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Our correspondent and resident cineaste Abbie Martin Greenbaum has curated a list of the 10 best Oscar-nominated films that we all need to watch before the Academy Awards 2021 ceremony this Sunday night. Pop the popcorn and settle in – this is gonna be good.

The world of movies is starting to light up again

In spite of delayed releases, shuttered theaters, and canceled festivals, the world of cinema spun on through 2020. Though new movies moved to smaller screens (aka, our laptops), we were still lucky enough to enjoy a year’s worth of high-quality features.


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But as with everything right now, we are really looking forward to the return of our favorite film-related things: movie theaters, midnight releases, summer blockbusters, and huge Hollywood events. And as the world starts to open back up, it looks like all of this is finally within reach and the next few months are going to be very exciting for cinephiles.


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summer 2021 film festivals returning to in-person screenings

Cannes Film Festival is planning to return in-person this July, opening with Annettea new film from Leos Carax (Holy Motors), that stars Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard. Spike Lee, who was set to lead the festival’s jury in 2020, will assume the position this year instead. Tribeca Film Festival is also making its comeback, beginning on June 9th with John M. Chu and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s highly-anticipated In the Heights.

And even if you aren’t able to attend any festivals this season, you’ll still have plenty to watch: Cruella in May, Zola in June, Black Widow in July, and Candyman in August, not to mention a trove of other exciting titles that we can’t wait to discover.

But before we really get started with 2021’s calendar of films, we all get to enjoy the most gargantuan and glamorous event in cinema – the Oscars. This is the first Academy Awards ceremony since lockdown began in the US last March, and we are glad to have a chance to honor all the movies that made their debuts during this uncertain time.

10 best Oscar-nominated films our expert says we all need to watch before the Academy Awards 2021 ceremony

10 best Oscar-nominated films our expert says we all need to watch before the Academy Awards 2021 ceremony

And if you missed out on watching some of this year’s nominees, don’t worry. Here’s a preview from us – ten Oscar-nominated movies that you shouldn’t miss.

ten 2021 Oscar-nominated films you need to see before the Academy Awards ceremony this year

1. Nomadland

With six Oscar nominations and two Golden Globe wins under its belt, Nomadland is the likely favorite for this year’s Best Picture. Chloe Zhao’s feature feels special from its first seconds, staging the story of one woman’s experience in the 2008 recession against a series of stunning natural backdrops.

films to watch before the Oscars

Top films to watch before the Oscars ceremony on Sunday.

Though the movie tosses sprawling concerns into its midst, such as the impacts of grief and of capitalism, it is brave enough to refrain from forcing any conclusions on its viewer. Instead, you simply get to ride along with Fern (Frances McDormand) as she tries living in her van and as she searches the desert for connection.

2. Minari

Also nominated for Best Picture is Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari, a movie about a family of Korean immigrants who move to Arkansas to start a farm, and struggle with life’s many challenges along the way. This is the unusual film that runs you through the full spectrum of emotions in less than two hours, which is at least in part thanks to its amazing cast.

films to watch before the Oscars

Our recommendations on the 10 films to watch before the Oscars ceremony this weekend.

Minari has received a lot of attention for its performances, particularly those by Steven Yeun and Youn Yuh-jung, but every actor in this remarkable movie imbues the screen with warmth and humor, even through the movie’s many moments of heartbreak.


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3. One Night in Miami

With three nominations – Best Song, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Performance by Leslie Odom Jr. – One Night in Miami is another movie you shouldn’t miss. The film presents a fictionalized account of one night at Miami’s Hampton House, where Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke (Odom Jr.) spent the evening together in the wake of Ali’s famous win. Oscar nominated movies

Regina King also garnered a Golden Globe nomination for her direction, and for good reason – this is the miraculous picture that is a true character piece, securing the audience’s attention not through plot, but through the way it brings these men to life on screen. King uses the dynamic of the four as a group to portray them simultaneously as the icons that they were, and as humans in the present tense.

4. Collective

Don’t let Collective fly under the radar. Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Documentary, this is without a doubt one of the must-see films of the year. It is a triumph of journalism and filmmaking, telling a story about a series of catastrophic events in Romania in such a way that you will never forget them, or this film.

Oscar nominated movies

After a terrible fire killed many Romanian citizens and injured still many more, the people of Romania forced their government to account for its negligence – and uncovered many more terrible truths in the process.

5. Wolfwalkers

We could all use a little magic right now, and the final installment of the Irish Folklore Trilogy (The Secret of the Kells, Song of the Sea) may be the best place to find it. Nominated for Best Animated Feature, the latest film from Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart tells the story of a small town in Ireland that is plagued by wolves – and by its cruel dictator.

It has everything that a good folktale needs, including a brave heroine, magical animals, and a story about conquering injustice and doing right by the natural world. It also doesn’t hurt that the film is visually stunning enough to soothe you into serenity – a must-watch.

6. Promising Young Woman

Emerald Fennell’s film has sparked many conversations, and not only because of its five Oscar nominations.

Its premise is bold: after her best friend is raped by a classmate and dies by suicide, Cassie (Carey Mulligan) commits to exacting revenge. The movie is spiky and often difficult to watch, but it does what art alone is able to do – it forces us to think critically about our society, and opens up doors for tough conversations.

7. Another Round

Another movie you may have missed is Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round, which is up for awards for both Best Director and Best International Feature Film.

These are the 10 best Oscar-nominated films our expert says we all need to watch before the Academy Awards 2021 ceremony this Sunday night.

Oscar-nominated films to watch before the Academy Awards 2021 ceremony this Sunday night.

In a moment of turbulence, a group of high school teachers in Denmark make a pact to maintain a low blood-alcohol content throughout every day, with mixed results. Of all the movies on this list, this may be the funniest, telling a fun, fresh story about friendship and the trials of mid-life.


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8. Judas and the Black Messiah

Like Nomadland, Shaka King’s film is nominated for six different Academy awards, including Best Picture. Sometimes films that are based on true stories lose impact because of the fact that the viewer may already know the story’s ending, but not King’s.

It completes the difficult task of telling this biographical story – about the life and death of Fred Hampton, and his betrayal by William O’Neal – in such a way that it is impossible to look away, and impossible not to feel devastated by the film’s conclusion.

9. Time

We named Time one of our favorite movies of 2020, and we are so glad to see it nominated here. In under ninety minutes, director Garrett Bradley delivers a complete account of twenty years in the life of Sibil Fox and her family.

films to watch before the Oscars

The 10 films to watch before the 2021 Oscars ceremony.

Through home movie footage, you watch firsthand as her children grow up, and as she fights for her husband’s release from his sixty-year prison sentence. Capturing the passage of time – and more significantly, the sensation of waiting as it rolls on around you – is a near-impossible task, and Bradley pulls it off here with wrenching impact.

10. Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution

Crip Camp may have missed your attention, as its release– March 25th, 2020 – coincided with the beginning of COVID lockdown in the United States. Available now on Netflix, this Best Documentary nominee features a group of activists-to-be as they come of age at a camp for teens with disabilities in upstate New York. With the support found at camp, these teens formed a community that was then able to advocate for themselves and each other. In sharing their story, the film shows a microcosm of the disability rights movement of the 1970’s, and becomes a must-see piece of cinema in the process.

films to watch before the Oscars

Top films to watch before the Oscars this Sunday.

The ten Oscar-nominated movies that you should watch right now

That’s our take on the 10 best Oscar-nominated films our resident expert says we all need to watch before the Academy Awards 2021 ceremony this Sunday night. What’s your vote for Best Picture this year, dear reader?

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Abbie Martin Greenbaum grew up in New York City and currently lives in Brooklyn, where she drinks a lot of coffee and matches roommates together for a living. At Oberlin College, she studied English and Cinema, which are still two of her favorite things, along with dessert and musical theater. She believes in magic.

Abbie Martin Greenbaum

Abbie Martin Greenbaum is a writer, reader, and pop culture connoisseur, who loves storytelling, coffee, and dessert. Her work has also appeared in Playbill.