Art Vs Commerce: Trilogies! Of Terror? (2000s)

State of the Industry

The 90s saw the birth of Oscar Season. The 2000s brought about its darkest feature, Oscar Bait. For most of this project, Best Pictures didn’t lean into types. They’ve been all over the map. Big epics like Gone With the Wind, Titanic, or Ben-Hur, quiet character pieces like The Apartment, Marty, or Grand Hotel, crime thrillers like The French Connection or In the Heat of the Night, big crowd-pleasers like Around the World in 80 Days or Forrest Gump, a heist flick, a screwball comedy, or on rare occasion near-perfect masterpieces like Casablanca. Anything could be a Best Picture, even garbage movies like The Broadway Melody. Nor were the Oscars susceptible to trends (save for musicals, but people like musicals). It took ten years to finally give in to a biblical epic, they barely touched 70s disaster movies, and it was 40 years after Superman before a comic book movie made the shortlist. (Admittedly in the first 30, it’s hard to blame them.)

But now Best Picture nominees began, more and more, to settle into Types. Biopics did well. If you tackled WWII or the Holocaust in some way, that grabbed some attention. Things that passed as Important Message Movies (preferably softball) got love. Oh and the Academy surely loves being told how great movies are.

In the beginning, the Academy seemed to be trying to say “Yes, this is the best movie, we did the legwork and it’s this.” Yes politics still played a role, or else How Green Was My Valley would be long forgotten. Yes they went with their feelings in the moment rather than identifying what would have lasting impact, and so I’ve seen Cavalcade but not 42nd Street. But it surely felt like they tried. But now? Now the studios have figured out what the Academy goes for, and they make Oscar Movies to win awards then spent the rest of the year trying to make Franchises.

Because as the 2000s played out, studios began to get over Trilogies. And I’m pretty sure I can tell you exactly why. The Lord of the Rings brought New Line three consecutive billion dollar hits. Pirates of the Caribbean was three big hits for Disney.

By the end of the decade, Harry Potter was on its sixth.

So studios began to think… why stop at three? If the audiences keep showing up… why not keep the party going? More sequels, spinoffs, reboots, remakes, whatever it took to keep your Brands in play. And so nearly every Trilogy we’ve discussed eventually came back for more installments. Star Wars came back huge. Pirates of the Caribbean became a new lesson in diminishing returns. Spider-Man got rebooted twice in rapid succession. The Matrix, which was the only one not leaving a door open for another instalment, has a fourth movie coming, in near direct competition with the fourth John Wick, which is gonna be a fun month for fans of Keanu Reeves doing violence. And Lord of the Rings led to The Hobbit, an ill-advised endeavour that broke poor Peter Jackson in ways I’m not sure he’s healed from.

The 2010s are coming, and it’s a post Iron Man world. Trilogies are dead. The Cinematic Universe is upon us. I swear I didn’t start this to roast Modern Cinema but dang, Hollywood could meet me halfway. Well, at least the Academy begins to try a little harder.

And now, my ranking in this, our penultimate entry: 83 Best Pictures ranked, ten (eleven if I don’t speed this up) to go.

My Personal Ranking

Alright the list is super long now, I’m-a just go ahead and flag the new stuff for anyone curious where the 2000s entries are falling in comparison.

  1. Casablanca (1943)
  2. The Godfather (1972)
  3. It Happened One Night (1934)
  4. The Godfather Part II (1974)
  5. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
  6. Schindler’s List (1993)
  7. Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)
  8. On The Waterfront (1954)
  9. All About Eve (1950)
  10. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
  11. The Apartment (1960)
  12. In The Heat of the Night (1967)
  13. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  14. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  15. No Country For Old Men (2007)
  16. The Sting (1973)
  17. Rocky (1976)
  18. The Hurt Locker (2009)
  19. Platoon (1986)
  20. The Departed (2006)
  21. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
  22. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  23. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
  24. Forrest Gump (1994)
  25. Ordinary People (1980)
  26. Titanic (1997)
  27. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
  28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
  29. Cimarron (1931)
  30. The French Connection (1971)
  31. Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979)
  32. Rain Man (1988)
  33. Unforgiven (1992)
  34. Going My Way (1945)
  35. Rebecca (1940)
  36. Annie Hall (1977)
  37. Gone With the Wind (1939)
  38. Wings (1928)
  39. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
  40. Chicago (2002)
  41. West Side Story (1961)
  42. The Sound of Music (1965)
  43. Hamlet (1948)
  44. My Fair Lady (1964)
  45. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
  46. Gladiator (2000)
  47. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
  48. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
  49. American Beauty (1999)
  50. Braveheart (1995)
  51. Patton (1970)
  52. Marty (1955)
  53. You Can’t Take It With You (1938)
  54. Grand Hotel (1932)
  55. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
  56. The Last Emperor (1987)
  57. An American in Paris (1951)
  58. Terms of Endearment (1983)
  59. Gigi (1958)
  60. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
  61. Gandhi (1982)
  62. The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
  63. Around The World in 80 Days (1956)
  64. Out of Africa (1985)
  65. The Deer Hunter (1978)
  66. Oliver! (1968)
  67. Amadeus (1984)
  68. The English Patient (1996)
  69. Dances With Wolves (1990)
  70. Chariots of Fire (1981)
  71. A Man For All Seasons (1966)
  72. Tom Jones (1963)
  73. Ben-Hur (1959)
  74. Crash (2005)
  75. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
  76. Mrs. Miniver (1942)
  77. How Green Was My Valley (1941)
  78. All the King’s Men (1949)
  79. From Here To Eternity (1953)
  80. The Lost Weekend (1945)
  81. The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
  82. The Broadway Melody (1929)
  83. Cavalcade (1933)

Next time… this project, fittingly, reaches its Endgame.

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