The Oscars Are Completely Useless And This Breakdown Of Undeserving Best Picture Winners Is All The Proof You Need

best-picture-winners-didnt-deserve-oscar

Getty Image


Earlier this week, yet another in a long line of the Thirsty Tweets on the prowl for that sweet, sweet engagement popped up on my timeline.

The website behind it had turned to the tried-and-true “You Can Only Pick X” formula in an attempt to lure people in and capitalize on the upcoming Academy Awards by challenging those who came across it to pick the three “Best Picture” winners from the past four decades that deserved the Oscar more than any of the others.

When you consider how coveted that trophy is, you’d think this would be a pretty tall task. However, after examining the lineup, I realized it wasn’t really that big of an undertaking based on the number of Best Picture winners that had absolutely zero business taking home that title.

It seems like most movie enthusiasts have a fairly complicated relationship with the Academy Awards. However, as much as they may want to totally ignore a show that rightfully gets plenty of flak for being a masturbatory exercise, the fact that the Oscars are the most prestigious ceremony Hollywood has to offer means it’s hard to dismiss them entirely.

With that said, I think that’s exactly what needs to happen after taking a closer look at just how many miscarriages of justice have occurred at the ceremony over the years—and if you need proof, I ask you to accompany me on a journey to see just how often the “Best Picture” of the year is anything but that.

Before we kick things off, I should note that I’ve decided to limit this investigation to titles that have come out in the last 20 years. I’m also only going to weigh the merits of the movies that managed to earn a nomination in the category so I don’t have to deal with Letterboxd power users hopping into the comments to let me know the best picture of the year was actually a four-hour Polish arthouse film.

With that out of the way, let’s do this.

2000: Gladiator

best-picture-winners-didnt-deserve-oscar

DreamWorks


Other Best Picture Nominees:

  • Chocolat
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Erin Brockovich
  • Traffic

Gladiator has aged incredibly well and is arguably the most impressive modern take on the historical epics that have become a bit of a dying breed. As a result, it deserved to slay the competition just like Maximus did at the Colosseum.

2001: A Beautiful Mind

best-picture-winners-didnt-deserve-oscar

Universal


Other Best Picture Nominees:

  • Gosford Park
  • In the Bedroom
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • Moulin Rouge!

What Should Have Won: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

A Beautiful Mind is a super original film about a troubled genius burden by their brilliance who’s forced to grapple with both his inner demons and the reality that the society he wants to be accepted by will never truly embrace him. However, the fact that it had been done way too many times before didn’t stop it from taking home a trophy it shouldn’t have gotten.

You could argue that every single Lord of the Rings film deserved to win Best Picture, and in this case, I don’t see how you can argue it shouldn’t have.

2002: Chicago

best-picture-winners-didnt-deserve-oscar

Disney


Other Best Picture Nominees:

  • Gangs of New York
  • The Hours
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • The Pianist

What Should Have Won: Basically anything but Chicago

There’s no denying “All That Jazz” is a certified jam, but those catchy show tunes and set pieces shouldn’t have been enough to top a film about a guy playing some slightly less uplifting music in the city of Warsaw, the best installment in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and a movie Martin Scorsese might’ve actually won Best Picture for it he hadn’t cast Cameron Diaz.

2003: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

best-picture-winners-didnt-deserve-oscar

New Line


Other Best Picture Nominees:

  • Lost in Translation
  • Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
  • Mystic River
  • Seabiscuit

I like to think Peter Jackson had a bunch of catapults ready to fling flaming boulders at the Dolby Theater if he hadn’t won Best Picture for The Return of the King, and it honestly would’ve been pretty hard to blame him.

2004: Million Dollar Baby

best-picture-winners-didnt-deserve-oscar

Warner Bros.


Other Best Picture Nominees:

  • The Aviator
  • Finding Neverland
  • Ray
  • Sideways

What Should Have Won: Ray…I guess?

To paraphrase the immortal words of Kevin McCallister: 2004. Your movies. Oof.

This was an incredibly lackluster year where the real winner was anyone who didn’t waste their time watching the ceremony. Jamie Foxx got the Best Actor Oscar he earned thanks to his portrayal of Ray Charles, and while I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch Ray, I wouldn’t have to think twice if my options were limited to these five.

2005: Crash

best-picture-winners-didnt-deserve-oscar

Lionsgate


Other Best Picture Nominees:

  • Brokeback Mountain
  • Capote
  • Good Night, and Good Luck
  • Munich

What Should Have Won: Literally any other movie that came out that year

There is perhaps no moment in the history of the Oscars where the Academy managed to absolutely slaughter its credibility than when it handed Crash (a.k.a. “The Racism Is Bad” movie) the Best Picture trophy in 2005.

Brokeback Mountain and Munich are basically neck-and-neck when it comes to the movie I think was the most worthy of winning, but the only nomination Crash deserved was for the Razzie that Catwoman won.

2006: The Departed

best-picture-winners-didnt-deserve-oscar

Warner Bros.


Other Best Picture Nominees:

  • Babel
  • Letters from Iwo Jima
  • Little Miss Sunshine
  • The Queen

This one is a no-brainer that rivals the shot that got fired when the elevator opened.

2007: No Country For Old Men

best-picture-winners-didnt-deserve-oscar

Miramax


Other Best Picture Nominees:

  • Atonement
  • Juno
  • Michael Clayton
  • There Will Be Blood

[See previous entry but replace it with a reference to the weapon Anton Chigurh uses]

2008: Slumdog Millionaire

best-picture-winners-didnt-deserve-oscar

Pathé


Other Best Picture Nominees:

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Frost/Nixon
  • Milk
  • The Reader

I have to give credit where credit is due to the Oscars for closing out the first decade of the new millennium with a pretty solid run. As was the case with 2004, none of these are really remembered too fondly, but I think Slumdog Millionaire was the right choice.

2009: The Hurt Locker

best-picture-winners-didnt-deserve-oscar

Summit Entertainment


Other Best Picture Nominees:

  • Avatar
  • The Blind Side
  • District 9
  • An Education
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
  • A Serious Man
  • Up
  • Up in the Air
  • (Somehow not In Bruges)

2009 was the first year the Best Picture category was expanded to allow up to 10 nominees to get in on the action, which gave the Academy a chance to butcher things in a more spectacular fashion than ever before.

This year is honestly really tough to judge. Kathryn Bigelow definitely deserved to win the award Point Break somehow wasn’t even nominated for thanks to the palpable tension that defined The Hurt Locker, however, it has some stiff competition thanks to Inglourious Basterds, which is arguably Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece, and I also have to give props to Up even though it never had a chance of actually securing the big prize.

As a result, I’m going to call this one a push (not to be confused with the novel by Sapphire.)

2010: The King’s Speech

best-picture-winners-didnt-deserve-oscar

Getty Image


Other Best Picture Nominees:

  • 127 Hours
  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • Inception
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • The Social Network
  • Toy Story 3
  • True Grit
  • Winter’s Bone

What Should Have Won: Inception

Brace yourselves, folks. It’s all downhill from here, and the ride is a very, very bumpy one.

The King’s Speech is one of the most forgettable Best Picture winners on this list, which is an especially grievous crime considering the nominees it was up against.

There are a few of them that rise above the pack, including The Fighter and David Fincher’s examination of the origins of Facebook, which was incredibly prescient considering the untamable beast the platform has transformed into since The Social Network was released.

However, Christopher Nolan got absolutely shafted here. Inception was an incredibly original blockbuster that managed to put the insanity of Black Swan to shame, and it’s a true shame that what I think is his best work failed to get the recognition that still eludes him at the Academy Awards.

2011: The Artist 

best-picture-winners-didnt-deserve-oscar

Warner Bros.


Other Best Picture Nominees:

  • The Descendants
  • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
  • The Help
  • Hugo
  • Midnight in Paris
  • The Tree of Life
  • War Horse

What Should Have Won: Midnight in Paris

More like The Fartist! Amirite????

The underwhelming nature of this entire lineup gives the 2004 ceremony a run for its money, as they honestly could’ve just skipped the Best Picture award based on how weak this year’s offerings were.

With that said, my vote goes to Midnight in Paris. It’s not exactly a masterpiece, but it’s a simply delightful movie filled with a compelling premise, fantastic performances, and some great subtle humor sprinkled throughout.

2012: Argo

best-picture-winners-didnt-deserve-oscar

Warner Bros.


Other Best Picture Nominees:

  • Amour
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Django Unchained
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Les Misérables
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Zero Dark Thirty

Ben Affleck learned how to direct! Uh oh!

Unlike the previous year, basically every movie that got the nod deserved the honor—just like Argo deserved to walk away with the Oscar at the end of the night.

2013: 12 Years a Slave

best-picture-winners-didnt-deserve-oscar

Summit Entertainment


Other Best Picture Nominees:

  • American Hustle
  • Captain Phillips
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Gravity
  • Her
  • Nebraska
  • Philomena
  • The Wolf of Wall Street

What Should Have Won: Nebraska 

This is also a pretty stacked crew. I think you could lobby for every single one based on just how terribly 12 Years a Slave measures up in hindsight, and I’m going to lobby for Nebraska. It might have never been a real contender, but it should’ve been.

2014: Birdman

best-picture-winners-didnt-deserve-oscar

Searchlight Pictures


Other Best Picture Nominees:

  • American Sniper
  • Boyhood
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • Selma
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Whiplash

I was very here for the arrival of the Keatonaissance, and while Birdman goes to great lengths to remind you that you’re watching a film as opposed to a movie, it manages to do so without suffocating itself with its insufferability.

Whiplash did what it could to hold its own, but it’s hard to argue with the end result here.

2015: Spotlight

best-picture-winners-didnt-deserve-oscar

Open Road Films


Other Best Picture Nominees:

  • The Big Short
  • Bridge of Spies
  • Brooklyn
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant
  • Room

What Should Have Won: Mad Max: Fury Road

Spotlight is a great movie, but I don’t know if there’s an adjective in the English language capable of describing the two hours of unadulterated insanity that is Mad Max: Fury Road.

I also don’t know if there’s a single title I’ve enjoyed watching in a theater more than George Miller’s wildest ride. It’s not just a movie; it’s an experience that still hasn’t gotten old after rewatching it more times than I can count.

2016: Moonlight 

best-picture-winners-didnt-deserve-oscar

A24


Other Best Picture Nominees:

  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • Hidden Figures
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Manchester by the Sea

What Should Have Won: La La Land

I know. I know. Just bear with me.

There are plenty of people out there who thought Moonlight got robbed when Faye Dunaway announced La La Land had won Best Picture shortly before the people that took the stage were similarly robbed of their trophies at the end of the most infamous ceremony in the history of the Academy Awards.

The battle lines between advocates of both of those films were already drawn well before the ceremony, and even though I can’t say Moonlight wasn’t deserving, as a proud member of Team La La Land, I feel obligated to come to its defense.

As someone with a general disdain for musicals and the general vibe of the city of Los Angeles, I didn’t exactly have high hopes heading into the theater. However, when the credits rolled, I spent five minutes trying to process what I’d just experienced after being overcome with a tsunami of emotions I did not see coming.

I’ve long maintained that the odd divisiveness of La La Land stems from the fact that it’s one of the more misunderstood movies in recent memory. Its haters love to criticize it for being a self-indulgent Hollywood circlejerk that centers around a white dude trying to save jazz, but if you dig below the surface, it’s pretty evident that it’s a fairly scathing indictment of the entertainment industry hidden under a celebratory facade.

I know I’m not going to change the minds of any of the members of Moonlight Mafia, but this is a cinematic hill I’m willing to die on more than any other.

2017: The Shape of Water

best-picture-winners-didnt-deserve-oscar

Searchlight Pictures


Other Best Picture Nominees:

  • Call Me by Your Name
  • Darkest Hour
  • Dunkirk
  • Get Out
  • Lady Bird
  • Phantom Thread
  • The Post
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

What Should Have Won: Lady Bird

This is easily the most stacked line of nominees the Oscars has seen over the past two decades, which is why is particularly baffling that The Movie Where The Lady Bangs A Fishperson got the W.

Call Me by Your Name, Get Out, and Dunkirk all racked up a ton of praise, but Lady Bird was one of the best depictions of the high school experience that I’ve ever seen. It struck a perfect balance between the humor derived from some painfully relatable situations and some very real emotions, and it’s a shame it didn’t get a trophy in exchange.

2018: Green Book

best-picture-winners-didnt-deserve-oscar

Universal


Other Best Picture Nominees:

  • Black Panther
  • BlacKkKlansman
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • The Favourite
  • Roma
  • A Star Is Born
  • Vice

What Should Have Won: The Favourite

I probably don’t need to tell you there’s been a bit of a focus on increasing diversity and representation at the Academy Awards in recent years, but giving Green Book Best Picture ain’t it, chief.

Movies like Moonlight and Get Out prove that you can examine racism without slapping viewers across the face with the heaviest hand imaginable, but the fact that Green Book almost makes Crash look good tells you everything you need to know.

Hell, BlacKkKlansman and even Black Panther managed to pull it off better than the eventual “Best” Picture did, and I honestly wouldn’t have been mad if the former had won. With that said, I’m backing The Favourite here.

The surrealist absurdity that defines the works of Yorgos Lanthimos may not be for everyone, and while he did exercise some restraint when it came to examining the late days of Queen Anne, he still let his freak flag fly while subverting the period piece formula to a point where it was hard not to be intrigued even when you didn’t really know what the hell was going on.

2019: Parasite

best-picture-winners-didnt-deserve-oscar

CJ Entertainment


Other Best Picture Nominees:

  • 1917
  • Ford v Ferrari
  • The Irishman
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Joker
  • Little Women
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

After screwing things up four years in a row, the Academy Awards managed to bounce back last year when Parasite rightfully became the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture.

If we take the 2009 tossup out of the equation, by my count, the Oscars have been batting a pathetic .421 over the course of the past 20 years, as only eight films were actually the best picture as opposed to the 11 that probably should’ve lost. Even if you disagree with some of my choices, the fact that the Academy would still be right around half of the time even if you gave a few more picks the seal of approval should tell you everything you need to know about how much we should really care about its opinion.