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Best 2020 Oscar-nominated movies, according to critics

  • Best 2020 Oscar-nominated movies, according to critics

    With another Oscars ceremony fast approaching comes a renewed discussion about cinema, the culture behind awards shows, and the inclusivity (or lack thereof) of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Some of the most loved and appreciated films of 2019 are in the running for trophies at the 92nd Academy Awards, set for 8 p.m. EST Sunday, Feb. 9, while others were notably snubbed from the list of nominees.

    Since nominations were released Jan. 13, critics, cinephiles, and casual moviegoers alike have obsessively scrutinized each film, actor, and behind-the-scenes talent to make the cut (and those that didn’t) while debating their Oscar worthiness. Supervillain origin story “Joker” received the most nominations with a total of 11, while “The Irishman,” “1917,” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” follow with 10 each. Other films, such as “Uncut Gems,” “Us,” and “The Farewell,” were left out of the nominations entirely.

    Several veteran filmmakers including Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, and Sam Mendes seeking awards glory once again, while other, younger filmmakers—particularly women—went unrecognized by the Academy. No women were nominated for Best Director at this year’s Oscars, and additional criticism has been raised regarding the lack of diversity among nominees in many of the major categories.

    To determine most critically acclaimed, feature-length Oscar-nominated films of the year, Stacker compiled Metacritic data on each of the 36 feature-length Oscar-nominated films (data updated Jan. 13, 2020) and ranked them from lowest to highest with ties broken by IMDb user rating. Each film will be discussed concerning the qualities critics liked (or disliked) about it, and how these qualities relate to the awards for which the film was nominated. Keep reading to see which of your favorite movies from 2019 ranked highest.

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  • #36. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

    - Director: Joachim Rønning
    - Metascore: 43
    - IMDb user rating: 6.8
    - Runtime: 119 min
    - Nominations: 1

    After retelling the story of “Sleeping Beauty” from the perspective of villainess Maleficent, “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” tells the next chapter of her story. Angelina Jolie returns as the eponymous character, who protects the Moors and its ruler Aurora (Elle Fanning); Maleficent finds that her relationships and alliances are becoming increasingly complicated with new dark forces coming into play. While the film was criticized by critics for its dense plot and intense CGI visuals, Jolie herself was still considered convincing as the villain, with the help of the Oscar-nominated makeup and hairstyling of the film.

  • #35. Breakthrough

    - Director: Roxann Dawson
    - Metascore: 46
    - IMDb user rating: 6.2
    - Runtime: 116 min
    - Nominations: 1

    Like other Christian drama films, faith was naturally the theme of the film “Breakthrough.” Depicting the real-life story of a teenager who slipped through an icy lake and was submerged for 15 minutes, the film was regarded as inspirational and well-acted, while also considered clichéd and predictable. Star Chrissy Metz sang an original song written by Diane Warren called “I’m Standing With You,” which received the film’s one Oscar nomination (Best Original Song).

  • #34. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

    - Director: J.J. Abrams
    - Metascore: 54
    - IMDb user rating: 6.9
    - Runtime: 142 min
    - Nominations: 3

    The final installment of the “Star Wars” sequel trilogy and the saga as a whole featured the return of “The Force Awakens” director J.J. Abrams, who ended the story of Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) in “The Rise of Skywalker.” Fans were critical of how this ninth “Star Wars” episode rolled back on story developments from previous “The Last Jedi,” but the visual effects and the score from John Williams received praise, as all “Star Wars” films have garnered. As such, “The Rise of Skywalker” was consistent with its predecessors in garnering nominations for Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing, and Best Original Score.

  • #33. The Lion King

    - Director: Jon Favreau
    - Metascore: 55
    - IMDb user rating: 7.0
    - Runtime: 118 min
    - Nominations: 1

    Disney has made a habit of making live-action remakes of some of its classic animated films, but “The Lion King” took a different approach and reimagined the original film with photorealistic CGI animals. Many of the songs were retained but with new voice performers, although fans of the original film criticized the new one for sacrificing the liveliness of the animation for the focus toward realism. Still, the technology behind the film’s visuals was praised, which led to the film’s lone Oscar nomination in the category of Best Visual Effects.

  • #32. Jojo Rabbit

    - Director: Taika Waititi
    - Metascore: 57
    - IMDb user rating: 8.0
    - Runtime: 108 min
    - Nominations: 6

    Fan-favorite filmmaker Taika Waititi turned in a provocative film in 2019 that featured himself, a Polynesian Jewish man, playing Adolf Hitler. “Jojo Rabbit” followed a young boy (Roman Griffin Davis) in the Hitler Youth struggling with his personal views, and is badgered by his imaginary friend, a comical version of Hitler. Even with a subversive premise, critics had much praise for the “anti-hate” satire, especially for the acting; Scarlett Johansson as the boy’s mother received a Best Supporting Actress nomination, with Waititi receiving nominations for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. “Jojo Rabbit” is also in the running for Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, and Best Editing.

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  • #31. Joker

    - Director: Todd Phillips
    - Metascore: 59
    - IMDb user rating: 8.6
    - Runtime: 122 min
    - Nominations: 11

    Joaquin Phoenix is known for his intense acting performances, and some critics believe his work as comic book villain Joker may be his best. A 1980s period piece that imagines the origin story of the Batman nemesis, “Joker” resembles Martin Scorsese films “Taxi Driver” and “The King of Comedy” thematically and visually, although the film was highly controversial upon release for its use of violence, grim tone, and depiction of mental health. Regardless of criticisms, “Joker” leads the Academy Awards field with the most nominations, 11, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Phoenix), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.

  • #30. Frozen II

    - Directors: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
    - Metascore: 64
    - IMDb user rating: 7.2
    - Runtime: 103 min
    - Nominations: 1

    The first “Frozen” film from Disney proved to be a popular culture phenomenon, and the direct sequel attempted to recapture some of that magic. Elsa (Idina Menzel), her sister Anna (Kristen Bell), and friends go off on a journey beyond their kingdom of Arendelle to discover the origins of Elsa’s frost powers, with the song “Into the Unknown” as the showstopper of the soundtrack in the way “Let it Go” represented the first film. With another powerhouse vocal performance from Menzel and music and lyrics from Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, “Frozen II” received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.

  • #29. Klaus

    - Directors: Sergio Pablos, Carlos Martínez López
    - Metascore: 64
    - IMDb user rating: 8.2
    - Runtime: 96 min
    - Nominations: 1

    The animated film “Klaus” may not be as well recognized as Disney animated films, but the Spanish film still features some Disney pedigree with Disney Animation and Illumination veteran Sergio Pablos as the main director. “Klaus,” the first original animated feature film for Netflix, tells the origin story of Santa Claus, historically known as Saint Nicholas but named Klaus in this film. Critics appreciated the traditional animation and the heartwarming story, which tracks for the film’s nomination for Best Animated Feature.

  • #28. Bombshell

    - Director: Jay Roach
    - Metascore: 65
    - IMDb user rating: 6.7
    - Runtime: 109 min
    - Nominations: 3

    Depicting recent events in the cable news industry was the film “Bombshell,” which told the story of women working for Fox News who expose CEO Roger Ailes (played by John Lithgow in the film) as a sexual harasser. Charlize Theron visually transformed into Megyn Kelly, with Nicole Kidman playing Gretchen Carlson and Margot Robbie as a composite character. The film was criticized for its screenplay and some inaccuracies while praised for the acting, with Theron and Robbie both receiving acting nominations and the film as a whole getting a Best Makeup and Hairstyling nomination.

  • #27. Harriet

    - Director: Kasi Lemmons
    - Metascore: 66
    - IMDb user rating: 6.3
    - Runtime: 125 min
    - Nominations: 2

    The famous life story of slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman became a feature film in 2019, with singer, actress, and rising film star Cynthia Erivo portraying Tubman. Film critics thought the movie to be a bit derivative and formulaic but had high praise for Erivo regardless. For this, Erivo received her first Oscar nomination for Best Actress in this role, with “Harriet” also gaining a nomination for Best Original Song (“Stand Up”).

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