The Oscars failed to nominate the best movie of the year in any category — and I'm livid

 Keanu Reeves as John Wick, with spotlights behind him, in John Wick: Chapter 4.
Keanu Reeves as John Wick, with spotlights behind him, in John Wick: Chapter 4.

"John Wick: Chapter 4" was the best movie I saw in 2023. Not "Oppenheimer" and not "Poor Things," which combined for a whopping 24 Oscar nominations. Both those films were great, but they simply could not outdo the art that is Keanu Reaves in black fighting his way through the Parisian night.

Well, at least I thought they couldn't. The cowards at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences disagreed, giving the latest installment in the "John Wick" franchise a total of zero 2024 Oscars nominations.

Seriously? Zero?

Look, part of me knew this would happen. The movie was a commercial success — the 9th-highest-grossing film domestically and 12th-highest-grossing film worldwide in 2023 — but the Oscars don't inherently honor that. In fact, sometimes it can hurt the movie's Oscars odds if it's considered too mainstream, as many action and superhero movies can attest to.

It's also not like the franchise has been honored by the Academy in past years. The franchise overall has brought in a total of zero nominations across four films to date. This is despite each installment being critically acclaimed and commercially successful, though as mentioned before, that last part doesn't necessarily help.

But this movie was worthy. It's the highest-rated of the four on Rotten Tomatoes, for what that's worth, with a 94% fresh rating from critics and a 93% fresh rating from audiences. It scored an average of 8.1 out of 10 from critics and 4.6 out of 5 from audiences. I gave it a 5 out of 5 on Letterboxd. If you compare that to the 10 Best Picture nominees, it stands up to them, exceeding a few in certain aspects.

So clearly, I'm not alone in lauding this masterpiece as a cinematic achievement. As someone who has seen this movie — and many of the Oscars nominees — I have found a few places where the Academy could have appropriately given this movie its due. Here's what 'John Wick: Chapter 4' should have been nominated for at the 2024 Oscars.

An image indicating spoilers are ahead.
An image indicating spoilers are ahead.

Spoilers for "John Wick: Chapter 4" to follow

'John Wick: Chapter 4' deserved these four Oscars nominations

Best Picture

Obviously, as my choice for best film of the year, I think "John Wick: Chapter 4" should get a Best Picture nomination. I haven't seen "Past Lives," "The Zone of Interest" or "Anatomy of a Fall" yet, largely due to their streaming availability, but I've seen the other seven nominees for the Oscars' most prestigious award.

"Maestro," though, is the easy cut for me here. While the Bradley Cooper-directed biopic about composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein has several incredible moments, the movie is incohesive at times.

"John Wick: Chapter 4" may run a bit long at 169 minutes, but at no point does it get lost in its own plot. And the entire sequence of John Wick making his way to Sacré-Cœur to face the Marquis de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård) stands its own against anything from a Best Picture nominee this year. I'm not saying that I'd expect it to win, but I genuinely can't see how voters thought "Maestro" was the better film.

Best Directing

"John Wick: Chapter 4" is filled with incredible action sequences and gorgeous cinematography. The choreography of the hand-to-hand combat, with pistols or otherwise, is balletic in its execution. Some of the performances will stand the test of time, from Reeves's Wick to Lawrence Fishburne as The Bowery King.

To pull that all together though, you need a great director. And when it comes to action movies, Chad Stahelski is among the best. As Reeves's stunt double in "The Matrix," Stahelski has a deep connection with not only his star actor but what makes for great stuntwork.

In scenes like the one above, this deep connection pays off. The choreography of the hand-to-hand combat, the camerawork as we follow John weaving through traffic and the musical score behind it all blend perfectly. Then there's the cutting back and forth between the fight scene and the conversation between the Marquis and Mr. Nobody (Shamier Anderson).

With so many moving parts it'd be an easy scene to not land effectively. For that alone, Stahelski would deserve to be nominated, but it's just one of several such sequences in the movie.

Unfortunately, that means someone needs to be bumped from the list, and while I liked "Killers of the Flower Moon" well enough, Martin Scorsese's nomination this year feels akin to a lifetime achievement award. I'd have easily bumped him for Greta Gerwig's directing in "Barbie" let alone Stahelski's masterclass in "John Wick: Chapter 4."

Best Actor in a Leading Role

This one is tough. The five actors nominated for Best Actor are deserving, including Colman Domingo's critically beloved performance in an arguably flawed "Rustin." And Paul Giamatti in "The Holdovers" is incredible.

But it's time we give Keanu Reeves his due for embodying a character fully. An original character by the way — not replicating a historical figure and being nominated for how realistic that copy appears. Reeves is John Wick, the mythical assassin who strikes terror in the hearts of the kings and queens of the criminal underworld.

Keanu Reeves as John Wick, walking through a rainy street, in John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
Keanu Reeves as John Wick, walking through a rainy street, in John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

This is all the more impressive given that Reeves has an acting range that allows him to be completely believable in performances from "Always Be My Maybe." Spoiler alert, that's a very different performance from Reeves' master assassin in the "John Wick" franchise.

The physicality of the role is also worthy of praise. Not every actor can perfectly execute action scene after action scene like a perfectly choreographed dance. Watch Liam Neeson in "Taken" or even Matt Damon in the Jason Bourne movies. The physical acting that Reeves can achieve is simply on another level, though I'll freely admit Damon comes close.

In terms of who makes way for Reeves, for me, it's the two actors doing historical cosplay. Full disclosure, I actually think truly embodying a historical figure takes real acting skill as well, and deserves praise, but often we simply give that praise because of how similarly the actor looks like their real-world counterpart.

To me, while Cillian Murphy is great in "Oppenheimer," he simply doesn't embody the character in the same way as Reeves in "John Wick: Chapter 4" or even Bradley Cooper in "Maestro." It's a good performance with incredible moments, but it feels almost paint-by-numbers at times.

Best Cinematography

Look, while the Academy may not love the "John Wick" franchise, it should have had some love for Danish cinematographer Dan Laustsen. While he's never received recognition for the Wick movies, he has received Oscars nominations for his work on "The Shape of Water" and "Nightmare Alley." He's someone the Academy should feel comfortable nominating.

And for scenes like the one above, he'd deserve it. This scene is from the larger sequence in the lead-up to the Sacré-Cœur duel is incredible and probably my favorite from any movie in 2023. The decision to shoot overhead with a drone is brilliant, giving the movie an almost video game-like feel. And the synergy between the cinematography and the choreography feels seamless.

Much like with Best Actor, it's tough to find an easy candidate to cut, and I have yet to see "Napoleon." But if I give that movie the benefit of the doubt — I've heard that the battle scenes are stunning — then "Maestro" once again gets cut for me. While it's aesthetically pretty to watch, I just don't recall anything about how it was shot being all that memorable.

More from Tom's Guide