La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, and other films will contend for American cinema’s biggest prize at this Sunday’s Academy Awards. But as a new Google ranking makes clear, even winning that top honor doesn’t guarantee that a film will remain in the public consciousness. (Go here to see the complete Google Trends breakdown of the Oscars.)
As the ranking — which charts search interest from 2004 to January 2017 — bears out, the most frequently Googled Best Picture winner (between 2004 and 2017) is the most profitable one as well: James Cameron’s 1997 disaster romance Titanic. That it’s joined by The Godfather and Forrest Gump in the top three is of little surprise. However, after that, Google’s findings become more intriguing, if only because the ranking of Argo (No. 4), Birdman (No. 5), and Slumdog Millionaire (No. 6) suggest that more recent Best Picture winners have a decisive leg up on their older — and better — compatriots.
Nonetheless, the fact that people are that much more fascinated by Ben Affleck’s based-on-real-events film than, say, Schindler’s List (No. 18) or The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (No. 19) remains puzzling. Perhaps Argo’s search popularity has something to do with Affleck’s more recent performance as Batman — although we can’t imagine why Peter Jackson’s J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy capper would be less appealing, search-wise, than A Beautiful Mind (No. 11) or Crash (No. 15), either.
Regardless of why some of these feted titles fared better than others, Google’s analysis does shine an illuminating light on the most enduring Best Picture winners in movie history. And it goes to show that, in a few years, La La Land or Moonlight might well be among the more attention-grabbing Best Picture winners.
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