What's The Best Best Picture Winner From The Last Ten Years?

(Welcome to Survey Says, a feature where we conduct a movie-related survey for a random group of people and explain why they're completely right, completely wrong, or somewhere in-between.)The Artist. Argo. 12 Years a Slave. Birdman. Spotlight. Moonlight. The Shape of Water. Green Book. Parasite. Nomadland.

Those are the ten most recent movies to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Since the concept of pitting pieces of art against each other and handing one a golden trophy is inherently ridiculous, we figured we might as well take things one step further and issue a survey to find out which of these Oscar winners audiences think is the best. I know it's a cliche to say "the results may surprise you!", but in this case, it's actually true: I was genuinely surprised to see which of these films came out on top.

By the Numbers

I want to make something clear up top: a completely random assortment of 608 people answered this survey through Survey Monkey. This isn't just a selection of Twitter users we're talking about. Also, 608 people is admittedly not a huge sample size, but no one is trying to make the case that these results are definitive – we're just using this as a jumping-off point to dissect some data.

With that caveat out of the way, let's get into the results. Here's the breakdown of responses when folks were asked which best picture winner from the last ten years was the best:

  • 12 Years A Slave 17.93%
  • Parasite 14.14%
  • The Shape of Water 14.14%
  • Green Book 12.83%
  • Moonlight 9.21%
  • Argo 8.88%
  • Nomadland 8.55%
  • Birdman 6.74%
  • Spotlight 3.62%
  • The Artist 3.95%
  • A Surprising Result

    Steve McQueen's harrowing and soulful 12 Years a Slave is unquestionably one of the most powerful and beautifully constructed movies made about slavery in America...but wow, number one among these choices? I was moved by the film when it was released in 2013 – it gave us not only a tremendous lead performance from Chiwetel Ejiofor, but introduced the world to the electric Lupita Nyong'o – but the fact that it emerged victorious from this particular scrum, topping films like Parasite and Moonlight, is kind of stunning. Do people still talk about this movie? Does it have a lasting cultural impact? Anecdotally, I don't think I've seen or heard a single person mention it in at least five years, but the fact that it made such a significant mark on the folks surveyed here might indicate that its legacy is more indelible than I gave it credit for.

    A couple other tidbits I found fascinating in this data: Spotlight, a straightforward but excellent movie, was utterly body slammed by Green Book, which...the less said about that one, the better. I'm a bit surprised that The Shape of Water performed so well here, and there's something perversely enjoyable to me about seeing Birdman so low on the list, since that movie falls in my estimation every time I think about it.

    For the record, if I were ranking these, I would put Parasite at the top of my list. How about you?