For almost a century, Academy Awards have served as the earmark for good cinema. Whatever the Academy recommends, the junta takes notice. And unlike other awards around the world that do not command the same kind of respect, Academy Awards have a reputation that is close to infallible. While the Academy Awards in the past have been accused of overlooking talent on the basis of gender and race, of late, things have begun to change. In any case, winning an Academy Award means quite a bit to the average movie, and many of these movies are absolutely unmissable. With that, we bring you 20 Oscar winning movies that deserve your time and attention.
1. The Queen
The Queen is a biographical movie that picks up the story just after Princess Diana’s death, and the Buckingham Palace’s response to it – while making a few points in favour of the queen. The movie garnered critical acclaim, and Helen Mirren’s portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II was much admired, and for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress.
Filmed over a duration of twelve years between 2001 and 2013, Boyhood follows the story of Mason Evans Jr. from childhood into adolescence between the ages of six to eighteen as he lives with his single divorced mother and his father only has visitation rights. The movie was much appreciated for its unique concept, and was said to be one of the greatest movies ever made. It earned an academy award for Patricia Arquette in the Best Supporting Actress category. Boyhood is one of the best Oscar winning movies, and must not be missed.
3. Brokeback Mountain
Set in 1960s in Southern America, Brokeback Mountain follows the tale of two men, Jack and Ennis, who are violently attracted to each other and begin a passionate relationship. Things turn more complicated when they get married to their respective girlfriends, and cannot stay together, given the homophobic nature of the society. The movie received universal acclaim upon its release, and earned Ang Lee an Academy award for Best Director.
4. Saving Private Ryan
Saving Private Ryan follows Captain John Miller, who, during the invasion of Normandy during World War II, is tasked with finding Private Ryan, a soldier whose three brothers have already been martyred during the war. The movie is based on the real life story of Niland brothers, who fought during world war II. Saving Private Ryan won the favour of critics and audiences alike, with special admiration for Tom Hanks’ performance as Captain John Miller. The film won Steven Spielberg an Academy Award for Best Director. Despite it not winning Best Picture, Saving Private Ryan is considered to be one of the greatest Oscar Winning movies of all time.
5. La La Land
La La Land follows the story of a young couple: Sebastian – a struggling Jazz pianist, and Mia, an aspiring actress. The movie follows their ups and downs as they try to balance romance and their careers, and are eventually forced to take decisions that threaten to rip them apart. The movie was liked by both critics and audiences upon its release, and received a whopping 14 Academy Awards nominations. The movie won the Academy Award for Best Director for Damien Chazelle, and the Academy Award for Best Actress for Emma Stone among others.
6. The Revenant
Set in early 19th century, The Revenant follows the story of Hugh Glass, a frontiersman, who is critically injured in a vicious bear attack and is left behind by the rest of his hunting crew. Hugh however uses his skills to survive and exact revenge upon his crew members who abandoned him. The Revenant was the first Oscar win for Leonardo DiCaprio, who had earlier been nominated five times for Best Actor, but hadn’t received the award.
7. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Gustave H. is the caretaker of the Grand Budapest Hotel, which had a glorious past but now has lost its charm. Gustave seduces older customers into the hotel, and when one such customer is discovered to be dead, Gustave inadvertently becomes the prime suspect. While he tries to prove himself innocent, in the process he befriends a lobby boy. With a stellar ensemble cast full of A-listers, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a fun, arresting watch. It received nine Academy Awards nominations in total, out of which it won four, including Best Original Score. With an extremely talented cast to its name, The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of the best Oscar Winning movies.
8. The Imitation Game
The Imitation Game follows the real life story of British mathematician Alan Turing who helped the Allies defeat the Nazis by breaking the Enigma Code. Turing, who was ostracized on account of him being gay, despite his great contributions during World War II, was post humously recognized as a British hero, and officially pardoned by the Queen. The Imitation Game follows his story as he helps a team of cryptographers break the Enigma. The movie won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 87th Academy Awards.
9. Dallas Buyers Club
Dallas Buyers Club follows the real-life story of Ron Woodroof, who is diagnosed with AIDS and is given 30 days to live. Woodroof eventually begins sympathizing with the badly affected LGBTQ community, and after he discovers a banned drug that helps patients survive longer, he begins smuggling it to people in need. Dallas Buyers Club received widespread critical acclaim upon its release. Matthew McConaughey won the Academy Award for Best Actor, among other accolades. Incidentally, the movie also won the Academy Award for Best Makeup, despite the budget for makeup being a measly $250.
10. Midnight in Paris
Gil is a successful screenplay writer who wishes to write novels and move to Paris. His fiance Inez, on the other hand, wants to stay in Malibu and doesn’t want Gil to leave his well-paying job. Once in Paris, Gil one day discovers a cart at midnight which takes him to earlier 20th century, which according to him is the Golden age of Paris. Midnight in Paris won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
11. Black Swan
Black Swan follows Nina (Natalie Portman), a ballerina to play the part of White Swan, which embodies the qualities of innocence and fragility. On the other hand, Nina’s rival, Lily (Mila Kunis) embodies qualities more fit for the part of the Black Swan. However when the director decides that Lily might be a better fit for the part of White Swan, the pressure to perform better slowly drives Nina into madness. Black Swan was a commercial and critical success, earning over 25 times its budget. Portman’s performance was unanimously lauded, and the film ended up earning Portman the Academy Award for Best Actress.
Milk follows the real life story of Harvey Milk, a gay rights activist who was the first openly gay official elected to public office in California. Sean Penn takes on the titular role, and delivers a critically acclaimed performance. Penn won the Academy Award for Best Actor for the movie.
13. Little Miss Sunshine
Little Miss Sunshine follows a family living in Albuquerque. Headed by Sheryl Hoover, an overstretched and overworked mum working tirelessly as her husband, Richard, tries to kick start his career as a motivational speaker. After Sheryl’s brother, Frank, attempts to commit suicide, the family invites him to live with them for a few days. The youngest member of the family, Olive, wants to participate in a beauty pageant, so the family decides to make a cross-country roadtrip together. Little Miss Sunshine opened to critical and commercial success. It won the Best Original Screenplay at the 79th Academy Awards.
14. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind follows the story of Joel and Clementine who share a train journey together, unaware that they had previously been in a relationship after they chose to erase memories of each other using an experimental technology. The movie over time has amassed a cult following, and received high acclaim from audiences and critics. The film won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, as well as the Academy Award for Best Actress for Kate Winslet.
Moonlight follows the story of Chiron, a young African-American boy who lives with his single mother. He finds a father figure in Juan, a drug dealer, who takes him under his wing. The movie follows Chiron’s story from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, as he struggles his identity as a gay black man. Moonlight was the first film with an all-black cast and an LGBTQ-related theme to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Moonlight has enormous cultural significance, and for that, is one of the best Oscar winning movies that must be watched.
16. The King’s Speech
The King’s Speech is based on real-life events, as it picks up the story right after Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry his twice divorced fiance, leaving his younger brother, Bertie, to take the throne, who eventually became King George VI. The film follows Bertie’s story as he overcomes his stammering problem in order to address Britain as it prepares for the second world war. The movie was a critical and commercial success, and earned Colin Firth his first Academy Award for Best Actor. The movie also won the Academy Award for Best Picture among others.
17. 12 Years a Slave
Based on the 1853 slave memoir Twelve Years a Salve, the movie 12 Years A Slave follows the real-life story of Solomon Northup, a free African-American who is promised a paid job by two white men, Brown, and Hamilton. However, upon arriving in Washington DC, he realises that he’s been sold into slavery. The movie was a critical and commercial success, and won several accolades, including the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Parasite follows the story of a South Korean working-class struggling to make ends meet. When the son, Ki-Woo, is offered the job of a tutor at an affluent upper class family, he manages to have his entire family secure various jobs in the household without his employers’ knowledge. The movie was a critical and commercial success, and was the first Non-English language film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Parasite provides extremely important insight into class difference and privilege, and for that, it is one of the most unmissable Oscar Winning movies.
19. The Silence of the Lambs
When a string of murders of young women take place, suggesting that a serial killer nicknamed “Buffalo Bill” is on a spree, FBI agent Clarice Sterling is asked to seek help from another serial murderer and cannibal, Hannibal Lecter. Anthony Hopkins received immense appreciation for his performance as Hannibal Lecter despite it being a very short role. The movie won Academy Awards in all top categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
20. Schindler’s List
Schindler’s List follows the real-life story of Oskar Schindler, an industrialist in Nazi Germany, who attempts at saving his Jewish employees from the Holocaust. The movie was met with critical and commercial success, and it is considered one of the greatest American films of all time. Needless to say, the movie was a hit at the Oscars, and won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.
We hope you came across some Oscar winning movies that intrigue you from our list. Comment below to tell us your favourite one!