clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
Leonardo DiCaprio sits behind a morning show desk in Don’t Look Up. Photo: Niko Tavernise/Netflix

Filed under:

Why Don’t Look Up deserves to win Best Picture

A movie for fans of Earth, not critics of movies

The 2022 Oscars ceremony is coming up on March 27, and 10 new movies are up for the Best Picture title: Belfast, CODA, Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, Dune, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, The Power of the Dog, and West Side Story. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and any of them might end up winning big. In the lead-up to the Oscars, we’re making a case for why each of them might deserve to take the big prize.


Don’t Look Up, directed by Adam McKay.


Two astronomers (played by Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio) make a horrifying discovery: a massive meteor is on a collision course with Earth, one that will cause the extinction of all life on the planet. This is followed by an even worse discovery: No one who can do anything about it cares. In a blunt satire of American politics, the meteor’s existence is politicized along party lines, and any sensible response quickly seems to fall out of reach.


Star power and subject. DiCaprio and Lawrence are two huge Oscar-winning stars who have stayed out of the spotlight for a couple of years. Adam McKay has established himself as a purveyor of buzzy topical satire after winning the 2016 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay with The Big Short. If you’re a voting body that believes movies can and should be popular and important, Don’t Look Up is an attractive proposition.


Big-budget Hollywood productions have largely abandoned any sense of urgency beyond putting asses in seats for the next franchise installment. While cinema is full of vibrant, important films that streaming has made more accessible than ever, sensory overload abounds and awareness rarely extends beyond the Netflix queue. A win for Don’t Look Up isn’t necessarily an endorsement of its worldview, just an endorsement of the idea that Hollywood should put its effort into splashy films about relevant topics on platforms like Netflix, where the most people are likely to see them.


Well: Critics hate it. I should know, I am one. Don’t Look Up’s appeal is largely in its catharsis. It’s a movie made for people who see an obvious crisis and want to scream, so the movie screams with them. It’s less good at the satire it devotes most of its runtime to. This divide in sentiment has ironically led to a minor culture war (the sort that the film says is a big part of the problem) over how seriously you take the movie’s climate-change metaphor — or, in an unforeseen twist, whether you take the film as an allegory for vaccination against COVID-19. Win or lose, this well has been poisoned by the realities of social-media-driven discourse, and online skirmishes may break out again, regardless of whether the film wins big. It’s also worth noting that awards voters, who have no need to be as plugged into online discourse as the wider public and film critics, aren’t likely to take that into consideration.


Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry as morning show hosts in Don’t Look Up. Photo: Niko Tavernise/Netflix

Don’t Look Up’s best performance is easily Cate Blanchett as Brie Eventree, a daytime talk-show host with easy charm and a mean streak. Blanchett lights up the screen every time she appears, and her dynamic with Leonardo DiCaprio’s frumpy professor is the film’s most inspired pairing.


Don’t Look Up is available to stream on Netflix. For the other nominees, check out our streaming guide to every 2022 Oscar nominee.

The rest of the series:

Why The Power of the Dog deserves to win Best Picture
Why West Side Story deserves to win Best Picture
Why Belfast deserves to win Best Picture
Why Nightmare Alley deserves to win Best Picture
Why King Richard deserves to win Best Picture
Why Dune deserves to win Best Picture
Why Licorice Pizza deserves to win Best Picture
Why CODA deserves to win Best Picture
Why Drive My Car deserves to win Best Picture

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon