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Why Parasite’s 2020 Best Picture Win Will Always Be My Favorite Oscars Moment

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at RIT chapter.

In recent years especially, the Oscars have been a rollercoaster of historic moments; from Ke Huy Quan’s heartwarming Best Supporting Actor speech in 2023, to Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s emotional win this year, and Lily Gladstone’s nomination as the first Native American up for Best Actress.

Most of the talk each year seems to surround Best Picture, which this year went to Oppenheimer. Me, and many of my friends, some of whom are film majors and some just very invested in pop culture, always find ourselves talking about our personal ‘snubs’ or our favorite wins in the past.

And my answer will always be Parasite.

For those who have never heard of Parasite, the 2019 South Korean dark-comedy film directed by Bong Joon-Ho, here’s a quick summary: (Spoilers ahead!!!) The film centers around the Kim family, who struggle to keep food on the table in their semi-basement home, relying on others’ amenities to use while they work odd jobs to support themselves. Ki-woo, the teenage son, is given the opportunity to tutor the daughter of a wealthy family, and slowly the Kim family starts to infiltrate the Parks and take over all of the jobs the wealthy family offers so they, as a family, make more money than ever.

They do this by forging credentials, framing the current workers, even inducing sickness on them. That’s the first half of the film, at least. The rest? It’s so chaotic and shocking that I’ll let you watch it and interpret it on your own. The shift in tone is so unsettling and smooth that it’s just too good to explain in words.

After making a massive dent in South Korean box offices, the film became a favorite in the U.S. through special screenings, word-of-mouth promotion, and analyses by industry experts. It became the biggest opening for an international film in the U.S., fresh off its grand Cannes prize in France.

I personally had seen it right before its big win – a local arts theater was screening all of the ‘Best Picture’ nominees from that year, so I watched it curiously with a friend. I’ll never forget that day, as that day was when it became my favorite film of all time once I left the theater in pure shock. 

Its win at the Oscars as the first foreign-language film in history to take Best Picture home in the 92 years thus far of the awards opened the doors for a new era in cinema. Just like in music, it was often difficult to break through Western markets with media in a foreign-language. That aspect alone was the reason Parasite was not predicted to win over U.S. blockbusters like 1917.

Many turned a blind eye to foreign films that weren’t historical or extremely ‘exotic’. But in 2020, when Parasite was called up to the stage graciously by Jane Fonda for Best Picture, the entire room exploded in cheers, making it an emotional moment for the cast, crew, and audience. 

The win served as a breaking of both a psychological and physical barrier western audiences put up in regards to watching film.

In short, it broke barriers that many thought would be impossible and gave newfound hope to a future generation of Asian filmmakers and other foreign language films. Its win brought it from the status of a local South Korean film to one named alongside U.S. masterpieces like Us and Joker in its take on horror.

Today, four years later, the moment is still memorable to me, and every Oscars I find myself praising it and rewatching. It opened my eyes to so many films that go overlooked simply for not being in English; there are countless films out there that I can’t believe I would have missed out on if not for the new era of recognition and mainstream Parasite brought for foreign films.

As director Bong Joon-ho said in his Golden Globes speech for Best Screenplay: 

“Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

Gabriella is a second year biotechnology student at RIT with a minor in forensic psychology. Along with being a writer and editor for Her Campus, she is also a skier and athlete who takes part in club softball and dance, as well as STEM research through her major. She loves to read and write in her free time, and is an avid lover of music and science.