Braveheart is a great film, and probably one of my favorite 90s films, but when it won the Best Picture Oscar in 1995 it was seen as a shock to the public and audience. Even Meryl Streep was allegedly looking in "amused horror" as it was declared film of the year by Sidney Portier.
The nominees for Best Picture of 1995 were:
Sense and Sensibility
Ron Howard's space epic with Tom Hanks was seen as the frontrunner, having won the SAG award for Ensemble, PGA and DGA for best picture & director, and some other critic awards. However, it was missing a Best Director nomination- something key to take the best picture award, as the last time a movie had won best picture with no best director nod was 1989's Driving Miss Daisy. However, Apollo 13 was one of the best reviewed films of the year and had made good money at the box-office.
Babe was the pig movie that everyone was talking about in Hollywood, and had scored a best director nod to help it take a lead. It won the Best Picture (Comedy/Musical) Golden Globe and was also very well reviewed. But it was I guess seen as too "light" to win such a prestigious award.
Il Postino was Miramax and heavily campaigned- but it was foreign. No foreign film ever wins top prize.
Sense and Sensibility would make sense to take Best Picture, giving the fact it took the Golden Globe for Best Picture (Drama) as well as National Board of Review. But its director, Ang Lee, was also missing from the director nominees. Still, it had Emma Thompson's Oscar-winning script alongside with Thompson and Kate Winslet's Oscar-nominated performance. It was a period piece, well respected, okay box-office.
Braveheart had 10 nominations going into the race, and scored Mel Gibson the best director prize. But Mel's racist and homophobic attitude was already evident in 1995 before his fall from fame in 2010. Braveheart barely made $60 million domestically in its first release, and couldn't manage to come in stronger then 4th place on its opening weekend. Even its re-release was tepid at best. On top of that, it got mixed reviews and was seen as sort of an excuse to showcase senseless violence.
How then, did it win Best Picture? I know, I know- 15 years later it holds very well as a searing epic of proportions and better then Gladiator. But back in 1995 it was an upset it won the top prize. Perhaps by default due to the weak competition. Anyone have thoughts on this?