7 Worst Best Picture Nominees of the 21st Century, According to Rotten Tomatoes
Now that Everything Everywhere All at Once officially dominated the 95th Academy Awards, film fans have some downtime before the next awards season revs into full gear. That makes this a great time to reflect on some of the Academy’s greatest hits and misses. Many would say these films fall under the latter category.
According to critics’ scores on Rotten Tomatoes, these are the 21st century’s worst Oscar nominees for Best Picture. It’s safe to call some of these polarizing, at best—probably flat-out bad in some cases.
‘Les Misérables’ (2012)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70%
Seven years before a historic sweep of the Razzies with Cats, Tom Hooper brought one of the longest-running shows in world history to the stage. His first big-screen musical has its defenders and garnered some considerable acclaim, but it would be an understatement to call it divisive. Naysayers critiqued the film for garish, claustrophobic close-ups that betray the material’s epic scope, as well as live, so-so singing that feels more amateurish than innovative—then of course there’s Russell Crowe‘s derided supporting turn, which probably wasn’t even fully his fault.
Les Mis received seven Oscar nods including Best Actor and Best Picture, winning for Best Supporting Actress (Anne Hathaway) The film had many haters, though (this is one of the last movies Roger Ebert trashed before his death in early 2013), and the questionable filmmaking instincts on display were greatly expanded upon in the abysmal Cats.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%
From the moment Todd Phillips‘ Scorsese-inspired DC Comics psychological thriller premiered on the festival circuit, and perhaps even before, it was clear it would be a game-changer. Joaquin Phoenix cleaned house on the awards circuit in the Best Actor category, but not everyone thought the dour drama deserved quite the level of acclaim it received.
Phoenix’s performance and the film’s myriad technical achievements (production design, cinematography, music) were widely commended, but many critics found the film’s plotting and characterizations overly simplified, especially when compared to Taxi Driverand the other pictures that most explicitly inspired it. Still, Joker remains the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time, the only one in the billion-dollar club.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 65%
Before dividing critics and audiences with Don’t Look Up, Adam McKay received a slightly, only slightly, more homogeneous response to this Dick Cheney biopic starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell atop an attention grabbing A-list ensemble cast.
Vice is angry, uneven, ambitious and genuinely flat-out hilarious at times. It’s made with a tone that feels like Funny or Die, only performed by world-class actors at the top of their respective games. The acting is something nobody was really mixed about; Vice was nominated in three of the telecast’s four acting categories.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 62%
About a decade and a half before the internet came for him when a disturbing video of alleged dog abuse on the set of his A Dog’s Purpose surfaced, Lasse Hallström made this totally alright and forgettable English-language European romance starring Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench and Johnny Depp.
Chocolat is a whimsical and lightweight fable about a chocolatière’s influence on a sleepy, square French village. Its airiness is fortunately grounded by the performances—particularly Oscar-nominated Binoche, who really is terrific here. For decades, she’s remained one of the great performers of world cinema.
‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (2018)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 60%
20th Century Fox’s Queen biopic had a rocky production, to put it mildly. Problematic (now effectively cancelled?) director Bryan Singer was unceremoniously fired from the production, replaced with Dexter Fletcher. Starring Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury, the glittery rock picture was a surprise behemoth at the box office, grossing an astonishing $911 million worldwide.
Critics were hardly gung ho for Bohemian Rhapsody, criticizing the flashy bordering on corny presentation, historical inaccuracies and even the acting. That didn’t stop the Academy from awarding the film four Oscars, out of five nominations.
‘Don’t Look Up’ (2021)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 56%
Though it broke a record for second-most-watched Netflix film ever, critics haven’t been particularly kind toDon’t Look Up. Adam McKay’s star-studded (Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Jonah Hill, the list goes on) apocalyptic comedy has been criticized for its bloated length, hit-and-miss jokes, and even outright clumsy filmmaking.
This is a noteworthy example of a split between audiences and critics: Don’t Look Up sits at a 78% approval rating from audiences, 23 points higher than the critics’ rating. The film was nominated in a total of four Oscars categories including Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing.
‘Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close’ (2011)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 45%
A film best forgotten. It’s likely you already have. Stephen Daldry‘s schmaltzy, misguided drama is based on the better-received 2005 book about a small boy seeking closure after his father is killed on 9/11. On paper: the ingredients are pure Oscar material (or just Oscar bait): a heart-tugging story based on real events, and a great cast including Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and Max von Sydow. In execution,Extremely Loud & Incredibly Closeveers between corny, tasteless and laughable.
The events and aftermath of 9/11 deserve to be handled with care, and crafted into compelling art. The high-water mark remains Paul Greengrass‘s staggering United 93. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is extremely, incredibly close to being worthless.