4. Black Panther (2018)
Black Panther, directed by Ryan Coogler and co-written by Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, was the first superhero movie ever nominated for Best Picture. In total, the MCU movie was nominated for a total of 7 Academy Awards, winning 3: Costume Design, Original Score, Production Design. It was a hit with audiences as well, crossing the $1billion threshold in just 26 days.
Black Panther takes place in the fictional African country of Wakanda, where T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is crowned King following his father’s death and officially takes up the mantle of the Black Panther. T’Challa is soon challenged by his long-lost cousin, Eric “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan), who plans to overthrow T’Challa and lead Wakanda into the future.
The film ended up exceeding its high expectations and is consistently ranked as one of the best Marvel Cinematic Universe films to date. In a cinematic landscape increasingly saturated with superheroes, Black Panther remains a breath of fresh air, its material constantly elevated by its powerhouse performances (including that of the late, great Chadwick Boseman).
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3. Toy Story 3 (2010)
Toy Story 3, directed by Lee Unkrich and written by Michael Arndt, is one of only 3 animated films to ever be nominated for Best Picture, following in the footsteps of Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Up (2009). A massive hit at the time of its release, the film was the highest-grossing film of 2010 with a whopping $1.067 billion worldwide.
Toy Story 3 takes place around 10 years after the events of Toy Story 2. Andy (John Morris) is 17-years-old and about to leave for college. Only a select few of his beloved childhood toys remain, including Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and Woody (Tom Hanks). They haven’t been played with in years, but Woody is steadfast in his belief that Andy still needs them. When the toys are accidentally thrown out with the trash, they decide to move on to Sunnyside Daycare, where they can be played with and appreciated once more. But things at the daycare are not what they seem, and it isn’t long before Woody and the gang hatch a plan to escape the daycare along with its ruthless, evil leader, Lotso (Ned Beatty), and return home.
The animation in Toy Story 3 is sleek and fluid, less stiff than its last entry. While its human animation is more than serviceable, the toys are where the animators’ artistry really shines. The toys are highly detailed, with scuffs and weathering. Lotso’s fur is textured and looks soft. There’s great attention paid to the toys’ movements – how they would practically move in real life – and it leads to some hilarious moments of slapstick comedy. More than 10 years later, the animation still holds up – a testament to the hard work and passion poured into this Disney Pixar release.
Although Toy Story 3 is not the last entry in the franchise – Toy Story 4 was released in 2019 and a 5th installment is currently in the works – it still feels like the end of something. As much as it’s funny and light-hearted, the movie doesn’t shy away from the very real pain of growing up and moving on. Childhood can’t last forever, Woody has to let Andy go. The film is surprisingly poignant, but in the end, it offers us closure; there will always be children in need of a toy, a friend.