With Oscar races heating up, we decided to put out this list of somewhat fair, certainly biased rankings of the last ten Best Picture winners. We will try to keep bitterness out of it, though for some we may not be able to resist. We’ll start from the bottom, giving a quick blurb on each. Note that the years given in parentheses represent the year of the Oscar ceremony, not necessarily the year in which the film was released. Also, keep in mind, these are all wonderful movies (except Crash), regardless of our rankings. We would recommend all of them strongly, except Crash.
10. Crash (2006)
You don’t know what was going on, we don’t know what was going on, and it still seems strange Brokeback Mountain didn’t win.
9. The Hurt Locker (2010)
Some may be surprised to see this ranked so low on our list, especially given our love of Jeremy Renner, as well as Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes making solid performances. That being said, Hurt Locker falls victim to us simply enjoying many of the other movies on the list more. As far as war films go, this one may be near the peak in moviemaking (Bigelow sticking it to Cameron), but it does not near the top in entertainment. Never had much hope, but we would have loved to see Up break through in that race.
8. No Country For Old Men (2008)
At the risk of being criticized harshly we place the Coen Brothers’ opus low on this list. Undeniably a great film, the movie suffers in our considerations mainly due to the enjoyability factor, now being introduced because we feel like it. Best Supporting Actor Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, and Tommy Lee Jones all give wonderful performances in the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s twisted cat-and-mouse novel. We don’t mean to disrespect NCFOM. This ranking just came down to the “slow-burn” pace characteristic of both the Coens and McCarthy. The Academy seems to have gotten this one right, but we can’t move on without sharing some Daniel Day-Lewis magic.
7. The Artist (2012)
If we are being perfectly honest, and it seems we are, I fell asleep during my first viewing of this movie. Yes, I went back and watched, and yes, I did throughly enjoy the story, but I like to see more memorable pieces bringing home the prized statuette. We appreciate the Ode to Hollywood, but I’m not convinced it earned the award. Hard to pick out a film that clearly got robbed, though I personally loved Midnight in Paris (Remember, that came out before we were fully reminded of Woody Allen’s creepiness. Also, LOKI!)
6. The King’s Speech (2011)
Some may be surprised to see this one ahead of the last few entries, given its reputation for being slow, plodding, boring, or whatever combination of those you prefer. I, however, absolutely loved the chemistry Colin Firth has with both Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush. King Bertie comes alive with Firth’s growth from stuttering and incompetent to confident and ready to lead. I think the Academy did well with this choice, though Inception is a favorite, and Winter’s Bone introduced us to The Greatest Living American.
This marks halftime, and now comes the hard part, separating a handful of the best films in recent memory. Disagreement is expected and encouraged.
5. Slumdog Millionaire (2009)
There is something infinitely charming about this movie. Dev Patel is a wonderful actor and a well structured, heart-tugging film like Slumdog is Oscar-bait 101. It’s a neat story structure, well-acted and alternating between being heartbreaking, heartwarming and surprisingly cheeky. Plus we love Mr. Boyle (not Oscar-worthy, but if you’re up for an odd, beautiful movie, check out the underrated Sunshine.) Slumdog earned its accolades and this solid ranking.
4. Argo (2013)
|Ben Affleck’s treasure almost cracked the top 3, and maybe in time it will, but for now it has to settle for a spot just off the podium. Personally, I could have seen this one in the top or bottom 3. I loved the performances given by Affleck and the hostage ensemble, but there is an argument to be made that Argo is just a really, really good action movie, deserving of praise without question but perhaps not worthy of Garnering (best pun ever?) Affleck the big prize. I loved all things Silver Linings Playbook (not just J-Law), and I still feel Argo stole the statue.
3. Million Dollar Baby (2005)
Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank both won well-deserved acting Oscars, and Clint Eastwood scored the Directing award, as Baby stood out well ahead of the pack of other contenders, filled with many great performances but no other films of this caliber. We debated its spot anywhere from second to the middle of the pack, but Swank’s foolish conviction and the gravitas of Freeman and Eastwood keep this Baby in the best corner (2nd best pun ever?), on the medal stand. Thrilling fight sequences mixed with raw emotions from Swank make for a heartbreaking masterpiece, deserving of all of its acclaim.
2. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2004)
After I shot down Argo, you may wonder how I can put Peter Jackson’s marathon conclusion this high. To be blunt, this movie is awesome. It was incredible in theaters over a decade ago, and it’s even incredible on TNT with hours of commercials. Intense battle between this and Million Dollar Baby, but I’m sure both will be honored just to have been ranked (clip of “honor just to be nominated”). Blessed with one of the greatest adventure stories, you know, EVER, Jackson managed to create a fully satisfying trilogy, with a beautiful, lyrical finish. The hobbits had “no songs for great halls,” but Frodo and friends help create a franchise that will endure for years, perhaps well beyond every other movie on this list. There was no stopping King, and with good reason, though Seabiscuit and Mystic River both remain thoroughly entertaining. We are perfectly fine with this award being both ‘Best Picture’ and a ‘thank you for making such a stupidly amazing trilogy, Mr. Jackson (woooo, I am fo’ real?).
1. The Departed (2007)
“Brian, your Boston homerism is terrible.” “How can you put those F-bombing scumbags ahead of Eastwood and Frodo?” “Is Crash really that unenjoyable?”
To the above questions, I would have to answer “No comment,” “with reasoned considerations,” and “Yes.” I understand arguments being made for any of our top three filling the top position, though I find it hard to imagine someone convincing me any of the other seven films deserve this hallowed spot. Scorsese finally got his victory, molding tragic beauty of some f$%$#@ up circumstances (and from an underrated movie). No cast member took home an acting Oscar, though this seems to be a product of their collective accomplishment rather than glaring oversight (Leonardo DiCaprio was also otherwise nominated for Blood Diamond). In another year filled with solid contenders and some truly outstanding performances, The Departed separated itself from the pack.
The movie has great scenes (pardon the language…a lot), storylines, and twists, and the ability shown by unhidable faces like Damon, DiCaprio, Wahlberg, and Nicholson to disappear into their characters with varying levels of cursing, corrupting, and killing was and remains remarkable, and endures as a testament to how much actors love working with Scorsese. Again, keep in mind that nine of these movies are extremely entertaining and watchable, so don’t get too upset with our oversights or opinions.