Every $1Billion+ Best Picture Nominee Ranked

4. Barbie (2023)

Barbie Review

Barbie was a cultural juggernaut, smashing an array of box office records when it was released in the summer of 2023. Earning $155million in its opening weekend, the film became the highest-grossing debut for a female director. According to Variety, Barbie also had the largest overall box office weekend since the pandemic and the fourth biggest collective weekend of all time.

Aided by the Barbenhiemer movement, in which moviegoers pledged to support both Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer by seeing them on the same day, Barbie cleaned up at the box office and earned the praise of critics, eventually earning 8 Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture.

Greta Gerwig’s Barbie follows stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie) on a journey of self-discovery. When Barbie begins having thoughts of death and begins to wake up with bedhead and bad breath, she realizes that Barbieland, where everything is usually perfect and wonderful, is nothing like the real world. Her existential crisis leads her to question her own existence: is it better to be perfect or to be real?

Gerwig’s vision for Barbie was inspired by the soundstage musicals of the 1950s, with its elaborate practical sets and mid-movie dance sequences. The film feels nostalgic for films like An American in Paris, movies that were spectacular and indulgent simply because they could be. In that way, Barbie is wonderful to look at, tinted pink and sparkling and bright. The production design alone is a massive artistic accomplishment highlighting the artificial world of Barbieland as well as the power of practical sets and miniatures.

The movie has its flaws of course. The script is not as sharp or as focused as Greta Gerwig’s other works, Ladybird and Little Women, and the second half of the film suffers from some wonky pacing and convoluted plot elements, but Barbie is an overall comedic delight, filled with heart and humor. It is a movie that cemented itself almost immediately in the zeitgeist, that managed to be both box office dynamite and a genuine artistic achievement.

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.

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