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Ranking 20 Years of Best Picture Winners Based on Their Rotten Tomatoes Score

Anyone who knows movies knows the Oscars.

But, just in case you don’t…it’s a star-studded awards ceremony recognizing the votes cast by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for what they felt best exemplified excellence in cinema that year.

It recognizes achievements such as Best Director, Best Actor and Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score and Song, Best Writing, and more (like 4 hours long more).

But the highest honor goes to the evening’s final award for Best Picture.

Now, let’s meet the rest of America’s “Academy”: Rotten Tomatoes

The Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ takes reviews written by professional movie critics and uses them to give the movie an overall percentage. It also takes reviews written by audiences and gives a percentage of how many liked it.

It’s quick, easy, and an overall consensus without giving away too much.

Since the Oscars are just around the corner on February 26th, I decided to look back at the Best Picture winners of the past 20 years and rank them by their Rotten Tomatoes score to see which movie came out on top.  I also hit up the Top Critics review page for each film and included what was considered the top “Fresh” and top “Rotten” critic review.

So, let’s relive what Hollywood deemed the best films of the past 20 years. Add the ones you haven’t seen to your watch list and learn some cool Oscar facts and trivia about the classics!

Or you can just laugh at how much movie trailers have changed since 1997.  Enjoy!

20. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Score: 75%

Plot: After John Nash, a brilliant but asocial mathematician, accepts secret work in cryptography, his life takes a turn for the nightmarish.
Nominees: Gosford Park, In The Bedroom, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Moulin Rouge!
Fresh Review: Crowe’s interpretation of this tortured genius is textured and complex.  -Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune
Rotten Review: It’s not a crime for the script to gloss over the thornier aspects of Nash’s story, but the film seems totally unconvincing, squeezing a real life into a formula that’s simultaneously more palatable and less interesting. – Scott Tobias, AV Club 

Tying for last place is Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind. The film starred Russel Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, and Paul Bettany. It opened on December 21, 2001, which is prime Oscar season, and went on to gross over $313 million worldwide.

In addition to Best Picture, A Beautiful Mind also picked up golden statues for Best Director (Howard), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress (Connelly). Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly met during the making of this film and have been married for nearly 15 years.

19. Crash (2005)
Score: 75%

Plot: Los Angeles citizens with vastly separate lives collide in interweaving stories of race, loss and redemption.
Nominees: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night, and Good Luck, Munich
Fresh Review: Ultimately, Crash succeeds in spite of itself. Its color war starts to feel obvious and schematic. Its coincidences and cliches become like a pileup on the 405 freeway, but there it is — you find yourself rubbernecking and can’t manage to look away. –Joanne Kaufman, Wall Street Journal
Rotten Review: Crash is familiar enough that it slips easily into our film-watching faculty without any fuss, yet Haggis’ handling of it — his muscular belief in what he is doing — makes us hope that his next screenplay will be a bit less safe. –Stanley Kauffmann, The New Republic

Crash consisted of an ensemble cast including Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Michael Peña, and Ryan Phillippe.  The film was inspired by a real life carjacking that happened to it’s director Paul Haggis. It grossed $53 million domestically.

The film received six Academy Award nominations and was only the second film to ever win the Best Picture Oscar without having been nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Picture. This fact caused  an uproar of controversy when it won the Oscar over the highly favorited Brokeback Mountain, many believing because it was the “safer” choice content wise. In a 2015 re-polling, Academy members voted Brokeback over Crash  and even director Paul Haggis has admitted that it did not deserve to win Best Picture that year.

18. Gladiator (2000)
Score: 76%

Plot: When a Roman general is betrayed and his family murdered by an emperor’s corrupt son, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge.
Nominees: Chocolat, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Erin Brokovich, Traffic
Fresh Review: Gladiator is a triumph. On the surface, it’s a terrific yarn with strong, rounded characters, agonizing suspense and visceral thrills. Look closer and you’ll find rich historical themes, and a harrowing critique of violence as amusement. -Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune
Rotten Review:
 Gladiator is filled with brilliant filmmaking and features outstanding performances, but it’s neither profound enough nor pop enough to be great — it’s mournful, serious, beautiful and, finally, pointless. –Manohla Dargis, L.A. Weekly

Russel Crowe is one percent from his other Best Picture winner in 2000’s Gladiator. The film was directed by Ridley Scott and also starred Joaquin Phoenix and Connie Neilsen. The film was released relatively early in the year (May 5) to be an Oscar contender, but it ended up grossing over $457 million worldwide.

Crowe also scored an award for Best Actor in this film – a feat he missed out on for A Beautiful Mind. Throughout filming Crowe had broken bones in both his foot and hip and also injured both of his bicep tendons. After Gladiator’s success there were plans to have a sequel set 15 years in the future but due to creative differences it never came to be.

17. The English Patient (1996)
Score: 84%

Plot: At the close of WWII, a young nurse tends to a badly-burned plane crash victim. His past is shown in flashbacks, revealing an involvement in a fateful love affair.
Nominees: Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Secrets & Lies, Shine
Freshest Review: It took a filmmaker with Anthony Minghella’s vision to even attempt an adaptation of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient. And it took a filmmaker with Minghella’s talent to pull it off. –Jeff Strickler, Minneapolis Star Tribune
Rotten Review:
 It’s the sort of solemn production that is often mentioned as an Academy Award contender.This says less about the quality of the film than it does about its self-consciously lofty tone and its sense of self-importance. –Jay Boyar, Orlando Sentinel

Jumping up nearly 10% is The English Patient, a film that snagged nine Academy Awards out of their 12 nominations. It starred Ralph Finnes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Kristin Scott Thomas, Naveen Andrews, and Colin Firth. The film was based off of the book written by  Michael Ondaatje.

There were a few casting discrepancies prior to filming. Initially 20th Century Fox held the movie rights but wanted a well-known actress, particularly Demi Moore, to play the role of Katharine Clifton as opposed to Kristin Scott Thomas. When producers pushed back on this Fox eventually dropped out of the film and it was eventually picked up by Miramax. Bruce Willis was also offered Dafoe’s role but turned it down thanks to advice from his agent. He later said that he regretted the decision.

16. Chicago (2002)
Score: 86%

Plot: Murderesses Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart find themselves on death row together and fight for the fame that will keep them from the gallows in 1920’s Chicago.
Nominees: Gangs of New York, The Hours, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Pianist
Freshest Review: As sentimental as a plywood casket, Chicago has satirical bite and a mean wit that somehow never obscures its characters’ unlikely likability. – Keith Phipps, AV Club
Rotten Review:
 
The film has punch, but it never really conveys the delicious, redeeming sense that life can be lived on the hoof.         -Anthony Lane, New Yorker 

Chicago was the first musical to win Best Picture since Oliver! in 1968. It didn’t stop there though and collected five more Academy Awards throughout the night. The movie starred Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger, and Richard Gere in Jazz era Chicago. Zeta-Jones ended up taking home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress while Zellweger lost out on Best Actress.

Chicago was the highest grossing musical at the box office worldwide bringing in $306 million, but was later outdone by Mamma Mia! It’s one of the few films (including 8 Mile and Mouiln Rouge!) credited with the resurgence of musical films in the 21st century.

15. Titanic (1997)
Score: 88%

Plot: A seventeen-year-old aristocrat falls in love with a kind but poor artist aboard the luxurious, ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic.
Nominees: As Good as It Gets, The Full Monty, Good Will Hunting, L.A. Confidential
Freshest Review:
 
Cameron has devised a tender love story between Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio that serves as the main focus of Titanic’s storyline, and it works beautifully. –Paul Tatara, CNN
Rotten Review: Titanic is a good, often stunning movie caught in a three-and-a-half hour drift. –Desson Thomson, Washington Post

Titanic is just an iconic film. Even the worst review on Rotten Tomatoes had something good to say about it. It’s actually a little surprising that it’s coming in at number 15 on the Rotten Tomatoes scale, but alas it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It was the film that shot Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet into super stardom and became the first film to ever gross over $1 billion. It held onto that title until it was beaten by it’s same director, James Cameron with Avatar. After it’s re-release in theaters Titanic has grossed over $2 billion.

The film is tied with All about Eve (1950) and La La Land (2016)  for the most Academy Award nominations with 14. Titanic ended up taking home 11. Many believed that the movie would completely tank at the box office due to the fact that it was basically unprecedented back then for a film to make back a $200 million budget. Boy were they wrong.

14. American Beauty (1999)
Score: 88%

Plot: A sexually frustrated suburban father has a mid-life crisis after becoming infatuated with his daughter’s best friend.
Nominees:
The Cider House Rules, The Green Mile, The Insider, The Sixth Sense
Freshest Review:
 
American Beauty is deeply disturbing, acerbically funny, brilliantly acted, breathtakingly original and highly sophisticated. –Paul Clinton, CNN
Rotten Review:
 
Why, then, did I enjoy it so little? Because of its unrelenting self-importance: American Beauty wants us to know, in every shot at every turn, just how clever and mercilessly cutting it is. –Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

Released on September 17, 1999, American Beauty was never really considered to be a contender throughout awards season, especially after other promising films were released later in the year. It was thought of as the underdog in all the categories it was nominated in until it took home the Golden Globe for Best Picture.

The film, which was originally intended to be a play, starred Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening, both of whom were nominated for Best Actor and Actress. Spacey, who was almost passed up by Dreamworks for not being well-known enough at the time ended up winning the Oscar. Director Same Mendes ignored Dreamworks’ list of suggested actresses and offered the part of Carolyn to Bening without their knowledge…a move that clearly worked out for him.

13. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Score: 91%

Plot: A determined woman works with a hardened boxing trainer to become a professional.
Nominees:
 
The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Ray, Sideways
Freshest Review:
 
The movie is simultaneously conventional and subversive, broad and nuanced, shamelessly manipulative and genuinely moving, a cheap sucker punch and a work of real moral weight. –Christopher Orr, The Atlantic
Rotten Review:
 
The only differences between this new film and its many forebears are that the young hopeful is a woman and the finish is unforeseen. –Stanley Kauffmann, The New Republic

Taking us into the 90’s is Million Dollar Baby, a film that was wildly beloved by critics and audiences alike. The film was directed by and starred Clint Eastwood alongside Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman. In addition to Best Picture it also won Best Director for Eastwood, Best Actress for Swank, and Best Supporting Actor for Freeman. The screenplay was based off a collection of short stories called Rope Burns written by F.X. Toole and would go on to gross over $216 million.

There was a major plot twist in the movie that caused a “spoiler debate” for film critics who found it very difficult to review the film and discuss its merits without giving away major plot points.

12. The Departed (2006)
Score: 91%

Plot: An undercover cop and a mole in the police attempt to identify each other while infiltrating an Irish gang in South Boston.
Nominees: Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen 
Freshest Review:
 
What makes this a Scorsese film, and not merely a retread, is the director’s use of actors, locations and energy, and its buried theme. I am fond of saying that a movie is not about what it’s about; it’s about how it’s about it. –Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times
Rotten Review:
 
Not only is The Departed not among the best of Scorsese’s films; it’s not even the best version of this film.
-Christopher Orr, The Atlantic

There was quite a lot of star power involved in The Departed. Directed by Martin Scorsese and produced by Brad Pitt, the film starred Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Vera Farmiga, and Alex Baldwin. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards with one win going to Scorsese for directing. This is Leonardo DiCaprio’s second Best Picture film.

Scorsese has said before that he was surprised when The Departed won Best Picture. He never thought it would even be considered for awards due to the fact that it was such a crude and violent film.  This was the first pair up for Scorsese and Nicholson. DiCaprio has also said that his one-on-one scene with Nicholson (pictured above) was one of the most memorable moments of his life.

11. Birdman (2014)
Score: 91%

Plot: Illustrated upon the progress of his latest Broadway play, a former popular actor’s struggle to cope with his current life as a wasted actor is shown.
Nominees:American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash
Freshest Review:
 
Birdman, more than most, seems a film that deserves a second viewing, not only to admire the work of Keaton and his co-stars, but to delve into its many layers. –Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press
Rotten Review:
 
It’s a white elephant of a movie that conceals a mouse of timid wisdom, a mighty and churning machine of virtuosity that delivers a work of utterly familiar and unoriginal drama. –Richard Brody, New Yorker

Birdman was one of eight Best Picture nominees in 2014 and was up against some very stiff competition. It had just recently lost Best Motion Picture for a Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes to The Grand Budapest Motel, but the film managed to pull through at the Oscars. Birdman walked home with Best Director for Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Best Orginial Screenplay and Best Cinematography. The film grossed just over $102 million and was widely considered a career “comeback” for Keaton. Supporting actors included Ed Norton, Emma Stone, and Zach Galifinakis.

The movie was actually rehearsed and shot in sequence. Often times the actors had to film up to 15 pages of dialogue in one take. This led to Norton and Keaton keeping track of who messed up their lines the most. Stone ended up being the biggest line flubber while Galifinakis had the least. Although, Galifinakis played off his mistakes so well that a lot of them were kept in the film.

10. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Score: 92%

Plot: A young Shakespeare, out of ideas and short of cash, meets his ideal woman and is inspired to write one of his most famous plays.
Nominees: Elizabeth, Life Is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line
Freshest Review:
 
Sometimes it’s the small things that provide the biggest delights. That’s certainly the case with Shakespeare in Love, a tongue-in-cheek romance about the greatest romance ever written. –Jeff Strickler, Minneapolis Star Tribune
Rotten Review:
 
I just wish that the script wasn’t so insistent on showing off. Shakespeare, even when he kowtowed to the peasants, knew when to quit. –Paul Tatara, CNN

Bringing in our top 10 is Shakespeare in Love starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Finnes, Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, Ben Affleck, Tom Wilkinson, and Judy Dench. It was released in December 1998 and grossed nearly $290 million. In addition to winning Best Picture, Shakespeare in Love also got Paltrow an Oscar for Best Actress and Dench received one for Best Supporting Actress despite only having been on screen for about six minutes.

The film originally had Julia Roberts attached but she would only do the film in Daniel Day-Lewis was cast as Shakespeare. However, Day-Lewis was not interested and therefore Roberts dropped out in a move that potentially cost her an Oscar. There is also a decade long rumor saying that one day while at her then good friend Winona Ryder’s house, Paltrow discovered the script for Shakespeare in Love and asked to read it. Falling in love with it she decided to go for the part without telling Ryder. This decision ultimately ruined their friendship.

9. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Score: 92%

Plot: A Mumbai teen reflects on his upbringing in the slums when he is accused of cheating on the Indian Version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”
Nominees: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader
Freshest Review:
 
Boyle takes his wildly high-energy visual aesthetic and applies it to a story that, at its core, is rather sweet and traditionally crowdpleasing. –Christy Lemire, Associated Press
Rotten Review:
 
There are no surprises in this movie, and most people will be able to predict, within the first ten minutes, roughly how the last ten will pan out. -Anthony Lane, New Yorker

Slumdog Millionaire was considered the “sleeper hit” of 2008, but that didn’t stop it from winning eight Academy Awards out of ten nominations. It is one of eleven Best Picture winners to not have had any acting nominations. The film starred Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Madhur Mittal, Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan. Patel is currently nominated for an Academy Award for his role in Lion. 

Onscreen couple Dev Patel and Freida Pinto actually dated in real life for six years after the movie wrapped. While the film was a critical hit it did undergo a lot of controversy revolving around its portrayal of Indian society as well as how it treated some of its young actors.

8.  No Country for Old Men (2007)
Score: 93%

Plot: Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong and more than two million dollars in cash near the Rio Grande.
Nominees: Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood
Freshest Review: McCarthy’s ferocious tale gives the Coens room to unleash their cinematic gifts, but keeps them from wandering too far afield and losing themselves in the marshes of technical prowess or easy irony. –Christopher Orr, The New Republic
Rotten Review: The Coens’ typically superior filmmaking sustains the electrifying mood for most of the picture, but they are undone by being too faithful to the source novel by Cormac McCarthy. –Ray Bennett, Hollywood Reporter

Clocking in at 93% is the Coen Brother’s crticially acclaimed masterpiece, No Country for Old Men. The film starred Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin. It was based on the book of the same name written by Cormac McCarthy and was directed, produced, and written by Ethan and Joel Coen. In 2007 No Country for Old Men was included on critics top ten lists more than any other film and in 2016 it was voted as the 10th best film of the 21st century by critics around the world.

The film walked away with four Academy Awards including   Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Bardem) and Best Adapted Screenplay. Bardem’s win made him the first Spanish actor to ever win an Oscar. His ominous and notorious hairstyle for the film was chosen by the Coen’s and was inspired by a photo of a brothel patron taken in the 1970s.

7. The King’s Speech (2010)
Score: 95%

Plot: The story of King George VI of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch become worthy of it.
Nominees: Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone
Freshest Review:
 
The film is richly rooted, with splendid trappings, including pea-soup fogs. For all the pomp and protocol, it’s an intimate story about a scared man who must find his voice if he is to rise, in regal stature, above his epaulets. –David Elliott, San Diego Reader
Rotten Review:
 
Complacent middlebrow tosh engineered for maximum awards bling and catering to a nostalgia for the royalty we’ve never actually had to live with. –Ty Burr, Boston Globe

The King’s Speech, starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, and Guy Pearce opened at the Telluride Film Festival in September 2010. It scored over $414 million worldwide and took home four Academy Awards including Best Picture. Tom Hooper brought home Best Director, Colin Firth received Best Actor, and David Seidler won for Best Original Screenplay.

Writer David Seidler had a stammer growing up and was inspired by King George VI’s life story. When he was older he wrote to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (widow of King George VI) asking for permission to write a film based on his famous wartime speech. She responded and asked him to not do so in her lifetime as the memories were too painful. Seidler honored her request.

6. LOTR: The Return of the King (2003)
Score: 95%

Plot: Gandalf and Aragorn lead the World of Men against Sauron’s army to draw his gaze from Frodo and Sam as they approach Mount Doom with the One Ring.
Nominees: Lost in Translation, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Mystic River, Seabiscuit
Freshest Review:
 
The Return Of The King ultimately proves up to the series’ increasingly difficult task: making movies that echo legends, making legends that reflect life, and reconciling it all with the fact that both legends and lives all eventually meet their ends.
–Keith Phipps, AV Club
Rotten Review:
 Like all the other installments in the saga, The Return of the King is part of a good movie, but only mediocre on its own, full of awkward pauses and redundancies. –Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger

Directed by Peter Jackson and starring Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, and Cate Blanchett, the success of Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is pretty awesome. The film was the third and final installment in the trilogy based off of the second and third volumes of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The previous two LOTR movies had been nominated for Best Picture but never won making this win all the more sweet.

When it was released it quickly became one of the best box office successes of all time, becoming the second film to gross over $1 billion. It was later surpassed by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows – Part 2 in 2011. It was the highest grossing film of 2003 and in 2017 now holds spot number 14 on the list of highest grossing films of all time. It doesn’t stop there though. The film won all 11 of it’s Academy Award nominations and is currently holding the record along with Ben Hur and Titanic for the most Academy Awards won for a single film. It was also the first and still remains to be the only fantasy film to ever win Best Picture.

5. The Artist (2011)
Score: 96%

Plot: A silent movie star meets a young dancer, but the arrival of talking pictures sends their careers in opposite directions.
Nominees: The Descendants, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse 
Freshest Review:
 
In a time when movies often are sonic assaults, and meaning can be lost amid the clatter of explosions, gunshots and screeching cars, The Artist has an utterly beguiling purity. –Claudia Puig, USA Today
Rotten Review:
 
Ignores everything that’s fascinating and memorable about the silent-film era, focusing instead on a patchwork of general knowledge, so eroded of inconvenient facts that it doesn’t even qualify as a roman à clef. –Jamie N. Christley, Slant Magazine

There was some stiff competition in 2011 when The Artist won Best Picture, but it was a refreshing and well-deserved win for the silent black and white film. It was written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius and starred Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo. It was the first French film to ever win the Oscar for Best Picture and also picked up Best Director for Hazanavicius and Best Actor for Dujardin. Dujardin’s win made him the first French actor to win the award. The Artist is considered to be the most awarded French film in history.

The movie tried to stay as true to the time as possible. There was not a single zoom effect throughout the film because that technology did not exist during the time period. All dancing was performed by the actors themselves after extensive and time consuming rehearsals. Dujardin and Bejo rehearsed for their final dance number for five months. They were practicing almost every day in the same studio used for Singin’ In The Rain rehearsals by Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds.

4. Argo (2012)
Score: 96%

Plot: Acting under the cover of a Hollywood producer scouting a location for a science fiction film, a CIA agent launches a dangerous operation to rescue six Americans in Tehran during the U.S. hostage crisis in Iran in 1980.
Nominees: Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty
Freshest Review:
 
Ben Affleck doesn’t merely direct Argo, he directs the hell out of it, nailing the quickening pace, the wayward humor, the nerve-frying suspense. There’s no doubt he’s crafted one of the best movies of the year. –Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
Rotten Review:
 
Argo is just so-so. –Richard Corliss, Time Magazine

People loved Argo. They loved Ben Affleck’s directing. They loved the acting. And they loved the story, which was based off of a 2007 Wired article titled “The Great Escape: How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran” and The Master of Disguise written by CIA operative Tony MendezThe film was directed by and starred Ben Affleck alongside Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber, and Tate Donovan. It grossed over $232 million and became Affleck’s second Best Picture film (Shakespeare in Love being the first).

There was some mild controversy amid the films critical success regarding inaccuracies. One was how the film minimized the Canadian embassy’s efforts in the rescue. Another was how the film showed the Americans being turned away from the British and New Zealand embassies, which was not true. Affleck had asked the actors playing the American refugees to live in a house together for a week that decorated to reflect 1979 in order to get to know both each other and the time period better.

3. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Score: 96%

Plot: In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.
Nominees: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street
Freshest Review:
 
Other movies and books have gone here, but few so far and with such overwhelming clarity of purpose. –Ty Burr, Boston Globe
Rotten Review:
 
In its own saintly manner, it’s as exploitative as anything critics accused Django Unchained of being, minus Tarantino’s eye for idiosyncrasy and sense of humor. –Scott Marks, San Diego Reader

 

Steve McQueen’s period drama 12 Years a Slave was based off of Solomon Northup’s memoir of the same title and opened in theaters November 2013 to critical acclaim. The film had a lovely cast consisting of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, and Brad Pitt. It was produced by Pitt as well. It earned over $187 million at the box office and gave  Nyong’o a Best Supporting Actress win and McQueen a Best Adapted Screenplay win. McQueen became the first black director to have directed a Best Picture.

A lot of people gave Brat Pitt a hard time for casting himself in the “heroic” role of the film, but he claims that it was easier to receive funding if he was involved in some way. Chiwetel Ejiofor initially did not want to take on the role of Solomon Northup, but was told by McQueen that it could be “the role of an actors lifetime,” which helped change his mind.

2. Spotlight (2015)
Score: 96%

Plot: The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.
Nominees: The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room
Freshest Review:
 
A landmark film about investigative journalism and the year’s most thrilling detective story. Keaton and Ruffalo lead a cast of exceptional actors who could not be better or more fully committed. –Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
Rotten Review: The capable main actors don’t have much to do except chase leads around town and interview those willing to talk; there’s no depth given to these reporters. –Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

Last year’s Best Picture winner, Spotlight ranks the second highest on Rotten Tomatoes Best Pictures from the last 20 years and with good reason. It’s a remarkable and brave film that shed light on a taboo topic in a respectful and factually accurate way. Spotlight  is the second Best Picture winner for Michael Keaton and also starred Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Brian d’Arcy James, and Stanley Tucci. Tom McCarthy wrote and directed. The film brought in just over $88 million at the box office.

It was praised for being both factually and periodically accurate. The Catholic News Service reviewed the film and considered it a “generally accurate chronicle” of the Boston scandal. However, they did have have a few grievances about the film’s view of the Catholic Church. After the film won Best Picture L’Osservatore Romano, a Vatican newspaper, wrote in a column piece that the film was “not an anti-Catholic film.”

#1. The Hurt Locker (2009)
Score: 98%

Plot: During the Iraq War, a Sergeant recently assigned to an army bomb squad is put at odds with his squad mates due to his maverick way of handling his work.
Nominees: Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, Inglorious Bastards, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air
Freshest Review:
 
The Hurt Locker is a spellbinding war film by Kathryn Bigelow, a master of stories about men and women who choose to be in physical danger. –Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Rotten Review:
 
Often gripping at a straight thriller level, but increasingly weakened by its fuzzy psychology, Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker doesn’t bring anything new to the table of grunts-in-the-firing-line movies. –Derek Elley, Variety

So, we’ve made it to #1 spot! 2009’s The Hurt Locker currently holds the highest Rotten Tomatoes score out of all the Best Picture winners of the past 20 years with a nearly perfect score of 98%. The film stars Marvel’s current Hawkeye and Falcon, Jeremy Renner and Andrew Mackie in addition to Brian Geraghty, Christian Camargo, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, and Guy Pearce. It was directed  by Kathryn Bigelow who also won for Best Director. She had been competing against her ex-husband, James Cameron, who was nominated for Avatar.  Bigelow’s win for Best Director made her the first female to ever win the award, a title she still holds today.

Even though The Hurt Locker was beloved by both critics and audiences and was the second highest rated film of 2009, it is still the lowest-grossing Best Picture Oscar winner with $49 million. The film did receive a lot of criticism from veterans who claimed that it’s depiction of wartime conditions were often unrealistic and inaccurate. Combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and author, Brandon Friedman, shared on VetVoice, “The Hurt Locker is a high-tension, well-made, action movie that will certainly keep most viewers on the edges of their seats. But if you know anything about the Army, or about operations or life in Iraq, you’ll be so distracted by the nonsensical sequences and plot twists that it will ruin the movie for you. It certainly did for me.”

Despite it’s faults The Hurt Locker went on to win 90 out of its 154 award nominations in the 2009-2010 season and will remain to be the highest rated Best Picture winner on Rotten Tomatoes until a new cowboy comes to town…

Here is where our current Best Picture nominees stand on Rotten Tomoatoes:

Arrival – 94%
Fences – 95%
Hacksaw Ridge – 86%
Hell or High Water – 98%
Hidden Figures – 91%
La La Land – 93%
Lion –  87%
Manchester by the Sea – 96%
Moonlight- 98%

 

 

Sources:
Scores and Reviews- Rotten Tomatoes
Plots and Trivia- IMDB
Nominees and General Information- Wikipedia, IMDB

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Casey Perriccio

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Casey is a TV junkie currently living in Raleigh, NC. She studied Writing & Media Communication at James Madison University (go dukes!) and currently works in the pharmaceutical field. Constantly wanting to talk about television and learn more about her favorite shows led her to discovering the joy of recaps. From there, she combined her love of TV and writing to become a recapper for FanFest.