While Cannes, Berlin, and Venice are all more exotic and glamorous film festivals, the Toronto International Film Festival has become the kingmaker when it comes to the Academy Awards. Since 2008, all but one of the films that have won the festival’s People’s Choice Award have gone on to become nominated for Best Picture, and multiple films that premiered there have gone on to win the biggest Oscar prize. Here are five of those films from the past decade.
“Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) — While the Toronto-to-Oscar pipeline dates back to 1999 with “American Beauty,” it reached another level with Danny Boyle’s crowd-pleaser about a young Indian man whose childhood helps him conquer “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire.” While “Slumdog” premiered at Telluride, it was at Toronto where the buzz hit full swing, winning the People’s Choice Award before grossing $377 million worldwide and taking home eight Oscars.
“The King’s Speech” (2010) — Toronto is a major reason why the biopic that has become Tom Hooper’s signature role to date beat out more critically acclaimed and popular films like “Inception,” “Toy Story 3,” and “The Social Network.” Hitting every point in the proverbial “Oscar Bait” checklist, “The King’s Speech” delighted the industry-heavy crowd in Toronto, creating a buzz among Hollywood’s Academy voting bloc so strong that TheWrap’s Steve Pond called it as a lock to win Best Picture six months out.
“12 Years A Slave” (2013) — While a Toronto film can gain buzz for delighting a certain audience’s sensibilities, it can do the same by leaving them downright speechless. The careers of Lupita Nyong’o and Chiwetel Ejiofor can be divided into before and after TIFF 2013, as their powerful performances drove home Steve McQueen’s message about just how brutal American slavery truly was. Hollywood deemed “12 Years” an important film that must be seen, ensuring its Oscar victory.
“Spotlight” (2015) — Going into TIFF 2015, the big talk was about seeing newly minted Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne play a trans woman in “The Danish Girl” or Charlie Kaufman going stop-motion with “Anomalisa.” But out of nowhere came a quiet but riveting retelling of the Boston Globe’s 2002 Catholic Church sexual abuse investigation that won over the festivalgoers. “Spotlight” proved to be bigger than the sum of its parts, becoming the first Best Picture winner in over 60 years to only win one other Oscar (Best Adapted Screenplay).
“Green Book” (2018) — And then there’s this year’s Best Picture winner, which like “The King’s Speech” saw its momentum start with winning the TIFF People’s Choice Award. The victory of “Green Book” has been called by some critics the worst Best Picture winner since “Crash,” but the Toronto buzz was so strong that nothing could stop it, whether it be other contenders like “Roma” or an interview with the family of Dr. Don Shirley who called the film a “symphony of lies.”