Movies

What’s The Best (And Worst) Recent Year To Sit Through Every Best Picture Oscar Nominee?

For the last 10 years, Academy Award completists and desperate procrastinators have flocked to AMC Theatres the Saturday before the Oscars for a movie marathon: every Best Picture nominee, played back to back to back to… you get the idea. This year, there are eight back’s, beginning with Brooklyn at 10:30 a.m. and ending at 5:10 a.m. the next day with The Martian. (It’s actually a smartly scheduled lineup, with the exception of Bridge of Spies at 2:25 a.m. Literally no one can watch that film at that time of day without falling asleep. It’s reported to turn everyone into your dad dozing on his recliner.)

I’ve seen all but one of this year’s nominees (Bridge of Spies), and Mad Max: Fury Road is already a regular fixture on HBO Now, so I’m skipping this year’s marathon. For anyone who’s behind, though, it’s a great idea and only costs $65, which is a lot cheaper than individually paying for eight tickets. But how does 2016 compare to last year, or 2007, or 1994? That’s what I set to find out: the best year since 2000 to watch every Best Picture nominee.

I did this two ways. First, the average Rotten Tomatoes score of the films (obviously, Rotten Tomatoes isn’t the perfect barometer for quality, but it’s a wide enough swath of reviews that it reveals something about how critics felt about a certain film at the time; that’s also why I only went back to 1990 — beyond that, Rotten Tomatoes gets shakier). Second, my personal opinion. What five, or eight, or nine, or even 10 nominees would I want to watch in a row? Spoiler: It’s not the Crash or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close years.

Let’s go through the nominees, with the average and individual RT ratings.

1990 (81.4%)

Awakenings (88%)
Dances with Wolves (82%)
Ghost (74%)
The Godfather Part III (67%)
Goodfellas (96%)

1991 (86.2%)

Beauty and the Beast (93%)
Bugsy (85%)
JFK (85%)
The Prince of Tides (73%)
The Silence of the Lambs (95%)

1992 (90.6%)

A Few Good Men (81%)
The Crying Game (97%)
Howards End (92%)
Scent of a Woman (88%)
Unforgiven (95%)

1993 (94.6%)

The Fugitive (96%)
In the Name of the Father (94%)
The Piano (90%)
The Remains of the Day (97%)
Schindler’s List (96%)

1994 (89.6%)

Forrest Gump (72%)
Four Weddings and a Funeral (95%)
Pulp Fiction (94%)
Quiz Show (96%)
The Shawshank Redemption (91%)

1995 (92.2%)

Apollo 13 (95%)
Babe (97%)
Braveheart (78%)
Il Postino: The Postman (93%)
Sense and Sensibility (98%)

1996 (89.6%)

The English Patient (84%)
Fargo (94%)
Jerry Maguire (85%)
Secrets & Lies (94%)
Shine (91%)

1997 (93%)

As Good as It Gets (86%)
The Full Monty (95%)
Good Will Hunting (97%)
L.A. Confidential (99%)
Titanic (88%)

1998 (85%)

Elizabeth (82%)
Life Is Beautiful (80%)
Saving Private Ryan (92%)
Shakespeare in Love (92%)
The Thin Red Line (79%)

1999 (84%)

American Beauty (88%)
The Cider House Rules (71%)
The Green Mile (80%)
The Insider (96%)
The Sixth Sense (85%)

2000 (82.4%)

Chocolat (63%)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (97%)
Erin Brockovich (84%)
Gladiator (76%)
Traffic (92%)

2001 (84.2%)

A Beautiful Mind (75%)
Gosford Park (86%)
In the Bedroom (93%)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (91%)
Moulin Rouge! (76%)

2002 (86.8%)

Chicago (86%)
Gangs of New York (75%)
The Hours (81%)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (96%)
The Pianist (96%)

2003 (87.8%)

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (95%)
Lost in Translation (95%)
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (85%)
Mystic River (87%)
Seabiscuit (77%)

2004 (87.6%)

The Aviator (87%)
Finding Neverland (83%)
Million Dollar Baby (91%)
Ray (81%)
Sideways (96%)

2005 (84.6%)

Brokeback Mountain (87%)
Capote (90%)
Crash (75%)
Good Night, and Good Luck (93%)
Munich (78%)

2006 (87.8%)

Babel (69%)
The Departed (91%)
Letters from Iwo Jima (91%)
Little Miss Sunshine (91%)
The Queen (97%)

2007 (90.2%)

Atonement (83%)
Juno (94%)
Michael Clayton (90%)
No Country for Old Men (93%)
There Will Be Blood (91%)

2008 (82.2%)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (72%)
Frost/Nixon (92%)
Milk (94%)
The Reader (61%)
Slumdog Millionaire (92%)

2009 (88.9%)

An Education (94%)
Avatar (83%)
The Blind Side (66%)
District 9 (90%)
The Hurt Locker (98%)
Inglourious Basterds (89%)
Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire (91%)
A Serious Man (89%)
Up (98%)
Up In the Air (91%)

2010 (92.8%)

127 Hours (93%)
Black Swan (86%)
The Fighter (90%)
Inception (86%)
The Kids Are All Right (93%)
The King’s Speech (95%)
The Social Network (96%)
Toy Story 3 (99%)
True Grit (96%)
Winter’s Bone (94%)

2011 (83.3%)

The Artist (97%)
The Descendants (89%)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (46%)
The Help (76%)
Hugo (94%)
Midnight in Paris (93%)
Moneyball (94%)
The Tree of Life (84%)
War Horse (77%)

2012 (88.2%)

Argo (96%)
Amour (93%)
Beasts of the Southern Wild (86%)
Django Unchained (88%)
Les Misérables (70%)
Life of Pi (86%)
Lincoln (90%)
Silver Linings Playbook (92%)
Zero Dark Thirty (93%)

2013 (91.8%)

12 Years a Slave (96%)
American Hustle (93%)
Captain Phillips (93%)
Dallas Buyers Club (94%)
Gravity (97%)
Her (94%)
Nebraska (91%)
Philomena (92%)
The Wolf of Wall Street (77%)

2014 (89.5%)

American Sniper (72%)
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (91%)
Boyhood (98%)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (92%)
The Imitation Game (90%)
Selma (99%)
The Theory of Everything (80%)
Whiplash (94%)

2015 (92.3%)

The Big Short (88%)
Bridge of Spies (91%)
Brooklyn (98%)
Mad Max: Fury Road (97%)
The Martian (92%)
The Revenant (82%)
Room (95%)
Spotlight (96%)

The worst year to marathon the Best Picture nominees, according to Rotten Tomatoes, was 1990, when one mob movie (Goodfellas, arguably the most rewatchable film of all-time) lapped another (The Godfather Part III). Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece should have won, but not only was Dance with Wolves, an attractive-looking film with a too-long running time and overly earnest dialogue worthy of a Liz Lemon eyeroll, selected Best Picture, but Kevin Costner was also named Best Director. I’m getting depressed (although not as bummed as when I remembered the Academy considered Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, with its 46 percent “Fresh” rating, to be a superior film than 50/50), so let’s move onto Rotten Tomatoes’ finest year for a Best Picture binge.

That would be 1993, a class of sterling films led by Steven Spielberg’s tremendously weighty Schindler’s List (which, I’m legally required to mention, came out the same year as Jurassic Park). No arguments here. The Fugitive is the “only good movie” (well, The Fugitive and Goodfellas), but it doesn’t scream Best Picture, it’s an honor just to be nominated, etc. In the Name of the Father, The Piano, and The Remains of the Day (with tremendous performances from Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson) are all fine also-rans.

1990 and 1993 — critically speaking, those are the worst and best years for a Best Picture marathon. But if I had to sit in a chilly movie theater for 20 hours, give or take a handful of hours, I wouldn’t pick 1993. My initial deselection got rid of every year except 1991, 1994, 1997, 2007, and 2010. From there, I cut 1991 (Beauty and the Beast, JFK, The Silence of the Lambs are entertaining classics; The Price of Tides is not) and 2010 (10 movies is four movies too many). 2007 was the next to go. It’s top-heavy with No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood. Juno is a quirky memento of mid-2000s indie that probably hasn’t aged well, and I fell asleep during Michael Clayton and wanted to while watching Atonement, so it’s gone. So we’re down to two.

1994

Forrest Gump
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Pulp Fiction
Quiz Show
The Shawshank Redemption

1997

As Good as It Gets
The Full Monty
Good Will Hunting
L.A. Confidential
Titanic

That’s tough, but I’m going with 1997. There’s one stone-cold gem, L.A. Confidential, and no real duds; the other four are great at best, and entertaining at worst. The visual effects in James Cameron’s Titanic stand the test of time; As Good As It Gets is one of the last times Jack Nicholson bothered trying; Matt Damon and Robin Williams’ remarkably warm chemistry carries Good Will Hunting; and while The Full Monty is certainly the weakest nominee, it’s better than 1994’s inoffensive Four Weddings and a Funeral (Forrest Gump doesn’t deserve its rarified status, either).

1997 might not be the greatest year for Best Picture nominees — although its 93 percent ranked high — and it’s hard not picking Fargo, or The Insider, or even Mad Max: Fury Road, but in terms of marathons, it’s the king of the Oscars.

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