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I know you’ve heard this one before, but if you’re a movie fan, then the Oscars are your Super Bowl. Yeah, it’s super corny, but it’s also super true. If you’re a cinephile, (and you must be if you’re reading an article about the Oscars in the summer), then the Academy Awards are your Super Bowl, and the Golden Globes are your playoffs. And this is because the Oscars is the biggest event of the year for movies, and you’re actually super knowledgeable about it, too. You know the movies that are nominated, and might have even seen all of them during the past year. Plus, if somebody were to bet on the Oscars and wanted to know your thoughts, you could comfortably say, “Well, 1917 looks like the favorite, but Parasite might take it all.”
But with Covid-19 pretty much making 2020 a disaster movie, who knows if we'll even get an Academy Awards this year, or at least, it will probably look much different. Hopefully, the Oscar-bait will still come out in the normal months, but who’s to say? With that in mind, I thought it might be good to look back at this past decade to have a sort of a battle royale to see which Best Picture winner was the best. Now, you’re likely to disagree with this list, but that’s what comments sections are for!
So, without further ado, here is every Best Picture Winner since 2010, ranked. Oh, and note that the years beside the entries are for when the movie won Best Picture, not for when the movie came out.
11. The Artist (2012)
Talk about a movie riding its gimmick to the big show. Starring Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, The Artist is pretty much a less enjoyable version of Singin’ in the Rain. It’s about the silent era of film, and how a movie star falls in love with a dancer. It’s in black and white and also deals with the rough transition some silent stars had when the “talkies” were introduced. It has all the hallmarks of Oscar-bait, but none of the depth.
The Artist is not a bad movie, per se, and it’s quant enough to be enjoyable. But it’s also nothing special. That particular year didn’t really have any huge stand-out films to challenge it (except for maybe The Tree of Life), but when it comes to Oscar winners for Best Picture, this is one of the more boring picks.
10. Green Book (2019)
Green Book just narrowly missed my pick for the “worst” Best Picture winner of the 2010s, but only because I forgot about The Artist when making this list. It’s the story of the real-life black musician, Donald Shirley (played by the Oscar-winning Mahershala Ali) as he’s escorted into the racist deep south by real-life tough guy, Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (played by Viggo Mortensen). Tony Lip starts out as racist, but then acquires a new understanding of black people while traveling with Shirley. Shirley also learns to reconcile with his black background and loosen up a little bit. It’s the feel-good movie of 2018!
But it’s also really bland. Like The Artist, it’s fine, but this was also the year of BlackKklansman and the mega box office hit, Black Panther. If you’re going to pick a movie about race, why this one?
9. The Shape of Water (2018)
Shout out to Guillermo del Toro for making a sexy time version of Creature from the Black Lagoon. It’s about a mute janitor (played by Sally Hawkins) who falls in love with a sea creature man. It’s super artsy, and super classy, too. Way to go, Guillermo!
But you know what? Maybe The Shape of Water is a bit too classy. For a plot like this, it seems to take itself super seriously, and even though del Toro does a great job of navigating the story and the characters, it just feels a tad bit pretentious. Plus, this was the year of Get Out, which will likely be remembered long after The Shape of Water is forgotten. It’s an okay film, but not the best pick for, er… Best Pic.
8. The King’s Speech (2011)
2010 was a really good year for films. Inception, Toy Story 3, Black Swan, The Fighter, and of course, The Social Network would have all been acceptable and preferred winners. Instead, we got a movie about King George VI (Played by Colin Firth) having a stammer, and the speech coach (Geoffrey Rush) who helps him overcome it. Fascinating.
But you know what, it actually is! Yes, The Social Network definitely spoke to the zeitgeist more, but The King’s Speech is an overall more enjoyable film. It has great drama, great humor, and excellent characters. I personally would have picked The Fighter for this year, but The King’s Speech is not a bad pick at all.
7. The Hurt Locker (2010)
No pun intended, but The Hurt Locker started off the decade with a bang. It’s about a Sergeant (Jeremy Renner) in the Iraq War who gets his rocks off disabling bombs. There’s more to it, but that’s about the size of it. It was directed by Kathryn Bigelow who was the first (and alas, only) woman to win Best Director.
The Hurt Locker is a tense movie and a provocative one since it came out while the Iraq War was still ongoing. It’s a difficult movie to watch at times, but it’s also engrossing all the way. This was also the first year that there were 10 nominations rather than 5 for Best Picture, and it deserved to beat all of its competitors. Yes, even Inglorious Basterds.
6. Moonlight (2017)
Best Picture winner La La Land, I mean, Moonlight, tackles a controversial topic in the often religious African American community—homosexuality. And it tackles it beautifully. Told in three parts of a black man’s life, Moonlight is the movie that’s too good for all of us.
It’s just a beautiful film overall, and if there’s any problems with it, it’s that some sections (most notably the last leg of the film) are not as good as other parts. It’s a slightly lopsided movie, to be sure, but when it hits, it hits hard.
5. Parasite (2020)
The most recent winner on this list is definitely one of the better ones. It’s the first foreign film to ever win Best Picture, and out of the films nominated (I’ll get to that in a second), it definitely deserved the win. Parasite is a story about class. And it’s an interesting one, since it deals with not only how the rich views the poor, but also how the poor views the poor as well. It also feels different from most Western films, since there’s a complete tonal shift toward the end, making it a sort of horror movie comedy? It’s hard to describe, but it’s wonderful because of it.
Parasite is fantastic, but a strong contender for 2019’s other best movie, Uncut Gems, wasn’t even nominated. What’s up with that?
4. Argo (2013)
Ben Affleck was robbed. Based on a true story, Argo is about a CIA agent (played by Affleck, who also directed the film) who pretends to be a producer for a sci-fi flick in order to get six Americans out of Iran. It’s tense, it’s funny, and it’s a history lesson, all in one!
For its plot, you would think Argo would get caught up in being the thriller that it’s billed as, but it’s also a really funny movie. The tension gets ratcheted up sky high, but the film is so engaging that you’re always along for the ride. Argo F yourself if you don’t like this movie.
3. 12 Years A Slave (2014)
By far the hardest Best Picture winner on this list to watch, 12 Years A Slave is the true story of Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor). Solomon is a free man who got captured in the North and sold down in the South. Probably the most harrowing movie about American slavery ever put to film, Lupita Nyong’o also won an Academy Award for her portrayal of an abused slave.
12 Years a Slave is unabashed and raw. It’s not a film that’s begging for you to like it (like The Artist). Instead, it’s a film that doesn’t care what you think. And for that, it’s a bold choice for Best Picture. That said, I would have preferred Dallas Buyers Club for that year, because, well, I love that movie.
2. Spotlight (2016)
Spotlight is our All The President’s Men. But unlike All The President’s Men, it actually won Best Picture! It’s the true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered and covered (see what I did there?) the sexual molestation going on in the Catholic Church. It’s meticulous and rich in detail, just like all good journalism should be.
Spotlight is the kind of movie that doesn’t seem to exist anymore. Sure, there are still newsroom pictures today, but none that are really unvarnished and play it straight like Spotlight does. There’s no bombast, and no spectacle, and the movie’s all the better for it. Just excellent acting and fantastic storytelling all around. Who knew a movie so straightforward could be so riveting?
1. Birdman (2015)
I might catch hell for this, but for me, Birdman is not only the best movie to win Best Picture in the past 10 years, but also the best American film in that time frame as well. It’s super meta, and Michael Keaton (who should have won Best Actor) is perfect in the role as a former superhero actor who’s trying to hang on to the last vestiges of his career by writing and directing a hoity toity Broadway play. But while this is going on, he’s kind of going crazy in the process, and his old character is coming to take over his brain.
It’s rhythmic, it’s hilarious, and it’s brilliant. I know I bemoaned The Artist at the start of this article for being gimmicky, and there are plenty of people who will say that Birdman’s “single-shot” trick is a gimmick. But I actually feel that it works into the plot since the character himself has a mind that never stops moving, so it’s all just poetry to me. Absolute poetry. Boyhood would have been the easier pick, given how long it took to make, but Birdman is the more audacious and correct pick for Best Picture.
So, as you see, I love the Academy Awards. And so do you! But what do you think was the best movie of the 2010s and why? Sound off in the comments.