96th Academy Awards Best Picture Nominees Ranked

The 96th Academy Awards are just a few days from now, taking place on March 10th. The celebration for 2023 films includes a fixed ten nominees for Best Picture again this year. The lineup is pretty strong and contains a variety of films with different genres and styles. Many of these also made it onto my best of the year list. Here is how I rank the ten Best Picture nominees from my least favorite to favorite. 

10. Barbie

Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is her least interesting film as a director so far, but it’s still a really fun take on the popular Mattel dolls. The cast is energetic (Ryan Gosling is a standout as Ken) and the production design and costumes are often dazzling. The female-powered story is welcome and entertaining, but the dialogue can get heavy-handed at times with its aim at the patriarchy. Grade: B+ (7.7/10)

9. American Fiction

American Fiction is a smart and hilarious directorial debut from Cord Jefferson. The always-reliable Jeffrey Wright gives one of the best performances of his career as Monk Ellison, a black author who just wants to be taken seriously without having to exploit African American struggles. Jefferson’s script is full of wit and heart. Sterling K. Brown is the MVP as Monk’s brother Cliff. Grade: B+ (8/10) 

8. Anatomy of a Fall

Sandra Hüller is magnificent in the French courtroom drama Anatomy of a Fall, playing an author who may or may not have killed her husband. Director Justine Triet keeps the film gripping as new details emerge in the court case. The film is a tad too long at 152 minutes, but Hüller’s performance is impossible to look away from. Grade: A- (8.3/10) 

7. Maestro

Maestro is an excellent film despite what some corners of Film Twitter might have you believe. Writer-director-star Bradley Cooper’s passion project exploring the relationship of conductor Leonard Bernstein and his wife Felicia (Carey Mulligan) is full of intimate moments and powerhouse acting. Those wanting more of a focus on Bernstein’s music might be disappointed, but as a relationship drama Maestro excels. Grade: A- (8.5/10) 

6. Poor Things

Poor Things is a wild Yorgos Lanthimos film with a stunning turn by Emma Stone. Her performance as Bella Baxter is one for the ages as the Frankenstein monster-esque character finds her place in the world. Mark Ruffalo is a hoot as well as a man who seeks Bella’s attention. Lanthimos’ film is colorful and very weird, and it made me think of both Stanley Kubrick and Terry Gilliam films while watching it. Grade: A- (8.5/10) 

5. Past Lives

Celine Song’s debut film Past Lives is a beautiful and mature look at a what-could-have-been relationship between childhood friends. Greta Lee and Teo Yoo are remarkable in the lead roles, both giving subtle and moving performances throughout. The whole film has emotionally rich scenes, but it is the ending that has stuck with me the most. Grade: A- (8.7/10) 

4. The Holdovers

“Wonderful” is the first word that popped into my mind after seeing The Holdovers. It’s a warm and funny holiday drama from Alexander Payne with a trio of great performances from Paul Giamatti, Dominic Sessa, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph. The film not only takes place in 1970, but it has the feel of a terrific ‘70s film as well in a Hal Ashby sort of way. Grade: A- (8.7/10) 

3. Killers of the Flower Moon

Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon looks at a chapter in American history where Osage people were killed in 1920s Oklahoma after becoming rich from oil. It’s a sweeping crime drama that unfolds over 206 minutes, and yet I never felt bored watching it. The entire cast is great, with Robert De Niro giving his best performance in decades as the evil William Hale. Scorsese continues his amazing late-career run of films with Killers of the Flower Moon. Grade: A (9/10) 

2. Oppenheimer

The frontrunner to win the Best Picture Oscar is a deserving choice. Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer is a thrilling and thought-provoking biopic that explores the creation of the nuclear bombs during WWII and how it affected the title character’s life. Cillian Murphy is brilliant in the lead role and he is surrounded by exceptional supporting performers. Nolan and his technical team are also firing on all cylinders. Grade: A (9/10) 

1. The Zone of Interest

The Zone of Interest was my pick for the best film of 2023. It’s a significant achievement from Jonathan Glazer, taking a different angle in looking at the Holocaust by showing how a Nazi and his family live comfortably just over the wall from Auschwitz. The fly on the wall filming approach, harrowing sound design, and much more make The Zone of Interest a unique experience. Masterful filmmaking. Grade: A+ (9.7/10)

Written by
Daniel Rester is a writer for the We Live Film portion of We Live Entertainment. He is a Southern Oregon University alumnus and has a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in Communication (Film, Television, and Convergent Media) and Emerging Media and Digital Arts. He has been involved with writing and directing short films for years. Rester also won 2nd place in the Feature Screenplay Competition in the 2015 Oregon Film Awards for his screenplay "Emma Was Here," which is currently in post-production and will be Rester's feature directorial debut.

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