Ten years after the 2014 Academy Awards, we’re ranking all 9 Best Picture nominees from worst to best to see how well they’ve held up.
There’s no denying that this year’s Oscars have produced one of the greatest lineup of Best Picture nominees in a long, long time. It’s extremely rare for critics and audiences to be so united in their opinion that every single movie deserves its place on the list, with many critics pointing all the way back to 2014 for another example of the Academy making all the right choices when it comes to their Best Picture nominations. But have those nominations (and eventual winners) stood the test of time? With the benefit of ten years of hindsight, we’ve ranked all 9 nominees from worst to best – did the Academy make the right decision in the end?
9. American Hustle
(David O. Russell)
Despite finding itself at the bottom of this list, American Hustle was undeniably the biggest talking point at the 2014 Oscars ceremony for one specific reason: the film was nominated for a total of 10 awards, with nominees in all 4 of the acting categories. And yet, in a cruel twist of fate, the film went home completely empty-handed. The problem with American Hustle is that it relies on a very acquired taste: – the film is incredibly stylized and the onslaught of exaggerated performances can be distracting for audiences that aren’t totally on-board with O. Russell’s unique tone. There are plenty of fun scenes, and most of the comedy lands well in isolation, but American Hustle is ultimately too ambitious for its own good and never gives the audience a reason to get emotionally invested in this story.
8. Dallas Buyers Club
Dallas Buyers’ Club was another absolute juggernaut at the 2014 Oscars, finding itself nominated for 6 different awards and pushing both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto to victory in their respective acting categories. It’s an extremely powerful film that completely deserved all the attention it received, not least because of the importance of the story it tells and the respect and candour with which it tells it. The only reason it doesn’t quite achieve the greatness of its competition in Best Picture is because it’s mostly an acting vehicle: – the script and directing have moments of weakness that could’ve brought the film to its knees without McConaughey and Leto to captivate the audience from start to finish. Still, both actors were completely deserving of their victories despite the immense competition they faced.
Philomena is often forgotten among this excellent bunch of nominees because it’s not quite as flashy or memorable as its competition, but it accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do with confidence and conviction. It’s a much quieter drama that relishes the subtlety of its story and performances, guiding the audience through an emotional tale of grief, loss, and forgiveness that’s bolstered by Judi Dench’s heartbreaking turn as an ageing mother in search of her lost child. Philomena doesn’t take many risks with its story, nor does it change the game from a technical perspective – and while that’s probably why it’s often drowned out by the noise of the more memorable nominees, it shouldn’t distract from its own quiet success.
Alexander Payne is one of two directors whose films secured a Best Picture nomination at both this year’s ceremony with The Holdovers, and the 2014 ceremony exactly 10 years prior with Nebraska. The film tells the story of an older man who takes his son on a fruitless journey through the Midwest to cash in his winning lottery ticket, stopping in his old hometown on the way. Like the rest of Payne’s filmography, Nebraska isn’t a particularly plot-heavy project, but rather one that values the intricacies of its characters above all else. It’s an incredibly human story that raises poignant questions about family, ageing, and how the two concepts are so tightly linked. It’s easily the most sentimental and inherently human of the Best Picture nominees, but its slow pacing ultimately holds it back from greatness.
5. Captain Phillips
While most critics and audiences can agree that the previous four films make up the bottom tier of this incredibly strong lineup, the remaining projects could literally be ranked in any order and there would be strong arguments to back it up. Captain Phillips follows the crew of an American cargo ship that’s taken hostage by Somali pirates and forced to fight for their survival, with Tom Hanks in the lead role and newcomer Barkhad Abdi stealing the show with his Oscar-nominated villainous performance.
In a year when the majority of the nominees were either dramas or comedies, Captain Phillips really stands out as an intense, suffocating thriller that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats with sharp direction and shocking twists that just keep coming. Greengrass knows exactly how to make the most out of this true story, and he barely gives the audience a moment to breathe throughout the entire film, making it one of the most entertaining viewing experiences of the entire lineup.
4. 12 Years a Slave
Despite finding itself in fourth position on this list, that certainly doesn’t mean that 12 Years A Slave didn’t deserve to win the Oscar for Best Picture. On the contrary, McQueen’s film was the perfect choice to vote as the winner, not least because of how technically proficient and critically acclaimed it was, but also because of what its victory signified. It’s a universally important story that completely deconstructs America’s slavery narrative with a vulnerable, emotional look at this era of history from a totally new perspective. It also marked the first movie from a Black director to take home the industry’s highest prize, and it couldn’t have been for a more fitting project. Even today, 12 Years A Slave remains an arresting, biting commentary on the past and an even darker warning against our future.
3. The Wolf Of Wall Street
Despite the immense critical acclaim he’s gathered across the years, there’s no denying that Martin Scorsese has been incredibly unlucky at the Oscars in the past decade. Any of his recent movies would’ve been deserving winners of Best Picture, but they’ve all been released in years of unbelievably high competition: The Wolf of Wall Street was taken down by this phenomenal lineup, The Irishman was forced to battle against the likes of Parasite and 1917, and now it seems that Killers of the Flower Moon is going to fall to the mighty Oppenheimer.
But none of this takes away from Scorsese’s ability as a filmmaker, and he’s on top form with The Wolf of Wall Street, which is just as entertaining and comedic as it is tragic and thought-provoking. His command of story and character is utterly unrivalled, and despite the film’s extended runtime, each scene feels pointed to guide the audience through this complex narrative web without ever relinquishing control of his own themes and ideas. It’s truly one of his best, and in any other year, it could’ve easily found itself at the top of the ladder.
It’s easy to question exactly why we need an awards ceremony for something as subjective as movies – there’s no such thing as a ‘best’ film of the year, so what’s the point of an award that selects one? However, Gravity is one of the few projects of the past decade that genuinely feels like it changed the face of the industry with its innovative cinematography and technical advancements – the blood-pumping narrative and standout performances are really just bonuses. The way Cuarón directed this story is nothing short of magnificent, and the fact that it takes place essentially in real-time in space is the kind of cinematic evolution that the Oscars were made to celebrate. If 12 Years A Slave was the narrative standout of that year, then Gravity was certainly the technical one – as proven by its victories in the directing, cinematography, and editing categories to name a few.
In some ways, Her is the kind of movie that can only be fully understood and appreciated in retrospect. While it was beloved at the time, the relevance and importance of this story is something that’s only become totally clear in the years following. The way Jonze effortlessly navigates this story of love, technology, and finding humanity in an increasingly digital world is almost prophetic. The film becomes more and more relevant every year, with its commentaries on online dating, reliance on technology, and the impurity of relationships taking new forms as audiences watch it become reality in front of their very eyes.
Phoenix and Johannson give excellent performances (as does Amy Adams, whose nomination for American Hustle should’ve definitely been given for this instead), and the beautiful colour palette really helps bring this story to life in a way that’s only possible on the screen. It might not have taken home the final award, but Her is definitely the film that’s aged the best over the past 10 years.
The 2024 Oscars will take place on Sunday, March 10, 2024 at 7e|4p and air live on ABC and in more than 225 countries. Download our .pdf printable ballot sheet for the 2024 Oscars and make your predictions!