Nolte: What Should’ve Won the Best Picture Oscar – 2000 to 2009

Warner Bros. Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures

In part eight of this series, we look at the movies that should have won the Best Picture Oscar between 2000 and 2009.

The millennium started out well enough with Gladiator, but with a few exceptions, it was all downhill from there. I’ve once again added my “see also” recommendations but (with some individual exceptions) don’t feel as much passion for them as with previous decades. This was also the decade where I remember browsing through Blockbuster Video’s previously-viewed selection and walking away disappointed or with something I wasn’t terribly excited about.

Some of you have commented about my forgetting to list a Star Wars or a Jackie Brown… Nine times out of ten, it’s just an oversight.

Let’s begin…


  • What Did Win: Gladiator

The new decade started out on a high note with this superb sword and sandals epic starring a perfectly cast Russell Crowe. One of those movies you never tire of rewatching. Action, romance, political intrigue, spectacle, heart…

  • What Should’ve Won: Gladiator

Nothing against Gladiator, which is still spectacular, but there was no real competition that year.

See also: Next Friday, Boiler Room, Pitch Black, Erin Brockovich, American Psycho, Shanghai Noon, Shaft, The Patriot, X-Men, Space Cowboys, The Replacements, Bring it On, Way of the Gun, Almost Famous, Remember the Titans, Meet the Parents, Requiem for a Dream, Pollock, Cast Away, The Family Man, Thirteen Days…



  • What Did Win: A Beautiful Mind

Opie finally won his Oscar, but how many people want to see this again?

  • What Should’ve Won: The Pledge

Sean Penn directs Jack Nicholson into one of his most effective and understated performances as a retired police officer who swears on his soul to find a killer and then sells his soul to keep that pledge.

Ask me tomorrow and I’ll pick Mulholland Drive. Ask me the next day and I’ll pick In the Bedroom.

See also: In the Bedroom, The Pledge, Sexy Beast, Saving Silverman, Enemy at the Gates, Blow, Joe Dirt, The Fast and the Furious, A.I., Made, The Score, The Others, Jeepers Creepers, Zoolander, Joyride, Training Day, Mulholland Drive, Amelie, Heist, Vanilla Sky, Black Hawk Down…



  • What Did Win: Chicago

Chicago is fine but feels so much like a product of its time; so Miramaxey… And as an old-fashioned guy who grew up watching Astaire and Kelly on TV, I truly hate Chicago’s hyper-editing of the dance numbers. The camera should move with the artist, dance with the dancers, not slice them into a million pieces.

There’s a lot to respect about Chicago, the craftsmanship, etc., but I don’t enjoy the movie, and for some reason, I feel like I’m being manipulated instead of just being told a story. The only scene I remember fondly is Richard Gere’s “Razzle Dazzle” solo.

  • What Should’ve Won: Insomnia

As much as I love Insomnia, I sure wish there was something better to choose.

See also: Spider-Man, We Were Soldiers, Resident Evil, Blade II, The Rookie, Changing Lanes, Frailty, Insomnia, Unfaithful, Bourne Identity, Minority Report, Sunshine State, Road to Perdition, Eight Legged Freaks, Signs, One Hour Photo, Punch-Drunk Love, Frida, Catch Me if you Can, The Pianist…



  • What Did Win: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

My least favorite genre is fantasy, so let’s leave it at that…

  • What Should’ve Won: The Station Agent

Another dreadful year with only a few gems, most especially this touching and hilarious charmer about three lost and lonely people who are as different from one another as possible and still form a beautiful friendship.

See also: Pirates of the Caribbean, Terminator 3, Gods and Generals, Bringing Down the House, Malibu’s Most Wanted, 28 Days Later, Seabiscuit, Open Range, Thirteen, Kill Bill: Volume 1, Shattered Glass…



  • What Did Win: Million Dollar Baby

Eastwood delivers a truly lovely movie that never goes where you expect.

  • What Should’ve Won: The Passion of the Christ

If you’re not a Christian, Mel Gibson is telling the story of a good man being tortured to death. If you are a Christian, The Passion is an inexplicably moving experience, one that finally stops sanitizing Christ’s sacrifice to bring home just how much God loves us.

See also: Spider-Man 2, Miracle, 50 First Dates, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Kill Bill: Volume 2, Man on Fire, Troy, Baadasssss!, Napoleon Dynamite, Chronicles of Riddick, Collateral, Friday Night Lights, Team America, Ray, Finding Neverland, National Treasure…



  • What Did Win: Crash

Dreadful movie, just dreadful; pompous, proud of itself, and a slander on the good people of Los Angeles who live together just fine.

  • What Should’ve Won: Hustle & Flow

What an awful year 2005 was. Hustle & Flow was the only true masterpiece to come out of it, so this is a pretty easy choice.

See also: War of the Worlds, Batman Begins, Land of the Dead, Capote, Serenity…



  • What Did Win: The Departed

It’s taken me a long time to learn to like this movie, but it’s never gone beyond “like.” Jack Nicholson’s overacting still takes me out of the story.

  • What Should’ve Won: The Departed


See also: The Hills Have Eyes, Inside Man, Casino Royale, Apocalypto, Rocky Balboa…



  • What Did Win: No Country for Old Men

One of the greatest movies ever made is also insanely rewatchable. A story full of meaning, standout performances, thematic depth, breathtaking cinematography, and no easy answers… A true cinematic masterpiece, as good as movies come.

  • What Should’ve Won: No Country for Old Men

Easy pick.

See also: Amazing Grace, Zodiac, 300, 28 Weeks Later, Once, Ratatouille, Eastern Promises…



  • What Did Win: Slumdog Millionaire

What a joke.

  • What Should’ve Won: The Dark Knight


See also: Cassandra’s Dream, Rambo, Diary of the Dead, Funny Games, Iron Man, Che, Gran Torino, Ghost Town, Tropic Thunder…



  • What Did Win: The Hurt Locker

Beautifully directed by overdue Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow, but filled with clichés and a lack of understanding about what drives men to take on such a dangerous job in the first place.

  • What Should’ve Won: Up

Pixar’s best movie breaks your heart, mends it, and does so with a wonderfully original story and endlessly inventive plot.

See also: Taken, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Watchmen, Up, Moon, District 9, Inglorious Bastards, Zombieland, The Road, Crazy Heart…  

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