (though in many cases there were films that were superior in terms of quality and/or impact that were not nominated). This week’s entry is All Quiet on the Western Front (1930).
Perhaps the first truly great film to win the award for Best Picture, Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front remains one of the greatest depictions of war ever put to film. As harrowing as any war film, it does what few films dare and shows the events of the Great War from the perspective of the enemy. Based on Erich Maria Remarque’s novel of the same name, it shows the Germans as giving in to nationalist impulses and the idea that war is glorious before the soldiers that actually fight the war become disillusioned and question the purpose of it all. The scenes of battles are intense and it can often be difficult to watch but the most frightening parts occur when it shows people in ordinary situations espousing the misinformed ideas that lead to such wars and not caring that they have no real knowledge of situations that wasn’t constructed as propaganda by their government. The depictions of German soldiers may have been fairly sympathetic and evocative of the idea that all who fight in a war suffer on behalf of foolish leaders and governments but it was seen by the Nazi party as depicting Germans as cowards and the German government as obstinate and not serving its people. In response to these depictions, they declared the film Jewish propaganda and banned it from being shown in German theaters. In other words, the film has a good message and an excellent delivery.
The Real Best Picture:
Of the films nominated and the films not nominated, none is more deserving of the prize than All Quiet on the Western Front