Prestige films, like the ones that get nominated for Oscars every year, have a reputation for being depressing and/or hard to watch. More often than not, they come by that reputation honestly. After all, one thing a great film endeavors to do is say something honest about humanity — and the more brutally honest you get, the less fun things can be.
Thus, for the second year in a row, let’s judge this year’s nominees for Best Picture using one very simple metric: Which will bum you out the most? These rankings have little to do with the respective quality of these films, or their likelihood of winning the big prize — it’s just a race to see which film will leave you most in need of cute animal videos as the credits roll.
Note: I’ve done my best to avoid going into specific plot details below, but due to the nature of this ranking, there are going to be implicit spoilers about the endings of these films. Also, everyone’s taste is subjective; the tragic death of an iconic rock star might feel sadder to you than the dissolution of a long friendship between two Irish dudes on an island, and that’s fine! That being said, though… I sincerely doubt most people will argue against the number-one ranking here.
10. Top Gun: Maverick
There’s a bit of melancholy to the ending of this long-awaited sequel, but that’s only if you believe that this is really the end of Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) being the most top of guns. Otherwise, this is pure feel-good blockbuster fare — big heroic action, followed by Maverick literally getting the girl and flying off into the sunset with her.
09. The Fabelmans
This is actually a much darker film than you might think, as Steven Spielberg uses this roman á clef look at his childhood to unpack family secrets he’s spent decades avoiding — much of the film is essentially about the end of his parents’ marriage, and he doesn’t flinch away from some ugly truths. However, the final few scenes bring with them such joy and lightness, as young Sammy Fabelman’s destiny locks into place. That final shot especially serves as an unforgettable exclamation point, one that still brings a smile to my face and tears to my eyes when I think about it.
08. Everything Everywhere All at Once
A fascinating thing about breaking down this year’s nominees: Pretty much all of them have an undercurrent of lingering sadness to them. (Weird! Certainly in no way a reflection of society today as we all continue to limp forward through time!) Yet there’s such joy to be found in the Daniels’ romp through the multiverse that while there are dark moments of existential crisis, at the end you’re left feeling healed to some degree. Also, Ke Huy Quan beats up some dudes with a fanny pack. Hard to feel sad about that.
07. Triangle of Sadness
Director Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or-winning film earns its spot in the middle of the pack entirely because of the ambiguous nature of its ending; with so much left unsaid in the end, it’s honestly hard to be sure how Östlund wants you to feel about his social satire. However, if you had a good time watching the torment endured by the ultra-rich on board a luxury yacht, then that pleasant feeling should continue all the way through the credits.