“Wait, we’re done? Like, I can go home now? I don’t have to keep watching hundreds upon hundreds of movies?”
~Our Film Screener. He’s So, So Tired.
Well, it’s been a long, weird ride. We’ve gone through the relatively boring 70s, the all-over-the-place 80s (literally half of the revised winners were films that weren’t even nominated initially, and no, you will not make us rescind giving Die Hard an Oscar, fuck you), the “are you fucking kidding me with this, Dances With Wolves” 90s, and the Lord of the Rings comeback tour of the early 00s, but now we’re finally on our final article of this sordid crazy ride we’ve been on. By the end of this article, we will have written over 40,000 words (Jesus, that’s like a short novel, what are we doing with our lives) telling you about over 200 films (well actually 209, because 9 of these 40 Academy Awards ended up going to movies that were not originally nominated). If you think it’s been exhausting going through this list (and we know it has, so many of our choices have made you so angry for mostly completely legitimate reasons, sorry about American Beauty, guys) it’s been about a million times more exhausting to compile it.
But we’re at the finish line! Just five more years of Academy Award ceremonies to go through in order to correct history! One last time for those in the back, here’s how we’re doing this. We’ll list each group of films by the year their Academy Awards ceremony was held. So when we talk about 2005, we’re discussing the 2005 Academy Award ceremony, which was given for movies made in 2004. 2006’s entries are all films from 2005, you get the deal, we’ve literally done seven of these already (and if you’ve randomly found this article because you googled “Oscar Sex Party Big Boobs” and clicked the second link on the third page of results, um, listen we’re sorry we honestly didn’t think that would work SEO-wise, we’re sorry, there are no Oscar Sex Party Big Boobs here, or even Oscar Sex Party REGULAR Boobs, but, um, check out our other films in our brand new Re-Awarding the Academy Award section if you want to see the other articles in this series. No, none of them have boobs. Again, we’re sorry).
So yeah. The parenthetical number next to each movie is their IMDB user rating, which we realize was a dumb and arbitrary thing to go by, but we just include it to give you an idea of how fondly the film has been remembered. And finally, as you no doubt have gathered, we’ll be listing every winner and nominee from each year, but you don’t have to be nominated to go home with the re-awarded statue.
Enough of our jabbering, let’s finish this bitch. Here we are…
Re-Awarding the Academy Award for Best Picture (2005-2009)
Million Dollar Baby (8.1, 200th top rated movie all time)
Clint Eastwood has won four Academy Awards for two films—Best Picture and Best Director for Unforgiven and Best Picture and Best Director for Million Dollar Baby. Both films also represent the only two times that Eastwood has received a nomination for his Acting, earning a Best Leading Actor nomination for each. But we don’t view Million Dollar Baby as a Clint Eastwood film, we view it as a Hilary Swank film. Swank has only been nominated for two Oscars, but she’s won an Oscar for Best Leading Actress each time she’s been nominated (the only other actresses to go two-for-two in that category were Luise Rainer who did it in back-to-back years, and Vivien Leigh).
Million Dollar Baby got a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Roger Ebert calling it a masterpiece. But it’s longest lasting effects are how it impacted the legacy of Hilary Swank as an actor, and we’re also guessing that it’s the most hated movie of all time among stool salesmen.
What Else Was Nominated
Finding Neverland (7.7)
Now that we think about it, Finding Neverland very well might represent the last time Johnny Depp decided to be in a movie that didn’t require an obnoxious amount of makeup and a silly accent. We miss those days. Johnny Depp and Tim Burton pretty much ruined each other in the 00s. Anyway, if you don’t remember this film, we wouldn’t blame you, it was that typical kind of bland biopic that got Oscar nominations through being politely British and casting Kate Winslet. This one in particular told the story of J.M. Barrie’s friendship with a family that inspired the creation of Peter Pan, and it earned Depp the second Best Leading Actor Academy Award nomination in a row (the previous year he had been nominated for playing Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, which is not a typo despite how much we want that to be the case. Listen, at the time we thought his performance in Caribbean was something groundbreaking. Now we realize that it’s just…like, how he is).
The film received 83% on Rotten Tomatoes when it came out, but no one was falling over themselves to call it the best film of the year or anything. It’s largely faded away in our collective cultural consciousness, to the point that you were a bit surprised to find out that Johnny Depp was nominated for an Oscar here. (You’ll be even more weirded out when you find out that the third, and most recent, Oscar nomination he got was for Sweeney Todd.)
This movie adheres to the formula for like, every Oscar winning biopic. It glosses over some of the thornier details of the subject, but keeps just enough demons to allow the lead actor to get his Best Actor statue. The best way to describe this movie is, “The script is pretty meh, but hey, Jaime Foxx really crushed it.” We’ve not made a habit of rewarding these Oscar-grabbing biographical films in our past installments, and we’re not going to start now.
Honestly, we’re really tempted to give the statue to Sideways this year. The whole “middle aged friends go on a trip through wine country and find themselves” thing feels kind of cliché at this point, but this was a powerhouse of a film when it came out. Like, this movie literally changed what wine Americans drank. They stopped drinking Merlot and started drinking Pinot Noir which, by the way, isn’t necessarily a better grape, it just was the grape that fit the kind of blunt metaphor in Paul Giamatti’s speech thing sort of well. Hell, to this day it’s the reason why people think Thomas Haden Church is a really good actor, even though the only other film you ever remembered seeing him in was Spider-Man 3. (And for those of you who are like “Oh but isn’t he in Divorce on HBO” listen—yes, he is, but you know you haven’t watched that show either, they just keep putting on previews for it before they let you watch Veep. And no we haven’t watched Wings and that’s not gonna change any time soon.)
Alexander Payne won an Oscar for his screenplay here, which honestly was deserved, Virginia Madsen got her only Academy Award nomination here as well, and frankly we’re still mad that Paul Giamatti didn’t get a nomination this year. By the way, the 2000s generally required that one comedy received a token nomination, even though the definition of “comedy” usually was “a Sad Drama with white people who sometimes make jokes.” Sideways was the token comedy for the 2005 awards.
The Aviator (7.5)
Was The Aviator really that good? Like, the fanfare behind this movie kind of came off as “Shit, Cate Blanchett has never won an Oscar and she’s in a Scorsese film, shit, Scorsese has never won an Oscar and he’s got Leo in his film, SHIT Leo has never won an Oscar and he’s playing Howard Hughes, who was famous and crazy, SHIT SHIT SHIT Alan Alda’s here and he’s never even been nominated let’s give him a nomination too!” But…was it…like any good? It was just fine, right? By this point the mythos of Scorsese as “The Best Director of All Time Who Has Never Won an Academy Award” was well established, and this marked the beginning of Leo’s path to “Well fuck, guess I gotta eat this raw liver to win a statue” (this was only DiCaprio’s second nomination at the time, after What’s Eating Gilbert Grape in 1994).
Cate Blanchett won an Oscar for playing Katharine Hepburn, the actress who herself won four Oscars, which is some Oscar-Inception-type shit right there, and that seems correct, because Cate Blanchett should win an Academy Award for every movie she does. Whenever Meryl Streep retires, we’re just assuming the one slot for Best Actress they keep reserved for her each year will go to Cate. But as a whole, the movie was…fine? Like, an 87% Rotten Tomatoes score, 77 out of 100 on Metacritic, definitely a solid movie. But it’s not even close to the best film done by Scorsese or Leo or Blanchet or, hell, probably even Alan Alda?
And the Revised Winner is…
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (8.3, 87th top rated all time)
This one was a squeaker between Eternal Sunshine, Sideways, and Million Dollar Baby but we’re going with the Kaufman/Gondry collaboration. It’s not too much of a stretch, considering that it won the Oscar for best Original Screenplay, and hell, if Shape of Water can win a Best Picture then this quirky romantic drama can take a statue as well. Plus, Charlie Kaufman is one of those figures where it’s honestly surprising that he’s never had a film even nominated for Best Picture, let alone win for it. The only Oscar of his career came from the screenplay of Eternal Sunshine, which had an insane cast (a “still relevant because Lord of the Rings just happened” Elijah Wood, a Best Actress nominated turn from Kate Winslet, Jim Carrey at the height of his “funny sad” arc before he got into some weird shit, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson, Mark Ruffalo, David Cross making a bird house) and a unique premise that works just as well today as it did 13 years ago.
Which movie do you think you’d rather watch again, Million Dollar Baby or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s gotta be Eternal Sunshine right? Like, there’s only so many times we want to see a vertebrae fracture and euthanasia on screen, and that number is one, and that’s only if it sneaks up to surprise us.
What Else Was Nominated
Brokeback Mountain (7.7)
A lot of casual cinephiles in the early-to-mid 2000s just associated Ang Lee with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon because, well, racism. But Ang Lee’s filmography is impressively diverse, and he is one of the finest directors working today, if you let yourself forget that he did Eric Bana’s Hulk. He has never directed a movie that won Best Picture, but he’s won two Oscars for Directing (for Life of Pi and this year for Brokeback Mountain) and has directed the following Academy Award nominated films—Eat Drink Man Woman, Xi Yan (The Wedding Banquet), Sense and Sensibility, Crouching Tiger, Brokeback and The Life of Pi. That’s impressive. And of the films he’s directed, arguably the best movie with the biggest cultural impact would be…well, Brokeback Mountain.
Frankly, we need to stop giving Best Picture nominations to biopics designed for Hollywood royalty to get a Best Acting awards. We’re making a new rule. From now on, you can get your career achievement Oscar, but your movie has to stay out of the Best Picture race. We’ll call it the Darkest Hour rule.
Good Night, and Good Luck (7.5)
Guys, do you really believe that George Clooney is a good director? Like, he only has directed three films that were Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, and sure, Good Night, and Good Luck, a historical drama about the conflict between Edward R. Murrow and Joseph McCarthy (filmed in black and white to be fancy) received 93% on RT. But like…maybe Clooney just directed a few good films, but isn’t a really good director? Just food for thought. Anyway, this movie earned Clooney his only Directing nomination (the same year he won his first ever Oscar nomination for acting, getting Best Supporting Actor in Syriana), and a Best Actor nomination for David Strathairn, though it won none of its six nominations. It’s a good movie, but it’s a movie you only think about when Clooney drops a stinker like Suburbicon and everyone is like “Wait, but…like, he did Good Night, and Good Luck, but…is George Clooney maybe not a good director?”
After winning Oscars for Schindler’s List in 1994 and Saving Private Ryan in 1998 (even if he got burned on Best Picture for the latter), Spielberg went back into his old dependable blockbuster mode, pumping out A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal and War of the Worlds before tossing out Munich, which followed Israeli operatives (including…Daniel Craig? Like, wait, blonde-hair blue-eyed James Bond was playing a Jewish black ops Mossad agent? Can we get the casting director on the line please?) eliminating people from Black September after the assassination of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972.
Domestically, Eric Bana vehicle (man, we were convinced that Eric Bana was going to become a thing for a hot second in the mid-00s, weren’t we) grossed only $47 million, one of the lowest totals of Spielberg’s career, but it was critically praised. Last year the New York Times listed it as the sixteenth best film of the century, so far, which is something. It got a solid 78% Rotten Tomatoes score, but the critics who really liked it really liked it. And honestly, most of our staff members fall into the “really liked it” category. Is that enough to propel it to victory?
And the Revised Winner is…
There were some solid films that didn’t receive Best Picture nominations this year. The Constant Gardner was an Oscar-y movie, and Walk the Line was (correctly) only given Acting nominations (see The Darkest Hour rule above). But there weren’t a lot of noticeable snubs. One of our writers wanted to give this to Munich, but then three of our other writers were like “oh yeah, I guess I remember that movie existed once.” Plus, Ang Lee deserves a Best Picture win, right? Like, he won for his Directing here, and we also gave him another pity statue for Directing Life of Pi, but, like, come on, no one’s gonna argue that Life of Pi should ever win a Best Picture award. Brokeback still is an important film even to this day. Plus, this way Hollywood can strain a muscle patting themselves on the back for being so “socially conscious” by giving an Oscar to the gay cowboy movie. “Look at how in touch we are with middle America!”
The Departed (8.5, 40th top rated movie all time)
Scorsese finally wins one! And, frankly, this one wasn’t a reach. It was good we waited. If Scorsese had won for The Aviator everyone would kind of roll their eyes and go “pity Oscar,” but The Departed was probably his freshest film since Goodfellas. It scored 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, 86 out of 100 on Metacritic, and when you hear someone shouting, “I’m naught a fucking cawp” in a bad Boston accent, you know what movie they’re referencing. It won four out of the five Oscars it was nominated for. (Mark Wahlberg was the only actor to get a nomination for the film, and he lost out to Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine. Which, good. Fuck Mark Wahlberg.) We’re kind of okay with this keeping its statue, but let’s look at its competition.
What Else Was Nominated
Before Alejandro G. Iñárritu was winning Oscars making movies that use a bunch of crazy tricks like “continuous single shots” and “only filming in natural sunlight,” he was making Oscar-nominated films with multiple story arcs and a purposefully confusing narrative structure. Though we will say, Babel, which follows multiple stories in Morocco, Japan, Mexico and America, was not incredibly well received by critics, only managing a 69% on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the lowest rated film in Iñárritu’s Death Trilogy (which included 21 Grams and Amores perros, which were 80% and 91% positive, respectively). This is that movie that your cinephile friend watches constantly finding little nuances each time, while your casual film fan just sits through it kind of…bored?
Letters from Iwo Jima (7.9)
Letters from Iwo Jima fascinates us. Mostly because we have no idea what to make of Clint Eastwood in 2006. Like, he released two films about the Battle of Iwo Jima in the same year. The first one, Flags of our Fathers told the story from the American side (though it largely dealt with the famous Iwo Jima flag raising picture). That got two nominations, for sound editing, and was received pretty lukewarmly (it lost money at the box office, and received a score of 73% on Rotten Tomatoes). Then, that same year, he released Letters from Iwo Jima, which was almost entirely filmed in Japanese (making it one of nine foreign language films to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, though it was not eligible for Best Foreign Language Film as it was produced in America), has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and made back three times its budget (admittedly, Letters cost only $19 million to make, while Flags cost $90). This is just such a weird glitchy thing in film history to us. We don’t know.
Anyway, it’s a very powerful war film, which poignantly depicted the losing side in a way to humanize all combatants in war. We’re honestly surprises Clint Eastwood directed this, because, like, he was old man Eastwood at this point. Old man Eastwood can be kind of a blunt instrument at times.
Little Miss Sunshine (7.8)
Oh man, just looking at that poster gets Sufjan Stevens songs dancing through your head, doesn’t it? This year’s token recipient of the “Oscar nomination for Best Picture for a comedy film, even though it’s got enough sad things to make it Oscar-y” nomination has everything you’d want from an Oscar comedy. A tortured gay man (fresh off a suicide attempt!). A character charmingly addicted to heroin. Someone finding out he’s color blind and it being a huge fucking deal apparently. The previously mentioned heroin addict dying from an overdose. A charming scene involving stealing a body. A small child dancing very inappropriately. Actually this movie was…man it’s pretty fucked up that this film is considered a comedy, huh?
Anyway, it was a bit of a sensation when it came out, grossing $100 million on an $8 budget, and winning Alan Arkin his only Oscar as a result. Despite us ragging on the ridiculous and/or dark shit that happens in this movie, so far it has managed to stand the test of time as a movie that’s actually fun to re-watch some dozen years later.
The Queen (7.3)
This wouldn’t have even been nominated if our Darkest Hour rule was in effect. Helen, sweetheart, we’re happy you won your long overdue Academy Award, but we don’t care about Queen Elizabeth’s reaction to Princess Diana’s death. Like, we care, but not “2 hour biopic” care, you know?
And the Revised Winner is…
We understand that The Prestige (48th all time), Pan’s Labyrinth (130th) and Children of Men all came out this year, we are not taking away Scorsese’s Oscar here. The Departed remains among the best films of Scorsese’s career, so this one stays put.
No Country for Old Men (8.1, 158th top rated movie all time)
Is there a reason people keep confusing No Country for Old Men with There Will Be Blood? Or are we the only ones who do that sometimes? We think it’s because each one has the wrong title. Like, There Will Be Blood seems like a better title for No Country for Old Men, and vice versa. They both were also moody, tension filled films driven by an iconic leading performance. In this case, Javier Bardem’s Oscar winning supporting turn as Anton Chigurh was menacing and haunting, and drove this nihilistic adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel to dizzying heights. It won four Oscars, also netting the Coen brother their first Directing win and their second Screenplay Oscar (after Fargo) and we’d probably list it as the second best Coen brother film, again after Fargo.
What Else Was Nominated
You know how Dunkirk came out, and they were like, finally a movie about the evacuation of Dunkirk that’s not boring? They were shading Atonement. Saoirse Ronan got an Oscar nomination at the age of 13 in this bummer of a movie. And, it is a bummer. Like, Saorise Ronan falsely accuses her sister’s boyfriend (James McAvoy) of rape, he gets arrested, eventually he dies of fucking sepsis in Dunkirk and the sister (Keira Knightley) drowns during the blitz, which is not normally how a bomb would kill you. Anyway, it won an Oscar for Best Original Score and strikes you as a film that would be long? Like, you’d assume this movie would run really long, but it’s only two hours, but that assumption says something doesn’t it?
The movie that made Ellen Page an A-list actress, and Diablo Cody the most sought after screenwriter in the industry. R…right? Right? Anyway, here’s this year’s token “Oscar comedy” (you thought we were joking about that “one comedy nomination allowed a year, so long as it hits on mature themes” thing but we were not). Teen pregnancy! Sassy kids! Eggos getting preggos! This is how the kids talk!
We actually still enjoy this movie, though after winning an Oscar for her screenplay off her “oh she used to be a stripper, but now she can write because those are apparently mutually exclusive talent sets!” origin story, Cody hasn’t really matched the wit and charm of her first film. Still, any time we can get a film with Michael Blooth and George Michael from Arrested Development together with Dwight from The Office and have that film get an Academy Award nomination, we’re in support of it.
Michael Clayton (7.3)
Just looking at the poster makes us tired. Like, we get that people like this legal thriller. It got 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. And we love us some Tilda Swinton, and we’re glad she got an Oscar nomination here. Like, we know it’s a fine movie, and oh yeah there’s car explosions in it and shit, but we all know this isn’t going to get the statue, and we’re tired, oh so tired. So let’s just move on to the next movie.
There Will Be Blood (8.1, 163rd top rated movie all time)
We’re going to go on a limb and say, though it’s most acclaimed film, There Will Be Blood is not the best film that Paul Thomas Anderson has done. Boogie Nights might be better, right? Or Magnolia? Don’t get us wrong, There Will Be Blood was masterful, but most of that comes from Daniel Day-Lewis putting forward one of the top five performances of all time, and also the stellar Cinematography which also won an Oscar this year. Otherwise, as a story goes, it’s kind of boring. “An asshole gets rich by finding oil, then he beats Paul Dano to death in his personal bowling alley.” Like, what are you more likely to remember, a concrete moment that drove the plot of this film, or the noise he makes after he’s all “I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE”?
And the Revised Winner is…
No Country for Old Men
As much as we want to give Paul Thomas Anderson an Oscar, No Country for Old Men was the right choice this year. There Will be Blood is a kind of boring movie that becomes a great movie because the cinematic equivalent of 1987-1988 Michael Jordan was playing point guard, but No Country for Old Men is a classic for a reason, friend-o.
Slumdog Millionaire (8.0)
Can we just say that we love this movie? We love it so hard. The way the stories interweave, the redemption arc of the brother, the kismet of the entire premise, we love all of it. When this movie came out, everyone in or staff rooted so hard for it to win, partly because we love Danny Boyle and the fact that he has a statue seems right and just in this crazy world. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about an Indian man who works at a call center playing the Indian version of Who Want’s to be a Millionaire (called Kaun Banega Crorepati, which translates to, and this is just a guess, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire) only guess what he had to grow up in the slums on his own after losing his mother and guess what he found and lost a young love but guess what he can find her through the show and guess what everything that happened to him in his life helps him answer all the questions. Guys, we love this movie so much, and we’re so scared that we’re going to take away its Oscar.
What Else Was Nominated
Ron Howard directed this, and continues his streak of “I didn’t assume that was the case, but now that you tell me that Ron Howard directed this, that makes sense.” It’s a dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate interviews between David Frost (played by the impeccable Michael Sheen) (no he’s not related to any of the other Sheens) and Richard Nixon (played by Frank Langella, also unrelated to the other Sheens, in his only Oscar nomination to date, which feels like it’s a typo). Almost every year we see a movie like this, one that seems custom built to be nominated for an Oscar without actually winning it. You’re not unseating our beloved Slumdog, Frost.
We’re invoking The Darkest Hour rule again. No Oscar nominations for biopics clearly designed to give the lead actor or actress an Oscar. Yes, congrats Sean Penn, it worked this time around, but don’t get greedy by trying to nab that Best Picture nomination.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (7.8)
Despite having previously directed classics such as Se7en and Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was the first film that David Fincher ever got nominated for. That’s surprising for a lot of reasons, including the fact that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is kind of a long boring movie that’s only saving grace is its kind of goofy concept, which itself came from an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. Like, can you think of anyone who has actually sat through the whole movie more than once? And no, people that are trying to date Brad Pitt don’t count. It’s a fine movie, but we’re also not at all surprised it ended up at just 72% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Reader (7.6)
“What do you want from me, Academy? What can I do to finally win a damn award? What, you want me to be a sexy Nazi? I can be a sexy Nazi, dammit!”
~Kate Winslet, shortly before filming The Reader.
Guys, this movie shouldn’t have been nominated. Kate Winslet 100% deserved her Oscar, but come on. It’s a movie that’s kiiind of trying to work the “feel sorry for the death camp guard” angle, and…like, yeesh. Don’t do that. It sits at 61% on Rotten Tomatoes with a Metacritic score of 58 out of 100. So honestly, with all these nominations, it looks like Slumdog Millionaire, the sweet light of our eye, is safe and sound with their Oscar…
And the Revised Winner is…
The Dark Knight (9.0, 4th top rated movie all time)
Oh no! Dark Knight was THIS year!? NOOOO!
This one hurt a bunch, and there was a loud contingency demanding that Slumdog keep their Oscar. But this is literally the movie responsible for expanding how many movies can be nominated, and it’s probably the “best” super hero film if we interpret “best” to be “the kind of movie that would get an Oscar.” And, God, Heath Ledger’s joker. That performance was so good it pushed into cliché and then circled back into brilliant. There’s so much we can say about The Dark Knight… but we’re not going to. Because we’ve been writing this series long enough, and we’re a bit sore that Slumdog, which we still think was a pretty worthy winner, loses the Oscar this year.
But that also means…holy shit, we’re done. We…we’re done with this whole insane list. It was a wild ride, and it means absolutely nothing in the eyes of history, but there you have it. The official Oscar Winners, according to AFFotD from 1970 to 2009. Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re going to avoid watching movies for the next year to just, clear out our mind. And we are so sorry for all your beloved movies we robbed. If it’s any consolation, we saved the last entry to rob ourselves. So that’s something.