It’s Oscar week, and all week long we’ll be running features to amp you up before Sunday’s ceremony brings awards season to a close and we learn whether “La La Land” sweeps or if “Moonlight” can be a spoiler to the party. And having ranked all the Best Picture winners a few years back, we thought, how else to kick off Oscar week but to rank all the Best Picture nominees?

Well, not all of them: we’re crazy, but not that crazy. We decided to keep it to recent history, so below you’ll find, from worst to best, every Best Picture-nominated film from the 21st century so far (including, for completism’s sake, the films from 1999 that were nominated after the date changed to 2000).

We’re pretty sure you’ll disagree with the list, if only because we all disagree with each other on it, too. But it’ll be sure to spark some debate, and it’s a reminder that, for all the questionable films that end up being honored by the Academy, there are just as many stone-cold classics too. Take a look below, and let us know your thoughts in the comments.


122. “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” (2011)
Seemingly breaking through to the Best Picture line-up by sheer force of Scott Rudin’s will, this Stephen Daldry adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel had all the hallmarks of an Oscar movie, with Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock leading the film. But despite a few good performances, it’s a mawkish and tin-eared treatment of a host of weighty issues — autism! 9/11! The Holocaust! — that aims for transcendent but only feels gross and manipulative.

121. “Les Misérables” (2012)
After a quarter-century on stages around the world, the hit musical version of Victor Hugo’s novel of Revolutionary France finally reached screens thanks to Tom Hooper, fresh off “The King’s Speech.” The decision to record all the music live gives it an immediacy, but Hooper’s one-size-fits-all visual style and uneven casting (Russell Crowe’s foghorn Bowie, Helena Bonham Carter playing Helena Bonham Carter) made an already bloated piece feel doubly stodgy.

120. “Chocolat” (2000)
While admittedly not the strongest year in movie history, there were surely a few dozen better options to nominate in 2000 than Lasse Hallström’s Euro-pudding sex comedy, based on Joanne Harris’s novel. Arriving at the peak of the time when Miramax could seemingly get any movie nominated, this is a featherlight confection (sorry) that could potentially be charming if the performances (Alfred Molina only just resisting literally twiddling his mustache) or accents (Johnny Depp: stop doing Irish) lined up.

cider-house-rules119. “The Cider House Rules” (1999)
The first of Lasse Hallström’s two Best Picture nominations in a row, “The Cider House Rules” is spared from being lower than “Chocolat” because it won Michael Caine an Oscar and let him give a lovely speech. Otherwise, this turgid, undeservedly sentimental adaptation of John Irving’s turgid, undeservedly sentimental novel about orphanages and abortion is a brutal sit-through, made all the more infuriating because it robbed great movies like “Magnolia,” “Three Kings” and “Election” of a slot.

118. “Crash” (2005)
The lowest-ranked of the films that actually won the Best Picture Oscar, “Crash” is at least well-intentioned and has a strong cast giving good performances. It’s also an obvious, shallow film that favors pat, easy coincidences over hard questions about racism, and is directed with all the artfulness of a TV movie, back when that was still an insult. That it famously beat out “Brokeback Mountain” (and three other very good films) to the prize only makes things worse.

117. “The Reader” (2008)
“I’m doing it because I’ve noticed that if you do a film about the Holocaust — guaranteed Oscar!,” Kate Winslet said about a fictional movie in her delightful cameo in Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s “Extras.” And credit her commitment to the joke by, just a few years later, doing Stephen Daldry’s emptily prestigious, fairly offensive legacy-of-collaboration drama. Maybe in the right hands, Bernhard Schlink’s novel could have been a provocative, tangled moral drama, but these were clearly not the right hands.

blind-side116. “The Blind Side” (2009)
It’s hard to fault the effectiveness of John Lee Hancock’s “The Blind Side” as a crowd-pleaser, but in the same way that it’s hard to fault the effectiveness of a gif of a basket of kittens — there’s not a lot of artfulness to the execution here. Indeed, it’s worse than that: the story of how a nice lady (Sandra Bullock, answering the question ‘how annoyed was Sandra Bullock that she didn’t play Erin Brockovich?’) helped a homeless black teenager (Quinton Aaron) become an NFL star stinks of white-savior narrative in the crassest way.

115. “Finding Neverland” (2003)
The most successful of the brace of period author biopics that became oddly frequent in the mid-’00s, Marc Forster’s film (the final Miramax-brand Oscar triumph) tells the story of J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) creating Peter Pan. Kate Winslet and talented young Freddie Highmore try to give it some dignity, but it’s also overladen by whimsy and ends up oddly airless and uninspired. If nothing else, though, it’s still a million times better than Joe Wright’s “Pan.”

114. “The Theory Of Everything” (2014)
There’s potentially a great film to be made of the life of Stephen Hawking, but despite two good lead performances from Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, James Marsh’s “The Theory Of Everything” ain’t it. It’s a prime example of Wikipedia biopic syndrome — giving a shallow read of the sweep of the subject’s life without ever finding a focus. It’s particularly frustrating because it occasionally brushes up against something interesting, but then gets too shy to do it properly, for fear of offending its subject.

andrew-garfield-hacksaw-ridge113. “Hacksaw Ridge” (2016)
Is there a better 2017 Oscar indication that everything is awful now than that Mel Gibson’s alternately cloyingly sentimental and grotesquely violent “pacifist” movie not only picked up a Best Picture nod but also sealed the “comeback” deal by securing him a Director nod? No, there is not. Fans of bodies blowing up in slow motion and unabashedly agenda-based Messiah stories will disagree, but real hero Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield, also nominated) deserved better.

112. “A Beautiful Mind” (2001)
A forerunner to the aforementioned “The Theory Of Everything” in many ways — campus setting, pat treatment of a serious condition — Ron Howard’s “A Beautiful Mind” has some strong performances (Jennifer Connelly won an Oscar, though it’s Paul Bettany that steals the show) and looks beautiful thanks to Roger Deakins, but a ropey Akiva Goldsman script attempts to turn the central concern of Nash’s paranoid schizophrenia into a “Twilight Zone” twist in a way that makes it feel cheap and callous.

111. “Million Dollar Baby” (2004)
After a drab late-’90s, Clint Eastwood’s long relationship with the Oscars peaked in the early- to mid-’00s with three Best Picture nominees in four years, including a surprise win for this. A shame, then, that the film that took the prize was the least good of them: though well-acted, it’s a story that only stops being familiar because of how bleak it is, particularly after its third-act turn. Still, there’s a classicism to the execution here that’s admirable at least, and Hillary Swank, Eastwood and Morgan Freeman are all strong.

Precious- Based On The Novel 'Push' By Sapphire110. “Precious” (2009)
Despite some fine performances (especially from Gabourey Sidibe, who impresses rather more than the operatic anti-mother played by Oscar-winner Mo’Nique) the sledgehammer-subtle miserablism of Lee Daniels‘ Sundance breakout makes it unpleasantly tough going. The story of a serially abused, obese, illiterate black teenager who had a Down Syndrome baby by her rapist father and is pregnant again when she’s diagnosed as HIV positive, the film is emotional torture porn that then has the gall to deliver a schematic, falsely uplifting finale.

109. “American Sniper” (2014)
Although a relief after the run of terminally dull titles that Clint Eastwood had just delivered (“Jersey Boys,” “J.Edgar,” “Hereafter,” “Invictus” — woof), considered on its own merits, “American Sniper” doesn’t have many. Bradley Cooper‘s nuanced turn aside, the film is at its most effective when also being its most blunt and unthinking, and a powerful investigation into the heavy toll of combat devolves into a rah-rah showdown between good and evil.

108. “Dallas Buyers Club” (2013)
Sometimes it takes decades before we can look back and be all “what were we thinking?” But already now, the awards-laden admiration for Jean-Marc Vallée‘s HIV/AIDs movie seems more a factor of McConnaissance fever (he lost so much weight!) and hot-topic transgender themes than the quality of the film. We also have it to blame for making Jared Leto an Academy Award-winner and giving Vallée an increasingly uninspired subsequent career in would-be Oscar bait.

nebraska107. “Nebraska” (2013)
A cherishably gruff late-career turn from Bruce Dern notwithstanding (and even there he’s acted off the screen by a tragically underused June Squibb), Alexander Payne‘s black-and-white father-son road movie is — are we allowed to say this yet? — really quite dull. Marred further by Payne’s condescension toward the locals that Dern and a miscast Will Forte meet along the way, it is, like any long car journey with an irascible elder relative, a chore.

106. “The Imitation Game” (2014)
One of those baffling films that picks up eight Oscar nominations without anybody ever actually liking it, Oscar-nominee (eyeroll) Morten Tyldum‘s biopic of British wartime maths genius and father of modern computing Alan Turing is a film that won votes for its anonymously prestige-y period filmmaking, hot lead in Benedict Cumberbatch, Important Themes, and also very probably because people kept mixing it up with the year’s other British math-genius period movie, “The Theory Of Everything.”

105. “Ray” (2004)
Taylor Hackford‘s biopic of soul pioneer Ray Charles in retrospect seems like a prime example of a film that benefitted hugely from the reflected love that its subject generates — and from Jamie Foxx‘s then-revelatory, Oscar-winning turn as the legendarily gifted but troubled blind musician. In all other respects, the film is pretty bland, with a scope so broad and undiscerning that at times it feels like an extended montage in search of a movie.

Tobey Maguire in Seabiscuit (2003)104. “Seabiscuit” (2003)
Sweet-natured, well-intentioned and completely forgettable, Gary Ross‘ equine biopic could be the standard-bearer for the type of handsomely mounted, well-acted prestige pic that the Academy briefly loses its shit for and then never refers to again. “Seabiscuit” picked up eight (!) Oscar nominations, but today its greatest legacy may be as the precursor to “Secretariat,” the racehorse movie that reps BoJack Horseman’s best shot at an Academy Award.

103. “The Descendants” (2011)
It’s Alexander Payne again, but if “Nebraska” (above) is possibly his weakest film, “The Descendants” is maybe his most toothless. Partly that’s due to the film’s less acerbic take on the dynamics of modern family life and partly to an unusually likeable lead male in the Oscar-nominated George Clooney. Still, Shailene Woodley and Robert Forster take up the “spikily caustic” Payne mantle and land the only memorable punches in an otherwise too-gentle story.

lion102. “Lion” (2016)
We’re not made of stone: “Lion” definitely moved us when it came to the end. And it’s certainly not a bad movie, just never really a good one either. Garth Davis is an undeniably talented filmmaker, the cast put in strong work (though Rooney Mara doesn’t get enough to do), and the score and photography are excellent, but ultimately, the problems inherent in the story — that it’s in two halves, and the second half is Dev Patel looking at Google — are too much to overcome.

101. “The Help” (2011)
The chemistry between the outstanding, predominantly female cast — Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Jessica Chastain, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard and Allison Janney — make it all but impossible to hate Tate Taylor‘s “The Help.” But on the other hand, that absolutely terrific lineup, all popping and fizzing off one another, also makes one angry that they weren’t assembled for a less pinkly domesticated, tame story with less of a white-savior bent.

  • Josh King

    Ah! great list idea

  • Knight Rider

    “Already in some circles, admitting you like Damien Chazelle‘s bittersweet whirlygig musical has become like saying you agree with “Crash“‘s win over “Brokeback Mountain” or think that “Driving Miss Daisy” was, in fact, the best film of 1989. ”

    What circles? How can I avoid them?


      Find people who generally have correct opinions. There are your circles.

      • Knight Rider

        A.K.A. People who agree with you?


          If I didn’t think I was correct, why would I even have opinions? And yes the people who agree with me are right.

          • Knight Rider

            And anyone who has a different opinion than yours must be wrong.


            Yes. That’s true.

          • Knight Rider

            Well, at least you agree. It explains why you’re trolling.
            Kudos for admitting it though.


            I agree with your sentiment because it is correct even though you were being sarcastic. Your sarcasm is misplaced because your actual position on the matter is very wrong.

          • Knight Rider

            Me: “You’re really delusional!”
            You: “Yes. That’s true.”

            That’s it kid! Apology accepted. Go home now.


            “And anyone who has a different opinion than yours must be wrong.”
            This is the thing that is true. I was responding to that part of your statement.
            “You’re really delusional!”
            To be honest I didn’t even bother to read this part of your comment. I just read the first sentence, and thought, “yes that is true,” and I wrote it. I can tell you that what I have stated before is not delusional.

          • Knight Rider

            “I didn’t even bother to read this part of your comment. I just read the first sentence”
            Jumping to the conclusion he wants there to be. That explains the delusion.

          • Willie Wanka

            This has got to be the dumbest reply i’ve read today!!! Holy shit! How can anyone be so full of it that he cant see how stupid he looks??? You just read the first part and stop there just because you agree? how retarded is that???

          • Joanna Falucci

            Nobody “generally has correct opinions.”
            Opinions are subjective. That’s why they’re called opinions. They are not facts.
            Especially when it comes to art, you can’t just say somebody’s opinion is wrong. You’re just being arrogant and immature at that point. Especially when he was just joking.
            Claiming that people who agree with you are right, just makes you a dick and an extremist.


            Well my opinion is that what you wrote is just 100% wrong and that you are actually the extremist for supporting obviously wrong opinions.

          • Joanna Falucci

            Well, given that you’re acting like an idiot, your opinion has 0% value!

          • Knight Rider

            Don’t waste your time. He’s just a troll.


            You’re lobbing all of these supposedly “subjective” value judgements at me. I thought subjectivity had truth value.

          • Joanna Falucci

            But I thought I was 100% wrong. What happened? I’m right now? LOL!
            Also, learn about sarcasm.

          • Knight Rider

            Ouch! Apply Cold Water To That Burn! 🙂


            No. You are not right, and you are the one that isn’t following my argument, despite your tone. You are incorrect about everything and fantastically arrogant about it too.

  • THX11384EB

    Avatar is superior to a LOT of the films you have placed above it. Ridiculous.

    • scarlet7

      I disagree, the writing was overly familiar to the point of condescending to the audience. If you take away the 3D you’re basically left with a live action remake of Fern Gully.

  • Jim

    I was about to link this article to Facebook to show all my friends why I love The Playlist, then you went and ruined it saying ‘Whiplash’, ‘Capote’, ‘Moneyball’, ‘Black Swan’, ‘Her’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ are better films than ‘Toy Story 3’. Shame on you.

  • ThisGuy01

    Not a fan of the idea of ranking.
    But a good read to see all the undeserving films I forgot where nominated for Best Picture.
    Choice of the number one film is the only correct answer.

  • Daniel Thron

    The top pick more than makes up for the fashionable Tarantino-bashing here 🙂

  • blake011

    There W

  • Maxime Turgeon

    How can a movie released in 1999 be nominated for an Academy Award in the 21st century? Right, you forgot the 21st century started in 2001

    • Tony Mutu

      And you forgot that the Oscars are held the year after the release of the movies.

  • motaskah

    80 of these movies were boring and do not deserve to be talked about ever again. The best movie I saw in the 21st century has been OLDboy.

  • Josh King

    That’s the prob with expanded best picture category. Too many mediocre films get nominated, it kind of hurts the Oscar’s prestige

  • Josh King

    This list is bonkers. But a great read

    • Willie Wanka

      Everybody has a different opinion. Hard to find any movie ranking that matches yours.

      • Josh King

        But when they do it’s very satisfying!

        • Willie Wanka

          Yeah, but how often does it happen. I’m trying to say it’s not something you should expect.

  • La Serpenta Canta

    lol the 21st century has been excrement when it comes to movies, so far.

  • jmbrr

    This site used to be good at making lists..

  • Bruna Figueiredo

    You guys are insane

    but nice idea

  • KG

    Mad Max: Fury Road over There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men? Playlist, you disappoint me. The former was a pleasant surprise in how it blew the roof off the action movie and starred a dominating heroine to become one of the best films of the year, but the latter two are astonishing classics, contributing as much to cinema as the best films of the 1970s (or any era).

  • jh

    Great list. I enjoyed its iconoclasm (despite Spotlight being so high in the list).

  • Sharknado Guy

    Very interesting list and one I largely agree with. Top 3 is perfect though.

  • loudrockmusic

    How dare you speak ill of Million Dollar Baby!

    • Willie Wanka

      Didn’t know that movie had fans! 😉

  • oscarstan

    whoever ranked these is nuts…

  • PhotographicAmnesia

    You don’t seem to like movies very much. Seems like a painful job of having to write about them all the time.

  • Jonathan Lockyer

    Yikes. This was bound to be arduous but holy moly did I endure a lot of ouch!’s and red-faced embarrassment for enjoying quite of few of the films placed near the bottom. I was redeemed, however, with Mad Max being at the top. I hope to one day live in a world where that film would have won best picture.

    Oh and I did hate Les Miserables so thanks for putting that where it belongs. Talk about arduous.

  • Daniel Bankov

    Why so spiteful and condescending? Who are you to say that whoever likes Moulin Rouge! is wrong? Half of the movies in the top 50 are actually the worst ones – Master and Commander? Michael Clayton? Any movie of David O. Russell?

  • Jan

    You guys clearly needed some more space to be able to judge movies more recently with films from…the 90s, with a clear head. Like, if you’re going to come for La La Land “haters” but then mock Moulin Rouge! fans….you just know how ridiculous this article is going to look in a few short years.

    I don’t expect to read this lists agreeing with every ranking, nor should I, but the early captions are written with the kind of cloying contrarianism as a “brutally honest Oscar ballot.”

  • Robert M. Kirby

    This is a fun read. In agreement esp. w/ most of the movies you ranked at the very bottom.

  • Fernando Américo

    Birdman over Inglorious Basterds? What are you smoking?

  • Floyd Rock

    Moneyball is number 21? Seriously? Moneyball? Did Jonah Hill contribute to this list or something?


    You guys seriously think Moneyball is better than Munich, Manchester by the Sea, The Departed, The Pianist, The Grand Budapest Hotel, True Grit, Lost in Translation, Master and Commander, Hugo, Inglourious Basterds, Letters from Iwo Jima, Sideways, Gosford Park, The Aviator, Midnight in Paris, Django Unchained, Nebraska, and The Descendants?


  • Dheep’ P

    “its valiant attempt to give the story of an aristocrat with a speech impediment life-or-death stakes is pretty daft.” – Ya, but you and everyone else fell for it at the time – didn’t you ?
    “Always hated that up-itself plastic bag though.” – sure you did

  • zgamer

    I didn’t think you could come across more smug and elitist than actual Oscar votess, but this list took the cake. I’m a huge fan of the Oscars in all honesty and while I know not every pick is a winner, this list comes off as petulant Internet cynicism. And seriously, Mad Mad Fury Road as the best nominee of the whole century to date? You, dear sir, have no taste.

  • osaro runner

    Midnight In Paris was Woody Allen’s best film in years and million dollar baby and The Big Short were fantastic movies you guys at the playlist are seriously wrong with some of your lower ranking best picture nominated movies…..