The Oscars stand for a major recognition of cinema for both film buffs and industry insiders and are among the most prestigious and popular awards shows in the film industry, although they are mostly for English-language films. As the 95th Academy Awards came to an end, it’s worth taking a look back at the previous ten years’ Oscar winners, from 2013 to 2023, and rating them based on their cinematic quality to see how they stack up against each other. This list will highlight the films in terms of the lasting impression they had, and as always, some winners were completely deserving, and some were less so, and they may not pass the test of time. Thus, the following is a ranking of the Best Film Oscar winners from 2013 to 2023:
10. The Green Book (2018)
This is not only the worst film among the Oscar winners of the past ten years, but it can also be considered to rank among the worst Oscar winners of all time. It’s hardly been five years, yet “The Green Book” (2018) has been consigned to irrelevance and is quite an unremarkable (let’s say very average) display in terms of filmmaking and also the handling of the subject matter of racism, that too in the 1960s USA. Even among the nominees, there remained a way better and more relevant film that did not sugar-coat the harsh reality of racism with “BlacKkKlansman” (2018); Furthermore, it is still astonishing how, for heaven’s sake, this film won over “Roma” (2018) or even “The Favourite” (2018), and other than that, it could barely hold a candle to the other seven nominees. This film showcased the Academy’s tendency of choosing films that tend towards sentimental crowd-pleasers.
9. CODA (2021)
This winner almost feels like it’s won a Nobel Peace Prize Award, as it seems to be recognized for aspects other than filmmaking, failing in cinematic terms, especially when compared to its fellow nominee, “The Power of the Dog” (2021). While “CODA” (2021) is not a bad film, it is not deserving of the Best Picture award. It is a sweet film with a strong emotional core, and its heart is in the right place. However, “CODA” (2021) manages to be an important film mainly from a socially inclusive point of view, primarily due to its use of sign language and the inclusion of deaf actors playing deaf characters. This is a heartwarming comedy that manages to put a smile on one’s face, handled with care by filmmaker Sian Heder and boosted by an excellent performance from its ensemble cast, with a show-stopping turn from Troy Kotsur, who deservedly won Best Supporting Actor. While “CODA” (2021) may not excel in all areas of filmmaking, its impact on inclusivity and representation cannot be ignored. It is a joy to watch and celebrates the beauty of diversity.
8. The Shape Of Water (2017)
On a positive note, the win for “The Shape Of Water” (2017) somewhat sees the Academy acknowledging a film that explores the terrain of dark fantasy and magic realism, beyond finally recognizing the brilliant and visionary mind of Guillermo Del Toro. However, it is yet another example of a great filmmaker winning an Oscar for a film that may not be their best work. Compared to Del Toro’s other films, “The Shape of Water” (2017) falls short in some aspects, but it still stands as a strong and unique vision. The film’s brilliant world-building and fable-like quality make it quite interesting and evocative. Additionally, the talented cast deserves special mention, particularly Doug Jones, for his exceptional portrayal of the Amphibian Man, imbuing it with emotion, innocence, and humanity.
7. Spotlight (2015)
Based on real events, “Spotlight” (2015) works on multiple levels, especially being a very tautly written film depicting a hard-hitting tale, along with being among the most relevant and important films of recent times. The film sheds light on the numerous abuses of authority by the Roman Catholic Church regarding their involvement in the widespread sexual abuse of children and their systematic cover-up. Although that year also saw the mind-blowing “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015), which is definitely among the best films of the decade, this Tom McCarthy directorial definitely got the upper hand due to it shedding light on such a sensitive subject matter. Overall, “Spotlight” (2015) remains quite a thought-provoking film that can be very emotional and heart-wrenching at times, with a very empathetic lens along with a very nuanced account of investigative journalism and the process of uncovering the truth.
6. Nomadland (2020)
“Nomadland” (2020) is a remarkable film that perfectly blends the grammar of both films and documentaries. It pans out brilliantly as a display of life translated on the big screen, with some exceptional performances from its lead, Frances McDormand. “Nomadland” (2020) also acts as a critique of the capitalistic nature of the country through the character-driven journey of Fern, a woman in her sixties who after experiencing financial ruin during the Great Recession, sets out on a journey through the American West while residing in a van. The approach taken to film this by director Chloe Zhao makes it a unique and immersive watch that perfectly captures the essence of the journey of a modern-day nomad in the vast landscapes of the USA, with a very subdued and meditative approach that, even after the film is over, stays with the viewers. Other than that, it also manages to be an exceptional exploration of themes related to community, resilience, and the search for meaning in this rapidly changing world.
5. Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)
The most recent winner marks the celebration of the love and joy of cinema along with it being a highly innovative and one-of-a-kind cinematic experience. While nowadays a majority of large-scale action entertainers depend on and create hype around the highly bloated budget, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” (2022) surpasses all these overproduced franchise films, that too with a relatively minute budget, and excels in all aspects, be it the writing, direction, technicalities, or even the brilliant action set-pieces crafted for the film. Furthermore, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” (2022) is also elevated by the performances of its highly talented cast, consisting mainly of Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Stephanie Hsu. The director-writer duo of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert should be given a major heap of praise for creating such a unique film that hits every mark, be it evoking a diverse range of emotions or handling a variety of genres packed together for a highly inventive film.
4. 12 Years A Slave (2013)
“12 Years a Slave” (2013) is based on the 1853 memoir of the same name by Solomon Northup and revolves around his journey from being a free African-American man to being abducted and sold into slavery. Filmmaker Steve McQueen does not sugar-coat or shy away from displaying a gritty and disturbing portrayal with his heart-wrenching tale of slavery and the inhumane atrocities faced by its victims, brilliantly brought out to the screen by great performances from an ensemble cast consisting of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, and the show-stealing act of Lupita Nyong’o. “12 Years a Slave” (2013) is not an easy watch, and a major nod should be given to the strong and hard-hitting voice of McQueen, who perfectly depicts the brutality and dehumanizing nature of such a shameful past.
3. Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance) (2014)
Although Alejandro González Iñárritu won back-to-back Oscars, his best film still remains his 2000 debut, “Amores Perros”. He also had to wait quite a while until his first Oscar win with “Birdman,” a film that finally won him major accolades. The film is a technical marvel and does the mammoth task of creating the illusion of a single-take film. Although some may consider it gimmicky, this is not an easy feat to achieve, and on a personal level, it helps to create a sense of intimacy and connect with the protagonist. The film also marks the return of Michael Keaton with a brilliantly unpredictable and deep performance that also fits his real-life persona as he plays the role of a washed-up actor who once played a popular superhero. “Birdman” (2014) is a masterful film that brilliantly challenges its audience to engage with complex themes and ideas while also offering a thrilling and visually stunning cinematic experience. Additionally, it is a testament to the power of cinema to both reflect and shape our understanding of the world around us.
2. Moonlight (2016)
Even though the night of its win will always be remembered for the Best Picture mix-up, where the award was mistakenly announced for a fellow nominee, “La La Land” (2016), the victory of the A24-backed film “Moonlight” (2016) deserves acknowledgment as a celebration of independent cinema. “Moonlight” (2016) showcases sheer brilliance in filmmaking, and Director Barry Jenkins deftly presents one of the finest character studies and explorations of recent times, dealing with subtle themes of identity, gender, and masculinity. Despite being one of the lowest-budget films to win an Oscar, the technical achievements are magnificent and further enhance the film’s quality. Additionally, the journey of the central character, Chiron, from childhood to adulthood is a masterclass in filmmaking through visual motifs and a strong command of cinematic language and craft.
1. Parasite (2019)
Bong Joon-ho’s masterpiece “Parasite” (2019) not only holds the title of the Best Picture Award winner of the past decade but also ranks among the greatest films in Oscar’s history to take home the Best Picture Award. Its win was a ground-breaking moment as it was the first foreign language film to win this award, shattering linguistic and cultural barriers. This film exhibits the artistry of filmmaking at its finest with exceptional performances, masterful direction, a compelling script, and impeccable technical aspects. The storytelling of “Parasite” (2019) is both conventional and uniquely original, satisfying both critics and audiences with its thrilling twists and unpredictable turns. However, some may question the Academy’s treatment of foreign language films and the delayed recognition of Bong Joon-ho’s exceptional filmography, which includes his career-best film, “Memories of Murder” (2003). Nevertheless, “Parasite” (2019) remains a cinematic triumph, showcasing the brilliance of Bong Joon-ho’s visionary mind and the power of filmmaking and unity through the common language of cinema.
Based on the above-mentioned list, it’s worth mentioning that the list is subjective, and people can have their own take, and these ten films are also reflections of the people voting, and an Oscar win is no proof of great cinematic ability or an indicator that the winner will pass the test of time, with numerous previous examples of non-Oscar awardees that nobody gives a damn about anymore.