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Ranking the Oscar Clips

by Ben Miller

Oscar clips are a fun wrinkle of a ceremony.  Who could forget Cate Blanchett’s reaction to her Elizabeth: The Golden Age clip?  The actors and actresses can seem mortified or proud of anywhere inbetween, and it’s part of the appeal of the clips.  The clips preceding each of the categories ranged from brilliant to downright weird.  Let’s rank them 20-1…

The Weird

20. Timothee Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
19. Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
18. Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

Despite great performances, Oscar couldn't find an appropriate clip?  Chalamet's case is the most perplexing as he had plenty of great clips to work with, but they went with a back-and-forth during a flirty piano scene.  Ronan, too, has dozens of scenes that work as Oscar clips, but they went with an odd fight scene that showcased only one of her many moods.  I have no idea what they were thinking with Rockwell.  His character chews scenery at will and yet they chose a sitting conversation heavy on the exposition and low on the subtext.

Not Much to Work With

I won't be working for them. I'll be working for us."

17. Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
16. Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water
15. Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
14. Mary J. Blige, Mudbound

Harrelson and Plummer might have presented problems because their characters are more atmospheric to the story than heavy on individual showcases.  Plummer’s was better than Harrelson’s.  Spencer got a good clip, but that one scene was a given as her only big moment.  Blige is so subtle in Mudbound, they didn’t have a good clip to show why she got nominated.


You're a taker!"

13. Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
12. Allison Janney, I, Tonya
11. Meryl Streep, The Post

Oldman’s entire performance is an Oscar clip, so no surprise that that scene was BIG.  Janney is biting in her diner scene with Robbie, but also noticeably broad.  Streep's big showcase scene works as The Post’s climax, but you remember it more than the film itself, which is why it’s the best of this bunch.


10. Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
9. Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.
8. Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
7. Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out

Quieter clips for these nuanced performances. Washington’s character is bold and blunt, but his scene highlights the understanding dignity of the character. A good choice.  Jenkins gets his one Oscar scene which we all knew was coming, but gets extra points for featuring heavily in Hawkins’ gesticulation.  Kaluuya gets top marks of this batch as his expression slowly morphs with tears streaming during his unexpected therapy session. 

Crème de la Creme

You ain't trynta make me believe in reincarnation or somethin' are ya? 'Cause you're pretty but you ain't her..."

6. Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
5. Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
4. Margot Robbie, I, Tonya

A somewhat surprising choice for Daniel Day-Lewis’ scene as his character is so measured while his Oscar scene is wilder.  They chose well for McDormand and Robbie showing exactly what got them nominated, McDormand's leaning into the tough humor and the grief simultaneous and Robbie during Tonya's rock bottom moment.  In both cases, it’s one of the few scenes in their films where they aren’t cursing up an R rating.


2a. Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
2b. Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

I love the scene choice for Dafoe.  Walking past motel doors, he's laying down the law without going big, but also mentions to another tenant to clean up while he is doing it.  It’s a perfect encapsulation of the performance.  Metcalf has been the clip champ all Oscar season (the performance has so many great moments), and they went with a perfect snippet of verbal diarrhea and blunt honesty in one of the earliest scenes in the movie. Every audience howls with laughter when her scream punctuates the scene.

The Champion

1. Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread

Surely you were also thinking  “Yes! This is the perfect Oscar clip!”  as soon as it began. Rarely has a clip choice encapsulated so many different emotions of a character while also showing the bigger influence that character has on the whole.  The Oscar crowd began to cheer before the clip finished, Manville receiving a large ovation.  I like to think the producer had a dog in this particular fight.


And -




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Reader Comments (41)

"Leslie" = Lesley
"Francis" = Frances

March 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

Saw Phantom Thread the day before the Oscars. Watching in the theater, I turned to my boyfriend immediately after this scene and said “This is the Oscar scene.”

March 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

I don't know why they keep using the shirtless flirty piano clip for Timothee. My guess is they don't want to spoil any of the scenes near the end where all his money scenes are? I would've picked the phone call to his mom asking her to pick him up at the train station but that scene is in French so i guess the producers might scare away potential viewers thinking it was foreign language film.

March 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterIrvin

Good call @JJ. I should know these things by now

March 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBen

My whole theater erupted during the Lesley scene in Phantom Thread and I was SO pleased they picked this for the Oscars.

Re: Timothee... I remember seeing this exact clip in at least two of the other awards show. Do the studios pick it themselves to give to the shows or do the latter have any say?

March 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

"Re: Timothee... I remember seeing this exact clip in at least two of the other awards show. Do the studios pick it themselves to give to the shows or do the latter have any say?" I think I remember reading somewhere that it's a little from Column A and a little from Column B. I'm guessing some studios allow the award show producers to pick, some like to specify which clip. Sony may have insisted on just using just that clip for Timothee if that is the case, it is a shame. He has better scenes to show off why he got nominated.

March 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterIrvin

I agree, Leslie Manville clip was the best of the bunch. What a great understated performance by Manville. Happy she was finally recognized.

March 5, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

For real, watching those clips you'd be hard-pressed to not assume Manville or Metcalfe were going to win. Not just because the clips were great, but the responses in the room. Definitely the best choices of the night. And agreed that Day-Lewis' was a surprise, albeit a censored one. FUCK CHIC. Robbie, McDormand also great choices. Washington's perfect.

I liked the selection for Blige. Certainly more than the one everyone else has been using as she farewells her son. As I watched the movie, I assumed this was her Oscar clip.

I have no idea why so many kept going back to the well of that one Chalamet clip. I like to think they were mixing it up with Ronan's clip - not the same "what if this is the best me" bit.

March 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

The problem with finding a clip for Chalamet is that the key to his performance does not make for being a typical Oscar clip. His best moments are him reacting to others or just being silent processing what’s going on or observing. I would have chosen the scene where he watches Hammer dance and we see him try to make sense of the desire he is feeling. It’s all in his eyes but it’s a silent scene. Then there is the instant classic final shot. The closest to a typical Oscar clip would be his call from the train station when his resolve just breaks.

March 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Found it odd that they chose those clips for Janney and Kaluuya which are the right scenes but not the right moment. The money shot comes a bit later for both, Kaluuya once he starts to get very uncomfortable and of course Janney lashing out at Robbie.

I literally quieted down the entire room when Manville's came on. Only one who had seen the film and shushed them. They all laughed and cheered so loudly.

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAlexD

Why do you keep bagging on The Post? I remember the whole movie.

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJay Wanted


Agreed. Right scene, wrong moment.

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJess

People at my party who had seen Phantom Thread loved the Lesley clip.

I also liked how they did Best Picture. Instead of having each film introduced at some point in the show (usually oddly combined with one or two others), we got a few bits of each film at the end. I think that's why Ronan's clip seemed odd, because they saved the "What if this is my best me?" clip for the Best Picture one.

McDormand and Metcalf's clips were perfect.

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJakey

It seemed they were often choosing against what you would expect, especially with McDormand and Rockwell who got very understated clips that belie their raucous, colorful performances. Same goes for Janney, really.

Robbie's was great but obvious. The mirror scene is maybe the best piece of acting in that film, but along with Chalamet's closing scene it poses the question of whether they would allow nonverbal clips? Has there ever been one in the past?

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

@Jess Right?! It reminded me of the 2010 Oscars where the clip for Eisenberg was his "Did I adequately answer your condescending question?" scene without that quote! They cut it right before he said it.

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAlexD

@Jonathan Glenn Close had silent clip when she was nominated for Dangerous Liaisons (and it was final scene of the movie)
PS. God, how i love that performance!

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPaweł

I love this post and I love Oscar clips. Let's do some more next year!

I think they did a really good job this year. I really like Saoirse's clip, probably because I had that kind of fight so many times with my mum.

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I just love it, This is what I consider a festival of films. They truly deserve this. I just love the fact that we all are also so exited about them. Specially with McDormand , it seems to the one that I just adore the most.
Do we get to see them any time soon ??
I hope we do..
Keeping my fingers crossed.

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAbhinav Sharma

Remember when sissy spacek was nominated for In The Bedroom And they kept showing the plate breaking scene ad nauseum at every show? Sometimes it’s nice to see something different. I loved Margot Robbie’s clip!

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterME

There could be no other no. 1 than Manville. Exquisite.

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMads

Wasn't the Rockwell clip a bit "spoilery"? If you hadn't seen the film yet, this was from nearly the very end.

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMark Kaiserman

ME -- i loved Robbie's clip. I forget how good she is in that movie sometimes. Though I didn't *love* her in it I get why people are so enthused.

Jonathan -- interesting call on why they chose those Three Billboards clips.

Ben -- I like your final sentence so much because I've often thought that whoever is choosing the clips has OPINIONS. I am still mad about the clip they chose for Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge! Whoever chose it wasn't a Moulin Rouge! fan.

Andy -- i love it. funny when that happens while movie watching.

March 6, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

More Blige shade why do we always have to say that subtle is not acting.

The clips can vary out of context.

Sissy smashing plates or Shirley asking for a shot or Sigourney's "THIS WOMAN IS MY SECRETARY" scene,or Cher snapping everyone out of it are more clips I can think of which were perfect.

Manville's 2 best senes are with DDL the hurting ears scene was gr8.

They couldn't show Timothee's last scene as it's EVERYTHING in that film.

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

"Robbie's was great but obvious. The mirror scene is maybe the best piece of acting in that film, but along with Chalamet's closing scene it poses the question of whether they would allow nonverbal clips? Has there ever been one in the past?"// YES! Toni Collette's clip when she was nominated for "The Sixth Sense" was completely non-verbal. It's the car scene when Haley Joel Osment tells her that his grandma, her mother, has been talking to him and her moving reaction.

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterIrvin

I remember Blethyn's clip in 96 was just her reacting to Hortense's 1st phone call,no words are said.

Anyone remeber those 4 - 5 second clips in 2006,I remember Abigial Breslin's being just a scream.

I saw from the crowd's reaction that Manville has lots of goodwill and is someone I think will be back soon.

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

My husband and I watched part of the telecast with a few of his former students, none of whom have seen Phantom Thread, but Manville's clip is the one which garnered the biggest positive reaction. In a less competitive year I think she would have been a favorite or at least a threat to win.

Also, Toni Collette's clip from The Sixth Sense was her wordless reaction to Cole's revelation at the end of the film. I'm still salty that Angelina Jolie won instead.

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Hands down with others on the Manville clip. I haven't seen Phantom Thread but might have to just for her performance. For folks who watch British TV, she's quite good in "Mum".

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPam

CAN THIS PLEASE BE A NEW COLUMN WHERE WE DISCUSS EACH YEAR'S OSCAR CLIPS?!?! This is literally my favorite part of the Oscars. And why it is so frustrating trying to find the entire clips from previous years' ceremonies.

Yeah I don't know why they keep choosing the piano scene for CMBYN, I would have loved the phone call scene with his mother. I also wish they used I, TONYA's mirror scene for Robbie. I just feel like that courtroom scene is your obvious Oscar clip scene, but happy to see it ranked so high.

My favorite it, like everyone was Manville. I also love that one of the biggest scenes of the year (and century) was Kaluuya's therapy scene with Keener. Perfect clip.

My favorite category of clips in my Oscar memory was the year of Blanchett, Bullock, Dench, Adams and Streep.

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermikenewq

I thought Janney's clip was also too much of a back-and-forth with Robbie. They could've found a better moment for her.

Manville's and McDormand's clips were exquisite. And Kaluuya's was a lovely piece of subtle, nuanced acting.

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

I agree that Saoirse's clip was an excellent choice. As would so many other clips have been of course, but this one was fiery.

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMike

I think Chiwetel Ejiofor's clip from 12 Years a Slave was entirely wordless, too. I remember watching it several times because it was such an interesting, unusual choice.

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCash

That was actually Mary J.'s best scene in the was effortless, naturalistic, and an authentically reactive back and forth between her and Rob Morgan. Didn't quite get that from her in her other scenes.

Timothee's clip was an unfortunate flatline...Manville, Metcalf, Hawkins, Robbie, Oldman, McDormand, Dafoe, Day-Lewis stood out for me. Thought Plummer was quite soulful in his clip.

Harrelson's clip was ruined by McDonagh's choice to have the back of McDormand's entire distracting shaved head in the foreground of that shot. I was watching the indentation at the back of her neck more than him.

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterStritch Bankhead

I can't believe they highlighted that terrible CGI deer in 3 Billboards.

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHustler

I was really happy that they gave Richard Jenkins a good clip and some extra screen-time with Sally. His performance was my favorite among the supporting actors. I wish he'd gotten traction this awards season.

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

They were trying to find a safe pg moment form "Call Me By Your Name" I was shocked when they actually showed Oliver and Elio in bed and kissing

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterjaragon

Why is it a thing to upload videos reacting to things?? I searched for reaction shots at the Oscars trying to see the typical loser faces, and all I got is unknown people reacting to Oscar wins? Why, why would you use youtube for that?

^ Because youtube is almost entirely about reaction culture now. It's littered with users who do nothing BUT react to shows, games, movie trailers, etc.

I agree that Manville was by far the best and I love it when they knock it out of the park with clips, it makes the nomination feel even more justified especially with someone who isn't as well known as the other nominees.

Chalamet's clip should've just been him wordlessly looking into the fireplace for the whole 30 secs.
Done. Same with Robbie in the mirror, how the hell did they pass up what is easily her best moment?

Janney definitely had a better clip than that but they probably didn't wanna spoil the betrayal with the tape.

I didn't mind Ronan's clip because it's a funny/angry moment that works but her argument after losing her virginity would've been much better imo.

By and large, I thought they chose pretty well tho. Nothing wtf like some years past.

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMarkTheFirst

Yes. The Deer Scene is probably that key moment tt nabbed McDormand the Oscar.

Sigh..comparing Janney's clip w those o Metcalf n Manville, one wld never guess she is gonna win over them...

Laurie n Lady Bird are robbed!! 😢

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterClaran

Meryl's best scene is obviously the one where she decides to release the papers: "Let's do it'. Holy god that's one of my favorite scenes of the last year.

I actually loved Saoirse's scene - there are so many good ones to choose though. Day-Lewis's was great too.

But yes, Lesley Manville's was by far the best. I was so glad she was nominated. And so happy that the audience was digging it too.

March 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

They improved Kaluuya's clip from other shows when they were using the "rose give me the Keys" scene which while fine was in no way good as his hypnosis scene.

March 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterZo

Was 1985 the first year they used clips for acting?

March 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

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