Where does “Spotlight” rank as a Best Picture winner?

spotlight michael keaton mark ruffalo
In case you’re living under an Oscar related rock, late last month Spotlight won Best Picture at the 88th Academy Awards. I think that Oscar voters made an excellent selection, choosing the film over its closest competitors The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Revenant. For today, I wanted to take a look at just where Spotlight stacks up among the other winners of Best Picture to date. Is it an all time victor? A poser among true champions? Somewhere in between? I obviously have my thoughts, so I’ll share them with you below. Keep in mind though, as always with this sort of a thing, that it’s simply my opinion. Your mileage may vary, and that’s perfectly okay. In fact, it’s basically encouraged. Any, let’s get started though and try to figure out where Spotlight stacks up in the history of the Best Picture category…

First off, I just want to say that I think the Academy made the best choice possible. I would have ranked the nominees in this way, on a personal preference level:

1. Spotlight
2. The Martian
3. Room
4. The Big Short
5. Brooklyn
6. Bridge of Spies
7. Mad Max: Fury Road
8. The Revenant

Utilizing that logic, you can easily see that Spotlight would have the most positive ranking for me, when compared to the other winners in history. I’m using my original top 25 piece on the category for comparison, and Spotlight definitely makes it in, as you’ll see below. Had The Martian somehow won, I think it would have cracked the top 20, no question. The others? Probably not, though The Big Short or Room might have made the honorable mention section. The Revenant though? That would have been a weak winner in my eyes, but again…it’s just my eyes, as it were.

As a quick reminder before we press on, in case somehow you forgot, Spotlight is a dramatized look at the Boston Globe reporters who broke the story about the Catholic Church covering up the molestations committed by priests. At the paper, an investigative section called “Spotlight” begins looking into the rumors and uncovers a huge scandal. The plot mostly follows along as the small group does the nitty gritty work of gathering indisputable evidence for the story. Tom McCarthy directs and co-writes with Josh Singer, while the cast is led by Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo, with the others in this top notch ensemble including Billy Crudup, Brian d’Arcy James, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, and a handful more. The film won Best Original Screenplay in addition to Best Picture, obviously, so it’s not just a one and done winner.

Now, to rank Spotlight. McCarthy’s film was my favorite of last year, and it’s rare for my top movie of a given year to win Best Picture, so it’s an all time Oscar winner for sure in my book. Perhaps I was a little bit bold, but I opted to put it in the top 15 range, since I think history is going to be very kind to it, as well as just in regards to its overt quality. I’m sure some of you will think it’s too high, but some might also think that it’s too low, so it just feels right to me.

Here is how I would now re-rank the top 25 Best Picture winners to date:

25. Shakespeare in Love
24. The Godfather
23. Marty
22. The Godfather Part II
21. Ordinary People
20. Kramer vs Kramer
19. Forrest Gump
18. The Departed
17. Midnight Cowboy
16. The Deer Hunter
15. On the Waterfront
14. The French Connection
13. Spotlight
12. Casablanca
11. Platoon
10. Million Dollar Baby
9. Argo
8. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
7. Rocky
6. The Hurt Locker
5. American Beauty
4. The Apartment
3. Schindler’s List
2. The Silence of the Lambs
1. Annie Hall

Honorable Mentions: 12 Years a Slave, Chicago, No Country for Old Men, Rain Man, and The Sting

Stay tuned to see what joins the ranks of Best Picture winners in the years to come!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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