The Oscars don’t always get it right. Case in point: the very strange end of last year’s ceremony, the unforgettable Moonlight Best Picture blunder, and a long track record of some questionable winners in the biggest categories (such as 2018 Best Picture winner Green Book). But, despite their many faults, the Oscars remain the most prestigious award ceremony in American cinema, and some of the best movies of all time have won Academy Awards. And thankfully, if you’re looking to expand your knowledge of prestige, award-winning film, Netflix has some great options for you to watch right now.
Netflix itself has entered the game in recent years, with some of its own films such as Pieces of a Woman and Mank earning Oscar nominations and even wins. So whether you’re looking for a ’60s classic like Bonnie and Clyde or a modern masterpiece like Roma, Netflix has you covered.
The Dark Knight
Won for: Best Supporting Actor, Best Sound Editing
The Batman installment that arguably made Heath Ledger the definitive Joker, it’s only right that Ledger would win the award for best supporting actor in The Dark Knight. Directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman, The Dark Knight is not just lauded as one of the great Batman movies–but one of the greatest films of the 2000s.
Won for: Best Animated Feature
We know what you might be thinking, “Shrek? Shrek is not cinema.” And to that we say, “Get out me swamp.” Much like the beloved green ogre with an unexplained Scottish brogue, the Academy Awards categories are like an onion; they contain layers. And one of those layers is “Best Animated Feature,” a title that the 2001 Dreamworks project undoubtedly earned with its hilarious lead performances from Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz; its stellar animation quality; and, of course, its soundtrack. (Nothing says range like pivoting from Smash Mouth to “Hallelujah.”)
Silver Linings Playbooks
Won for: Best Actress
The first film since the 80s to be nominated for the “Big Four” acting categories, and the first film since 2004 to be nominated for the “Big Five” categories, David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook made a splash at 2012 box offices. At its core were the performances of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, who play an unlikely pair of ostracized adults who are brought together by a local dancing competition. Ultimately, the only category that would hit the mark for Silver Linings Playbook was Jennifer Lawrence’s Best Actress win.
Won for: Best Costume Design
Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps star in this Paul Thomas Anderson-directed historical drama about a haute couture dressmaker whose life as an eligible bachelor takes a turn when he meets his newest muse. Though Phantom Thread was a prime contender across multiple categories, it ultimately took home the Oscar for best Costume Design–which seems fitting.
Won for: Best Supporting Actress
Following a young woman during her 18-month stint at a psychiatric ward after a suicide attempt, Girl, Interrupted is undoubtedly remembered most of all for its performances from Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie—the latter of which took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
Won for: Best Cinematography, Best Production Design
Netflix’s own Mank, a 1930s-set Hollywood love letter directed by David Fincher, lost the Oscar for Best Picture at the 2021 Oscars to Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland. But the film, which follows screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he works to write the 1941 classic “Citizen Kane,” still took home two trophies—for Best Cinematography and Best Production Design—and offers stellar performances from acting nominees Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Won for: Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Costume Design
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is another Netflix picture, adapted from August Wilson’s play of the same name. With powerful performances from Colman Domingo, Best Actress nominee Viola Davis, and posthumous Best Actor nominee Chadwick Boseman, the film follows the events of a tense recording session for blues singer Ma Rainey in 1920s Chicago. Although it didn’t nab either acting trophy, the emotional film took home the awards in the Makeup & Hairstyling and Costume Design categories.
My Octopus Teacher
Won for: Best Documentary Feature
A controversial winner (but a winner nonetheless!), nature doc My Octopus Teacher follows filmmaker Craig Foster as he spends time with and forms a bond with a wild octopus off the Cape Town, South Africa coast over the course of a year. It’s different—there’s no denying that—but also undoubtedly original, wholly captivating, and even touching.
There Will Be Blood
Won for: Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), Best Cinematography
Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece about a 20th century oil baron sizzles thanks to the American capitalist villain. Complete with stunning performances from Day-Lewis and Paul Dano, a deconstructed soundtrack from Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, and the greatest line about a milkshake in film history.
Won for: Best Supporting Actress (Laura Dern)
Noah Baumbach’s semi-autobiographical film about the dissolution of a marriage was a major player at the 2020 Academy Awards. Though the only trophy it took home was for Best Supporting Actress for Laura Dern, the film was also up for Best Picture, Best Actor (Adam Driver), Best Actress (Scarlett Johansson), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Original Score.
The Social Network
The Danish Girl
Won for: Best Actress (Alicia Vikander)
In this story loosely based on the lives of Danish painters Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener, Vikander plays the wife of Einar Wegener, a man who undergoes one of the first sex-change operations in history.
The Hateful Eight
Won: Best Original Score
Quentin Tarantino’s thriller is an Agatha Christie-style mystery set in the American West just after the Civil War, with legendary composer Ennio Morricone earning his first Oscar for its score.
Won: Best Actress (Emma Thompson), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction
This lush Merchant-Ivory adaptation of the classic E.M. Forster novel follows two families with opposing worldviews who are thrust together when their children become romantically attached.
Won: Best Documentary Feature
Documentarian Bryan Fogel intended to experiment with doping in order to win a cycling competition—only his investigations into the practice opened up a bigger, more sinister scandal.
Won: Best Director (Alfonso Cuarón), Best Foreign Language Film, Best Cinematography
Alfonso Cuarón’s gorgeous autobiographical film follows Cleo (Oscar nominee Yalitza Aparicio), a live-in maid for a middle-class Mexico City family, throughout one year as both her life and the lives of her employers are changed forever.
Won: Best Documentary Feature
Manassas High School in Memphis isn’t known for its academic or athletic success, but a new football coach turns the underfunded football team around—which delivers a boost to the high school students’ morale.
The White Helmets
Won: Best Documentary (Short Subject)
This short film follows a team of volunteer rescue works who risk their lives daily in order to attend to innocent civilians living in war-ravaged Syria.
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