It’s that time of year again. Oscar night is right around the corner, and the race for Best Picture has never been hotter. As the prognosticators attempt to decipher what the various guild awards mean, there’s no telling which way the 90th Academy Awards will go. So instead of breaking down what will win the night’s biggest prize, we’ll take a look at which film is most deserving of being named 2017’s best film.
To be fair, all nine of this year’s Best Picture nominees are ambitious and intriguing on some level. What follows is merely a completely subjective breakdown of the relative quality of this particular crop of films, taking into account personal preference and whether they are truly worthy of representing the year in cinema. Without further delay, let’s jump right into this year’s Best Picture ranking.
9. Darkest Hour
No one is disputing the strength of Gary Oldman’s leading performance as Winston Churchill in this Joe-Wright-directed historical drama. Indeed, the film’s success hinges on his work. The tale of Churchill grappling with the decision to take Great Britain into World War II is certainly compelling, especially in a time when political leaders tend to divide more than they inspire. Still, Darkest Hour doesn’t represent the kind of cinematic achievement worthy of claiming the Best Picture statuette, not when one considers its competition.
8. Phantom Thread
Few filmmakers are as beloved by hardcore cinephiles as Paul Thomas Anderson. So news of a reunion between the auteur and his There Will Be Blood star Daniel Day-Lewis had the industry giddy with anticipation. Even so, Phantom Thread is one of the more divisive films nominated this year, with a vocal minority decrying its misogyny and warped take on romance. Day-Lewis is, of course, outstanding — as are co-stars Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville — but, as memorable as its Jonny Greenwood score is, the film is ultimately too problematic to be crowned this year’s victor.
Fans of films like Memento, Inception and The Dark Knight trilogy have been waiting for director Christopher Nolan to get his long-awaited Best Director nomination. This World War II drama — which actually shares some story points with Darkest Hour — finally earned him a spot on the shortlist. Although the technical precision and narrative ambition of Dunkirk are worthy of praise, the film’s distant, clinical approach to a real-life historical event undermines Nolan’s mission to draw audiences into the experience. Instead, he creates a film that is a marvel to look at but lacks any true emotionality.
6. Call Me By Your Name
Critics have been swooning over this love story since its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival last year. The sumptuous Italian setting and powerful lead performance by Timothée Chalamet are definite highlights, as director Luca Guadagnino’s film details the forbidden love between a teenage boy and his father’s research assistant. Yet, Call Me By Your Name doesn’t manage to convey the central romance as convincingly as it presumes. So, despite the strength of this production and an unforgettable final shot, the film falls short of Best Picture material.
5. The Post
A film centering on the war between journalism and government has never felt more timely than it does right now. For that alone, The Post feels like a particularly easy pick for Best Picture. Too easy, in fact. Steven Spielberg continues his love affair with history and coaxes standout performances from Oscar winners Tom Hanks and (especially) Meryl Streep. But the film treads too much similar thematic ground with recent Best Picture winner Spotlight to become our favorite to win this year. Besides, everyone involved has already proven their mettle in superior films, making The Post feel like a footnote to their careers.
4. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
This black comedy/drama about vengeance and forgiveness is heavily tipped to be a favorite for Best Picture, in large part due to the powerful performances by Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri provokes complex discussion as much as it seeks to entertain and, in many ways, feels like the best crystallization to date of writer/director Martin McDonagh’s specific skill set. It remains to be seen if it is on the road to winning this year’s top prize. Regardless, its vision of a messy, imperfect world and the people scrambling to make sense of it all resonates.
3. Lady Bird
The conversation behind Lady Bird has continually praised the film’s specificity in detailing a teenage girl’s (Saoirse Ronan) coming-of-age and especially her complicated relationship with her mother (Laurie Metcalf). Indeed, Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut has an air of authenticity to it that helps the angst and the humor universally translate to all viewers, even if they aren’t growing up in Sacramento. Films about high school are usually either riddled with lame gags and cliches or wind up feeling too melodramatic and self-serious. Lady Bird avoids both extremes with an honest tale of how much adolescence can suck.
2. Get Out
Aside from perhaps Wonder Woman, no other 2017 release proved to be as culturally potent or phenomenally successful as this directorial debut from writer/director Jordan Peele. Part biting racial satire, part chilling horror film, Get Out plays hop-scotch with so many different genre conventions that the fact that it works at all is a miracle. Now consider just how well this intricate, expertly crafted film pulls it all off and rewards repeat viewings. Daniel Kaluuya delivers a breakout performance, and Peele instantly establishes himself as one of the strongest filmmakers working today. But can it snag Best Picture?
1. The Shape of Water
Sure, it may feature a romance between a mute woman and an Amphibian Man, but director Guillermo del Toro’s tribute to monster movies has far more on its mind than simply an interspecies love connection. In fact, The Shape of Water wholeheartedly embraces passion in all its forms, denouncing the malaise isolation breeds. The film’s marriage of Gothic horror and timeless romance is driven not by what separates us but by how we are the same. Right now, that’s a message we sorely need, and in that way, The Shape of Water perfectly encapsulates the year 2017. The very definition of a Best Picture.
Which Best Picture nominee do you want to see win this year’s top award? Let us know in the comments section below!