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Oscars 2023: The 16 stand-out Oscar nominated films to watch next

From blockbusters by big-name directors to moving indie flicks, these are the award-worthy cinema releases to know about

As we hurtle towards spring, thoughts inevitably turn to Awards Season and the glitziest red carpet of them all: the Oscars 2023. The 95th Academy Awards are taking place slightly later than usual this year, on Sunday 12 March 2023, and with the nominations now announced the film world is abuzz with all the latest news and releases from Hollywood. Previous winners like Cate Blanchett and Steven Spielberg have been given new nods, while several lesser-known indie stars might also be given their moment to shine on the podium. Here we’ve rounded up the key Oscar contenders to know about this year. 

Tár

Critics had long been speculating that Cate Blanchett was a shoo-in for a Best Actress nomination this year, after she scooped the same prize at the Venice Film Festival in September for her role in this gripping Todd Field drama, the director’s first in 16 years – and they were right. Blanchett plays famed and wildly talented composer-cum-conductor Lydia Tár, who is busy preparing for the most important performance of her career. Centring around Tár’s fall from grace, this is a masterfully constructed film, which also received nods for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography and Original Screenplay.

Available to watch on Apple TV

Everything Everywhere All At Once

The sci-fi black comedy shocked everyone by leading the pack when it came to Oscar nominations this year, clocking up a staggering 11 nods – particularly impressive when you consider it first premiered back in March 2022. Michelle Yeoh’s outstanding lead performance as Evelyn Wang had long seen her firmly cemented as a frontrunner for the Best Actress gong, and the mind-bending action flick was als a dark horse in the Best Picture race. Stand-out supporting actors Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan and Jamie Lee Curtis have also been rewarded for their performances with nods of their own. 

Available to stream on Amazon Prime

The Whale

Former 90s pin-up Brendan Fraser is currently the frontrunner for the Best Actor gong for his star turn in Darren Aronofsky’s dark family drama, The Whale. In it, Fraser plays a 600-pound gay man confined to a wheelchair, who struggles to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter (played by Stranger Things star Sadie Sink), as he tries for one last chance at redemption. Hong Chau, who plays Fraser’s only friend, also landed a Supporting Actress nomination for her stellar performance. There was a notable absence of nominations for Aronofsky, though, who failed to receive a second Best Director nod 13 years after his first for Black Swan.

Available to stream soon

The Banshees of Inisherin

Acclaimed Irish writer/director Martin McDonagh has reunited his In Bruges cast members for another stirring black comedy, which has landed several Oscar nominations and could potentially deliver his first golden statuette for a feature length film (he previously won for the short Six Shooter in 2006). Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson team up again to play a couple of longtime pals in a small Irish fishing village, whose friendship is abruptly terminated by one of them out of the blue – causing dire outcomes for both men. Best Director, Picture and Screenplay nominations always seemed inevitable, as did Supporting nods for Gleeson, Barry Keoghan and Kerry Condon and recognition for Farrell’s touchingly nuanced central turn, for which he received Venice Film Festival’s Volpi Cup.

Available to stream on Disney Plus

The Fabelmans

Steven Spielberg has form when it comes to the Oscars – the legendary director has three wins under his belt, and a list of nominations that stretches into double figures – so it was no surprise that he received eight nods for his latest release, which offers up a moving account of a family falling apart that’s based on his own childhood. He may well be joined on the podium by John Williams for the film’s beautiful score, while lead Michelle Williams and supporting actor Judd Hirsch also garnered votes for their excellent performances.

In cinemas 27 January

Triangle of Sadness

Fresh from his second Palme d’Or win at the Cannes Film Festival, this dark comedy from director Ruben Östlund has landed him a coveted Best Director nomination, as well as nods for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. A sharp and wry take on the likes of the rich and privileged, it’s a searing film that offers a clever dissection of vanity and class. Harris Dickinson and Charlbi Dean star as a retired model couple who are invited on a luxury cruise for the super-rich, led by Captain Thomas Smith (Woody Harrelson). But what begins as a glamorous affair quickly takes a dark turn when the ship hits shaky waters, and the couple must fight for their survival amongst their fellow privileged passengers. 

Available to rent on Amazon Prime

Aftersun

Though many were surprised to see Paul Mescal’s name make it into the Best Actor list, it shouldn’t come as a total shock – this arthouse flick from first-time filmmaker Charlotte Wells was one of the most hotly-anticipated debuts of last year, with critics describing it as “spellbinding”. Told in flashbacks, it’s a beguiling father-and-daughter-tale that takes place over one long, hot summer in Turkey. Paul Mescal plays Calum while Francesca Corio has a star-making turn as his young daughter Sophie, who is battling to try to understand her enigmatic father. Flitting between the older, present-day Sophie and that of her childhood, memories are stirred – some happy, others much less so – and combine to create a poignant and moving coming of age tale that will stay with you long after you’ve left the cinema. 

Available to stream on MUBI

Women Talking

This sensitive adaptation of Miriam Towes’ book, which centres around a group of women in an isolated religious community who meet to discuss their future after facing brutal sexual attacks, might not have landed a nod for Sarah Polley as Best Director, but it did scoop nominations for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. The stellar cast is spellbinding, and while voters didn’t reward Rooney Mara for her lead role, or supporting actors Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley and Ben Whishaw for theirs, it still makes for gripping viewing. 

In cinemas 10 February

Centre for British Photography: London’s new arts space
All Quiet on the Western Front

Edward Berger’s devastating Netflix drama has been making waves ever since it landed on the streaming giant in October, and now it’s gone on to scoop nine Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Based on Erich Maria Remarque’s first world war novel of the same name, it centres around Paul – played by newcomer Felix Kammerer – an idealistic 17-year-old German soldier who joins the Western Front with his schoolfriends in a fit of naïve patriotic fervour. But it’s not long before his misplaced excitement is shattered by the grim reality of life in the trenches. Beautifully shot and with a searing score, it also received nods for Best Cinematography, Original Score and Adapted Screenplay.

Available to stream on Netflix

Avatar: The Way of Water

James Cameron’s Avatar sequel has been a record-breaking success, surpassing $1 billion at the global box office faster than any other film released in 2022, so it’s little surprise that it received four Oscar nominations (although that is five less than the original scored in 2010). The characters of Jake Sully (Sam Wentworth) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) return from the first film, living happily with their children and their stepdaughter Kiri. But when Sully’s family are forced to leave their rainforest habitat and hide away among the Metkayina, an amphibious reef people led by Ronal (Kate Winslet) and Tonowari (Cliff Curtis), they must learn the mystical Metkayina art of existing for long periods underwater. As well as being included in the coveted Best Picture category, the film unsurprisingly also garnered votes for Best Visual Effects, Sound and Production Design. 

In cinemas now

To Leslie

One of the biggest surprises in the Best Actress category came in the form of Andrea Riseborough’s nomination for her performance in the little-seen indie flick To Leslie. The small drama has made less than $30,000 since its muted release last year, and yet thanks to a remarkable viral celebrity campaign, Riseborough has found herself singled out for one of Hollywood’s highest accolades. The British character actor stars as an alcoholic mother from Texas, who’s trying to get her life back together six years after squandering a $190,000 lottery prize. And despite the fact that the film had received almost no buzz before the Oscar nominations were announced, some of Hollywood’s most influential voices – including Cate Blanchett, Gwyneth Paltrow, Amy Adams and Kate Winslet – went out of their way to champion Riseborough’s work, with Winslet referring to it as “one of the greatest performances I have ever seen in my life”. Clearly, their voices were heard.

Available to rent on Amazon Prime

Living

Screenwriter Kazuo Ishiguro’s quietly poignant remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 film Ikiru, about a man dealing with a terminal diagnosis, garnered not one but two somewhat surprising nominations. The first was Ishiguro’s nod for Best Adapted Screenplay; should the novelist win the gong, it would make him the third person ever to win both an Oscar and the Nobel prize for literature (after George Bernard Shaw and Bob Dylan). The second came in the form of a Best Actor nod for Bill Nighy, who plays the buttoned-up civil servant Mr. Williams. It marks the first nomination for the 73-year-old, with the actor revealing he was “honoured by the Academy’s nomination and grateful for the spotlight it throws upon the film”.

Available to rent on Amazon Prime

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Angela Bassett made history when it was announced she had received a Best Supporting Actress nomination at this year’s Oscars, becoming the first actor to land a nod for their role in a Marvel movie. As her second nomination, it also makes her only the fourth Black woman in Oscar history to be nominated for multiple honours. Bassett returns as the queen of Wakanda in this emotional sequel to the original film, which explores the grieving process as a means of processing the aching absence of Chadwick Boseman, who played King T’Challa in the first Black Panther film and who died, aged 43, in 2020. Landing five nominations in total – including Best Costume Design, Make-up and Hairstyling and Visual Effects – it also landed a first ever Oscar nod for Rihanna, for her song ‘Lift Me Up’.

Available to stream on Disney+  from 1 February

Elvis

Baz Luhrmann’s high-octane biopic may have divided critics when it was released last summer, but most were united on one front: that Austin Butler’s performance as the brooding, hip-shaking king of rock ‘n roll more than deserved its Oscar nomination. That being said, many were more than a little surprised that it also landed a nomination for Best Picture. Less unexpected were the nods for the film’s make-up and hairstyling, production design and costumes – the latter two come courtesy of Luhrmann’s long-time collaborator and wife, the four-time Academy Award winner Catherine Martin. 

Available to rent on Amazon Prime

Top Gun: Maverick

It’s turned out to be a bumper year for blockbuster hits at the Oscars, with the Top Gun sequel scoring a surprise nod for Best Picture. The high-octane sequel clocked up an impressive six nominations in total, including one for Adapted Screenplay, but there was no fourth nod for lead actor Tom Cruise himself. The follow-up to the 80s smash hit garnered rave reviews, thanks to its combination of nail-biting aeronautic stunts, moving emotional moments and brilliant performances from Cruise, Jennifer Connelly as his love interest and Miles Teller as Rooster, the son of Goose, who famously lost his life in the first film. This is feel-good cinema at its finest.

Available to rent on Amazon Prime

Babylon

Damian Chazelle returns to familiar fodder for his latest release: the highs and lows of Hollywood. His last film on that topic, La La Land, scooped six Oscars, and while Babylon hasn’t quite matched that tally, it has landed three nominations. Centring on the depravity of 1920s Tinseltown, when the industry was transitioning from silent pictures to sound, it’s a full-blown hedonistic romp featuring star turns from Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt and Diego Calva as three hopefuls willing to do anything to see their name up in lights. Recognition has rightfully been given for the extravagant sets and original score, as well as the opulent costumes by Mary Zophres.

In cinemas now

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