Rank You For The Movies: 21st Century Best Picture Winners

And the winner is… 

Humans have an intrinsic fascination for ranking their favourite things. The sense of order and comprehension it brings to our opinions, and the fun of compiling a list, has resulted in a constant stream of top 10s online. Rank You For The Movies is a new biweekly article (inspired by Empire’s fan-favourite The Ranking) which brings together the views of myself, Ross Miller (@rosstmiller), Madeleine Lloyd-Jones (@madelexne) and Lucy Buglass (@LGTHBlog). For the sake of unnecessary explanation (I’ll only do this once, don’t worry), every two weeks we’ll select a topic, discuss it and produce a top 10 list at the end – and you can see our conversation unfolding below. As the Oscars are steadily approaching, our first topic is 21st Century Best Picture winners. Enjoy!

*Lucy was not available for this ranking, but will be included in further editions

Cameron: So do we all have an idea of who our favourite Best Picture winners are?

Madeleine: I really love the majority of the BP winners of the past decade but Birdman is on another tier for me.

Cameron: Birdman stole that award from Boyhood.

Ross: Couldn’t agree more Cameron.

Madeleine: Controversial…

Ross: Birdman is fantastic, a real technical feat, but Boyhood was truly something special for me. I think out of the two, Boyhood is the one people will be talking about in 30 years.

Cameron: Don’t get me wrong, I really like Birdman – but in terms of scale and emotional welly, Boyhood was always my winner that year.

Madeleine: I think it was a tough year to judge because it was a rare year where there was two films that really pushed the boundaries in above average filmmaking, you know?

Cameron: Absolutely, that fake baby in American Sniper really elevated cinema.

Ross: Completely [laughs]!

Cameron: We can all safely agree that Crash is the worst right? No one has that pegged as their best (or one of the best)?

Ross: To be quite honest Chicago is my bottom…

Madeleine: I’m SORRY?

Ross: I just have no real love or attachment towards Chicago, it was the one I caught up with most recently, it’s fine, but Best Picture? Crash has a some great acting and a couple of really powerful moments, not gonna lie.

Cameron: I think the thing with Chicago is that it reminded audiences of how big an onscreen musical can be, the Academy loves a good bit of nostalgia.

Madeleine: That is true that the Academy loves nostalgia – I honestly think that’s what’s driving a lot of success for Bohemian Rhapsody this year.

Cameron: If Bohemian Rhapsody wins Best Picture I’ll be fully convinced we live in the matrix and it’s glitching out.

Ross: Ha. I actually enjoyed Bo Rhap but there’s a cavalcade of films that should be up instead.

Cameron: Ones that I would eliminate from the running to end up on my list of favourites – A Beautiful Mind, Argo, The Artist, Million Dollar Baby. None of which I think are bad films, just not ones I tend to think about.

Ross: The King’s Speech would be way down the list for me.

Cameron: It won over what I genuinely think could be the finest film of the past 20 years – The Social Network.

Madeleine: Arrival deserved masses more, that’s my biggest loss of the past decade at the Oscars.

Ross: Amy Adams for that film too, how she wasn’t nominated is beyond me.

Madeleine: It was the only film I think I’ve ever seen in the cinema that touched me that hard – I cried for the last forty minutes just because of how good it was.

Ross: What would everyone’s top of the list be?

Cameron: My three at the moment are: Spotlight, The Departed and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

Ross: Mine is: No Country for Old Men, Moonlight and The Shape of Water.

Cameron: Moonlight is really low on my list purely on the basis that while I think it’s exquisite, I can’t imagine ever being in the mood to rewatch it.

Ross: Interesting. I feel like it’s a sumptuous experience I’d go back to as a sort of comfort watch. That whole last sequence, from the meet-up in the diner onwards, is just *chef’s kiss*.

Madeleine: The Shape of Water was genuinely the most deserving of the win than a lot of others over the past years. My top three are: Birdman, The Shape of Water and… Moonlight? I think Moonlight was the best technically made and powerful film, but I actually really liked The King’s Speech?

Ross: Don’t get me wrong, I liked The King’s Speech, but just like the others more.

Cameron: Oh god, I’m so different from you two.

Ross: What’s everyone’s thoughts on Spotlight?

Cameron: Genuinely loved Spotlight from start to finish, completely and utterly captivating and really honest, too.

Ross: I loved Spotlight, too. And it only gets better on rewatch. Something about a film celebrating hardworking, honest journalism with a worthy goal filled my heart with pride.

Madeleine: Spotlight I only watched last year! Way more captivating than I thought it might be, really amazing when I thought it could easily have relied on the fact that it was just an amazing true story to get it by.

Cameron: What about Slumdog Millionaire? That film makes me feel infinitely happy.

Ross: It was certainly joyous (ultimately, there’s some pretty dark stuff in there, though) but it just hasn’t compelled me to watch it again.

Cameron: It’s got all the makings of a crowd-pleaser: a great central lead; unfiltered hardship and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Madeleine: I agree with Cameron on Slumdog actually, I think about so many scenes from that so often and I haven’t seen it for years.

Cameron: Oh that was the year The Dark Knight wasn’t nominated due to the limit of nominees – now I’m annoyed.

Ross: Where do we stand on The Artist at this point?

Madeleine: I really enjoyed The Artist, but I think there’s something about it that means it hasn’t aged as well? It was pretty impactful then but not so much now?

Ross: I really enjoyed it, too. On a technical level it’s really impressive. But I did watch it quite recently and you’re right there, it did lose a bit of the sparkle.

I remember laughing like an idiot at that joke Steve Martin made when he co-hosted with Alec Baldwin. When he said about winning Best Actor guarantees you a long career: “Jean Dujardin for The Artist. I mean, look at him now… he’s everywhere.”

Madeleine: [laughs] Classic.

Cameron: Right, shall we vote?

10. Chicago

© – Miramax

Madeleine: Adapting theatre to film is notoriously challenging to live up to the usually much- beloved original, but I think Chicago is one of the best examples of it being done so, SO right. Brilliant performances all around (who knew Richard Gere had those pipes?), so aesthetically pleasing and pays appropriate homage to its stage origins. The hours I have spent recreating ‘Cell Block Tango’ alone demonstrate my love for this film.

9. Slumdog Millionaire

© – Warner Bros

Madeleine: It’s bizarre that this is widely agreed (by myself too) that this is a feel good film when there are so many really harrowing parts in it. One of the things about it is the sourcing of the cast; the children were chosen from real Indian slums and the main cast were relatively unknown. It’s that authenticity is what makes your route for it so much; and the vividity of the life of those people that creates such a lasting impression.

8. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

© – New Line Cinema

Cameron: The all-time essential fantasy movie – capping off a legacy of Best Picture nominations for the entire trilogy, ROTK is the culmination of gripping, precious plot threads in a dense, cherished fable. The storytelling is perfect and the battle scenes are seismic and groundbreaking – an unforgettable epic.

7. 12 Years A Slave

© – Entertainment One

Ross: Steve McQueen’s follow-up to Hunger and Shame packs a serious emotional punch, telling the amazing and harrowing true story of Solomon Northup’s life in brutal slavery. It feels at once exactly like the sort of thing the Oscars go for but is also starkly authentic in how it goes about exploring a wretched time in America’s history. The performances are second-to-none from all involved but it’s Lupita Nyong’o’s Oscar-winning one as slave Patsey that really steals the show.

6. The Departed

© – Warner Bros

Ross: A remake of 2002 Hong Kong action thriller Infernal Affairs, Westernized and transposed to contemporary Boston, shouldn’t have worked. But in the hands of the one and only Martin Scorsese, it was turned into something special and utterly compelling in its own right. With the film that finally saw him nab his long overdue Best Director Oscar to go with the Best Picture accolade, Scorsese finds yet another way to bring a freshness to a well-worn genre, inflecting the familiar cops and criminals shtick with his own unique brand of sharply profane wit and shocking bouts of violence.

5. Birdman

© – Fox Searchlight Pictures

Madeleine: Of the past five years of cinema trips, no film has blown me away like this (save for Arrival). It’s astonishing to me that the entire runtime is comprised of only seventeen shots. Seventeen! It’s hypnotic to watch; with it being somehow hyper-realistic and surreal all at once lead by some career highlight performances from Michael Keaton, Emma Stone and Edward Norton. On top of all of that, I think it’s such an investing story that I could watch over and over, and find something new each time.

4. Moonlight

© – A24

Ross: With just his second feature Barry Jenkins quickly proved himself as one of the finest filmmaking talents around with his remarkable film that chronicled the growing up of one young gay black man. The choice to split the story into three distinct segments was a simple but elegantly effective one, allowing us to feeling him growing before our very eyes while, thanks to three wonderful performances, still maintaining the sense that it’s the same person. In my eyes it’s one of the smartest choices for Best Picture the Academy has made in a long, long time.

3. No Country for Old Men

© – Miramax

Ross: 2007 was a standout year for movies, with the likes of There Will Be Blood, Zodiac and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, but the Coen Bros’ dark masterpiece deservedly scooped the Oscar’s top prize. It finds the one-of-a-kind filmmaking siblings on terrific form as they mix tense thrills and metaphorical pathos, empathy with cynicism, jet-black humour with tragic consequences, with Javier Bardem’s Oscar-winning turn as relentless hitman charging the Western-meets-noir plot as he hunts down Josh Brolin’s thieving hunter. For my money it’s the best film to win the Best Picture Oscar so far this century.

2. Spotlight

© – Open Road Films

Cameron: A hardline, heart-choking account of a journalistic triumph. Told in earnest with pathos and passion, it’s a story of fighting for the vulnerable against the predators, one that earns its chilling resonance by the startling end credits.

1. The Shape of Water

© – Fox Searchlight Pictures

Cameron: Cinema at its absolute purest; fantastical and romantic, captivating and enchanting. Steeped in a teal, aqua-world of Cold War paranoia and B-movie flourishes, Guillermo Del Toro’s twisted fairy tale is a total expression of creative freedom unleashed with soul, and is a classic for the ages.

Keep your eyes peeled for the next Rank You For The Movies later in the month!

Published by

Cameron Frew

Freelance film writer. Words on Flickering Myth, Bloody Disgusting, Movie Corner UK and Jumpcut Online. My five favourite films are: 1. The Goonies 2. Forrest Gump 3. The Shawshank Redemption 4. Warrior 5. Whiplash

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