Best Picture #39: A Man for All Seasons

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 A Man for All Seasons (1966).

A Man for All Seasons, Fred Zinnemann’s second film to win Best Picture, is one that hasn’t retained a classic status as many of the films that won in the years around it have, but it is quite excellent and far more deserving of recognition than many (shoutout to that horrid duo of musicals). A depiction of the later years of Sir Thomas More and his refusal to take an oath declaring Henry VIII the Supreme Head of the Church of England, it tells a compelling story about a historical figure, whose appearance in those horribly reductive history classes found in the American education system is generally reduced to mentioning he wrote a book, that inspires standing up for one’s own ideas in the face of all adversity while also being a solid historical drama with a fair bit of comedy. The cast is wonderful, with Welles and Shaw being particularly amusing to watch and countering Scofield’s more muted opposition, but John Hurt was the standout in one of his first major roles. It’s no wonder that a film about someone peacefully taking a stand for their beliefs against a government who would turn on anyone and forget their own ideals to persecute them was able to enthrall so many in the ‘60s. A shame that movies like this and All the King’s Men, with messages that have been relevant since time immemorial, have been quickly relegated to the status of just another Best Picture winner. 

The Real Best Picture:

A Man for All Seasons is one of my favorites that I’ve written about so far and definitely deserved the win.

Best Picture Winners

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