TV & Movies

The Movies You Need to Watch Before the Oscars

written by MICHELLE LEMA

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Source: Searchlight Pictures
Source: Searchlight Pictures

Last year was full of record-breaking movies that everyone was talking and posting about. It was a year when I started going to the actual movie theater more often instead of staying home to stream something. I fell in love with movies again—even the ones that were over three hours long. If you’re like me, you might get a thrill out of watching all the movies that are in the running for prestigious awards and then devouring the awards ceremonies, analyzing every second. I love the red carpet moments, the speeches, and the inevitable memes that come out of it all. The original Meryl Streep shouting meme from the Oscars is one that I will always treasure.

This year, awards season has felt even more alive and exciting. With women dominating the Grammys and so many first-time nominees and winners making history, I cannot wait for the culminating event, that is the Oscars. If you want to make sure you’re in the know for the upcoming ceremony on March 10, here are some of the must-see movies across the Academy Award categories that will prepare you:

1. Barbie

Barbie was a cultural phenomenon, and I loved every minute of it. Directed by Greta Gerwig and written by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, the movie delivers so many surprises, laughs, tears, and iconic moments. It was nominated in eight categories, including Best Picture. America Ferrara (that speech!) and Ryan Gosling were also nominated for their performances. There was a lot of disappointment among fans when Gerwig and Margot Robbie were not nominated in the directing and acting categories. Gerwig helmed the record-breaking movie, and Robbie was an executive producer along with playing the lead role, so people will be watching to see if they take home the gold in other categories. “What Was I Made For?” by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell and “I’m Just Ken” by Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt were also both nominated for Original Song. My one true hope is that we get to see a live mashup of the Barbie songs on the Oscars stage.
Stream on Max

2. Poor Things

Like many movies on this list, Poor Things was a unique and surprising story, following the tale of a woman who was brought back to life and discovers the world through new eyes. Emma Stone’s performance is absolutely unprecedented and delightfully strange, so people will be watching to see if she takes the gold in the acting category. Mark Ruffalo was also nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. The movie also got nominated for Best Picture, Cinematography, Costumes, Directing by Yorgos Lanthimos, Original Score, Production Design, and Adapted Screenplay. Another potential win to keep an eye on is that Emma Stone, like Margot Robbie, is also nominated in the Best Picture category as a producer. We love seeing women working behind and in front of the camera!
Now In Theaters

3. Past Lives

This movie was one of my favorites this year. It really sneaks up on you in a methodical, heartwarming, and heartbreaking way. It’s romantic, funny, and melancholy, and a more real version of rom-coms where everything typically works out in the end. It follows the story of two childhood friends who were separated when one of them moved away from South Korea and eventually started a new life in New York City. With two nominations, it’s in the running for Best Picture and Original Screenplay by Celine Song. While it has a lot of flashier competition in these categories, this movie wins the award for closest to my heart.
Stream on Hulu

4. Rustin

Everyone is talking about Colman Domingo’s incredible performance as Bayard Rustin in Rustin. Domingo was nominated in the Actor in a Leading Role category. The movie was executive produced by Barack and Michelle Obama and follows Rustin’s story as he orchestrates the historic 1963 civil rights March on Washington and navigates being an openly gay Black man in the time period. This role was Domingo’s first lead role in a feature film, which makes his nomination and potential win even more inspiring. Fans will be watching to see if Domingo takes the gold and what he’s going to do next.
Stream on Netflix

5. The Holdovers

The Holdovers, nominated for Best Picture, is another movie that quietly sneaks up on you, centering around three characters at a New England prep school who are stuck together during the winter holidays. Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Paul Giamatti both won a Golden Globe for their beautiful performances in these roles, so there’s a good chance they might take home Oscar gold as well. The movie was also nominated for Film Editing and Writing (Original Screenplay) by David Hemingson. While Anatomy of a Fall took the Golden Globe in the screenplay category, I wouldn’t be surprised if The Holdovers won the Oscar for its equally subtle and powerful storytelling.
Stream on Peacock TV

6. May December

While there were no nominations in the acting, directing, or other categories for May December, the movie is a competitor in the Original Screenplay race for the script by Samy Burch and the story by Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik. The movie is worth a watch for the performances and interesting story structure, which take on a haunting quality. The plot follows an actress (Natalie Portman) studying the marriage and life of a woman she’s going to play in a movie (Julianne Moore), who began a relationship 20 years prior when her husband was a minor.
Stream on Netflix

7. American Fiction

American Fiction follows the story of Thelonious “Monk” Ellison, who is a novelist unable to sell his books, frequently dealing with the stereotypes that publishers impose on Black writers. Monk writes a book to point out the hypocrisy of the industry, which unintentionally sells and becomes popular. The movie is nominated for Best Picture, and Jeffrey Wright, who plays Monk, is nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role. If you’re a This is Us fan, you’ll be excited to see that Sterling K. Brown is nominated as Actor in a Supporting Role. The movie is also nominated for Original Score and Adapted Screenplay by Cord Jefferson and could take home the gold in that competitive category.
Buy on Apple TV+

8. Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon follows the investigation of the murders of the Osage people in 1920s Oklahoma after oil is discovered on Osage Nation land. The movie was nominated for 10 awards, including Best Picture and Actress in a Supporting Role for Lily Gladstone. Gladstone won the Golden Globe for her performance, becoming the first Native American to win the award, and fans will be watching to see if she will take home the Oscar. Two other nominations could also be history-making if the recipients win. If Martin Scorsese wins for directing, he would be the oldest directing nominee and the most-nominated living director. And if 83-year-old film editor (goals) Thelma Schoonmaker wins, she will have the most film-editing nominations ever, becoming an inspiring icon for editors, especially women in the male-dominated field.
Stream on AppleTV+

9. Anatomy of a Fall

This is an exciting movie to watch for many reasons, as it’s excellently written and directed with both murder mystery and courtroom drama vibes. The courtroom scene alone is so quiet and methodical, yet so powerful, and the movie manages to maintain that intensity from start to finish. While being nominated for Best Picture and Actress in a Leading Role for Sandra Hüller’s performance, an exciting thing to watch is Justine Triet’s nomination in the directing and writing categories. As the only woman in the directing category, which has historically been male-dominated, Triet is a director who’s breaking through barriers and paving a new path.
Rent on Prime Video

10. Nyad

The performances in Nyad are what caught the eye of the Academy, but the film itself is a great watch for anyone who needs inspiration to set out towards a lofty goal. Annette Benning plays Diana Nyad, who, at 60 years old, decides to try to swim from Cuba to Florida in one shot after failing at it as a 28-year-old. Jodie Foster plays her best friend and coach, and both are nominated in the acting categories. Foster is no stranger to Academy Award nominations but hasn’t had the honor in almost 30 years, proving she is a performer who only continues to grow in her career. A win for Foster is something to look out for, mirroring the movie by showing that age is not a barrier to reaching new goals.
Stream on Netflix

11. The Color Purple

While the original movie was nominated in several categories, the new musical version of The Color Purple was nominated in the acting category, with Danielle Brooks receiving a nomination for Actress in a Supporting Role. Both the original movie and the new version are important to watch, not only for the story, which follows the decades-long tale of Celie facing hardship and discovering the resilience of sisterhood, but also for anyone who is interested in the many iterations of the concept. From screen to Broadway and back to screen, The Color Purple has a fascinating history at both the Tony Awards and the Oscars.
Stream on Hulu

12. Maestro

Maestro marks the second time Bradley Cooper has been nominated in the acting category in a film he directed (the previous movie being A Star is Born.) The movie follows the story, careers, and relationships of American composer Leonard Bernstein and actress Felicia Montealegre. Carey Mulligan is nominated for her performance as well, along with Cinematography, Sound, Original Screenplay, and Best Picture nominations. The acting categories are incredibly competitive this year, as is Best Picture, so it will be interesting to see if Maestro snags any golden statues in any of those categories.
Stream on Netflix

13. Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer holds the most nominations out of all of the movies, including Best Picture, writing and directing nominations for Christopher Nolan, and acting nominations for Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr., and Emily Blunt. The film was also nominated for Cinematography, Film Editing, Original Score, Production Design, Sound, and Costumes. It’s fitting that it takes so long to list the movie’s nominations, as there was a bit of a trend with movies being over three hours last year, and Oppenheimer was no exception. The movie follows the story of the titular character as he grapples with the consequences of inventing the atomic bomb. It’s a must-watch for anyone who wants to see what all the hype is about before we find out how many Oscars the creators will take home.
Stream on Peacock TV

14. The Boy and the Heron

If you love animation, you will be inspired by Hayao Miyazaki, who is the iconic and groundbreaking animator and filmmaker who brought us Spirited Away. His latest work is his first feature film in 10 years, called The Boy and the Heron. The animated film follows a boy who moves to the countryside after his mother’s death and discovers a tower with a fantastical world within it. Known for gorgeous imagery and heartbreaking themes, this new piece by Miyazaki is a must-watch for the Animation category. The film already won the BAFTA award (and became the first non-US funded film to win in the category in a couple of decades), so it’s expected to take home the gold at the Oscars.
Now In Theaters

15. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Nominated in the Animated Feature Film category, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is also a must-watch. If you haven’t seen the film that came before it, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a movie marathon may be in order before the Oscars. The story is a continuation of the first movie, where Spider-Man Miles Morales journeys into the Multiverse with Gwen Stacy to fight off a new villain. With the first movie winning the gold in 2019, this sequel will have exceptional competition with The Boy and the Heron.
Stream on Netflix

16. Elemental

It wouldn’t be the Oscars without a Pixar film in the Animated Feature Film category, and Elemental, a beautiful and heartfelt story from Peter Sohn, is in this year’s category. The movie, in true Pixar fashion, delivers laughter and poignant moments, this time exploring the culture of a city where residents of fire, water, earth, and air live together. Its themes are about balancing loyalty to family while finding your own path and the love that can bloom between people from two different worlds.
Stream on Disney+