The Best From Oscar Past Is Ready to Rent


Videophiles will have to wait a while before tonight’s Academy Award-winning films appear on videocassette and laser disc, but winners from recent years are available in both formats--and most of them are heavily discounted from their original list price. The idea, of course, is to encourage consumers who have already rented these honored films to add them to their video libraries.

Discriminating sorts might want to rent a handful to evaluate before purchasing and, perhaps, compare them with this year’s chosen films. Regardless, with refreshments and a big-screen TV, you’ve got a private Oscar party.

With that in mind, here’s a roundup of films-on-video that took the major Oscars in the last five years:

1992: “The Silence of the Lambs” became the third film ever to sweep the top five Oscar categories: best picture, Jodie Foster as best actress, Anthony Hopkins as best actor for his chilling portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lecter and director Jonathan Demme. Ted Tally also scored for best screenplay adapted from another source, Thomas Harris’ novel. “The Silence of the Lambs” is available from Orion Home Video on VHS ($20) and laser disc ($30).


The feminist-buddy picture “Thelma & Louise” was the only other film that took a major award, for Callie Khouri’s original screenplay (MGM/UA: VHS $20 and letterboxed LD $30). Stars Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis were both nominated for best actress, in effect splitting the “Thelma & Louise” vote.

1991: Best picture “Dances With Wolves"--the most honored film in ’91--has been discounted to $15. Among the film’s seven Oscars, Kevin Costner took best director and Michael Blake won for his adapted screenplay. Like “Thelma & Louise,” Costner’s epic is best appreciated on a big screen, preferable in letterboxed laser disc format with digital stereo sound (Orion: VHS $15 and letterboxed LD $50).

“Misery” showcases best actress Kathy Bates in one of the year’s most vivid performances (New Line: VHS $20 and LD $35), and best actor Jeremy Irons is enigmatically unsettling as Claus Von Bulow in “Reversal of Fortune” (Warner Home Video: VHS $20 and LD $30). “Ghost,” the biggest box-office hit of 1990, won for Bruce Joel Rubin’s original screenplay (Paramount: VHS $20 and letterboxed LD $30).

1990: Sensitive and poignant dramas dominated the year. “Driving Miss Daisy,” the best picture, made a hugely successful transition from stage to screen. Alfred Uhry’s adapted screenplay won an Oscar and Jessica Tandy was named best actress (Warner Home Video: VHS $20 and letterboxed LD $25).

Oliver Stone earned the best director statuette for “Born on the Fourth of July,” about the life of Vietnam veteran and activist Ron Kovic (MCA/Universal: VHS $15 and letterboxed LD $40). Daniel Day-Lewis was named best actor for his portrayal of Christy Brown, a real-life artist afflicted with cerebral palsy, in “My Left Foot” (HBO Home Video: VHS $20 and LD $40), and Tom Schulman’s original screenplay for the surprise box-office hit “Dead Poets Society” was also honored (Touchstone: VHS $20 and LD $40).

1989: Dubbed the best picture of the year, “Rain Man,” directed by Oscar winner Barry Levinson, was driven by an outstanding performance from best actor Dustin Hoffman as an autistic savant, newly liberated from his institution and reunited with his brother (Tom Cruise). The original script by Ronald Bass and Barry Morrow also won (MGM/UA: VHS $20 and LD $30).

Jodie Foster’s best actress performance as a gang-rape victim in “The Accused” alone makes this movie a keeper (Paramount: VHS $15 and LD $35). In the mood for a period piece? Christopher Hampton’s winning screenplay adaptation of “Dangerous Liaisons,” one of several film and stage versions, explores decadent French aristocracy in the 18th Century and showcases Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer (Warner Home Video: VHS $20 and LD $30).

1988: An epic sweep and lush location shots from the People’s Republic of China were key elements in the best picture Oscar for “The Last Emperor,” Oscar-winning director Bernardo Bertolucci’s compelling vision of the life of Pu Yi, the last emperor of China before communist rule; the adapted screenplay by Bertolucci and Mark Peploe also earned an award (New Line: VHS $20 and letterboxed LD $70).

Fans of multimedia star Cher might want to own her best actress performance in the hit romantic comedy “Moonstruck” (MGM/UA: VHS $20 and LD $25), a product of the year’s best original screenplay by John Patrick Shanley. Michael Douglas won best actor for his personification of ‘80s greed in Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street,” a film that delivers an anti-materialism message that resonates in the austerity of the ‘90s (CBS/Fox: VHS and LD $50).