The Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, have been an integral part of American culture for nearly a century. Whatever the category, there is a story behind every project – with a creative mind at the helm who tells a unique story.
Here are five times the Academy Awards picked a winner that exemplified the American Spirit.
Rocky – Best Picture (1977)
Rocky is a timeless classic that embodies the American spirit by telling the story of an underdog – Rocky Balboa, a down-on-his-luck boxer from Philadelphia who is given a shot at the world heavyweight title. Through grit, determination and hard work, Rocky overcomes incredible odds to become a champion. The film’s themes of hard work, perseverance and the American Dream have resonated with audiences for over 40 years, making it an enduring classic.
Similarly, the story of how it got made exemplifies the American dream, too.
Denzel Washington – Best Actor (1990 and 2002)
Denzel Washington is one of the most accomplished actors of our generation and has won Oscars for his performances in Glory in 1990 and Training Day in 2002.
But even off the big screen, Washington is a symbol of hard work and perseverance, having worked his way up from humble beginnings in a working-class family to become one of the most successful actors in Hollywood. Washington embodies the American Dream by inspiring people from all walks of life to believe in themselves and work hard to achieve their goals.
Coco – Best Animated Picture 2017
You may be wondering what a film that celebrates Mexican culture and its tradition of the Day of the Dead is doing in a list about Academy Award winners that embody the American spirit. But the truth is, Coco is all American. Not only is it a story about family, sacrifice and following your dream – all great American values – but its cast represents the welcoming nature of America.
Coco’s cast includes famous Mexican actors like Gael García Bernal and Jaime Camil, as well as famous Mexican-American voices like Gabriel Iglesias and Cheech Marin, plus all-American stars like Robert Downey Jr. and John Ratzenberger. Coco celebrates not only Mexican culture and American values, but the diversity that makes America America.
Halle Berry – Best Actress (2002)
Halle Berry is the first Black woman to win the Oscar for best actress, an award she earned for her stellar performance in Monster’s Ball. As a trailblazer in Hollywood, Berry opened doors for women of color in the entertainment industry and has become an inspiration to many. Her win was a historic moment that broke barriers and shattered stereotypes, demonstrating that talent and hard work are the only things that matter when it comes to achieving success.
Beyond her professional achievements, Berry is also a philanthropist and humanitarian, supporting organizations that work to improve the lives of disadvantaged children and families. Berry’s resilience, determination and commitment to making a positive impact in the world embody the American spirit of hard work, perseverance and social responsibility.
The Pursuit of Happyness – Best Picture (2006)
The Pursuit of Happyness represents the American Dream because it tells the true story of Chris Gardner, a man who overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to achieve success and happiness. In his journey to success, Gardner and his young son struggle with homelessness and poverty.
Yet, Gardner made a choice to not settle. Gardner takes on multiple jobs, works tirelessly to provide for his son and never loses hope despite facing obstacle after obstacle. His story is a reminder that with hard work and determination, anyone can achieve success, no matter how difficult the journey.
The Academy Awards have been a platform for celebrating the best of American cinema for nearly a century. From classic underdog stories like Rocky to modern tales that celebrate our diversity like Coco, the Oscar winners on this list display the American spirit in different ways. Whether it is through personal triumphs, cultural representation or breaking down barriers, these films and actors remind us of the values that make America awesome – hard work, determination and the belief that anything is possible with effort and perseverance.