150 Best Picture Nominees: Ranked

Best Picture Nominees RankedI want to preface this article by saying that I like about 90 percent of the movies on this list. There’s only about ten out of all of these I don’t like, and that’s just because these really are the best of the best. So if you read this thinking “Wow, how is that movie so low on this list?” The answer is simply because when the average quality is so high, the rest will suffer by comparison. That being said, the Oscars are something that people either hate because they mainly talk about movies which aren’t blockbusters, or people hate them because they don’t choose the right small films/blockbusters to talk about.

Just look at the last three years for a perfect example of this, as on the day nominations came out, people will flood twitter with “SNUBBED” this and “OVERRATED” that. So because school is over, I’m furloughed for another month, and the cabin fever is setting in, I’m going to put all 150 of the nominees I’ve seen in order from worst to best.

I also know that I still have a lot more to watch (There have been 563 nominees over the 92 year history of the Oscars, so I’m barely at the quarter mark) and this list leans heavily on the current history of the Oscars (47 films being from the 2010s), but that’s just because it’s a lot easier to find a movie from today than it is to find Captains Courageous or Twelve O’Clock High. Now, because we have 150 movies to talk about and we’re supposed to have a word limit, let’s get into Tier Five.

Tier Five: One time watches, or less

The lowest nominee on the list is one of the biggest sellers of all time, Avatar. I remember watching it for the first time and just being blown away by how mediocre it was. Space Pocahontas is a three hour visual effects test that I’d rather try to eat the disc of than rewatch. There are eight winners in the bottom tier, with 1948’s Hamlet, along with Julius Caesar, just furthering my disdain for Shakespeare adaptations not named 10 Things I Hate About You. A few movies that are beloved which made Tier Five include There Will Be Blood, which has gorgeous cinematography, great performances, and was a very draining experience to watch, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, which I’ve already gone into my in depth dislike for, and The Wizard of Oz, which I do really like but compared to the other movies here it’s hard to stack up.

Overall, this category can be described in one word, dragging. These films, especially the early ones like Mutiny on the Bounty, An American in Paris, and Anchors Aweigh aren’t the longest movies, but they feel like they have the runtime of Space Pocahontas. These movies all blend together into a long, boring movie where Rex Harrison and Elizabeth Taylor sail down a river with pigs and accidentally turn Clark Gable into a donkey who is in the middle of a chemical lawsuit. This excludes a few films of course. Star Wars and Black Panther are fun and exciting, but just aren’t good enough to break into the next tier.

Tier Four: Pretty good?

We got eleven winners here, including one of the most beloved winners, Lawrence of Arabia. Now, why is it this low? That would be because the pre-intermission phase was one of the hardest movies I’ve ever watched. Now, the second half is fantastic, but seeing that intermission come up was one of the biggest reliefs I’ve ever had. I saw It: Chapter Two the next night and it felt like two hours comparatively. Other movies here include Annie Hall, which… I mean, it’s less creepy than Manhattan, but Woody Allen is one of the least likable people ever.

Suspicion, a great movie with one of the biggest non-climaxs ever which ranks the score, and two separate “Moon” films. Moonlight, which I’ll get into more later, and Moonstruck, which features two great lead performances, one of my favorite meme songs ever, and a pretty bland romcom story. I think the movie that best sums up Tier Four is Lost in Translation. It’s a good movie with two solid lead performances, but I was disappointed when I watched it due to high expectations. That could also be said for movies like Gone with the Wind, Network, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. All those movies are pretty good, but they were undone by high expectations. 

Tier Three: Truly solid films

In Tier Three, we only have five winners, ranging from the enjoyable You Can’t Take it With You, to the epic Ben-Hur. The latter would no doubt be higher if it was under three hours, but they decided to keep in the leper colony stuff so it sunk to tier three. Rex Harrison returns with My Fair Lady and one of the most psychopathic characters on this list. Speaking of vaguely creepy, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. A movie which is lower tier four/ upper tier five that is the original Stockholm Syndrome, but it does have the fantastic barn raising dance sequence that is absolutely tier one.

From the color coordinated shirts, to the kicks and flips, to the dance-off, that one scene in particular is amazing. Also, it’s exactly like what American clubs are like. I should know. The last movie I’ll talk about here is the movie that divides the list down the middle, Joker. One of three Scorsese movies in this tier, Joker is probably the best example of the Oscars today. For years, we’ve heard an outcry from fans demanding that the MCU and other superhero films receive Oscar praise. Similar to Black Panther, as soon as it was announced, many took to Twitter to denounce its large number of nominations because these were “The wrong superhero movies”. All in all, these movies are what most people think of when they think Best Picture nominees.

Tier Two: The must-sees

This is the section where I realized “How is that not higher up?” Here we have classics like Citizen Kane and Casablanca, late 20th century films like Tootsie and All the Presidents Men, and a few newer ones like Jojo Rabbit and Black Swan. These are all movies that are fantastic, but the main thing that I find prevents them from breaking into the top tier is the lack of a single element.

Take District 9, with a great first two acts, but the last half hour leaves something to be desired. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is similar, as I’d say the biggest problem with that film is the relatively boring first act. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t bring up the fact that the border film, Return of the King, has approximately fifteen different endings and uses all of them, but it doesn’t really matter. This is the category of nitpicking little details, as while these are all good movies, they just have a little less greatness than those movies right above them. 

Tier One: Breathtaking 

Now, before we really get into the best of the best, let’s talk about the edge film, Green Book. While it’s true that it’s a boilerplate biopic that’s made to appeal to every possible person, I can’t deny that I really enjoyed it. Great performances, decent comedy, and some great costumes make it a nice, enjoyable movie. Honestly, this entire tier could just be me addressing controversy around some of the films. The film that gets the high honor of second place is American Beauty, which has become a rough rewatch as of late for obvious reasons.

However, I feel that I need to clarify that I watched this before the things that make this a difficult watch came to light, and that I think we should still be able to consume media, even when the people who made it are predatory monsters. We just need to be able to admit that the person did something awful, because if we don’t, we wouldn’t be able to watch American Beauty, or the number three film, Chicago. Those two actually make up two of the eleven winners in this tier, along with films like Braveheart (remember what I said about separating art and actor), The Departed, and West Side Story.

The most recent addition to this tier is Love Story, which even though the story has now been done to death, still is better than probably ninety five percent of romantic films since release. Now, what’s the number one film on the list you may ask? Well, it’s a film that I’ve been talking a lot about of late, known as La La Land. And we can now circle back around to Moonlight, which won over it.

While Moonlight is an important movie with great performances and beautiful cinematography, but… we can just link to the Decade Alternative Oscars here where I was basically just saying how good it was for 6 or 7 paragraphs. La La Land is just an experience that you never forget, which is what puts it at the top spot on my list of 150 nominees.

Well, that was a lot. I ended up not talking about most of the movies on the list, so there was no mention of It Happened One Night, the original RomCom, Gosford Park, the murder mystery where the Oscars give away who did it, or The Apartment, which is the second best black and white Billy Wilder film about why womanizing is wrong (First is Some Like it Hot). I look forward to rewriting this list with the nominees from this years Oscars. However, since most of the year has been absent of movies, I can’t wait to say “Best Picture Winner Sonic the Hedgehog.”

Movies Ranked in Order

For all you list fans, here’s a definitive ranking of all the films that I’ve mentioned above.

Tier One (4 ½ stars to 5 stars)

  1. La La Land
  2. American Beauty (Winner)
  3. Chicago (Winner)
  4. Inception
  5. LA Confidential
  6. The Shawshank Redemption 
  7. The Shape of Water (Winner)
  8. Birdman (Winner)
  9. Whiplash
  10. Silence of the Lambs (Winner)
  11. Vice
  12. Braveheart (Winner)
  13. The Departed (Winner)
  14. Inglorious Basterds
  15. Jerry Magiure 
  16. Toy Story 3
  17. West Side Story (Winner)
  18. Juno
  19. Love Story
  20. The Wolf of Wall Street 
  21. Dead Poets Society
  22. Django Unchained 
  23. Get Out
  24. Parasite (Winner)
  25. A Star is Born (2018)
  26. Good Will Hunting
  27. Marriage Story 
  28. Roma
  29. Schindler’s List (Winner)
  30. Green Book (Winner)

Tier Two (4 stars to 4 ½ stars)

  1. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Winned)
  2. Blackkklansman
  3. It Happened One Night (Winner)
  4. Jojo Rabbit 
  5. Black Swan
  6. Casablanca (Winner)
  7. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  8. District 9
  9. Erin Brockovich
  10. Mystic River 
  11. Pulp Fiction 
  12. Tootsie
  13. Double Indemnity
  14. Ford V Ferrari 
  15. Jaws
  16. Million Dollar Baby (Winner)
  17. The Godfather (Winner)
  18. 12 Angry Men
  19. 1917
  20. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  21. The Apartment (Winner)
  22. The Aviator
  23. All the President’s Men
  24. Citizen Kane 
  25. The Graduate
  26. The Social Network 
  27. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  28. Argo (Winner)
  29. Gladiator (Winner)
  30. Taxi Driver 

Tier Three (3 ½ stars to 4 stars)

  1. The Irishman
  2. The Martian
  3. Ben-Hur (Winner)
  4. Goodfellas
  5. Hannah and her Sisters
  6. The Fugitive
  7. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
  8. Dunkirk
  9. Life of Pi
  10. My Fair Lady
  11. No Country for Old Men
  12. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
  13. Fargo
  14. Dog Day Afternoon
  15. The Music Man
  16. Bohemian Rhapsody 
  17. Little Women
  18. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  19. Joker
  20. Bonnie and Clyde
  21. Fatal Attraction 
  22. On the Waterfront (Winner)
  23. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  24. Lady Bird
  25. Mad Max: Fury Road
  26. The Revenant
  27. To Kill a Mockingbird
  28. Up
  29. You Can’t Take It With You (Winner)
  30. A Clockwork Orange

Tier Four (3 stars to 3 ½ stars)

  1. A Streetcar named Desire
  2. Beauty and the Beast
  3. Gangs of New York
  4. Gaslight
  5. Hacksaw Ridge
  6. Lost in Translation
  7. Platoon (Winner)
  8. The Favourite
  9. The Kings Speech (Winner)
  10. Unforgiven (Winner)
  11. Gone with the Wind (Winner)
  12. Guess who’s coming to Dinner
  13. Moonstruck
  14. Lawrence of Arabia (Winner)
  15. Moonlight (Winner)
  16. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  17. Network
  18. Rocky (Winner)
  19. Shakespeare in Love (Winner)
  20. Spotlight (Winner)
  21. Suspicion
  22. The Adventures of Robin Hood
  23. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
  24. The Thin Man
  25. Witness for the Prosecution 
  26. Arrival
  27. Annie Hall (Winner)
  28. The Hustler
  29. Captain Blood
  30. Around the World in 80 Days (Winner)

Tier Five (1 ½ stars to 3 stars)

  1. Black Panther
  2. Gosford Park
  3. Star Wars
  4. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  5. Tom Jones (Winner)
  6. Darkest Hour
  7. Phantom Thread
  8. The Sound of Music (Winner)
  9. Anchors Aweigh
  10. Deliverance
  11. Doctor Dolittle (1967)
  12. Dr. Strangelove
  13. The Big Short
  14. The Wizard of Oz
  15. A Farewell to Arms
  16. Forrest Gump (Winner)
  17. There Will be Blood
  18. Cleopatra (1963)
  19. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
  20. An American in Paris (Winner)
  21. Hamlet (Winner)
  22. The Artist (Winner)
  23. The Post
  24. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) (Winner)
  25. Grand Hotel (Winner)
  26. Michael Clayton
  27. A Midnight Summers Dream (1935)
  28. Doctor Zhivago 
  29. Julius Caesar 
  30. Avatar

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