Best Picture: Ranking Every Oscar Nominee
Written by Andreas Babiolakis
We have reached the final Academy Award category to rank: Best Picture. We’ve looked at every single nominee of every other group, and now we’re looking at (what the Academy has considered) the best of the best. Each of these eight nominees have made their mark by being nominated in multiple categories; no Best Picture candidate this year didn’t feel earned, considering what nominations they have accumulated. Before we get to these eight qualified works, I want to look at the films that the Academy shunned. These are films that either didn’t get nominated for Best Picture (and yet it only made sense that they could have been), or didn’t get nominated at all. Firstly, here are my nominees.
FIVE FILMS THAT SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN SHUT OUT BY THE ACADEMY AWARDS ENTIRELY
The following five films deserved love of some sort by the Academy, ranging from my own personal opinion to absolute oversights.
5. Any of the Small Axe Films
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Directing, Best Editing
Okay, this entry is a little bit of my own opinion that likely couldn’t even happen, since Small Axe is a televised miniseries of films. Firstly, I feel like the Academy selected mostly worthy films this year and covered most of their bases, so there weren’t many works that were completely ignored like the following four. Secondly, the various parts of Small Axe are considered standalone films, and I feel like there could have been something here. This is more of a dream of mine than a legitimate point, but we’ll get serious right now with the next title.
4. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress
One of the great indie darlings of 2020, Never Rarely Sometimes Always was generating some steam towards the end of last year during the awards season preliminary rounds (especially for independent awards). I’m not sure if the film would have made the biggest noise at the Academy Awards, but it could have left some sort of a mark, and its absence feels a little strange (maybe even one nomination for its writing could have sufficed).
Possible Nominations: Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Editing, Best Makeup and Hairstyling
I initially felt like it would be a bit strange if the Academy Awards gave Hamilton some love, considering it is the recording of a stage production. However, its success basically everywhere else made me change my mind. This is still a film, and it is a really good one, no matter how it was made. You could imagine this would have been nominated in some way, right? It got zilch.
2. First Cow
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography
First Cow also feels like a long shot, but if any Kelly Reichardt was ever going to get its dues, it could have been this one and in this year. I know that a minimalist, poetic indie art film like this wouldn’t woo every Academy member, but it still deserves some sort of love (it was a massive achievement of last year). Maybe it wouldn’t have gotten any of the big awards, but a tech or writing nomination only makes sense.
1. I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography
Again, I know that I’m Thinking of Ending Things wasn’t going to dominate the Academy Awards, but this is the film I’m the most upset about getting shafted. Nothing for its brilliant screenplay, its gorgeous visuals, for Jessie Buckley, or the countless other things it could have received. Nothing. Not one award nomination. It is such a strong film on many accounts and another success for Charlie Kaufman, and yet you wouldn’t think so by seeing its absence here. The other nominees I just listed, I understand for technicality reasons or because of their natures. This film being completely ignored just seems insane.
FIVE FILMS THAT COULD HAVE BEEN THE NINTH OR TENTH BEST PICTURE NOMINEE
As you can see, there are only eight Best Picture nominees. These five suggestions are films that have actual nominations elsewhere, and could have made their case to have been either the ninth or dead last Best Picture nomination. These are not ranked in order of how good these films are, but how strong their case for being nominated for Best Picture was (how many nominations they had, and what these nominations are).
Nominations: Best Documentary Feature, Best International Feature
This is the only suggestion that’s a bit of a long shot, but Collective being featured in two of the feature film categories tells me that the Academy is very fond of this compelling true story, and how it was showcased. Collective is one of the most thrilling films of last year, and its impact is undeniable. It would also be nice to see a documentary be honoured for Best Picture every once in a while.
4. One Night in Miami…
Nominations: Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Song, Best Adapted Screenplay
While One Night in Miami… lost its awards season steam over the course of the last few months, the Golden Globes were projecting a much brighter future for this film (particularly for Best Picture, and for Regina King’s direction). I feel like the film was under nominated in general, but three nominations of this nature (especially its supporting actor and adapted screenplay nods) are still strong enough for One Night in Miami… to have been considered (if The Post can only have one other nomination, then One Night in Miami… is fine).
3. Another Round
Nominations: Best Director, Best International Feature
I still find Thomas Vinterberg’s Best Director nomination to be the best surprise of this year’s nominees, and his inclusion points to something even higher: Best Picture consideration. The fact that the film is likely going to win for Best International Feature is another indication that it could have gone the distance (the last few winners Parasite and Roma were Best Picture candidates, and the former even won last year). There aren’t that many nominations that Another Round has, but they’re massive awards that could have justified it enough.
Nominations: Best Animated Feature, Best Original Score, Best Sound
It’s very rare for animated films to be nominated for Best Picture (it’s only happened thrice times before), but this could have been one of those occasions. Exhibit A: Soul is going to clean up (almost definitely) two of its three nominated categories (Animated Feature and Original Score). Exhibit B: it was projected to be a possible Best Picture nominee for the few months that came before the big nomination announcement. I have to say that I am in agreement: I’m more sad that it didn’t seal the deal than surprised if it were to be nominated.
1. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Nominations: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Production Design
This is not out of personal opinion, since I prefer virtually all of the other four films I have just listed to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. However, the amount of nominations it garnered and what they are (two massive ones that it might even win, and three weighty production categories that usually help period piece films land their spot) lead me to believe that this is a major oversight by the Academy (based on their own praise, not mine). Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was actually one of the highest prospects to win Best Picture at one point (after Nomadland and The Trial of the Chicago 7), but that all came crashing down after its lack of a nomination.
FINALLY, HERE ARE YOUR NOMINEES FOR BEST PICTURE, RANKED FROM WORST TO BEST
8. The Trial of the Chicago 7
I’m so happy to say that my least favourite Best Picture nominee this year, The Trial of the Chicago 7, is still a great film that I recommend (we’ve had some real duds over the last few years). If this film didn’t zip to conventional, safe territories when the chips were down, I might have been on this train even more so. Overall, though, Chicago 7 is a compelling courtroom drama with an incredible cast, some typically enticing Sorkin writing, and dynamic editing. This is last, but this is still a good one, folks.
7. Sound of Metal
I’ve revisited Sound of Metal a few times since I wrote my first review, and I have warmed up to some of its narrative flaws a little bit. However, they are still there, so it knocks this film down a few pegs. Otherwise, I love the best aspects and moments of Sound of Metal. I also want to quickly say how happy I am that an independent film of this nature (one that feels strictly like a film festival circuit darling) got a bunch of nominations and was even selected for Best Picture. It just usually doesn’t happen. It’s refreshing to see.
6. Promising Young Woman
Similarly to Sound of Metal, I have warmed up to some of the directorial decisions that I was a bit iffy on in Promising Young Woman, maybe even more so. I think that this darkly comedic thriller is so creative, and it carries its important message and gaze with the utmost confidence (which Emerald Fennell has more than earned). I subjectively love this film, and even with the couple of things I would change, it just leads me to believe that we have a new exciting artist here that is only going to get better; I await the next Fennell project already.
Of course Mank would be here for the large amount of technical, aesthetic, and major awards it was nominated for. Then again, Mank is a strong film through and through, and one of David Fincher’s more interesting projects that he’s ever committed to (which is saying a lot, since he’s always up to something creative). The Academy is also fond of films that pat Hollywood members on their back; I’m just a sucker for films about the film industry and filmmaking, so that’s my excuse for my love for this picture.
4. The Father
I feel like The Father is the kind of film that people assume will be the token straight forward drama that awards shows love to have on for technical and acting reasons, but everyone would be dead wrong with thinking that. The Father is so inventive with how it places you in the shoes of a man experiencing memory loss. I honestly think it’s one of the greatest films of 2020. It is possibly one of the bigger surprises of this category (next to Sound of Metal), and I think the Academy nailed it by including it, when it could have easily been overlooked.
3. Judas and the Black Messiah
As a late season push, Judas and the Black Messiah more than earned its steam and nominations. It could have been a straight forward biographical picture, but instead Shaka King and company opted for something greater. Instead, we get a nerve wracking thriller, that paints a fuller picture as to why the assassination of Fred Hampton could have happened. In many respects, Judas and the Black Messiah is a peak moment of 2020 cinema, and I’m glad it was able to get here just in time for awards season.
We’ve reached the frontrunner for this award, and my high ranking of it means that I have zero problems with the film having this much potential to win. If anything, I’m more stunned that Nomadland was able to dominate as much as it has, because artistic, poetic, naturalistic films like it usually are shunned by the Academy. Chloé Zhao has made a film that feels like a documentary and sucks you in, as you live every scene rather than just watch it. It’ll be one of the most quaint, sublime films to win Best Picture if it pulls this off, and I couldn’t be happier.
I do love when the Academy nominates my favourite film of a year for Best Picture, and such is the case for Minari. As the only film I gave a perfect rating from last year, Minari is a completely powerful-yet-lush cinematic experience that captures the American Dream better than any film I have seen in years. I don’t think Minari has a shot, but I don’t care. I adore this film so much, and couldn’t stop thinking about it since I first saw it; the titanic climax still lingers in my mind. You can always ready my review below for more information, because I might write five more paragraphs otherwise, and we’ll be here all day.
Who I want to win: I’m happy to say that I like every Best Picture nominee (really like) for the first time in ages, so I’m actually happy with any of them winning. I’m really hoping for Nomadland to win, given its success so far. Deep down, I’d love if Minari won, but I know it’s not going to happen. I’m equally as thrilled for Nomadland to win.
Who I think will win: I can say with almost certainty that Nomadland is going to win, but let’s weigh all of the possible options (those films that can actually have a chance of winning).
-If The Trial of the Chicago 7 wins for its screenplay and editing, it can have enough push to win Best Picture.
-If Nomadland wins for Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and/or Best Editing (which it has a chance of winning), I feel like it will clinch Best Picture; even just two of these (so ideally Director and something else) will do the trick.
I don’t think that any other film has enough push to win, unless something like Minari or Mank cause an upset (which they would have to do in virtually any or every category they’re not projected to win). My final say is Nomadland. I feel like the Academy has had split feelings the last few years between two major candidates, but Nomadland is the first nearly-certain nominee projected to win since Argo or 12 Years a Slave.
We have ranked every Academy Award category. Now, tomorrow is the final piece of the puzzle: every single film that has been nominated will be ranked in one super list. Join us and see the chaos for yourself!
Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections Management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.