2024 Oscars Best Picture Nominees Ranked

2. Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon Review

The old master Martin Scorsese became the oldest person ever nominated for Best Director at the Oscars for his part in bringing Killers of the Flower Moon to life, as well as the most-nominated director in the history of the awards (overtaking Steven Spielberg with his tenth nomination). His authorial stamp on this deconstruction of American myth is about as loud and present as the very best of this century, and Killers of the Flower Moon is a powerful story presented with the expressionistic melding of film styles you might expect from a walking cinema encyclopaedia.

This latest release from one of the United States’ greatest filmmakers tells the true-to-life tale of the Osage people and how they were manipulated and murdered into surrendering oil-rich lands by profiteering white people in the early 20th century. Lily Gladstone powerfully plays Mollie, an Osage at the heart of the conspiracy, while Leonardo DiCaprio is her dopey lover Ernest, charged by Robert De Niro’s exceptionally cruel William Hale with using his relationship to manipulate and ultimately murder every member of Mollie’s land-owning family, including Mollie herself. It is part conspiratorial thriller, part romance. And, thanks to the editing of 2024 Oscars nominee Thelma Schoonmaker and the score of 2024 posthumous nominee Robbie Robertson, it never loses its rhythm across its 3 hours and 26 minutes of runtime.

As is the case with most late-career Scorsese offerings, Killers of the Flower Moon acts as both a tremendously tense surface level story and a deeper piece of reflection on the great director’s own career. It tells of a relatively unknown period in US history and re-evaluates the crimes of the white man into a more modern context, and does so in a tremendously engaging fashion at an important moment regarding discussions of equality and representation, yet beneath that there is still room for the director to engage with his own work and the passion of further filmmaking to re-evaluate how cinema itself has played its part in silencing Native American stories and painting non-white Americans as an “other” to be feared for more than one hundred years.

As with all great pieces of cinema, Killers of the Flower Moon embraces being more than just one thing, and in 2024 it is clearly among the very best of a plethora of era-defining pieces to be nominated at the 96th Academy Awards. Scorsese puts the white man on trial, taking a trip through cinema history to do so, and he ultimately evaluates that even he must answer for his crimes, whether he knowingly or not reinforced negative stereotypes, overlooked important non-white stories, or engaged with the wrong kind of cinema. It is an authorial vision like no other, and a must-see motion picture.

Recommended for you: ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ is Scorsese’s Macbeth Adaptation

1. The Zone of Interest

The Zone of Interest Review

Few films released in the 21st century have been as intricately designed and so deeply wired with meaning as The Zone of Interest, the greatest of 2024’s Oscars Best Picture nominees.

From Jonathan Glazer, the director behind the visionary Under the Skin (2013), itself one of the best films of the 2010s, The Zone of Interest tells of the World War II concentration camps of Auschwitz and specifically the day-to-day lives of the Nazi family that live wall-to-wall with them. Christian Friedel and Oscar-nominee Sandra Hüller (for Anatomy of a Fall) lead as family patriarch and matriarch respectively, their seemingly ordinary family lives contrasted with the smoke of the crematoria of Auschwitz, and from the sick and deadly perspectives of their warped world views. This choice, to tell of the Holocaust from the perspective of the oppressor, is one unique to this film, and Jonathan Glazer utilises this to hold a mirror up to the privilege of our Western capitalist culture. When the family gather around clothing and jewellery taken from Jewish prisoners, clasping at the goods they each want to take, we are asked to question our own exploitation of workers in fast fashion, and when the Jewish people are dehumanised in passing, we are asked to question who we dehumanise and why.

The Zone of Interest is no doubt a phenomenal feat of filmmaking. Every choice in the narrative, the mise-en-scene, the edit, and the score (and relative lack thereof), is packed with intent, and the feeling in the pit of your stomach that is produced by seemingly mundane daily activities proves that these choices work. Director Glazer and his Oscar-nominated cinematographer Łukasz Żal (previously nominated for his work alongside Pawel Pawlikowski on Ida and Cold War) observe the daily activities outlined in their source material – the novel of the same name by Martin Amis – with a cold, disconnected lens and colour palette. Their work is entirely in service to the story and doesn’t feature any showy techniques and only a few surprise strokes of visual artistry, and yet The Zone of Interest is undeniably cinematic.

The class of 2024 is undoubtedly one of the strongest in recent memory, but there are no pretenders to the ingenuity of The Zone of Interest. This film, with its quiet, cold presentation, and the horror it finds in the everyday, is one of the most important films of the century and certainly the best film made for release in 2023.

Recommended for you: 2023 Oscars Best Picture Nominees Ranked

In a year with so many truly exceptional offerings, it is always difficult to decipher the all-time greats from the Best of Year films. But which did you enjoy the most? Which films would you vote for in your own poll for Best Picture? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to follow @thefilmagazine on Facebook and X (Twitter) for more insightful movie lists.

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