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Best Picture Winners Of The 2000s: From ‘American Beauty’ To ‘Nomadland’

The Best Picture Award may have changed over the years but it has been a staple of the Oscars ever since the award show began. Here’s everything you need to know about the films that have won Best Picture in the 2000s.

It’s already awards season and the grand finale, aka the Academy Awards, is just around the corner! The 2022 Oscars has some stiff competition for Best Picture including Belfast, CODA, Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, Dune, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, The Power Of The Dog and West Side Story. The Best Picture award is a tradition that dates back to the 1920s. However, it didn’t always have the same title and actually was divided into two categories.

At the first-ever Academy Awards in 1929, the 1927 film Wings won the Most Outstanding Production Award and was categorized as the 1927/1928 winner. The second award, Most Artistic Quality of Production, went to the art film Sunrise. The first Oscars was the last to have two winners. Eventually, the Most Outstanding Production Award became the sole winning category while Most Artistic Quality of Production became Best Cinematography, which is why Wings is considered the true first Best Picture winner. The title of the award went through a few changes. The biggest was the addition of the word “Motion” in 1941 and the redaction of it after 1962 when the category became its current title– Best Picture.

Another big change that was made over the years is how many films could be nominated for Best Picture. Initially, eight to 12 films could be nominated but during World War II, the Academy ruled that only five films would be nominated for the award. Down the line, the Academy had a change of heart and ruled that up to ten films could be nominated in 2009. Many believe it was due to the outrage over The Dark Knight not being on the ballot the year before. Additionally, it has allowed for more diversity in the Best Picture category. Now that we’re all caught up on the history, let’s take a look at the films that have won Best Picture over the past two decades, all the way back to 2000.

‘Nomadland’ (2021)

Frances McDormand in ‘Nomadland.’ (Joshua Richards/Searchlight Pictures/Everett Collection)

Nomadland starred Frances McDormand as a van lifer as well as a large ensemble cast. The slice-of-life film explored themes of loneliness and the limited options retirees have based on their financial circumstances. Nomadland made history with its Oscar wins as it not only won Best Picture but Chloe Zhao became the first-ever Woman of Color and second woman to win the Best Director award. Frances also walked away with Best Actress, totaling the film’s three Oscar wins.

‘Parasite’ (2020)

CHOI Woo-sik, SONG Kang-ho, JANG Hye-jin, PARK So-dam
The cast of 2020 Best Picture, ‘Parasite.’ (Neon/courtesy Everett Collection)

Parasite is a one-of-a-kind thriller-comedy feature that saw the impoverished Kim family rise their way to the upper crust of society. Starring Choi Woo-sik, Song Kang-ho, Jang Hye-jin and Park So-dam, Parasite made Oscars history as the first non-English film to win Best Picture. The foreign film won four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, International Feature Film and Best Original Screenplay.

‘Green Book’ (2019)

Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali
Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali star in ‘Green Book.’ (Patti Perret/Universal /Everett Collection)

Green Book, a title inspired by a book that told African American safe places to travel during the pre-civil rights era, the film focused on the real-life story of Black concert pianist Don Shirley traveling through the deep south with his Italian bodyguard Tony Vallelonga. The film scored five Oscar wins on top of Best Picture including Best Original Screenplay while Mahershala Ali won Best Supporting Actor.

‘The Shape Of Water’ (2018)

Doug Jones, Sally Hawkins
Doug Jones and Sally Hawkins starred in ‘The Shape Of Water’ (Fox Searchlight Pictures/Everett Collection)

The Shape Of Water had a large presence at the Oscars with 13 nominations, the most out of any film that year. The film followed a non-verbal human, played by Sally Hawkins, who was born deaf and uses sign language to talk with and eventually fall in love with an amphibious creature. The unique love story won four of the 13 awards it was nominated for including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Score and Best Production Design.

‘Moonlight’ (2017)

Alex R. Hibbert, Mahershala Ali
Alex R. Hibbert and Mahershala Ali star in ‘Moonlight.’ (A24/Everett Collection)

Academy Award viewers will not soon forget the infamous slip-up where frontrunner film La La Land was initially announced as Best Picture only for Moonlight to be deemed the true winner just seconds later. The coming of age story that followed Chiron growing up as a Black man in Miami won three Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director while Mahershala Ali took away his first of two wins for Best Supporting Actor.

‘Spotlight’ (2016)

Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo
The cast of ‘Spotlight.’ (Open Road Films/Everett Collection)

Spotlight was stacked with a star-studded cast. Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo pioneered newspaper drama that explored the Boston Globe’s investigative reporting on sexual abuse in the Catholic church. In spite of the A-list cast, Spotlight winning the Best Picture was an upset as The Revenant, the film that presented Leonardo DiCaprio with his first Oscar win for Best Actor, was expected to be the frontrunner.

‘Birdman’ (2015)

Michael Keaton
Michael Keaton stars in ‘Birdman.’ (Fox Searchlight Pictures/Everett Collection)

Birdman, or more complexly known as The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, was impressively nominated for nine Academy Awards and won four of those. In addition to Best Picture, the film won Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Cinematography for its innovative use of seamless transitions to make the film seem like it was filmed in one take. Michael Keaton led the innovative film about mounting a risky Broadway production at all costs.

’12 Years A Slave’ (2014)

Lupita Nyong'o, Chiwetel Ejiofor
The cast of ’12 Years A Slave.’ ( Fox Searchlight Pictures/Everett Collection)

12 Years A Slave had an impressive showing at the Academy Awards. The film depicted Solomon Northup’s memoir of how he was a free man tricked and sold into slavery ahead of the Civil War and was nominated for 13 Oscars and won three. The film made history as the first film with a Black director, Steve McQueen, to win an Oscar and also provided Lupita Nyong’o her first Oscar win as Best Supporting Actress.

2013- ‘Argo’

Bryan Cranston, Ben Affleck
Bryan Cranston and Ben Affleck star in ‘Argo.’ (Claire Folger/Warner Bros. Pictures/Everett Collection)

Ben Affleck wore multiple hats as both lead actor and director in Argo. Bryan Cranston starred alongside Ben in the thriller that broke down the Iranian hostage crisis. Argo was a frontrunner going into the night so it wasn’t a surprise that the film won Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing. The greater surprise came earlier when Ben wasn’t even nominated for Best Director, making it the first film to win Best Picture without its director being nominated since Driving Miss Daisy.

‘The Artist’ (2012)

Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo
Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo starred in ‘The Artist.’ (Weinstein Company/Everett Collection)

The Artist took film viewers back to the early days of Hollywood before all the talkies. In fact, it was the first mostly-silent film to win the Academy Award since the first-ever Oscar winner Wings (remember?) as well as the first French-produced winner. The 1920s homage did quite well winning five Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director while Jean Dujardin took home Best Actor.

‘The King’s Speech’ (2011)

Colin Firth
Colin Firth starred in ‘The King’s Speech.’ (The Weinstein Company/Everett Collection)

The King’s Speech was nominated for 12 Oscars, the most of its year, and won not just four Academy Awards but the big ones. The historical drama won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. Additionally, Colin Firth took home his first Oscar for his depiction of King George the VI.

‘The Hurt Locker’ (2010)

Jeremy Renner
‘The Hurt Locker’ won Best Picture in 2010. (Summit Entertainment/Everett Collection)

The Hurt Locker made history in a way that films may not want to be remembered in Academy history. The war drama, based on the conflict in Iraq, had a fierce contender in the multi-million dollar film Avatar and one of the producers was banned from attending the Oscars after they were caught pandering and campaigning the members of the Academy for votes. The film proved to not need the help though as it took home an impressive six Oscars including not only Best Picture but made history as Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to win Best Director.

‘Slumdog Millionaire’ (2009)

Dev Patel, Anil Kapoor
Dev Patel and Anil Kapoor starred in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ (Fox Searchlight/Everett Collection)

Slumdog Millionaire made a clean sweep during its run at the 2009 Oscars. The ultimate underdog movie chronicled the journey of an impoverished teen (Dev Patel) winning the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and the film too turned out to be the big champion with eight Oscar wins. Slumdog Millionaire took home Best Picture, Best Director and Best Cinematography just to name a few.

‘No Country For Old Men’ (2008)

Javier Bardem
Javier Bardem stars in ‘No Country For Old Men.’ (Miramax/Everett Collection)

No Country For Old Men followed a hunter who finds himself being pursued after he stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong. The neo-Western drama won four Oscars, tying with There Will Be Blood. However, No Country For Old Men took home the biggest prize of Big Picture, plus Javier Bardem took home his first Oscar win for Best Supporting Actor.

‘The Departed’ (2007)

Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘The Departed.’ (Warner Bros./Everett Collection)

The Departed did quite well for itself at the Oscars winning four of the five categories that it was nominated for. The crime drama featured Leonardo DiCaprio as a cop going undercover and busting the mafia and it won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing. Unfortunately, Leo wasn’t as lucky as he not only didn’t Best Actor but his name wasn’t even put on the ballot.

‘Crash’ (2006)

Larenz Tate, Sandra Bullock, Brendan Fraser, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges
The cast of Academy Award-winning film ‘Crash.’ (Lions Gate/Everett Collection)

Crash’s Best Picture win has gone down as one of the biggest upsets in Oscars history. Many suspected that the groundbreaking film Brokeback Mountain would claim the big prize and make a clean sweep at the Academy Awards. However, it was the crime drama film about the aftermath of 9/11 starring Sandra Bullock, Ludacris, Larenz Tate and Brendan Fraser that won Best Picture in addition to Best Original Screenplay and Best Editing. Brokeback Mountain didn’t go home empty-handed though as it won Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Score.

‘Million Dollar Baby’ (2005)

Hilary Swank
Hilary Swank stars in ‘Million Dollar Baby’ (Warner Brothers/Everett Collection)

Million Dollar Baby came out on top as the clear winner at the 2005 Academy Awards even though it only won four Oscars while The Aviator won five. The film about an underdog female boxer not only won Best Picture but its A-list actors also won big prizes. Clint Eastwood walked away with Best Director while Hilary Swank won Best Actress and Morgan Freeman won Best Supporting Actor.

‘The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King’ (2004)

Elijah Wood
Elijah Wood stars in ‘The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King.’ (New Line/Everett Collection)

The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King easily had one of the biggest clean sweeps in Oscars history. The third and final installment of the fantasy franchise won all of the 11 categories that it was nominated for, breaking Academy Awards records. While other films have won just as many Oscars or also won all the categories they were nominated for, none of them had as impressive of number or ratio as 11 to 11.

‘Chicago’ (2003)

Renee Zellweger
Renee Zellweger stars as Roxie Hart in ‘Chicago’ (Miramax/Everett Collection)

While movie musicals used to frequently strike gold at the Oscars, that hasn’t been the case since Chicago won Best Picture in 2003. The musical crime drama is about how Roxie Hart and her charismatic lawyer helped launch her to fame as an adored public figure in spite of killing her husband. The film won five Oscars in total and while Renee Zellweger didn’t win for her performance as Roxie, Catherine Zeta-Jones won Best Supporting Actress.

‘A Beautiful Mind’ (2002)

Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly
Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly star in ‘A Beautiful Mind.’ (Universal/Everett Collection)

A Beautiful Mind was an autobiographical film in which Russell Crowe played mathematician John Nash whose mental illness overshadowed his significant accomplishment in the math world, including inventing game theory. The film won four Oscars even while going up against hits like Lord Of The Rings and Moulin Rouge. On top of Best Picture, it won Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress.

‘Gladiator’ (2001)

Connie Nielsen, Russell Crowe
Connie Nielsen and Russell Crowe star in ‘Gladiator.’ (DreamWorks/Everett Collection)

The 2001 Academy Awards featured a neck-in-neck fight between Gladiator and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which is quite fitting since both films feature warrior-like characters. Gladiator took home five Oscars including Best Picture and Best Actor while Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon won four. While Russell Crowe won the Oscar and got his big break from this film, looking back on it, he admits he felt guilty because he believed the director, Ridley Scott, deserved the recognition.

‘American Beauty’ (2000)

Mena Suvari, Wes Bentley, Thora Birch
The cast of the Academy Award-winning film ‘American Beauty.’ (DreamWorks/Everett Collection)

American Beauty kicked off the decade with five Oscar wins! The dark comedy featured an ordinary salesman living a mundane life whose senses are suddenly awakened and begin to affect his entire family. The critically acclaimed film took away top awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography.

Source: Hollywood Life

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