The Academy Awards is by far the highest honor one can receive in the world of cinema. The prestigious awards ceremony nominates actors, directors, producers, writers, costume designers, composers, and other creatives in the industry each year to be recognized for their brilliant accomplishments in film. In fact, this year Academy Awards nominations were recently announced. Out of all 24 categories, the biggest award of the night is that of Best Picture. A culmination of things goes into choosing Best Picture nominees, but contenders must show excellence across themes and narratives, creative leadership, industry access, and audience development.
The amount of great cinema created in the 2000s is extensive and there are so many films that are eligible for winning Best Picture in any given year. The ten films that did end up winning the Oscar include American Beauty (2000), Gladiator (2001), A Beautiful Mind (2002), Chicago (2003), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2004), Million Dollar Baby (2005), Crash (2006), The Departed (2007), No Country for Old Men (2008), and Slumdog Millionaire (2009). Here’s where every Best Picture Oscar winner of the 2000s ranks.
Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere star in the 2002 Miramax-produced film Chicago. What makes this movie a unique Best Picture winner is that it’s a musical. The most common genre we see win and get nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards almost always falls into the category of drama, crime, and romance. Besides Best Picture, Chicago also took home the Oscars for Best Supporting Actress (for Zeta-Jones), Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Production Design.
Russell Crowe gives one of the greatest performances of his career in the 2000 adventure / drama Gladiator. The film was a huge success from the start, earning over $ 460 million at the box office. Even twenty-two years after Gladiator was released, it is still considered an epic must-watch and major accomplishment in the world of cinema.
8 Slumdog Millionaire
Slumdog Millionaire stars the incredibly talented Dev Patel who has gained major critical acclaim over the years. The actor’s most recent work consists of the 2016 drama Lion directed by Garth Davis and the 2021 fantasy / adventure The Green Knight from director David Lowery. Slumdog Millionaire is an unforgettable film that was nominated for a total of eight Academy Awards, winning seven.
7 American Beauty
Sam Mendes is the brilliant director and mastermind behind the romance / drama American Beauty. Mena Suvari, Kevin Spacey, Thora Birch, and Wes Bentley give great performances and their natural chemistry onscreen is amazing. From the cinematography to the screenplay, there are so many reasons to watch this film. Not only is American Beauty a great piece of cinema, it is arguably Sam Mendes’ best movie of all time as he won the Academy Award for Best Director for his work on the film.
6 A Beautiful Mind
Some of the best films are the simplest: no crazy special effects or epic adventure scenes, but instead real-life struggles that we can all relate to in one way or another. A Beautiful Mind is a story of self-discovery that takes us on a journey of success, heartbreak, and mental health struggles. Russell Crowe stars in the film as John Nash, a mathematical genius whose life takes an unexpected turn at the height of his career. Ron Howard won Best Director at the Oscars for his work on the film, in addition to his Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (for Jennier Connelly), and Best Adapted Screenplay wins.
5 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
To say The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King stole the show at the 76th Academy Awards is an understatement. The three-hour and 30 minute epic adventure / fantasy received twelve Oscar nominations and won in eleven categories including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, and Best Film Editing just to name a few. All three movies in the film series are incredible and definitely worth the watch.
4 No Country for Old Men
Javier Barden is one of the most talented actors working today and his performance in No Country for Old Men is proof of that. He stars in the crime / drama alongside the talented Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin who play Sheriff Ed Tom Bell and Llewelyn Moss, respectively. The Coen brothers are masters at their craft, creating compelling work time and time again that is so unique to them. From their first film Blood Simpleto the incredible Academy Award-winning crime / drama Fargoand No Country for Old Men each one of Joel and Ethan Coen’s projects is better than the next.
3 The Departed
The Departed follows an undercover cop in Boston, Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) who is attempting to get information on the head of the mob Frank Costello, played by the one and only Jack Nicholson. Simultaneously, Costello has one of his most trusted men Colin Sullivan infiltrate the police department and report back to him on their activity. Martin Scorsese does an incredible job with every film he works on, but The Departed was such a success that, in addition to its Best Picture win, it finally earned Scorsese his long-overdue Academy Award for Best Director.
Although Crash may not get talked about as much as some other Best Picture winners, it’s an incredible film with a heartbreaking and extremely powerful screenplay. The film deals with race, stereotypes, and imbalances of power that are very much prevalent in our world today. Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Thandiwe Newton, Brendan Fraser, and Terrence Howard star in the 2004 drama. What makes Crash so powerful is that while the viewer is watching the film, we are reminded that incidents and injustices like this are happening around us every day.
1 Million Dollar Baby
Clint Eastwood is a brilliant director who has been involved in some of the most legendary works of cinema. His career is beyond impressive, and he has offered the industry so much over the years. Million Dollar Baby is one of the many gifts Eastwood has given audiences and is arguably the best film he has ever directed. Hilary Swank gives a heartbreaking performance as Maggie Fitzgerald, the talented up-and-coming woman boxer whose career is cut short when tragedy strikes and leaves her paralyzed. Morgan Freeman plays Eddie, a former boxer and one of the most supportive people in Maggie’s life. This movie is amazing and received Best Picture, Best Actress (for Swank), Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor (for Freeman) at the Academy Awards in 2005.
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