In the first of my special posts leading up to the 88th Academy Awards, I’m going to look at the Best Picture winners from the last 10 years and rank them from worst to best. In addition to that I’ll be looking at whether they were a worthy winner, and if they weren’t, then what film was.
As with all my rankings, this is purely my opinion! If you disagree, agree or have any other comments then please let me know in the comments section at the bottom.
- The Artist (2011)
What is it about?: A silent movie star meets a young dancer, but the arrival of talking pictures sends their careers in opposite directions. (Source: IMDB)
What else was nominated?: The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse.
My review: I just do not get the hype with this one. It is certainly charming, but in a stronger year it wouldn’t have stood a chance. I can see why The Academy liked it, I just found it incredibly dull. Pretty to look at, and the score is lovely but I couldn’t get into it. The dog is cute though.
What should have won?: Picking a favourite out of the ones nominated, it would be Moneyball.
- The Hurt Locker (2009)
What is it about?: During the Iraq War, a Sergeant recently assigned to an army bomb squad is put at odds with his squad mates due to his maverick way of handling his work. (Source: IMDB)
What else was nominated?: Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, Inglorious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air.
My review: Undoubtedly gritty, realistic, and shows the true horrors of modern warfare. I just didn’t find the story interesting enough, and it’s quite repetitive. It does what it does very well, and it’s worthy of a nomination, but not worthy of a win in my opinion.
What should have won?: We can all be thankful it wasn’t Avatar (how the hell did that even get nominated?!), but I love District 9 and Inglorious Basterds, and both would be worthy winners. For me though, the winner should have been Up; easily one of Pixar’s best. Don’t fear animation Mr Academy, they are allowed to win Best Picture!
- Crash (2005)
What is it about?: Los Angeles citizens with vastly separate lives collide in interweaving stories of race, loss and redemption. (Source: IMDB)
What else was nominated?: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night & Good Luck, Munich.
My review: To begin with, I found this a difficult film to enjoy; I thought it was too all over the place and there were too many characters to care about. However the second half is much more enjoyable, as suddenly the stories start to come together and there’s some great dramatic scenes. The soundtrack is also great, and thematically it is very interesting but it’s not the sort of film to watch over and over again. It ticks plenty of Academy boxes, so not hard to see how it won.
What should have won?: It wasn’t a particularly strong year looking at the nominations. I didn’t care for Brokeback Mountain although the acting performances were excellent. Munich is also worthy, but I think the Academy probably made the right choice with this one.
- The King’s Speech (2010)
What is it about?: The story of King George VI of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch become worthy of it. (Source: IMDB)
What else was nominated?: Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone.
My review: It screams “Oscar bait” but this by no means makes it a bad film, and it was undoubtedly the safest choice out of all the ones nominated. That being said, Tom Hooper’s direction is as always subtle and beautiful, and the cinematography is picture perfect. The dynamic between Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth is fabulous, and it is a wonderfully uplifting and satisfying watch.
What should have won?: Toy Story 3 is obviously great, but not the best out of the trilogy, so I would’ve liked to have seen the award go to Black Swan; a fantastic, unforgettable, visually stunning film with a great performance from Natalie Portman.
- Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
What is it about?: A Mumbai teen reflects on his upbringing in the slums when he is accused of cheating on the Indian Version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” (Source: IMDB)
What else was nominated?: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader.
My review: Arguably contrived, but this is a charming story of love and destiny, that is at times difficult and upsetting to watch, but ultimately uplifting. A great feel-good film with wonderful direction from the master Danny Boyle.
What should have won?: A truly terrible year for nominations in my opinion, so definitely the worthiest winner!
- 12 Years a Slave (2013)
What is it about?: In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. (Source: IMDB)
What else was nominated?: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street.
My review: An incredibly powerful, emotionally charged film telling an important true story. Outstanding performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o and Michael Fassbender. Impossible to watch at certain moments, but a wonderfully well made film
What should have won?: What a year! I think 12 Years a Slave was undoubtedly a worthy winner, but I loved Captain Phillips a lot, and that could have easily won as well.
- Argo (2012)
What is it about?: Acting under the cover of a Hollywood producer scouting a location for a science fiction film, a CIA agent launches a dangerous operation to rescue six Americans in Tehran during the U.S. hostage crisis in Iran in 1980. (Source: IMDB)
What else was nominated?: Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty.
My review: Thrilling and mostly faithful retelling of this remarkable true story. Thoroughly enjoyable and really well told. Affleck shows as much talent behind the camera as in front of it.
What should have won?: Absolutely the right choice here! I enjoyed Silver Linings Playbook and Life of Pi but they’re not “best picture” worthy. Out of the ones listed it really comes down to Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, and out of the two, Argo is the better film.
- Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)
What is it about?: Illustrated upon the progress of his latest Broadway play, a former popular actor’s struggle to cope with his current life as a wasted actor is shown. (Source: IMDB)
What else was nominated?: American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash.
My review: Michael Keaton delivers one of the greatest comeback performances ever in this film. With visionary director Alejandro G. Iñárritu showing off his now trademarked one-take style, it is a wonderful visual piece, with a pulsating percussive soundtrack, and a deliberately ambiguous ending that’ll stay with you for a long time afterwards. It was pretty divisive when it came out, but I loved it!
What should have won?: It was too close to call last years big prize, and Boyhood was the big favourite. I loathed Boyhood with every fibre of my being, so I was very pleased with the outcome. Birdman is a very worthy winner and is a terrific feat in film-making. Whiplash is a better film in my opinion, and would have been my pick, but Birdman was still a great choice.
- No Country for Old Men (2007)
What is it about?: Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong and more than two million dollars in cash near the Rio Grande. (Source: IMDB)
What else was nominated?: Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood.
My review: Easily my favourite Coen brothers film, with one of the greatest villains you’ll ever see on the screen. The complete lack of a soundtrack heightens the unbearable tension and makes it a nerve-shredding watch. Roger Deakins cinematography is, as always, flawless, and the three lead performances are all brilliant in their own ways.
What should have won?: What a crappy year! Juno is great, but not Oscar worthy on any planet. There Will Be Blood didn’t live up to the hype, and Atonement was melodramatic nonsense. Absolutely the best film on this list is No Country for Old Men, so definitely the most worthy winner!
- The Departed (2006)
What is it about?: An undercover cop and a mole in the police attempt to identify each other while infiltrating an Irish gang in South Boston. (Source: IMDB)
What else was nominated?: Babel, Letters From Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen
My review: The classic case of “we know but they don’t know”, makes for a thrilling, clever and completely compelling film, with twists and turns aplenty. An instant classic in my eyes, and one of my favourite films ever. The cast are amazing, and the pairing of Scorsese and DiCaprio proves to be successful once again.
What should have won?: There is absolutely no question, no room for debate and no other option here. I struggle to see how some of these even got nominated, let alone considering whether they would be worthy winners. The Departed absolutely deserved the top prize.
Agree with everything I’ve said, or am I a terribly misguided idiot who has got it all wrong? Please let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to share as well.