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A Definitive Ranking of the 2018 Best Picture Nominees

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at WM chapter.

You know it is Oscar season when you are basically living at the local movie theatre and subsisting off popcorn and an illicit bottle of water smuggled into the theatre in your purse. This year, I once again embarked on the journey of seeing all nine Best Picture nominees; but this time I upped the ante and saw all nine films in four days.

Image from Giphy

(Actual footage of me running to see all nine films; I am the corgi, not Tom Hanks)

As with last year, there were films that made me laugh, films that made me cry, and films that made me say “Why was this one nominated?” But, unlike last year, I was a little underwhelmed with the slate of films nominated. Nevertheless, here is my definitive ranking of the 2018 Best Picture Nominees. 

9. Darkest Hour

Image from Giphy

I understand that some people really enjoyed this film, but I don’t know why. The plot was hard to follow, and it just wasn’t exciting. I understand that not all movies have to have flash and panache to be considered entertaining, but good movies do have to hold your interest, especially if they are two hours long. And Darkest Hour just could not hold my interest. Gary Oldman’s transformation into Winston Churchill was something to watch, but watching that transformation got old after about five minutes when the film had nothing else to offer (except a brief, but memorable, appearance by an adorable corgi). I don’t mean to offend anyone who liked this movie, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. 

8. Three Billboards, Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

Image from Giphy

Wow. Even after having significant time to process Martin McDonagh’s latest film, I am still somewhat at a loss for words. While Three Billboards, Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a quality film featuring stellar (and, dare I say Oscar winning?) performances by both Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell, I was left feeling a little unsettled. While I have never been one to shy away from a twisty and intense drama, the excessive violence of Three Billboards was too much for me (I mean, after seeing it, I needed a bagel and a listen to The Greatest Showman soundtrack to calm down!). Even with the intense nature of the film (and its problematic elements), Three Billboards is a well-made film. But, in my opinion, McDonagh could have crafted an even more powerful film if he had laid off the explosions and rogue dentist drills. Regardless, Three Billboards will walk away with at least one statue on Sunday. 

7. The Post

GIF made by Sarah Shevenock 

Last Oscar season, Late Night with Seth Meyers produced a sketch/pseudo-movie trailer called “Oscar Bait,” which lampooned the tropes that many Oscar contenders abuse. If I had to describe The Post in two words, it would be “Oscar Bait.” The pedigree of this film was outrageous. It’s directed by Steven Spielberg. It stars living legends Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. It features other heavy hitters, such as Sarah Paulson and Bradley Whitford. It is about a historical event that is related to issues we are currently debating in modern society. Based on all of those characteristics, it seems like The Post should be an automatic contender for every Oscar ever. Yet it only scored two nominations. While it was a fine film, more focus should have been placed on creating something unique and powerful, rather than pandering to Oscar voters. I mean the revolving parade of stars almost became too much when Zach Woods (of The Office and Silicon Valley) came out to deliver two lines. Even the minor characters were major actors!!!!!! Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep should join forces again, but just on a better movie.   

6. Dunkirk

Image from Giphy

This was for sure the more entertaining of the two films about Dunkirk. Christopher Nolan was able to put together a piece of art that offered a unique spin on the classic war film. That being said, watching this film was incredibly stressful. Through immersive sound and camera angles, you felt as though you were struggling for survival along with the characters, which at 10pm on a Saturday evening, was a little much. It was also nice to see so many fine actors, like Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh, as well as newcomers like Harry Styles and Fionn Whitehead, work together to tell this unbelievable true story. My one complaint was that it felt like there wasn’t enough story. I really wanted to care about the characters, but they were not very fleshed out. I understand that limiting the dialogue and backstory was a stylistic choice on Nolan’s part, but I feel that elevating the story to the level of the technical elements could have only made this film better. 

5. The Shape of Water

Image from Giphy 

The Shape of Water was another film that I had high hopes for, only to be disappointed when the spectacle did not live up to my expectations. Visually, this film was unparalleled. The colors were vibrant. The cinematography was stunning. The production design was out of this world. The Shape of Water was certainly (other than Dunkirk) the most immersive of the nominees this year. The performances of the cast were strong as well. Michael Shannon portrays an incredible villain, spiraling even farther down into the depths of evil. Octavia Spencer is flawless (as always) as the sassy and supportive best friend. But, some elements were a little off; namely the musical number and, um, I don’t know, the fact that a woman has relations with a sea monster? (Personally, I think that if you want to watch a film made by Guillermo del Toro, you should check out 2015’s Crimson Peak. It wasn’t a critical hit, but it sure was a good film.) All in all, The Shape of Water was an enjoyable and unique film, but I was left feeling underwhelmed. 

4. Get Out

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I was not surprised that Jordan Peele’s directorial debut garnered multiple Oscar nominations. Get Out was one of the more unique, and mainstream, films nominated this year. It wasn’t flashy, but it was creative and thought provoking. It sparked discussions among audiences and critics, which is something that good art should do. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride Get Out took me on (even if I figured out the reveal about half way through). I can’t wait to see what else Jordan Peele comes up with in his career as a writer and director.  

3. Call Me By Your Name

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Ugh. Call Me By Your Name. Last year, Lion made me ugly cry. This year it was Timothée Chalamet and Call Me By Your Name. A love story and coming of age film all in one. The film was a tad long, but in retrospect, the long run time allowed for the audience to become deeply invested in the relationship between Elio and Oliver, which pays off. You root for Elio. You hurt when he hurts. And this connection to the characters is all because of the fantastic performances of the cast. Armie Hammer delivers a strong performance as Oliver and Timothée Chalamet is a revelation as Elio. While I don’t think Chalamet will win the Oscar (though I desperately want him to), his turn in this film proves that he has a long career ahead of him. 

2. Phantom Thread

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I am so glad I went into Phantom Thread knowing almost nothing about the film. Going in blind made the story of Reynolds and Alma much more enthralling. I had not a clue about what would happen next but was on the edge of my seat nonetheless. I loved many, many things about the film: the acting, the costumes, the music, the Gone Girl/Crimson Peak vibes I got throughout. But, the thing that impressed me most about the film was the level of suspense Paul Thomas Anderson was able to create. Something is off—you just know it—but you can’t tell what. And as you sit with bated breath, the last five minutes of the film contains the best twist of the year. I left Phantom Thread wanting to wear a beautiful dress and eat an omelet (a joke you will surely get after seeing the film). 

1. Lady Bird

Image from Giphy 

I will sing the praises of Lady Bird for the rest of my life. I can’t remember the last time a film spoke to me in the way Lady Bird did. In many ways, Lady Bird is the least cinematic of all the nominees, but it has the most heart. Greta Gerwig was able to capture real life and make it watchable, thanks in part to her original screenplay and the grounded and authentic performances of the entire cast. Just like Get Out was able to start conversations, Lady Bird is able to make people feel. Sometimes, you don’t need a movie to have sweeping camera shots or incredible production design. Sometimes, you just need to see a movie and say, “I feel seen.” And that’s what Lady Bird does. It’s the movie we all need in the weird time that is 2018. 

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Thumbnail Image from Wikimedia Commons 

Sarah Shevenock is a graduate of The College of William and Mary, where she served as a staff writer and Campus Correspondent for Her Campus William and Mary. Currently, she is a National Contributing Writer and Entertainment Blogger. In her free time, she enjoys reading voraciously, watching morning news programs, and keeping up with the latest television and movie news. She loves to talk about anything and everything related to theatre, cheer for her beloved Pittsburgh Penguins, and drink fancy coffee.