The 93rd annual Academy Awards are fast approaching, scheduled to air live on ABC on Sunday, April 25, 2021, at 8 p.m. ET, and once again without a host. It’s the first year that streaming movies were permitted for nomination without having a theatrical release due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After being delayed by several months, the ceremonies will take place in person, with a limited list of attendees.
If you’re looking to get more familiar with the top nominated films before the event so you can cheer for your favorites or just see what all the fuss is about, we’ve summarized several of the nominated movies and included a link to where each can be streamed — or, in some cases, for now, rented or purchased.
There’s plenty here to sink your teeth into for Oscar night prep, but when you’re done, we also keep tabs on the best movies on Netflix, the best movies on Amazon Prime Video, and the best movies on Hulu.
Nominated for: Best Picture, Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Supporting Actress (Olivia Colman), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design
Based on Florian Zeller’s 2021 play Le Pere, Anthony Hopkins stars as an aging father dealing with dementia and the debilitating memory loss that gets progressively worse as time goes on. It’s a gripping look at the various troubling and heartbreaking symptoms that come with dementia and how it impacts the person suffering as well as loved ones around them. Not surprisingly, critics lauded the convincing performances of both Hopkins and Olivia Colman, with the film receiving an almost perfect 98% Certified Fresh rating on review Rotten Tomatoes.
Judas and the Black Messiah
Nominated for: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield), Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Original Song
Daniel Kaluuya has already taken home the Golden Globe for his role in this biographical drama about Fred Hampton, who served as Chicago chairman of the Black Panthers Party in the 1960s, and how he was betrayed by FBI informant William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield). Both men have been lauded for their performances, while Shaka King received accolades for the direction along with the blessing of the Hampton family to proceed with the story. Covering timely and important topics, it’s a historic story being told at the right time with an immensely talented team of actors to help bring it to life.
Nominated for: Best Picture, Best Director (David Fincher), Best Actor (Gary Oldman), Best Supporting Actress (Amanda Seyfried), Best Original Score, Best Sound, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Racking up an impressive 10 Academy Award nominations, the life of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz is at the heart of this biographical drama, particularly his development of the screenplay for the movie Citizen Kane. Based on a screenplay penned by director David Fincher’s late father, Jack Fincher, who never got the chance to bring the movie to life before he passed away, the movie is filmed entirely in black and white using RED cameras in order to pay homage to the 1930s era.
Nominated for: Best Picture, Best Director (Lee Isaac Chung), Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor (Steven Yeun), Best Supporting Actress (Yuh-jung Youn), Best Original Score
Winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Minari has a solid shot at the Best Picture Oscar, thanks to its talented cast and relatable story. It’s so relatable because it’s based on the real story of director Lee Isaac Chung and his family, who immigrated from South Korea to California, then relocated to rural Arkansas in the ’80s. David Yi, played brilliantly by the young Alan Kim, fosters a beautiful relationship with his grandmother while dealing with a heart condition that limits his physical abilities, while his parents try to carve out a fruitful life for the family. It’s a story about perseverance, cultural assimilation, and the American dream that will tug at your heartstrings.
Nominated for: Best Picture, Best Director (Chloe Zhao), Best Actress (Frances McDormand), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing
Sweeping two big categories at the Golden Globes, Best Motion Picture Drama and Best Director, Chloe Zhao is one of the biggest up-and-comers thanks to her screenplay and direction of this film. Based on the 2017 Jessica Bruder book Nomadland: Surviving American in the Twenty-First Century, it’s a gripping look at life and loss during the recession of the early 2010s. After Fern (Frances McDormand) loses both her husband and her job, she decides to pick up, sell her belongings, leave Nevada, and travel the country in search of a job. It’s an all-too-real look at financial woes and a woman’s journey to make something meaningful of her life.
Promising Young Woman
Nominated for: Best Picture, Best Director (Emerald Fennell), Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress (Carey Mulligan), Best Film Editing
Combining both extreme feminism and desperate revenge, Carey Mulligan does a fabulous job portraying Cassie, a lost, manipulative woman who has dedicated her entire life to getting revenge against men for their wrongdoings. She visits a different bar or nightclub every night, pretending to be drunk and waiting for a man to take her home and try to sleep with her before revealing that she’s sober and calling them out. Dangerous behavior aside, what’s far more shocking (or perhaps not that shocking at all) is that Cassie accomplishes her goal without fail, night after night. It’s a movie that encourages women who have been wronged to pump their fists in the air and teaches men to be more aware of not only their actions but inactions as well. While Cassie takes unrealistic, drastic measures to prove a point and heal herself, what’s most compelling about this film is the eye-opening reactions of everyone she encounters through her wake of destruction, including both men and women.
Sound of Metal
Nominated for: Best Picture, Best Actor (Riz Ahmed), Best Supporting Actor (Paul Raci), Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Sound
Riz Ahmed is mesmerizing as Ruben, a professional drummer for a metal duo called Backgammon who starts to lose his hearing. Despite being advised to steer clear of loud noises until doctors can perform further testing to determine the extent of the damage, Ruben cannot put aside his passion for music and continues to play. With a solid 97% Rotten Tomatoes Certified Fresh rating, critics describe the movie as “an evocative look at the experiences of the deaf community.”
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Nominated for: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Sacha Baron Cohen), Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Original Song, Best Film Editing
In 1968, a group of seven anti-Vietnam War protestors was charged for crossing state lines for what the prosecution claimed was the intention of inciting riots at the Democratic National Convention. Aaron Sorkin took the project over from Steven Spielberg, and the talented ensemble cast was put together, including Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, and Eddie Redmayne. The movie follows the ups and downs of the trial, which involved everything from juror removal to multiple charges of contempt.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Nominated for: Best Actor (Chadwick Boseman), Best Actress (Viola Davis), Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Production Design
Both Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman deliver mesmerizing performances in this period drama about the life of Ma Rainey, a popular blues singer from the 1920s. The film, based on the August Wilson play of the same name, focuses mainly on the dramatization of one particularly trying recording session after Rainey receives a contract from white producers. As Boseman’s final on-screen movie appearance, it’s no surprise that the movie is dedicated to the late actor.
The United States v. Billie Holiday
Nominated for: Best Actress (Andra Day)
Andra Day already took home the Golden Globe for portraying the singer and activist Billy Holiday, but she faces stiff competition in the category for an Oscar. Set in the ’40s, the film chronicles Holiday’s fight to sing her controversial song Strange Fruit, which protests the lynching of Black Americans, along with the government’s attempts to target her in an effort to racialize the war on drugs. A movie with a powerful message, it is one of the few Oscar nominees to receive mixed reviews by critics, though Day’s performance is universally praised.
Pieces of a Woman
Nominated for: Best Actress (Vanessa Kirby)
Vanessa Kirby delivers a heart-wrenching performance as Martha, a young woman who loses her first child in childbirth and must work to pick up the pieces of her life in the aftermath. As the people close to her try to help her through the terrible events, including her husband and mother, life begins a downward spiral. The emotional film, which stars Shia LeBeouf as Martha’s husband Sean, is based on the 2018 play of the same name by Kornel Mundruczo and Kata Weber and their real-life experience of losing a child, as well as elements of the Agnes Gereb trial, a Hungarian midwife whose license was revoked following the death of a newborn.
One Night in Miami
Nominated for: Best Supporting Actor (Leslie Odom Jr.), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song
In 1964, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke all met in a motel room to celebrate Ali’s win over Sonny Liston. This film, which marks the directorial debut of Oscar-winner Regina King and is based on the stage play of the same name by Kemp Powers, looks at a fictional account of that evening. The men discuss racial tensions, Ali’s decision to convert to the Nation of Islam, and Brown’s aspirations of becoming a movie actor. Full of conflict, emotional conversation, and wonderful portrayals of some of the most influential Black men in history, the marvelous film has been celebrated with three nominations.
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Nominated for: Best Supporting Actress (Maria Bakalova), Best Adapted Screenplay
Arguably the most controversial and surprising Academy Award-nominated film is Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest mockumentary that aims to shed light on oppressive nations, sexism, and political controversies through absurdist presentations that put unsuspecting people unknowingly at the center of his humor. The film teeters between disgusting and inappropriate and thought-provoking, a line that is all-too-familiar to Cohen and his signature style. Now that Cohen is more recognizable than he was with the first Borat film, however, he passed the torch to an unknown actress, Maria Bakalova, who plays his daughter and is integral to many of the schemes. She hits it out of the park, and whether you like the movie or not, there’s no denying it was one of the most talked-about films of 2020.
Nominated for: Best Supporting Actress (Glenn Close), Best Hair & Makeup
Ron Howard turns the J.D. Vance 2016 memoir of the same name into a compelling drama set in the South in 1997. After J.D. (Gabriel Basso) learns of a family emergency that his sister Bev (Amy Adams), a working mom of three, can’t handle on her own, he puts his life on hold, which includes law schooling at Yale, working three jobs, and a committed relationship, to come back home and help. A film about family, conflict, and addiction, the critic reviews have not been favorable, though audience scores are much higher. Despite being described as a “bland melodrama,” even critics laud the actors for their performances.
Nominated for: Best Animated Feature
Imagine being able to resurrect a lost loved one just for a day. That is the premise of this Pixar computer-animated urban fantasy adventure film about a mother who gifts her children with a magical staff that can do just that: Bring their late father back to life for just one day. Unfortunately (and comically), something goes wrong that leads to only one half of dad reappearing, sending the kids on a quest to find another gem to complete the spell and get the rest of dearly-parted dad back before the time expires. The star-studded cast of voice actors, including Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Ali Wong, Lena Waithe, Octavia Spencer, and more, along with the touching story, helped drive plenty of positive reviews.
Nominated for: Best Animated Feature, Best Original Score, Best Sound
A sad yet sweet tale, and the first Pixar film to feature a Black lead character, Joe (Jamie Foxx), a music teacher, has been a struggling musician all his life. Then, just as he finally ends up in the right place at the right time, takes the bulls by the horns, and gets his big break, he tragically dies. With the help of his therapy cat in the afterlife, Joe heads out on a mission to reunite his soul with his body. Through his journey, he meets 22 (Tina Fey), a cynical and troublemaking soul trapped in the Great Before, having given up on finding her spark and finally making it into the real world. It’s a charming and inspirational look at how important it is to follow your dreams, find your passion in life, and embrace second chances.
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