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Critics' Choice Best Picture winners from worst to first

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Summit Entertainment

Critics' Choice Best Picture winners from worst to first

Presented on Jan. 12 by the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the 25th annual Critics’ Choice Awards will honor the most beloved movies of 2019. Leading with 14 nominations is Martin Scorsese’s atypical gangster epic “The Irishman,” which is up for Best Picture, Best Costume Design, and pretty much everything in between. It will square off against the following Best Picture nominees: “1917,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “Little Women,” “Jojo Rabbit,” “Ford v Ferrari,” “Joker,” “Uncut Gems,” “Marriage Story,” and “Parasite.” Based on critics’ awards thus far, “Parasite” appears to be the front-runner, but anything can happen.

Whichever film walks home with top honors, it will join a relatively small batch of previous winners. That’s because the Critics’ Choice Awards is a relatively new ceremony, dating back to 1996. Created for films only, it now honors the best in cinema and television alike. Each winner is determined by a write-in ballot while a board of directors decides special awards. This year’s ceremony will take place at Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport and air on The CW with host Taye Diggs.

Like the Golden Globes, the Critics’ Choice Awards indicate which films and talents will take home Oscar gold. In fact, among the 24 Critics’ Choice Best Picture winners, 14 achieved the same feat at the Academy Awards. That’s not to mention Critics’ Choice Best Picture winners such as “Saving Private Ryan,” “Fargo,” and “The Social Network,” all of which easily could have (and maybe should have) won the Oscar for Best Picture.

So which Critics’ Choice Best Picture winners are the best? To find out, Stacker compiled Letterboxd, IMDb, and Metacritic data on all 24 films that have won the Critics' Choice Best Picture award. Data was sourced from the Critics’ Choice Awards website and each title was ranked according to its Letterboxd score. Initial ties were broken by Metascore and further ties were broken by IMDb user ratings. Here they are from worst to first.

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Miramax

#24. Chicago (2002)

- Director: Rob Marshall
- Letterboxd user rating: 3.65
- Metascore: 82
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Runtime: 113 min

Along with films such as “Moulin Rouge,” this 2002 smash hit was part of a short-lived musical revival. Following two convicted murderers (Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones) in their pursuit of fortune and fame, it swept through awards season like a tornado. Besides winning Best Picture at the Critics’ Choice Awards, it won for Best Acting Ensemble and Best Supporting Actress (Zeta-Jones).

 

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Warner Bros.

#23. Argo (2012)

- Director: Ben Affleck
- Letterboxd user rating: 3.65
- Metascore: 86
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Runtime: 120 min

Ben Affleck’s historical drama about a real-life CIA operation defeated movies like “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Silver Linings Playbook” when it was awarded Best Picture and Best Director by the BFCA. It was also nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning three. Despite his victory at the Critics’ Choice Awards, Affleck did not receive an Oscar nomination for Best Director.

 

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Fox Searchlight Pictures

#22. Sideways (2004)

- Director: Alexander Payne
- Letterboxd user rating: 3.67
- Metascore: 94
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Runtime: 127 min

Winner of five Critics’ Choice Awards, this understated dramedy from Alexander Payne surprised the film industry and wine industry alike. Chronicling the misadventures of two close friends in California’s wine country, it made over $100 million at the worldwide box office. It also won two Golden Globes and an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

 

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Voltage Pictures

#21. The Hurt Locker (2009)

- Director: Kathryn Bigelow
- Letterboxd user rating: 3.70
- Metascore: 95
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Runtime: 131 min

Kathryn Bigelow’s depiction of a bomb-disposal sergeant (Jeremy Renner) in Iraq won Best Picture and Best Director at the Critics’ Choice Awards. At the Oscars, she again beat out ex-husband James Cameron and his film “Avatar” in both respective categories. To date, Bigelow remains the only female to have won an Academy Award for Best Director.

 

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Studio 37

#20. The Artist (2011)

- Director: Michel Hazanavicius
- Letterboxd user rating: 3.71
- Metascore: 89
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Runtime: 100 min

Critics were near universal in their acclaim of this black-and-white dramedy, which unfolds in the style of a silent era film. After winning three Golden Globes and four Critics’ Choice Awards, it scooped up five Oscars out of 10 nominations. Actress Kim Novak of “Vertigo” fame was less fond of the film, chastising its brief use of music from the Alfred Hitchcock classic.

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Celador Films

#19. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

- Directors: Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan
- Letterboxd user rating: 3.72
- Metascore: 86
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Runtime: 120 min

With its harrowing themes and brisk execution, this gripping romantic drama became the biggest sleeper hit in UK history. It also swept at the Critics’ Choice Awards, winning in all five categories for which it was nominated. Along with the widespread fanfare came no shortage of controversy, when the film was accused of exploiting poverty in India.

 

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Universal Pictures

#18. A Beautiful Mind (2001)

- Director: Ron Howard
- Letterboxd user rating: 3.76
- Metascore: 72
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Runtime: 135 min

Ron Howard’s biopic of mathematician John Nash plays loose with the facts, but audiences and critics loved it, anyway. Stars Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly took home top honors at the Critics’ Choice Award, where the film also won for Best Picture and Best Director. Connelly won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, with Crowe losing out to Denzel Washington of “Training Day.”

 

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Columbia Pictures

#17. Sense and Sensibility (1995)

- Director: Ang Lee
- Letterboxd user rating: 3.79
- Metascore: 84
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Runtime: 136 min

At the first-ever Critics’ Choice Awards, this beloved adaptation won for Best Picture and Best Screenplay. The screenplay was written by British actress Emma Thompson, who starred in a lead role. She also won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Adapted Screenplay.

 

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Double Dare You (DDY)

#16. The Shape of Water (2017)

- Director: Guillermo del Toro
- Letterboxd user rating: 3.80
- Metascore: 87
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Runtime: 123 min

Before winning big at the Oscars, this unconventional tale of forbidden romance racked up four Critics’ Choice Awards out of a whopping 14 nominations. Shining a light on women, the ceremony also handed out awards to female-driven stories such as “Wonder Woman,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “Big Little Lies,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Sally Hawkins was nominated for Best Actress while “Wonder Woman” star Gal Gadot earned the second-ever #SeeHer Award.

 

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IFC Productions

#15. Boyhood (2014)

- Director: Richard Linklater
- Letterboxd user rating: 3.80
- Metascore: 100
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Runtime: 165 min

Famously filmed over the course of 12 years, this coming-of-age drama chronicles the life of a young boy named Mason (Ellar Coltrane). It took home the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Picture over a host of critical and commercial darlings, including “Whiplash,” “Birdman,” and “The Imitation Game.” Star Patricia Arquette won not just a Critics’ Choice Award, but also an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.

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Columbia Pictures

#14. The Social Network (2010)

- Director: David Fincher
- Letterboxd user rating: 3.88
- Metascore: 95
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Runtime: 120 min

This grim account of Facebook’s origins was a massive hit amongst audiences and critics alike. It won four Critics’ Choice Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Score. That was two short of Christopher Nolan’s “Inception,” which nearly swept through the technical categories on the same night.

 

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DreamWorks

#13. Gladiator (2000)

- Director: Ridley Scott
- Letterboxd user rating: 3.94
- Metascore: 67
- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Runtime: 155 min

After going six-for-six at the Critics’ Choice Awards, this epic adventure took home five Oscars. Set during Roman times, it follows a former general (Russell Crowe) as he seeks revenge on the emperor (Joaquin Phoenix) who betrayed him. Bringing the film to life are stellar performances, dramatic themes, and expertly paced action sequences.

 

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Summit Entertainment

#12. La La Land (2016)

- Director: Damien Chazelle
- Letterboxd user rating: 3.98
- Metascore: 93
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Runtime: 128 min

Riding in on a wave of success, this modern-day musical won eight Critics’ Choice Awards out of 12 nominations. That paved the way for a similarly triumphant night at the Academy Awards, though it lost to “Moonlight” in the Best Picture category. Awash with iconic song-and-dance numbers, it tells the story of two ambitious entertainers (Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling) in the city of dreams.

 

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Participant

#11. Spotlight (2015)

- Director: Tom McCarthy
- Letterboxd user rating: 3.98
- Metascore: 93
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Runtime: 129 min

A slate of top talent helped this gripping drama take home the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Acting Ensemble, besides Best Picture and Best Screenplay. Sticking closely to the facts, it follows Boston Globe reporters as they uncover a long-running scandal within the Catholic Archdiocese. At the same ceremony, actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Brie Larson won awards for their respective roles in “The Revenant” and “Room.”

 

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Focus Features

#10. Brokeback Mountain (2005)

- Director: Ang Lee
- Letterboxd user rating: 4.0
- Metascore: 87
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Runtime: 134 min

The secret romance between two cowboys was a big hit both at the box office and during the awards season. Representing a rare tie, star Michelle Williams and actress Amy Adams (of “Junebug”) both won the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress. As a special tribute, the ceremony honored George Clooney with a Freedom Award for his work on “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

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Regency Enterprises

#9. L.A. Confidential (1997)

- Director: Curtis Hanson
- Letterboxd user rating: 4.02
- Metascore: 90
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Runtime: 138 min

More than a commercial hit, this gritty noir was the first to win top honors at all the major critics’ awards. It fared less well at the Oscars, where James Cameron’s “Titanic” was the night’s big winner. Based on James Ellroy’s pulpy novel, it tells a story of dirty cops and devious dames in 1950s Los Angeles.

 

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DreamWorks

#8. American Beauty (1999)

- Director: Sam Mendes
- Letterboxd user rating: 4.03
- Metascore: 84
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Runtime: 122 min

Long before he stunned critics with “1917,” director Sam Mendes explored desire and depression in modern suburbia. After taking home three Golden Globes and three Critics’ Choice Awards, the movie won five Oscars. Between its lead star (Kevin Spacey) and illicit subject, file this one under “films that could never be made today.”

 

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Regency Enterprises

#7. 12 Years a Slave (2013)

- Director: Steve McQueen
- Letterboxd user rating: 4.06
- Metascore: 96
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Runtime: 134 min

Steve McQueen’s unflinching biopic defeated films like “American Hustle” and “Gravity” when it won Best Picture at the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice Awards, and Oscars. It depicts 12 years in the life of Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), a Northern man who was kidnapped and then sold into Southern slavery. Co-star Lupita Nyong'o won both a Critics’ Choice Award and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

 

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Esperanto Filmoj

#6. Roma (2018)

- Director: Alfonso Cuarón
- Letterboxd user rating: 4.15
- Metascore: 96
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Runtime: 135 min

Having previously broken a record when “Gravity” won seven Critics’ Choice Awards (though not Best Picture), director Alfonso Cuarón was no stranger to the ceremony by 2019. Faring almost as well, this semi-autobiographical black-and-white film took home four honors out of eight nominations. It became the first Netflix film to win Academy Awards in the categories of Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Foreign Film.

 

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Warner Bros.

#5. The Departed (2006)

- Director: Martin Scorsese
- Letterboxd user rating: 4.17
- Metascore: 85
- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Runtime: 151 min

This star-studded crime saga earned Martin Scorsese his second Critics’ Choice Award for Best Director, and a long overdue Oscar in the same category. Set in Boston, it finds a cop (Leonardo DiCaprio) and criminal (Matt Damon) going undercover on opposite sides of the law. In 2019, Scorsese wowed the BFCA yet again with his work on “The Irishman.”

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DreamWorks

#4. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

- Director: Steven Spielberg
- Letterboxd user rating: 4.17
- Metascore: 91
- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Runtime: 169 min

It might seem like a front-runner in retrospect, but this acclaimed war drama was up against some serious competition at the fourth Critics’ Choice Awards. Among the other Best Picture nominees was “Shakespeare in Love,” which ended up taking home the top honor at the Oscars. Spielberg and frequent collaborator John Williams also won Critics’ Choice Awards for Best Director and Best Composer, respectively.

 

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PolyGram Filmed Entertainment

#3. Fargo (1996)

- Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
- Letterboxd user rating: 4.23
- Metascore: 85
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Runtime: 98 min

Only the Coen brothers could have crafted this idiosyncratic dramedy, about murder and betrayal in small-town Minnesota. Actress Frances McDormand won both a Critics’ Choice Award and an Oscar for her performance as police Chief Marge Gunderson. A TV series adaptation has won eight Critics’ Choice Awards over the course of its three seasons.

 

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Paramount Vantage

#2. No Country for Old Men (2007)

- Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
- Letterboxd user rating: 4.27
- Metascore: 91
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Runtime: 122 min

Adapting a novel by Cormac McCarthy, the Coen brothers turned in yet another critical darling. Unlike some predecessors, this one was also a substantial hit at the box office. It won three Critics’ Choice Awards on its way to the Oscars, where it took home four major awards.

 

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New Line Cinema

#1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

- Director: Peter Jackson
- Letterboxd user rating: 4.34
- Metascore: 94
- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Runtime: 201 min

Peter Jackson’s original “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy concluded on a truly epic note, eventually raking in over $1.2 billion at the global box office. After earning four Critics’ Choice Awards out of four nominations, it similarly swept at the Oscars and its 11 winstied the all-time record. Some of the acclaimed films it defeated that year were “Lost in Translation,” “Mystic River,” “Seabiscuit,” and “Cold Mountain.”

 

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Tribeca Productions

2019 Nominees

- 1917
- Ford v Ferrari
- The Irishman
- Jojo Rabbit
- Joker
- Little Women
- Marriage Story
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
- Parasite
- Uncut Gems

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