Offbeat Oscars: 10 Outside-the-Box Best Picture Winners

Serial-killer thrillers, neurotic-nebbish rom-coms, silent French movies — these winners went against the grain

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'American Beauty' (1999)

It's hard to believe now, but once upon a time it took a certain boldness to call attention to a movie about a modern middle-aged white man going through an existential crisis. The only Best Picture winner ever inspired by the sight of a plastic bag dancing in the wind, Sam Mendes' highly polarizing — and endlessly mocked — satire of suburban malaise broke one of the Academy's longest streaks of sweeping historical dramas (Shakespeare in Love, Titanic, The English Patient, etc.). Playing like a faux-existential Douglas Sirk film for the minivan era, the film's focus on "how we live now" made it the odd duck of a category full of seemingly irresistible Oscarbait like The Cider House Rules and The Green Mile.

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