Since its arrival in October of 1994, Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction has secured its status as a modern classic. Upon arrival, it won the Palme d'Or at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, turned Miramax into a force to be reckoned with, bumped Tarantino up to the A-list and made John Travolta cool again (however fleetingly*). Its success cleared the way for a number of also-great films that never would have found funding otherwise (with no Pulp Fiction, there'd probably be no Boogie Nights), established an entire generation of film geeks and inspired no small number of half-assed copycats**. It is one of the biggest, most influential, intoxicatingly fun movies of the '90s.
It lost to Forrest Gump at the Oscars.
One could highlight any number of "Best Picture"-related tragedies over the years (the oft-cited trouncing of Saving Private Ryan at the hands of Shakespeare In Love, the still-unfathomable defeat of Brokeback Mountain by Crash in 2005, Oliver! being crowned "Best Picture" of 1968 while Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey wasn't even nominated in the fucking category), but within my lifetime, Forrest Gump's win over Pulp Fiction remains my go-to example whenever I find myself trapped in one of those tedious "Do Oscars even matter?" arguments.
The short answer is, no, they don't (and, as Devin pointed out around this time last year, "Best Picture" wins often come with strings attached). Consider the pop cultural impact of "Best Picture" losers like Pulp Fiction, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Apocalypse Now and Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Some of those were robbed of the Big Prize by films that certainly have their supporters, but you can't tell me Oliver! was as influential (or, indeed, important) to filmmaking as 2001, or that Chariots Of Fire inspired a fraction of the filmmakers that Raiders Of The Lost Ark did. One could argue that a "Best Picture" win does matter, as it tends to increase revenue for the winning film or that it often helps accelerate the careers of those involved, but that's turning the Oscar race into a sprint; in the end, I'd argue that those kind of boosts are ephemeral, and don't ultimately matter***. What matters is longevity.
And movies like Pulp Fiction have longevity to spare. I still toss the film on regularly - I find its various rhythms make for great background noise while plugging away at a keyboard - and watching the trailer above only makes me want to revisit it again. It's hard to overstate what a breath of fresh air Pulp Fiction was upon arrival (harder still to wrap my head around the idea that some BAD readers are young enough to have never lived in a world where a new Tarantino film wasn't in some stage of development), but that freshness still holds up for me, two decades later. I don't hear a lot of people saying the same for Forrest Gump****.
* = Please click that link.
** = (Don't) See Also: Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead, The Boondock Saints, 3000 Miles To Graceland, 2 Days In The Valley, The Way Of The Gun, The Big Hit, etc.
***= See Also: Cuba Gooding Jr.
****= And I don't want to. Please keep any pro-Gump screeds to yourself, Polyanna.