Best Focus Features Movies, Ranked; ‘Brokeback Mountain’, ‘Belfast’

With bold directors, bold actors and unforgettable stories that have touched the lives of cinephiles on a global scale, Focus Features has been a fixture in Hollywood heaven for two decades.

Since its inception, 14 Focus films have been nominated for Best Picture: The Pianist (2002), Lost in Translation (2003), Brokeback Mountain (2005), Atonement (2007), Milk ( 2008), A Serious Man (2009), The Kids Are All Right (2010), Dallas Buyers Club (2013), The Theory of Everything (2014), Darkest Hour (2017), Phantom Thread (2017), BlacKkKlansman (2018), Promising Young Woman (2020) and Belfast (2021).

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of its first theatrical release diversity lists the top 30 Focus Features films to date.

In the summer of 2002, the art house studio released its first feature film, Possession, a romantic drama starring Academy Award winner Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart. Directed by Neil LaBute and based on the novel by AS Byatt, this film had a gentle beginning. So, if you were judging the studio’s likelihood of future success based on the film’s performance at the box office, you might have assumed it wouldn’t go the distance. But as with all Hollywood Cinderella stories, a little magic and guidance can go a long way.

It began with James Schamus and David Linde in 2002 as Universal’s specialty film division, formed from USA Films, Universal Focus and Good Machine. The NBCUniversal-owned company has made some of the most inspirational and provocative films of the last 20 years. Focus is currently led by Peter Kujawski, whose career has been incubated within the walls of Focus Features.

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“There’s a spirit that’s been there since day one,” says Kujawski. “It’s always been there and it’s what guides us as a studio. It also really empowers us to say to filmmakers, go do your thing. We’re here to make sure you make your version of your film, because that’s what audiences want to see.”

Three of the six feature films released in 2002 were the French comedy 8 Women by François Ozon, the historical drama Far from Heaven by Todd Haynes and the Holocaust film The Pianist by Roman Polanski. “Pianist” upset three broad categories for Best Actor (Adrien Brody), Adapted Screenplay, and Director. The secret of what was “new” on the Hollywood block was out and everyone had to be on the lookout. Focus penetrated the film landscape with brave tenacity and achieved several cultural milestones.

Focus’ influence became even more significant when the company released the cowboy romance drama Brokeback Mountain, starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. After premiering at the Venice Film Festival and later premiering in December 2005, the film received universal acclaim, grossing over $178 million worldwide on a modest budget of $14 million. It was nominated for eight Oscars, winning three but losing the top prize to race drama Crash, which is considered one of the biggest upsets in Oscars history.

However, Focus has created more milestones than its celebratory loss of 2006.

Eighteen films directed by women have been nominated for Best Picture in 94 years. Focus is behind three of them, the most of any studio. Additionally, Focus is also responsible for being the first American woman to be nominated for Best Director (Sofia Coppola for “Lost in Translation”), the example of more than one black producer to be nominated for Best Picture (“BlacKkKlansman” with Spike Lee and Jordan Peele ) and the first Latino winner for the original song (Jorge Drexler for “Al otro lado del rio” from The Motorcycle Diaries).

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They stood behind accomplished and respected actors who received statuettes such as Christopher Plummer (supporting actress for “Beginners”), Rachel Weisz (supporting actress for “The Constant Gardener”), Gary Oldman (best actor for “Darkest Hour”) and Alicia Vikander ( Supporting Actress for “The Danish Girl”).

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There’s more to come. They have already caused a stir with Robert Eggers’ Viking epic “The Northman” and the Cannes hit “The Silent Twins” with Letitia Wright. They will bring us the latest from acclaimed filmmaker Todd Field later this year with ‘TÁR’ starring Cate Blanchett, before kicking off 2023 and beyond with the latest from Wes Anderson (‘Asteroid City’) and a solo directed project by Ethan Coen .

For the next 20 years, Kujawski says: “We will get better. As more films are made, audiences are more open to broader ideas and genres. We’ve benefited from finding filmmakers, supporting them, empowering them, and selling things confidently and aggressively. With this list of the top 30 movies you make, I hope we can fill a list of 100.”

Read diversity List of the best Focus feature films below, along with the best scene from each selection.

recognitions: “The Seduced” (2017); “Boy Erased” (2018); Dallas Buyers Club (2013); Mary Queen of Scots (2018); “Nocturnal Animals” (2016); “The Place Behind the Pines” (2013); “Pride and Prejudice” (2005); “A Serious Man” (2009); “Sin Nombre” (2009); “The Theory of Everything” (2014)

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