Ranking the 2000s Best Picture Winners

10.) A Beautiful Mind (2001)
It’s just another biopic in my opinion. The film is emotionally involving but not in the least bit challenging or unique. Crowe and Connelly give strong performances, but Best Picture? Really?

9.) Gladiator (2000)
This is a great example of summer entertainment. It’s a lot of fun, and the battle scenes are extraordinarily choreographed. It’s a dramatic lightweight, and a little heavy-handed, but enjoyable enough nonetheless.

8.) Crash (2005)
Oh my, how people were mad when this one took the prize. The nominees that year were strong, and Crash wasn’t the best film by a long shot, but it’s still an affecting, albeit overwrought, ensemble piece.

7.) The Hurt Locker (2009)
The defending champion suffers a little from its lack of narrative arc, but the way it depicts modern warfare is fascinating and frightening. Kathryn Bigelow’s direction is superb, and Jeremy Renner turns out a dynamite lead performance.

6.) Chicago (2002)
One of those films I could watch over and over again, Rob Marshall’s screen adaptation of the hit musical is a blast. The songs are catchy, the direction is assured, and the costumes, set design, etc. are all fantastic.

5.) No Country for Old Men (2007)
“Mainstream” isn’t a word I’d use to describe the Coens or this film, yet it overcame its eccentricity to win a handful of Oscars, including Best Picture. It’s a film that keeps you at a distance, but it’s a brilliant study and absolutely one-of-a-kind.

4.) Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
This is a deliriously joyful film, which makes it easy to overlook just how masterful Danny Boyle’s direction is. The leads are perfectly cast, and the score is one of the best of the last decade.

3.) Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Eastwood at absolute top of his game. This film is dark and kind of depressing, but it’s ultimately life-affirming. Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman deserved their gold statues, but once again, it’s the wily veteran, and his steadfast direction, that steals the show.

2.) The Departed (2006)
What I love most about this film is that it weaves a very complicated tale and never takes any shortcuts in reaching its brilliant conclusion. The twists and turns really serve the story, rather than the other way around, and Scorsese and DiCaprio manage to help each other turn out career-best work (or at least close to it).

1.) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
After two phenomenal films, it was hard to believe Peter Jackson could end his trilogy on a high note, but he does. It’s the best of the trilogy and one of the best films of the last decade. The word “epic” doesn’t do it justice, but I think the total sweep at the Oscars (winning all 11 awards it was nominated for) says it all.

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