Every year, the world of film and television comes alive with the buzz of awards season, leading up to the biggest event in Hollywood: the Oscars. So far, we’ve had the Critics’ Choice Awards and the Golden Globes give us their verdict on the best films released last year. Most of the winners are also on the ballot as Oscar nominees in March. With wins already under their belt and several more events to lavish praise on them before the big night rolls around, the following films are likely to come out on top as the winning films of 2023.
It's no surprise to see both “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie” of the summer’s viral “Barbenheimer” moment on the list, although the former has far outnumbered the latter in accolades. Other winners include Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” and the Emma Stone-led “Poor Things,” as well as a few more surprising champions. Some of the winning films are available on major streaming services, while others are still in theaters. We’ll let you know how to watch so you can draw your own conclusions before the Oscars.
The list is ranked in order of least to most nominations and wins received. We’ll be updating the winners as new award shows are broadcast, so be sure to check back for the completed list of winners in the spring.
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‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’
Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a teenager living in a future New York City, has a double identity as the masked vigilante Spider-Man, taking over after the death of Peter Parker. When a strange encounter with another superhero sends a Spider-Woman from another universe investigating his city, he’s pulled into a multiverse with countless versions of Spider-People. After discovering the truth, he and his newfound companion must stop a supervillain before he merges all universes into one.
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” won the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Animated Feature, making it one-for-one with “The Boy and the Heron” (right below). With both films competing for the category in the upcoming Academy Awards, competition will be tough for the favorite animated film of the year.
‘The Boy and the Heron’
Epic fantasy “The Boy and the Heron” is allegedly legendary director Hayao Miyazaki’s final film for Studio Ghibli. During the Pacific War in Tokyo, a young boy, Mahito (Soma Santoki) loses his mother in a hospital fire. After remarrying his late wife’s sister, his father decides to relocate Mahito and his pregnant new wife to a rural estate. There, Mahito encounters a gray heron leading him to a sealed tower that’s the doorway to a world of magic. The talking heron entices Mahito with promises of finding his mother, but may not be the benevolent magical being he seems to be.
“The Boy and the Heron” won the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, a category which it is also nominated for in the upcoming 96th Academy Awards. It’s currently playing in theaters.
In the ’70s, Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti), the least favorite teacher at a New England boarding school, is forced to remain on campus over the holidays with a handful of students who have nowhere to go, as punishment for his brash personality costing the school an important donor. Trapped there against his will, Paul’s interactions with the students and staff force him to confront his shortcomings in connecting with others.
“The Holdovers” has received widespread critical acclaim, with Giamatti winning Best Actor, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph winning Best Supporting Actress at both the Critics’ Choice Awards and the Golden Globes. The film has been nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress.
In “American Fiction,” novelist-professor Thelonious “Monk” Ellison (Jeffrey Wright) is frustrated by his thoughtful books’ lack of success compared to dumbed-down, bestselling “Black” fiction. To let out his anger, he writes an outlandishly stereotypical Black book called “My Pafology” about a hardened gangster. The joke novel skyrockets to the top of the bestseller list, making him rich and successful, and unearthing a slew of moral dilemmas and clever social commentary.
The film took home the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and has been nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor.
“American Fiction” is out of theaters, but as an Amazon MGM Studios production, we can expect its release on Amazon Prime Video in the near future.
‘Anatomy of a Fall’
In an isolated mountain chalet, a successful German novelist, Sandra Voyter (Sandra Hüller), finds her husband dead below their attic window. The circumstances surrounding his death remain unclear, and Sandra becomes the prime suspect in his murder investigation, with her blind son a crucial witness in the case. This thought-provoking French psychological thriller has impressed critics this year, winning Best Film at the European Film Awards, and Best International Film at both the Critics’ Choice Awards and the Golden Globes. It’s also nominated for, and heavily predicted to win, Best International Feature at the Oscars.
“Anatomy of a Fall” is mostly out of theaters now but may still be playing in some locations. Its U.S. distributor, Neon, has a rights deal with Hulu, meaning that we can anticipate a release on the streaming service in the next few months.
Greta Gerwig’s feminist Barbie reimagining took the summer by storm, proving to be the highest-grossing film of 2023. Compared to its major box office competitor, “Oppenheimer,” however, the film hasn’t raked in as many awards and nominations as expected. Many feel that Gerwig’s omission from the Oscar nominations for Best Director and Margot Robbie’s from Best Actress were snubs by the Academy.
The story follows Barbie (Robbie) as her perfect world of Barbie Land begins crumbling around her. She must venture into the real world to have a heart-to-heart with the little girl playing with her. The film did well at the Critics’ Choice Awards, taking home Best Comedy, Best Original Screenplay, Best Production Design, Best Costumes, Best Hair & Makeup, and Best Song. It didn’t do as well at the Golden Globes, only winning Best Box Office Achievement and Best Original Song out of its nine nominations. It’s up for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
‘Killers of The Flower Moon’
In Scorsese’s gritty mystery “Killer of the Flower Moon,” Oklahoma’s oil-rich Osage Nation is plagued by a series of murders targeting wealthy tribesmen. A young native woman, Mollie Burkhart (Lily Gladstone) is married to a white man, Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio), giving her unique insight into the goings-on of powerful white men in the area. She becomes obsessed with the murders, determined to solve the case and get justice for her tribe. She’s willing to take the fight to the highest levels of government, but she doesn’t know that the real danger is much closer to home.
Gladstone took home a Golden Globe for her powerful performance. “Killers of the Flower Moon” is up for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress. DiCaprio’s black mark with the Academy stands, as he was once again snubbed for Best Actor (we still love you, Leo).
Emma Stone has impressed once again as the unusual character Bella Baxter. Following her suicide in Victorian London, eccentric scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe) resurrects Bella by transplanting her brain into the body of her unborn child. As the Frankenstein-like girl grows up with an odd mix of innocence and intelligence, her experiences challenge societal norms and the hypocrisy of the time.
“Poor Things” took home Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes. It’s nominated in 11 Oscar categories, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress, earning the most nominations after “Oppenheimer.”
“Poor Things” was released in December 2023 and is still available to watch in many theaters. It’s distributed by Searchlight Pictures, a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios, meaning that it will likely have a streaming release on Hulu in the coming months.
Christopher Nolan’s epic biographical thriller was not only one of the most commercially successful films of the year, but has also become by far the most awarded. The film follows J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) through his life and role as the director of the Manhattan Project, the top-secret U.S. government initiative that developed the first nuclear weapons during World War II. The film looks at the moral dilemma and devastating consequences of his work, exploring his personal struggles, philosophical beliefs, and relationships with colleagues and family.
So far this year, “Oppenheimer” has won five Golden Globes and eight Critics’ Choice Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director at each event. It’s the most-nominated film on the Oscar ballot, with 13 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor.
“Oppenheimer” will have its streaming release on Peacock on Feb. 16.