Most of the 10 Academy Awards ceremonies between 2010 and 2020 ended with genuinely good movies winning the Best Picture award. Critically acclaimed films like Moonlight, Birdman, and Spotlight all captured the imaginations of Oscar voters who picked them as the best movies of their years. On the other hand, crowd-pleasers like Green Book, Argo, and The King's Speech have also been honored. On Sunday, a new film will join that group, ending the 2019 masterpiece Parasite's reign as the most recent Best Picture.
The past decade found Hollywood at a time of drastic change. It started with two consecutive Best Picture winners taken through the awards season by the now-disgraced Harvey Weinstein. Instead of big blockbuster hits, the Academy has mostly honored small, art-house films that did not light up the box office, but still dominated the awards season discussion. Hollywood has also seen streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon muscle their way in. All 10 of the films that won Best Picture in the past decade are drastically different, but here is a look at them from worst to best.
Green Book (2018)
Green Book will go down as one of the worst Best Picture winners in history. The film was directed by Peter Farrelly - yes, one half of the Farrelly brothers duo responsible for Dumb and Dumber - and tells the story of the Italian-American bouncer Frank Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) who is racist until he decides to drive pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) on tour in the Deep South. While the film does feature a wonderful performance from Ali, it leaned heavily into the "white savior" trope and was condemned by Shirley's family.
Spike Lee, whose blistering BlacKkKlansman was among the Best Picture nominees that year, said it best. “Every time somebody’s driving somebody, I lose,” Lee said after the Oscars, comparing the movie to Driving Miss Daisy. “But they changed the seating arrangement. But in ’89 I didn’t get nominated. This one, we did.”prevnext
The Artist (2011)
The biggest blemish on the Academy for the last eight years is The Artist winning Best Picture for 2011. This was the year of Alexander Payne's The Descendants, Martin Scorsese's Hugo, and Bennett Miller's Moneyball. Even Terrence Malick's daring The Tree of Life was nominated for Best Picture. But instead, the Academy went with The Artist, a French-produced silent film directed by Michel Hazanavicius.
One way to judge Best Pictures is based on how important the filmmakers have been since its release. After The Artist, none of Hazanavicius' films have caught international attention. His immediate follow-up, 2014's The Search, was drubbed by critics. At least he made some good spy spoofs with his OSS 117 films before The Artist.prevnext
The King's Speech (2010)
The King's Speech is another Best Picture winner we have to thank Harvey Weinstein for. It's a shame that his name has anything to do with it, because it's not actually an awful film as far as "Great Man" biopics go. Colin Firth really does give a great performance as King George VI and Geoffrey Rush is delightful as George's speech therapist. But 2010 is the year of Inception, The Fighter, Black Swan, True Grit and Toy Story 3, all films we'd rather talk about eight years later than The King's Speech. Since its release, director Tom Hooper went on to direct the box office smash Les Miserables (2012), The Danish Girl (2015), which earned Alicia Vickander an Oscar, and the butt-of-jokes movie Cats (2019).prevnext
Sometimes, the weight of being a "Best Picture Winner" can hurt a film. Ben Affleck's Argo is a fun thriller, even if it is historically inaccurate. But a Best Picture winner? When Life of Pi, Lincoln and Django Unchained are on your ballot? Did you even consider Amour? Also, after The Shape of Water beat Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Argo is still one of only two modern Best Picture winners without a Best Director nomination. The other is Driving Miss Daisy, another Best Picture winner we wish wasn't.
Since Argo, Affleck has only directed one film, his box office bust Live By Night. He's also Batman, at the time of this writing.prevnext
The Shape of Water (2017)
Guillermo Del Toro's The Shape of Water is only fifth on this list because the next four movies are so good. The Shape of Water is the first science fiction film to win Best Picture, and really shows the beauty of love. While none of the film's performances won any Oscars, the cast - especially Sally Hawkins - is incredible. Del Toro crafted a visual marvel, and a film we will be talking about for awhile.prevnext
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)
Alejandro G. Inarritu's films can be grueling experiences, as anyone who has sat through Babel and his other films can acknowledge. But Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is the total opposite. It is a blissful, dark comedic tribute to actors and their craft. Yes, the one-take gimmick can get a little old fast, but once you get into the movie it does not let you go. It's like watching an improvisational music piece unfold, with a cast of amazing actors in their place. Michael Keaton should have won that Best Actor Oscar.
Since Birdman, Inarritu directed Leonardo DiCaprio to an Oscar for The Revenant (2015), which also earned him the Best Director Oscar. He was the first director to pull off the back-to-back Best Director Oscars feat since Joseph L. Mankiewicz won for A Letter To Three Wives (1949) and All About Eve (1950).
Also this year, Inarritu won a Special Achievement Oscar for his virtual reality film Flesh and Sand.prevnext
There are dozens of great movies about the newspaper business, a medium Hollywood has been obsessed with since The Front Page (1931). And then there is the greatest of them all, All The President's Men (1976). More than 40 years later, Tom McCarthy made Spotlight (2015).
It is a great, uncompromising look at the Boston Globe's reporting on the Catholic Church child molestation scandal, with an impressive ensemble cast. It makes you wonder what on earth Mark Ruffalo is going to have do to win an Oscar.
Unfortunately, McCarthy has not released a film since Spotlight, and we can't wait to see what he does next.prevnext
12 Years A Slave (2013)
2013 was a very strong year, with two juggernauts - Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity and Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave. The other nominees, particularly Spike Jonze's Her, Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street and Alexander Payne's Nebraska, were great as well. But in the end, 12 Years a Slave was the champion.
The film is a masterpiece of acting and directing, with Chiwetel Ejiofor's performance as Solomon Northup at its heart. It also has an all-star cast in the vein of old Hollywood epics, with stars in nearly every role, including producer Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Michael Fassbender, Alfre Woodard, and Paul Giamatti. But its real strength is the discovery of Lupita Nyong'o, who has become one of Hollywood's brightest stars since 2013. McQueen followed up 12 Years a Slave with Windows, starring Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, and Michelle Rodriguez. The movie is based on the 1983 ITV series of the same name.prevnext
Moonlight is a magical film. Director Barry Jenkins and playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney chose to tell the story of Chiron through three different periods of his life. Costing only $1.5 million to make, the movie is a masterpiece of efficiency and storytelling.
The performances are also gripping. Mahershala Ali deserved every ounce of that Oscar, even though he was only seen in the first act. But he left such an impression behind that you could not forget him after leaving the theater. The three different actors who played Chiron - Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes - somehow make you feel like they are the same person. Whatever Jenkins does next will be exciting.prevnext
Before the world went into shambles in 2020, one of the last great moments was seeing South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho win an armful of Oscars for his biting social satire Parasite. The film made history as the first foreign-language feature to win the Best Picture award, and it will not go down as just some obscure footnote. Parasite has the power to become a classic of world cinema. The only thing the Academy got wrong was ignoring every member of its incredible ensemble cast. Not one actor earned a nomination, which was a total travesty.prev