What is a “Best Picture?” The award gets handed out every year, and our culture has collectively decided it’s a worthy title, one that means said film is agreeably very good, maybe even great. But taking a closer look at the various films that have won the Best Picture Oscar over the years, it’s clear the award doesn’t automatically equal longevity, or even quality. A Best Picture is a moment, a snapshot in time. Certain wins make sense given what was going on in the world during that particular year, certain wins make no sense at all in hindsight, and certain wins are just downright deserved.
All of this to say that a Best Picture win doesn’t necessarily mean that said film is the best motion picture of that particular year, and doesn’t even guarantee that it’ll be the movie most remembered in 10 or 20 years time. The English Patient won Best Picture in 1996, but also nominated that year was Fargo, a film that history has clearly favored.
And this is important to remember as we reach the end of the current Oscar season. Which is why, ahead of the ceremony, I’ve decided to take a look back at the last 10 winners of the top honor and rank them, from worst to best. Are these the 10 best films of the last decade? Of course not. But they’re the 10 films that won Best Picture, for better or worse, and I think looking back on the various winners provides some much needed perspective to the Oscars in general. As becomes abundantly clear, not all Best Picture winners are created equal.
So before the Academy anoints a new honoree, let’s take a look at its most recent company.