Top 10 Best Picture Nominees from 2010 to 2020 (That Didn’t Win)
I have a weird fascination with the Oscars. I know it’s descended to a complete joke, but it doesn’t change the fact that despite they devolved into basically a bribery contest and making films that only appease Academy voters, you’re guaranteed at least one Best Picture nominee that is going to be one of your favourite films of the year, if you, like me, go and see a ton of movies every year. Now, that being said, for this entire decade, only once has my choice for Best Picture at the Oscars actually taken home the grand prize. I know, it’s shocking, but for some reason the Academy never seems to take the choice that I would have picked. So, for this list, I decided to give you my top 10 nominations from all the Oscar ceremonies’ Best Picture Nominations between the years of 2010 to this year. Though, once again, I’ve set a few ground rules for myself – it has to be an actual nomination for Best Picture. I can’t just say a film that I would have nominated that was my favourite film of that year. If the Academy didn’t nominate it for that category, I cannot pick it. Second, I can’t pick a film that was nominated for Best Picture at the BAFTAs but didn’t get a nomination at the Oscars. This is the reason why I, Daniel Blake won’t make this list in spite of the fact it easily should have been nominated for Best Picture. Thirdly, I’m not allowed to pick the film that won Best Picture. This has to be strictly the film that did not win but I wanted to win. However, as I’ve mentioned, only in one case would I have actually picked the winner. Also, the placement on this list is simply going to be on the merits of the film, not on how much I thought they were better than the actual film that won Best Picture. If that was the case, my pick from 2019 would have been no.1 on this list. Okay, with all the rules laid out, let’s begin!
nominated in 2011, lost to The Artist
Anyone who saw my review of The Irishman might be surprised to find that I would have picked the Martin Scorsese film, but honestly, Hugo I actually think is one of his better works. It got kind of snubbed by critics and audiences since it was first announced since the idea of Martin Scorsese making a family film is kind of at odds with what you would expect from the director of Goodfellas and The Wolf of Wall Street. But, Scorsese’s first nomination of the decade was for one of his best films, and I actually think it’s a better love letter to classic cinema than The Artist was. Don’t get me wrong, I quite liked The Artist but it felt like a very pretentious film that I wouldn’t want to see more than once, and personally, I think that this is one time Scorsese really should have held that Oscar on the night.
nominated in 2010, lost to The Hurt Locker
Nothing against The Hurt Locker, but I wouldn’t have picked it for Best Picture over Up. 2010 was a very strong year, being the first time that the nominations were stretched out from 5 to 10 nominations, a nomination number that still has not been met to this day. There were genuinely strong entries that year that I could have easily picked, including Inglourious Basterds, District 9 and A Serious Man, but personally, out of all those nominations, I would have probably given it to Up. Up is a lovely family film, and I still stand by it’s one of Pixar’s best films. It does have a few pacing issues and I think people mostly forget that because of its excellent introduction, but it was just great to see an animated film finally get a Best Picture nomination since Beauty and The Beast, and to this day, it’s still only one of three animated films to receive the Best Picture nominations. If Pixar’s legacy is built on its charm and warmth, Up is a prime example of it, and it’s one of those excellent films that both kids and adults can enjoy, highly recommended.
8. The Imitation Game
nominated 2015, lost to Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
2015 was a strong year, and I think it should have been the Oscar really should have gone to the excellent biopic that told the life story of Alan Turing, with an excellent performance by Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role. It’s unfortunately now probably going to receive less circulation based on the fact that the Weinsteins were a major part of producing the film, but I would really like it if that didn’t tarnish this film’s legacy, especially given the tragic life story of Turing. Though, the tragedy of his life is only touched upon in certain points of the film. The film mainly focuses on him and a group of mathematicians at Bletchley Park, creating the first computers as a way to break the enigma code. I really, really liked The Imitation Game. The only thing that hold it back for me is it’s rather held by that central performance and it’s kind of in a group of films that does really rely on that and is kind of aiming for a Best Actor nomination, which Cumberbatch got, but that being said, it’s a really excellent film that tells what was until recently a completely classified story, and you arguably should check it out.
7. The Social Network
nominated 2011, lost to The King’s Speech
Unlike with Imitation Game where I really strongly believed that it was a much better film than Birdman, I don’t hold so much against the fact that King’s Speech defeated The Social Network. It ultimately was more likely to win that award. I knew The Social Network only really stood some chance because it was about an American figure rather than a British figure, but there ya go. The Social Network is fantastic, and it actually was really caught up for me. I was really stuck for which one I was going to pick, considering it was nominated against very strong competition including the other two films that I was seriously considering giving this place to, including Toy Story 3 and True Grit. But I established that I was only going to save one per year, so those two had to go aside and I kind of felt I had to pick The Social Network, mainly because, unlike those two films, I think it has the best beginning, middle and end. True Grit feels like it goes on a little too long and while Toy Story 3 is an emotional gut punch, I found there’s a lot of parts in the middle that I don’t find quite as memorable as Toy Story 1 and 2’s middle act.
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So, by pure nitpicking, The Social Network got through. It’s an excellent story about the creation of one of the biggest innovations of the 21st century, and the irony of how one of the biggest factors of bringing people together actually tore many people about. Jesse Einsenberg gives an excellent performance as Mark Zuckerberg, something which I think might have negatively influenced Schneider’s direction in casting him as Lex Luther. But let’s also not forget the other excellent performances, including Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake. It does have a similar problem to The Imitation Game in that it seems to rely on those central performances, but it has this to a lesser degree, which is why I put it above The Imitation Game, and it’s still an excellent movie. I actually really enjoyed the fact the film’s backdrop is based on two preliminary hearings for court cases from genuine law suits that Mark Zuckerberg was going through at the time. I saw an excellent review of this film that said it would be an excellent time capsule for the 2000s and I have to agree. Seek this one if you can; it’s a really excellent film.
6. Django Unchained
nominated in 2013, lost to Argo
Those of you who know me know I’m also not the most massive Quentin Tarantino fan, but I actually thought this was one of his best films of the decade. I think I liked it more than Inglourious Basterds and I definitely liked it more than The Hateful Eight. Sidenote: I still haven’t seen Once Upon A Time In Hollywood yet; I need to get round to doing that. But Django Unchained is excellent. If I had one criticism of it, it’s that Jamie Foxx’s central performance is rather eclipsed by Christoph Waltz’s excellent supporting role which did rightfully earn him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, though Django Unchained is actually the one example from this list where it actually was my second choice and I can’t pick the one I actually want because it did win – Argo to me is an excellent film; it’s another one you really should check out. Ben Affleck does an excellent job in both the starring role and direction, but I set my rules that I get to pick my favourite that didn’t win, and in this case, it was Django Unchained. Once again, this was a very strong year, in fact, probably one of the strongest years because it was nominated against films like Life of Pi and Silver Linings Playbook. But that being said, Django Unchained is a brutal film that’s an excellent drawback to exploitation films, and I don’t think we get enough films like that.
nominated 2020, lost to Parasite
Granted, I actually haven’t seen Parasite so I can’t tell you whether I would have picked Parasite at this stage or not, but Joker is an excellent film. I have a few issues with it that stops it from going higher on this list, mainly that it borrows a little too much from Scorsese without having its own flair but the ending of the film really nailed it in my mind, and made me forgive a lot of his faults. Joker is a brutal movie, but it’s one that’s very much to the point and is very sympathetic to its subject, and I really think it’s an excellent movie. Joaquin Phoenix rightfully got his Best Actor win on the back of it, and he fundamentally is one of the best things about this film. But I don’t think it’s just his central performance that makes the movie. It’s a film really about how we perceive ourselves and the world around us, and really asks some genuine questions about, when bad acts happen, where does the blame lie? Is it on individuals or a society?
nominated 2019, lost to Green Book
This was the one I was on about saying that this would have been no.1 if I was comparing it to the film that won. How in the name of all that is good did Green Book beat BlacKkKlansman? BlacKkKlansman is Spike Lee’s best film in years. It’s a harrowing if honest look at racism in America, by tying our past to our present. While it is a rather fictionalized biopic, it is still a biopic of Ron Stallworth, one of the first black undercover police officers in his precinct, who would launch an undercover operation to uncover several terrorist acts from the Ku Klux Klan. It’s interesting to contrast it with the original biography, that talked about the fact that David Duke had won a seat in congress in spite of the fact he was a grand wizard of the clan, and now solely points the finger on America today, with the final portion of the film pointing the finger directly at the fact that white supremacy has now become a more visible part of American society again with the election of Donald Trump. The final sequence of the film uses direct footage from the Charlottesville rally, the film deliberately receiving its first screenings one year to the day. The film has excellent central performances from Jason David Washington and Adam Driver, and while the film gave me a lot of what I was expecting, it actually genuinely surprised me in a lot of areas. It’s finally out on DVD and on several screening sights, so I highly recommend you check this film out. Though, be warned, you have to be in the right mood to want to see this film.
nominated 2017, lost to Moonlight
Okay, fine, Moonlight was a pretty good film. I don’t object to it winning, and of course, it won in the year where it famously was almost accidentally given to La La Land. But in my mind, Arrival was always going to be my pick that year – I really, really loved Arrival. Arrival is Denis Villeneuve’s excellent adaptation of a short sci-fi novel that, while it starts out as a sci-fi epic about man’s first contact with aliens, ultimately it evolves into a story about humanity and how we communicate. It’s ultimately a really excellent film about human preconceptions and the fact they aren’t communicating with one another and working together, something that is mirrored in a lot of genuine conflict. It even has slight parallels to the current COVID-19 pandemic. There’s the excellent central performance of Amy Adams playing a linguist trying to communicate with the aliens, and the ultimate twist at the end is excellent and really makes you rethink the entire film. I think it does a better job of this than Joker did, and that’s one of the better examples of that idea in the best decade. You really don’t need to love sci-fi films to love this film. It’s what I would definitely consider one of the better movies of the decade, and it got Villeneuve his job directing Blade Runner 2049 which should have received a Best Picture nomination and annoyingly didn’t.
2. Get Out
nominated in 2018, lost to The Shape of Water.
Not going to lie, I quite liked The Shape of Water, but my vote was always going to go to Get Out. I loved this movie. Jordan Peele’s breakout directorial debut was a stunning horror film that challenged a lot of ideas and told an excellent horror story that tackled the issue of oblivious racism in the world today. There’s an excellent video on YouTube by Mitch Benn where he pointed out that the thing that makes this film really interesting is that fact that they didn’t take the easy option with casting the racist characters – in this case, they’re not rednecks, they’re white, bohemian, middle-class people, who probably don’t even realise that what they’re doing is extremely awful. And the film actually keeps you in suspense of what’s really going on excellently and has excellent twists and turns. This film is just brilliant – it has excellent casting, excellent direction and excellent writing. And it was great to see a horror film finally get a nomination at the Oscars. As someone who’s a bit of a connoisseur of horror films, this was really awesome for me to see. And with a few exceptions, I couldn’t think of a better film this decade to get that honour.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
nominated 2016, lost to Spotlight
Spotlight’s a pretty good film but it’s ultimately very much a film aiming for Oscar nominations, but I’m not too upset that it won because it was a pretty good film. But Mad Max: Fury Road was always going to be my nomination. It’s a masterwork of cinema – excellent action; great character writing; unbelievable direction; of course, those brilliant location shots in Namibia; set designs, and those excellent cars which were all lovingly crafted. The performances are great in this film and George Miller proves that he had a genuine vision and didn’t just come back to this franchise after 35 years for an easy buck. Fury Road is now my favourite of the Mad Max films and it ultimately takes what could have been very simple and told an interesting story which explores themes of both environmentalism and feminism, in a post-apocalyptic action film, and it really is something to behold. The reason this is no.1 is it’s a perfect blend of all those action set pieces put together, all those great performances and all those great locations. It’s the kind of film I want to see every year. See it you if you can; you don’t need to have seen all the previous Mad Max films to enjoy it.
Well, that’s it for me this time. You may have noted that I didn’t take my pick from 2014, though that was because out of all the years, that one just missed out on the list. Incidentally, it would have been Captain Phillips, but when I put all 11 films together, Phillips was, in my mind, the weakest film of the bunch. So, it didn’t quite make the list, and it was also nominated in a year with not the greatest nominees in my opinion. With all that being said, I hope I gave you some more recommendations for you to check out in isolation. Here’s hoping that I come up with another excellent list next time.
Calvin – Nerd Consultant