Coming in at number one is, unsurprisingly, “The Dark Knight.” A fan favorite that arguably spurred the Academy’s decision to open Best Picture up to 10 nominees after it was snubbed a nomination. “The Dark Knight” redefined the comic book film genre. Similarly, “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” is number two, and one of only two films listed that won an Academy Award for Best Picture.
After the #2 spot, surprises begin to emerge/ Number three is Fernando Meirelles’ 2002 Brazilian film “City of God.” It’s an amazing work of cinema, not to mention one of my favorite films of all time, but certainly not one of the most well-known foreign flicks around. “God”’s true story of the drug wars and violence which took place in and around Rio de Janeiro from the ’70s onward is gruesome, stunning and beautiful. It definitely earns its spot on the list, and it is encouraging that the general public agrees with “City of God”s critical acclaim.
“The Fellowship of the Ring” is number four on the list, followed by this year’s “Up.” It can be debated until the end of time which “Lord of the Rings” film was better, but it is surprising that “Fellowship” came in before “Two Towers,” which falls at number seven. An explanation can be found in the release dates: “Fellowship” was released first and won over its audience with Peter Jackson’s vision and scope. “Two Towers” was more exciting with its epic battle sequences, but it didn’t have the same “oh my god it’s a ’Lord of the Rings’ movie!” surprise value that “Fellowship” did.
The fact that the critically beloved “Up” ranks three spots above number eight’s “WALL-E” — another film that had fans and critics up in arms last year when it was snubbed for a Best Picture nomination — bodes well for the more recent film’s acceptance into the expanded Best Picture race. Disney should certainly be happy, as “Up” is the first official in-house Pixar production since the Mouse House purchased the “Toy Story” studio.
Number six, shockingly, goes to Christopher Nolan’s second film on the list, “Memento.” It’s not a bad movie, just a very gimmicky one. Other dramatic fare follows, with “The Departed” at number 10 (the other Best Picture winner on the list), “The Pianist” at number 12, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” at 14 and “Requiem for a Dream” at number 15. “Amelie,” “The Lives of Others” and “Spirited Away” round out the foreign film selections with rankings at nine, 11 and 13, respectively. All are critically acclaimed films that weren’t necessarily popular by box office and DVD sales.
It is odd but exciting to see such an array of films selected as the best of this (admittedly short) millennium. Many complain that the Academy –- which is supposed to honor the best films of the year -– is out of touch with the general public, and IMDB’s list certainly makes that point loud and clear. Hopefully, the expanded Best Picture category and object examples such as this list will foster a new respect for the power of art-house and foreign films, as well as more high concept blockbuster fare. Critics will continue to argue that the doubled category nominations dilutes the value of a Best Picture win… until an unlikely candidate like “Up” or “District 9” goes home with a statue.