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The Movies Fantasy League Postmortem Charts Extravaganza

Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photo Allyson Riggs

When the 2023 Academy Awards wrapped up Oscars season Sunday night, they ended the season for the Movies Fantasy League. For the past four months, the Fantasy League distributed points to movies for box-office success, critical support, and precursor awards. How wisely you selected the eight films in your roster determined how successful you were. Now the final standings have been posted, the prizes have been won, and all that’s left is to analyze the season with a bunch of cool charts. If you were playing the Fantasy League to begin with, you’ve already got a bit of the dork in you. Indulge that dork with visualizations that will help put awards season’s most exciting competition into focus.

Top-Drafted Movies

The drafting period for the Fantasy League was the first three weeks of November. At that point, we knew some things about how the awards race was shaping up based on reactions at the Venice, Telluride, Toronto, and New York film festivals — but we definitely didn’t know everything. Fantasy Leaguers knew enough to draft The Banshees of Inisherin in overwhelming numbers, which was unquestionably the right call. Smart drafters looked at a film with great festival reviews and multiple nominatable performances plus a wallet-friendly $20 price tag and smartly snatched it up.

Other picks such as Tár, The Whale, and Elvis paid off handsomely, as did Aftersun, the best $5 bet of the year. Toward the bottom of this list are some of the trapdoors that drafters fell into. The Woman King actually did very well in the precursor season, but it got blanked on Oscar nomination day. Meanwhile, Decision to Leave, Armageddon Time, and Nope all flopped when it came to awards, leaving big craters at the center of a lot of drafters’ teams.

It’s interesting to note that, of the two box-office blockbusters priced at $45, drafters went a lot heavier on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever than Avatar: The Way of Water. Looks like 634 people bet against James Cameron.

Top-Drafted Movies Among the Top 100 Teams

We just discussed the movies most drafted by the masses. But which movies were drafted most by the players who knew what they were doing? That group is more reflective of the best-performing movies of the season. The fact that 84 out of the top 100 teams had All Quiet on the Western Front on their rosters really illustrates how essential that bargain purchase was to success this year. By contrast, only slightly more than half of the top 100 teams drafted Everything Everywhere All at Once (though you really couldn’t have won the league without it).

One notable inclusion at the bottom of this list is the Pixar movie Turning Red, which did nab an Oscar nomination but otherwise had a pretty quiet awards season.

Highest-Scoring Movies

We talked about this in the MFL newsletters all season as Everything Everywhere All at Once dominated at nearly every major precursor from the Critics Choice to the SAG Awards to the Independent Spirit Awards and, finally, on Oscars night. Not counting points from box office (which were variable since teams began accumulating box office from the day they drafted their teams), EEAAO nearly doubled the point total from the next-highest movie, The Banshees of Inisherin.

All Quiet on the Western Front’s third-place showing is extra impressive since it didn’t really start accumulating points in a major way until the BAFTA nominations and got zero points from box office. Avatar: The Way of Water outscored Black Panther: Wakanda Forever by 100 points and about $200 million in box office, so it’s clear which of the big late-season blockbusters was the better pick.

It’s worth noting that The Fabelmans — which, with its top-shelf $65 price tag, may have been the biggest MFL underachiever this season — still managed to be the sixth-highest points earner of the season.

Horse Race

Here’s a chart that tracks the top-scoring movies in the MFL throughout the season. In the early weeks, before the awards started to get handed out, the box office propelled Wakanda Forever to the top of the charts (and provided for brief moments of MFL relevancy for movies such as Black Adam, Ticket to Paradise, and Lyle, Lyle Crocodile). The Indie Spirit Awards nominations put Everything Everywhere All at Once and Tár, among others, onto the charts, and by the time the Golden Globe nominations came out, EEAAO was at the top to stay.

Highest-Value Movies

Graphic: Vulture

These are the movies that got the most points relative to how much you paid for them — the best bang for your buck, in other words. For most of the season, the per-dollar all-stars were movies like RRR, which seemed like a dark-horse Oscar contender for a minute there, and Aftersun, which rewarded those who paid $5 to draft it with a bevy of points during the critics-awards portion of the season (and eventually an Oscar nod for Paul Mescal). Then the BAFTA nominations happened, kicking off All Quiet on the Western Front’s tank-based assault on the Fantasy League. Hardly anybody thought much of the German World War I movie after festival season, which is why it cost a mere $3. But with massive showings at BAFTA and the Oscars, All Quiet ended up obliterating the value chart, earning a massive 280 points per dollar.

Bargain-bin steals this year include indie faves Emily the Criminal and A Love Song as well as the Elvis Mitchell–directed documentary Is That Black Enough for You?!?, which didn’t even get any awards but was the only movie to score a perfect 100 on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Dream Team

Graphic: Vulture

If you’re wondering how far off your team was from the platonic ideal of an eight-movie roster, here’s the gold standard. This chart looked very different before the Oscars, which bestowed enough points on Everything Everywhere All at Once to make it essential for any winning roster.

The Dream Team would have gotten max value out of its $100 budget with $60 allotted for EEAAO, an additional $20 for Banshees, and a lot of dollar-store finds. All Quiet, R.R.R., and Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio were all Oscar winners, and the documentary feature Fire of Love was a nominee. Finish that off with Independent Spirit Award winner Emily the Criminal and you’ve got the year’s perfect team with 5,202 points.

Here’s what’s crazy: AFTÁRSUN, the team that won the MFL this year, was only 20 points below this perfect score. AFTÁRSUN’s roster matched the Dream Team’s on seven of eight movies with only Causeway instead of Emily the Criminal.

Thanks to everyone who played along with us this season! If you didn’t play but this looks like a good time, sign up below to be alerted when it’s drafting season for next year’s league.

The Movies Fantasy League Postmortem Charts Extravaganza