The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

The Academy Awards Best Picture nominees, ranked

In a year of many great films, these 10 stood above the rest.
Sofia El-Shammaa
Graphic depicting a golden trophy in front of a roll of film. (Hustler Multimedia/Sofia El-Shammaa)

The Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, are this Sunday, meaning we will have a chance to celebrate one of the best years of film in a very long time. This year saw masters of the craft like Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan and Greta Gerwig putting out bold work. There was also a slate of newcomers who burst onto the scene with exciting projects. The Oscars have suffered from waning viewership in recent years, as fans and critics alike have questioned the Academy’s authority and been disappointed with their choices. Whether or not the awards really matter is beside the point. The awards are still a great opportunity to celebrate artistry and craftsmanship in a year that had so much of it. With spring break coming up, Vandy students will have more time than usual to watch and relax. The Best Picture category is often the most hyped category, and this year is no different. While I think “Oppenheimer” will likely win, each of the 10 nominees is worth your time and offers something unique and special.

10. “Maestro”

The fact that “Maestro” comes towards the bottom of this list goes to show what an incredible year for film 2023 was. In the film, Bradley Cooper portrays the legendary musician Leonard Bernstein. The film largely centers on his relationship with his wife played brilliantly by Carey Mulligan. As Bernstein’s status as a superstar grows, their relationship becomes even more difficult, especially as his ego and charisma lead him down many affairs. The film explores the effects of stardom on the most intimate relationships in one’s life. “Maestro” contains some of the boldest, most memorable moments of filmmaking of the year. These flashes of brilliance fail to produce something greater, though. The technical aspects — the acting, the music, the direction — far outshine the emotional ones and make it a worthwhile but frustrating watch.   

9. “Barbie” 

“Barbie” was undeniably the movie of this year. An immediate cultural touchstone, we will one day look back on 2023 as the year of Margot Robbie, Greta Gerwig and Ryan Gosling. Part of the reason for this success was that “Barbie” appealed to everyone. Greta Gerwig fans went in expecting another “Lady Bird” or “Little Women.” Feminists expected a film fighting the patriarchy. Parents expected a fun summer movie they could bring their kids to. The geniuses behind “Barbie” made a movie that did all of these things simultaneously, but this blend ultimately watered down each individual aspect of the film. “Barbie” is good, but its desire to be everything to everyone prevents it from being great.

8. “The Zone of Interest”

What typically makes Holocaust movies so terrifying is what they show: the burned skin, the frail bodies, the human-sized ovens. What makes Jonathan Glazer’s new film “The Zone of Interest” so repulsive is what is not seen. The film focuses on the Commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss, who lives just over the wall from the camp. He lives a lovely life with his wife, five children and their dog. As we see images of a happy family, gunshots, the roar of fires and human screams serve as white noise in the background. In this way, Glazer offers a chilling view of the banality of evil. Still, the film is incredibly subdued and intentionally boring, which can make it hard to recommend. This is a film everyone should watch exactly once; it is incredibly artistic and thought-provoking but also repulsive and infuriating.

7. “American Fiction” 

“American Fiction” is two movies in one. The first is a satire about the difficulties of being a Black writer when the world expects you to act like a stereotype. The satire is affecting and thought-provoking, raising questions about commodification, race and art. The second is a poignant family drama that deals with the complex relationships between siblings, sons and daughters. Both of these films would have been great on their own, but “American Fiction” tries to squeeze both into a two-hour runtime. “American Fiction” is really good but can be disjointed at times as it jumps between emotional moments between family members and biting satires of Hollywood producers.

6. “The Holdovers” 

“The Holdovers” is the most sincere movie of the year. The film centers on three main characters — a student, a cook and a history teacher — sharing a lonely winter holiday at a remote boarding school in the Northeast. Slowly, they form a bond that helps them all grow in unexpected ways. If it sounds simple, it really is. There are no surprises in this movie, just likable characters, compelling relationships and good filmmaking. Briefly, it is a warm, holiday hug of a movie.

5. “Anatomy of a Fall”

You may have heard a description like this before: It’s a movie about whether or not a wife killed her husband. While this is the plot of “Anatomy of a Fall,” I can assure you that you have not seen a movie quite like this. The film takes this mystery and wrestles with concepts like family, marriage, perspective and death. The movie is also highlighted by great cinematography and masterful acting performances. These factors make it one of the most intellectual movies to come out this year, while also being one of the most exciting.

4. “Killers of the Flower Moon”

There was once a very different version of this film floating around Hollywood offices: a classic procedural FBI story with Leonardo DiCaprio playing the leading man. This is not that film. “Killers of the Flower Moon” is a story about the real-life plot to murder members of the Osage tribe and steal their wealth earned from oil. It is a story about evil people doing unimaginable things to an innocent culture. At three and a half hours long, “Killers” is the richest, most textured film of the year. At times it is horrifying. At others, beautiful. There are invigorating moments. There are also heartbreaking ones. Does every storyline ultimately pay off? No, but this is still a great film — one that will leave you thinking about it for weeks after.

3. “Oppenheimer” 

For all the pre-release talk about the explosion, “Oppenheimer” was a three-hour movie of just talking. Only a genius like Christopher Nolan could make three hours of conversations about science and morality as exciting as everything that has come out in the past five years. There is little left to be said about this movie. The acting is breathtaking. The score is great. It will likely win big on Sunday, and it deserves to. “Oppenheimer” is a masterpiece. In almost every other year, it would be the best film of the year. 2023 was so special, though, that two films stand above it with a touch more flare, creativity and passion.

2. “Poor Things”

Every now and then, some big Hollywood journalist will write an op-ed about how movies are dead because everything feels like a Marvel movie now — hollow and bland, but with the potential to make millions. While this argument has merit, creativity can not be dead with films like “Poor Things” still in existence. “Poor Things” follows a woman with the brain of an infant exploring the world and growing up. It is simultaneously raunchy, hilarious, twisted and beautiful. Through brilliant acting, direction, photography and production, “Poor Things” puts you in a fairy-tale world and takes you on the most engrossing cinematic trip of the year.

1. “Past Lives” 

Nora and Hae Sung are two inseparable childhood friends growing up in Korea. They remain close for years after Nora moves away from home and finally reunite for one week in New York City where they must confront love, life and lost time. “Past Lives” is essentially the story of growing up, falling in love and figuring things out, but that description makes it sound boring. This movie is quiet and reflective but never slow or boring. There lies a deep warmth and beauty at the center of this movie that is almost indescribable. It cannot be conveyed through words; it just has to be experienced with full attention on the big screen. Movies like “Past Lives” serve as a reminder of why filmmaking is so important. Simply put, it is astonishing.

Leave a comment
About the Contributors
Nate Downey
Nate Downey, Staff Writer
Nate Downey (‘27) is from Charlotte, N.C., and is majoring in history and economics in the College of Arts and Science. He is interested in fashion, cooking, movies and music. He can be reached at [email protected].
Sofia El-Shammaa
Sofia El-Shammaa, Staff Writer and Photographer, Data and Graphics Staffer
Sofia El-Shammaa (‘27) is majoring in political science and communication studies in the College of Arts and Science. When they’re not writing or making graphics, you can find them with their cat, Mochi, watching bad movies or reading good books. You can reach them at [email protected].
More to Discover

Comments (0)

The Vanderbilt Hustler welcomes and encourages readers to engage with content and express opinions through the comment sections on our website and social media platforms. The Hustler reserves the right to remove comments that contain vulgarity, hate speech, personal attacks or that appear to be spam, commercial promotion or impersonation. The comment sections are moderated by our Editor-in-Chief, Rachael Perrotta, and our Social Media Director, Chloe Postlewaite. You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].
All The Vanderbilt Hustler picks Reader picks Sort: Newest
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments