Twelve Years a Slave is the most difficult Best Picture to watch of all of them. It tells the story of a New York musician named Solomon Northup who was kidnapped from Washington, DC and sold into slavery in 1841. For twelve years he held out hope that he would somehow escape or get rescued. During that time he was beaten, shamed, threatened with death, whipped, and nearly lynched. So although I absolutely recommend that all Americans see this film, it is absolutely a difficult film to sit through.
Argo starts off with a bang, with the background story of the Shah of Iran told in photos and newsreel footage, but then morphing into storyboards as if we are making the story into a film. This tells us the story of Iran through the Fifties up to November 1979 in an interesting, fun way. You know right away that this is going to be an entertaining movie. You also get an inkling right off the bat that there is going to be a link between fact and fiction and Hollywood.
The Artist is probably the most willfully contrived, artificial film I have ever seen. Unlike other silent films that I have seen such as The Phantom of the Opera, The Unholy Three, and Wings (the very first Best Picture), The Artist was filmed at a time when sound was an option. So the producers chose not to use sound (or color, for that matter). That begs the question....why? I guess it's like making a movie into a musical or into a comedy or a period drama....you can make the story in any way you want to. But in this case it's like writing a poem using no capitalization or playing a pop song without the lyrics. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with it, but it's not really what I want to see.
The King's Speech is the dramatic story of the Duke of York, Prince Albert, and how he overcame his debilitating stutter. It is based on the true story of England's King George VI and his speech therapist and friend, Lionel Logue.