The 86th Academy Awards were handed out on March 2, 2014. The event was chock full of memorable moments including host Ellen DeGeneres’ group selfie with Bradley Cooper, Jared Leto, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, and many more. Ellen’s post temporarily shut down Twitter and eventually resulted in a record 3.4 million retweets. Another viral moment was when John Travolta introduced Adina Menzel, prior to her performance of “Let It Go,” as “Adele Dazeem.” It resulted in a bit of a backlash for Travolta, but Menzel got tongue-in-cheek revenge one year later on the Oscar stage when she introduced Travolta as “Glom Gozingo.”

The Best Picture nominees, released in 2013, covered a wide variety of genres and filmmaking styles. While 12 Years a Slave won the coveted Oscar, the other eight nominees are all outstanding films.

9 American Hustle – 7.2

Thanks to tapping into the winning chemistry discovered in Silver Linings Playbook, with the reunion of Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, David O. Russell’s ensemble 70’s and 80’s F.B.I. crime drama scored 10 Oscar nominations in 2014. American Hustle received Acting nods for Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence.

It marked Russell’s third Best Director nomination following 2010’s The Fighter and 2012’s aforementioned Silver Linings Playbook and stands as his highest-grossing film, raking in over 251 million dollars worldwide. Despite some powerhouse acting, complete with a nearly unrecognizable Christian Bale, a great script, and masterful directing, it won no awards at the 86th Academy Awards.

8 Philomena – 7.6

Philomena features outstanding performances from Dame Judi Dench, who received an Oscar nod for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, and Steve Coogan, who shared a nomination for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay with Jeff Pope. It tells the story of a journalist that joins a woman to search for her son, who was taken away when she was a teenager at a Catholic convent.

While the film didn’t make waves in the U.S., it did very well overseas and caught the attention of Oscar voters. It is based on the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee and touches on the power of forgiveness while diving into the Catholic church’s exploitation and judgment of women. It scored four Oscar nominations, but didn’t win any trophies at the event.


7 Nebraska – 7.7

Nebraska is Alexander Payne’s black and white dramedy about a father, played by Bruce Dern, and his estranged son, Will Forte, who go on a road trip from Montana to Nebraska to claim a million-dollar sweepstakes prize. The film features deadpan comedy and uniquely dives into the complicated father-son relationship.

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It was the lowest-grossing film to be nominated for Best Picture in 2014, bringing in just 27 million dollars. Despite the low earnings, the movie scored six Oscar nominations, including Best Writing, Original Screenplay for Bob Nelson, and Best Achievement in Directing for Payne. Bruce Dern and June Squibb also scored Acting nods for their performances in this simple, yet stylized road trip movie. The film’s final scene is indelibly poignant and leaves viewers fighting back tears.

6 Gravity – 7.7

Who could forget the intense, white-knuckle opening sequence of Gravity, which stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts who work together after a devastating accident destroys their space shuttle leaving them stranded and floating around in space?.The dazzling visuals of the film paired with an emotional roller coaster ride and great performances made Gravity an Oscar darling.

The film won seven of the 10 Oscars for which it was nominated, including Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects. Director Alfonso Cuaron won Best Achievement in Film Directing for the thriller. It’s also the highest-grossing film to be nominated for Best Picture in 2014, raking in a stellar 723 million dollars.

5 Captain Phillips – 7.8

Captain Phillips stars Tom Hanks in the title role and tells the true story of the 2009 hi-jacking of a U.S. ship, MV Maersk Alabama, off the coast of Somalia. The gripping thriller introduced movie-goers to Barkhad Abdi, who was nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of “Muse,” the lead pirate, who takes command of the ship.

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The film boasts director Paul Greengrass’ signature documentary shooting style, which translates to an intense and visceral movie-going experience. It was adored by critics in 2014 and received praise for its direction, screenplay, cinematography, and outstanding performances from Hanks and Abdi.

4 Her – 8.0

Deep from the recesses of Spike Jonze’s mind comes Her. Joaquin Phoenix delivers a deeply moving and heartbreaking performance as “Theodore,” a lonely writer who begins a relationship with an operating system named “Samantha,” voiced by Scarlett Johansson.

It was one of the most engaging and provocative films of the year racking up five Oscar nominations, winning Best Writing, Original Screenplay for Jonze’s unique and poignant script. It shines a light on our basic human desire for connection in the digital age. It received wide acclaim from critics, but the film failed to make a huge splash at the box office.

3 Dallas Buyers Club – 8.0

Matthew McConaughey transformed himself, in what many believe is his best performance, losing over 50 pounds to play Ron Woodroof a hard-living, homophobic Texan, who discovers he is HIV+ in Dallas Buyers Club. The film is based on the true story of Woodroof, who smuggled drugs that were in clinical trial stages in the mid-1980s, into the U.S. from Mexico to help himself and his new community of AIDS patients.

McConaughey wasn’t the only actor to transform himself for the role. It’s impossible to forget Jared Leto’s Oscar-winning performance of Rayon, who begins an unlikely relationship with Woodroof in the film – but which was heavily criticized for being a trans role played by a cis actor. Jean-Marc Vallée’s spirited documentary-style direction gives the film a sense of urgency and taps into the emotions of a man who goes through immense change while trying to stay alive and help others. Dallas Buyers Club didn’t set any box office records, but the critics and Oscar voters revelled in the strong performance from McConaughey.

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2 12 Years a Slave – 8.1

12 Years a Slave won the Oscar for Best Picture at the 86th Academy Awards. The film is based on the memoir of Solomon Northup, a free man who was abducted and enslaved in 1841. Chiwetel Ejiofor received an Oscar nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. The film also boasts strong performances from Paul Giamatti, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfre Woodard, and Brad Pitt, who won the Oscar as one of the producers.

The powerful drama also saw Lupita Nyong’o win an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for her stirring portrayal of Patsey, a fellow enslaved person on the plantation. It also won Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay for John Ridley’s poignant script.

1 The Wolf of Wall Street – 8.2

The Wolf of Wall Street was one of the most outrageous and shocking films of 2013. It raked in over 392 million dollars at the box office making it the second highest-grossing film to be nominated for Best Picture in 2014. The film tells the true story of Jordan Belfort, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who rose to prominence as a fast-talking, shady stockbroker. Both DiCaprio and Jonah Hill received Oscar nominations for their roles, while Martin Scorsese received a nod for Best Director.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, The Wolf of Wall Street set the record for vulgar language using the f-word 506 times, an average of 2.8 times per minute. The over-the-top excess of sex and drugs, along with Matthew McConaughey’s improvised chest-thumping scene, make this one of the most memorable films of 2014.

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