Cate Blanchett in Tar, Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans, Michelle Yeoh in EEAAO and Avatar: The Way of Water

All Oscars Best Picture Nominees 2023 Ranked Worst to Best

The nominations for the 95th Academy Awards were announced on January 24 and revealed the 10 movies of 2022 which received the coveted nomination for Best Picture. Best Picture is considered one of the most prestigious awards the ceremony has to offer. This year’s slate sees films from big-time directors like Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, and Joseph Kosinski facing off against one another.

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The films themselves range from dramas to sci-fi to biopics to black comedies. Each film contains exemplary direction, writing, performances, score, and/or visual effects. Some films made it to the Best Picture nominees through their entertainment value, some for their cutting-edge visuals, some for their art, and some for the relatable or gut-wrenching themes they encompassed. In the end, some nominees top others when it comes to artistic merit and overall quality. Here is every 2023 Best Picture Oscar nominee ranked from worst to best.

10. Avatar: The Way of Water

A shot of the CGI Na'vi underwater in Avatar: The Way of Water
(20th Century Fox)

Avatar: The Way of Water premiered on December 16 and marked the long-awaited sequel to Avatar, which became the highest-grossing film of all time in 2009. The sequel continues the world-building of Pandora and explores the tale of Neytiri te Tskaha Mo’at’ite (Zoe Saldaña) and her mate, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington). On the surface, Avatar: The Way of Water is spectacular. Its visuals are stunning, its world-building is at its finest, and it is an out-of-this-world fantasy adventure. However, it is way too long, has sparked outrage from indigenous communities, and was an unnecessary and expensive film to make. A film needs more than visuals to strike wonder in audiences, and Avatar: The Way of Water‘s failure in that regard makes it the weakest Best Picture nominee.

9. Top Gun: Maverick

Tom Cruise as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell wearing aviator glasses in Top Gun: Maverick
(Paramount Pictures)

Top Gun: Maverick is the sequel to the 1986 film Top Gun. The film follows Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise), a man forced to face the past when he begins training a new group of Top Gun recruits—which includes the son of his deceased best friend—for an unexpectedly dangerous mission. Top Gun: Maverick is a very good film, but it brings the debate of “art versus entertainment” to the forefront. The film’s main attractions are nostalgia and exhilarating action sequences. There’s no doubt that it is high-quality entertainment, but it ultimately fails to make the transition from entertainment to art or to prove it’s more than just a well-made action flick.

8. Elvis

Austin Butler as Elvis, sitting at a piano looking directly into the camera to his side.
(Warner Bros.)

Elvis premiered on June 24, 2022, and follows the life of iconic singer Elvis Presley (Austin Butler) and his controversial manager Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks). The major appeal of Elvis is the electric performance of Austin Butler, who brings the singer to life in a way no actor has before. However, it is overly long and, at times, historically inaccurate. One of the film’s major drawbacks is the exaggerated antagonist role of Hanks’ Parker, which has been considered one of the legendary actor’s worst performances. The film also glosses over Presley’s later relationships in life and the inappropriate age gap between Presley and his first wife, bending the truth for the sake of a compelling narrative.

7. Triangle of Sadness

Dolly de Leon as Abigail, Vicki Berlin as Paula, and Charlbi Dean Dean as Yaya in Triangle of Sadness
(SF Studios)

Triangle of Sadness, directed by Ruben Östlund, premiered on October 7, 2022. The black comedy follows a mixed-matched group of cruise passengers, from wealthy upper-class vacationers to the housekeepers on deck, as they attempt to survive on a remote island after a shipwreck. As is the case any true black comedy, Triangle of Sadness is equal parts hilarious and absurd. It features nauseating depictions of passengers becoming violently seasick alongside a story of how the tables turn when it comes to survival skills between the rich and the poor. In terms of graphic content and absurdity, Triangle of Sadness is a difficult film to digest, but those who understand it will enjoy the underlying political commentary.

6. Tár

Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tar conducting a symphony in Tar
(Universal Pictures)

Tár premiered on October 7, 2022, and is a musical drama that tracks the downfall of famed conductor Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett). When first introduced, Tár is a powerhouse EGOT winner, but she becomes increasingly unhinged as allegations of her abuse of young women surface and upend her relationships and career. It is the kind of personal and deeply intimate film that will almost make one believe Lydia Tár is a real person. What Tár does especially well is show the abuse of power from a female perspective rather than a male’s. It raises the topic of cancel culture ambiguously, refusing to answer whether Tár’s downfall was warranted or how the situation would’ve been different if it was a male protagonist. It is an intense and riveting drama that requires viewers to draw their own conclusions about its theme.

5. Women Talking

Rooney Mara as Ona standing in a field in Women Talking
(United Artists Releasing)

Women Talking premiered on December 23, 2022, and tells the harrowing tale of a group of Mennonite women who that discover the men in their community have been drugging and raping them. They must decide to leave, or stay and fight. Women Talking is a tragic, powerful, and deeply relevant film. While set in 2010, the setting and timeline are rarely referenced, emphasizing the horrific fact that the events of the film do still happen today. Especially in isolated religious communities, patriarchal power can lead to women being raised in oppression and in environments that perpetuate rape culture. Women Talking is a deeply moving piece with relevant social commentary that demands to be heard and further discussed.

4. The Banshees of Inisherim

Padraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson) look at each other across a bench in 'The Banshees of Inisherin'
(Searchlight Pictures)

The Banshees of Inisherim premiered on October 21, 2022, and follows a shocking chain reaction of events that kicks off when Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson) abruptly decides to end his long-term friendship with Pádraic (Colin Farrell). The dramedy is likely to be far different than anything you’ve seen before. It will leave you thinking about its many themes of friendship, mortality, loneliness, and just how impactful one person’s actions can be. Additionally, the performances of Gleeson, Farrell, Kerry Condon, and Barry Koegan are nothing short of awe-inspiring in the heart, relatability, depth, and emotion they pour into their roles.

3. Everything Everywhere All At Once

Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Quan Wang with a third eye in Everything Everywhere All At Once

Everything Everywhere All At Once premiered on March 11, 2022, and tells the tale of Evelyn Quan Wang (Michelle Yeoh), a woman who finds herself on a mind-bending journey through the multiverse in a bid to save the world. EEAAO is a beautiful, bold, wild, inspiring, and hilarious film. It’s a mind-boggling sci-fi premise wrapped in humor and absurdity. Plus, it features powerful and heartfelt performances, especially from Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan. It gets even bigger as it boldly tackles the everlasting question of the true meaning of life. EEAAO has ambitions of epic proportions but somehow manages to absolutely and nearly-flawlessly deliver on a bold, daring, and deeply complex premise.

2. All Quiet on the Western Front

Felix Kammerer as Paul Bäumer in a trench in All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front premiered on October 14, 2022, and is an anti-war epic set during World War I that follows a young German soldier, Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer), who enlists with his high school friends and becomes acquainted with the true horrors of war. The film is a deeply moving and touching tribute to the millions of soldiers who died in the most harrowing conditions during the war. It is not for the faint of heart, but the ominous score, the realistic portrayal of war, and its performances are impossible to look away from. You’ll be infuriated by German delegations who send their soldiers to die by the thousands even, after the war was clearly lost. You’ll be equally haunted by the soldiers losing their lives, youth, or humanity. It’s a good thing the credits roll on silently, because it leaves you in stunned silence for a good few moments after it’s finished.

1. The Fabelmans

Gabriel LaBelle as Sammy Fabelman in The Fablemans
(Universal Pictures)

The Fabelmans premiered on November 11, 2022, and follows the story of Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle), an aspiring filmmaker navigating adolescence, anti-Semitism, and a turbulent home life. The film was inspired by director Steven Spielberg’s childhood. It is a deeply realistic film that is equal parts hilarious, inspiring, and heartbreaking. However, it’s also a story that will resonate deeply with every artist as it explores the power of film and the inescapability of art. At the same time, it is a very touching depiction of family and the complexities of love and interrelationships. The Fabelmans is a very elegant film that draws you in seamlessly with its heart and realism. It will leave a bigger impact on you than you expected.

(featured image: Universal Pictures/A24/20th Century Fox)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.