Over the next several months, Hollywood will be abuzz with the 2023-24 film awards season. From January through March, events such as the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards, and Oscars will name their top films of the past year. We’ve curated the films likely to have a good showing in the upcoming competitions, including the summer’s biggest rival blockbusters, “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” as well as other impactful films from the past 12 months. If you want to know how to watch all the awards shows this season, check out our calendar and watch guide.
Some of the following standout films are already available for cord-cutters to stream on their favorite streaming platforms, while others are still in theaters or awaiting their streaming release. Below are the films you should watch to be an informed critic heading into awards season.
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New and Unreleased
Based on the bestselling biography “American Prometheus,” Christopher Nolan’s acclaimed blockbuster “Oppenheimer” is an intricate thriller that tells the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy), the theoretical physicist known as the father of the atomic bomb. A man tangled up in some of the most significant events of the 20th century, Oppenheimer is in a war with his own morality throughout his life. Featuring Nolan’s signature nonlinear narrative, the film weighs the moral complexities and psychological struggles Oppenheimer faced during his time leading the Manhattan Project and into the burgeoning Cold War era. Nolan is known for visually stunning films, and “Oppenheimer” is an example of his brilliant direction and cinematography. With detailed historical accuracy about one of the most fascinating periods of modern history, “Oppenheimer” has already garnered nominations at almost every event this season.
“Oppenheimer” isn’t yet available to stream, but it’s likely to be released on NBCUniversal’s streaming service, Peacock, in the coming months. It’s also available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video.
Set in Victorian-era Scotland, visually distinct director Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Poor Things” is a dark, satirical reimagining of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” Eccentric and enigmatic Bella Baxter (Emma Stone) is the creation of unorthodox scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe), brought to life by transplanting the brain of his deceased pregnant wife into the body of a drowned young woman escaping an abusive relationship. Bella’s combination of a young body and older mind leads her into a series of more and more absurd situations in this clever and whimsical adaptation of Alasdair Gray’s novel. Weaving a story of Victorian romance, gothic horror, and clever commentary on identity, gender, and the nature of existence, “Poor Things” has received multiple nominations from the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards.
“Poor Things” is now showing in theaters.
From A24, the studio that produced “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” “Moonlight,” and “Lady Bird,” the moving romantic drama “Past Lives” looks at love, destiny, and the web of human connection. Korean classmates Na Young and Hae Sung were childhood sweethearts shortly before Na Young’s family emigrated to Canada. The two reconnect on Facebook after losing contact for years, but they have each moved on with their lives. After decades apart — and with Na Young now a married woman called Nora Moon (Greta Lee) — they get a chance to see each other again and reflect on what might have been if she had stayed in Korea, the endurance of love, and the mysteries of life. Greta Lee has been widely praised for her powerful performance, and, following a shining turnout on the festival circuit, the film has already received two Best Picture nominations from various awards shows.
“Past Lives” is still awaiting its release on streaming services, but it’s available to buy or rent on Amazon Prime Video.
A devilishly funny, whip-smart social commentary, “American Fiction” explores identity and society through the story of novelist-professor Thelonious “Monk” Ellison (Jeffrey Wright). Monk is beyond fed up with dumbed-down, bestselling “Black” fiction and the major corporations and publishers that push it. As a joke to let out his frustrations, he writes an outlandishly stereotypical “Black” book, which then skyrockets to the top of the bestseller list, making him rich. “American Fiction” is a funny, smart, and entertaining look at all the contradictions of the American dream, cultural diversity, and the socio-political landscape. Its incisive commentary, compelling storytelling, and career-pinnacle performance from Wright have earned it multiple nominations, including Best Picture at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards.
“American Fiction” is currently in theaters.
Available on Streaming
In the idyllic, incredibly pink world of Barbieland, everything is, like, totally perfect, with days at the beach, night parties, and Kens who hang on the Barbies’ every word. Then Barbie (Margot Robbie) wakes up one day to a cold shower, flat feet, and worries about mortality. Determined to cure her grave affliction, Barbie ventures into the real world to talk to the little girl playing with her to cure her existential crisis. When she gets there, however, nothing seems as easy or simple as it is in Barbieland. Subverting the traditional image of Barbie with questions of feminism, identity, and societal expectations, Greta Gerwig’s visionary reclamation of the iconic character and Robbie’s flawless performance have put “Barbie” on the list of contenders for Best Picture and Best Director at several upcoming awards shows.
You can watch “Barbie” on Max.
‘Killers of the Flower Moon’
In the 1920s, Oklahoma’s Osage Nation, which has become rich with a major oil discovery, becomes the target of greedy outsiders committing a series of murders against Osage people with oil-rich inheritances. Mollie Burkhart (Lily Gladstone), a young woman whose marriage to Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio), a white man from a prominent family, gives her unique access to the white powers exploiting her tribe’s wealth, becomes determined to solve the murders. Taking the case all the way to Washington, D.C., Mollie sparks an investigation that leads to the origins of the FBI while dodging powerful opponents at every turn.
The direction, screenplay, cinematography, score, and strong performances from DiCaprio, Gladstone, and Robert De Niro have put “Killers of the Flower Moon” on the list of nominees throughout this year’s awards season.
“Killers of the Flower Moon” is available to stream on Apple TV+.
The life of celebrated conductor and “West Side Story” composer Leonard Bernstein (Bradley Cooper) and his complicated marriage to actress Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein (Carey Mulligan) is laid bare in “Maestro.” Constantly torn between his musical genius and his personal demons, Bernstein copes with his inner struggles through numerous extramarital affairs with both women and men that put an extreme strain on his devoted wife. As he climbs higher in the musical world, the stakes are raised and he battles with love, ambition, self-acceptance, and identity. With captivating cinematography and beautifully subtle performances by Cooper and Mulligan, “Maestro” is a strong Best Picture contender.
“Maestro” is available to stream on Netflix.
In 1984, Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) is a competitive sports marketer intent on securing rookie basketball sensation Michael Jordan as the face of the failing Nike basketball shoe division. Sonny has an unwavering belief in Jordan’s potential as a cultural phenomenon, envisioning him as the key to revolutionizing basketball shoes. Between agents, delicate business relationships, and Adidas hot on their tail, securing Jordan’s endorsement isn’t easy. Not a sports film — but portraying the determination of one — “Air” looks at the cultural impact of a new standard of celebrity-brand endorsements created when the deal was finally secured. Praised for Ben Affleck’s intelligent direction, a lively and funny screenplay, and entertaining performances from the A-list ensemble cast, “Air” is likely to do well in the Comedy and Best Ensemble categories this awards season.
“Air” is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Previous Academy Award winners Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman star in the dark-comedy thought experiment “May December.” Elizabeth (Portman) is an actress preparing to play an infamous figure from years past. To study the real woman, she moves in with Gracie (Moore), who is known for her controversial relationship with her husband that began when he was in middle school and was plastered across headlines. Faced with the actress’s relentless questioning, cracks begin to appear in the couple’s seemingly perfect relationship, unearthing emotional scars and forcing young husband Joe Yoo (Charles Melton) to re-examine what love means. Its depth of character study and social commentary, with compelling performances from Portman and Moore, make “May December” a favorite to receive multiple awards this year.
“May December” is streaming on Netflix.