Oscar Winners 2021: List Of 10 Best Academy Award-Nominated Films Actually Worth Your Time

Each year there are countless Oscar nominees, but which ones are actually worth watching?
The Academy Awards, Oscars, 2021
image source: The Science Academy STEM Magnet

The 93rd Annual Academy Awards of Motion Pictures, Arts, and Sciences have officially aired on ABC, and film buffs are pleased to see Hollywood back on track after a long covid-19 lockdown.

The Oscars is a beloved event that’s nearly one hundred years old. That’s a lot of films and a lot of awards...and who has the time to watch every nominee each year? No one. Keeping up with every new release is extremely hard for us busy bees, but there’s good news: I’m here to help!

Deciding which Oscar-noms to prioritize can be tricky, so here are the top 10 Oscar nominees from 2021 actually worth your time.

Disney Pixar's Soul, Disney Plus, Animated Feature, Jazz

1. Soul

Ratings: 8.1/10 

Directed by Pete Doctor and Kemp Powers, Soul is a beautiful film about a jazz musician who visits a mystical land and discovers what it means to have a true soul.

With voice work by Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton, and Richard Ayoade, this animated project is an instant classic that will warm your heart and bring tears to your eyes.

This colorful film won Best Animated Feature Film and Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score). It’s available to stream on Disney+.

My Octopus Teacher, Netflix, Best Documentary Feature
Marine Biologist Craig Foster Swims with Star Octopus - Source: TODAY

2. My Octopus Teacher

Ratings: 8.1/10 on IMDb

The only documentary on this list, My Octopus Teacher is the story of how a marine biologist befriends a fascinating octopus in the South African kelp forest.

Led by filmmakers Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed, this aquatic tale follows biologist Craig Foster as he learns the secrets of the kelp forests and the bewildering extent of octopus intellect.

This instant-classic documentary is completely unique and guarantees a viewing experience you’ve never seen. Having won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, this Netflix Original film is absolutely worth a watch.

Sound of Metal, Riz Ahmed, Best Sound
Riz Ahmed as Ruben in Sound of Metal - source: FilmInk

3. Sound of Metal

Ratings: 7.8/10 on IMDb

After achieving success with The Place Beyond the Pines in 2012, Darius Marder brings us another heart-pounding experience with Sound of Metal, a solemn, yet hopeful, film about a drummer who goes deaf.

Riz Ahmed and Olivia Cooke deliver exceptional performances as couple/bandmates Ruben and Lou respectively, beautifully illustrating a tale of self-acceptance, love, pain, and music.

This film won Best Sound and Best Achievement in Film Editing. It is currently available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.

Another Round, Druk, New York Times, Mads Mikkelsen
Mads Mikkelsen as Martin in Another Round (a.k.a. Druk) - source: The New York Times

4. Another Round/Druk

Ratings: 7.8/10 on IMDb

A film that depicts a group of friends experimenting if being drunk 24/7 can improve everyday life, Another Round, also titled Druk, is fun yet treacherous story of existentialism, alcoholism, friendship, and family.

With Thomas Vinterberg at the helm and Mads Mikkelsen starring in what might be his best role to date, this Danish masterpiece is a must-see.

It won Best International Feature Film and Vinterberg was nominated for Best Achievement in Directing. This film is now streaming on Hulu.

The Trial of the Chicago 7, Aaron Sorkin, Sacha Baron Cohen, Netflix
Jeremy Strong and Sacha Baron Cohen as Jerry Ruben and Abbie Hoffman in The Trial of the Chicago 7 - source: Fullerton Observer

5. The Trial of the Chicago 7

Ratings: 7.8/10 on IMDb

One of Aaron Sorkin’s more brilliant works, The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a surprisingly relevant film going into the 2020s. Reflecting the social justice and racial equality movements within recent years, this film discusses the flaws with the American justice system following the Chicago riots in 1968 and provokes viewers to consider whether or not America has learned from these events.

Starring Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7 was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the YearBest Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Sacha Baron Cohen), and Best Original Screenplay. It’s currently streaming on Netflix.

Minari, Lee Isaac Chung, Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actress
image source: Oh! That Film Blog

6. Minari

Ratings: 7.6/10 on IMDb

The script that saved a career, Minari was written as director Lee Isaac Chung’s last hail-mary before settling into a teaching position. This film tells a fruitful story of a Korean-American family’s move from California to an Arkansas farm as they aim to achieve the American dream.

Taking place in the 1980s, Minari is a completely fresh perspective on what it means to be American, and brilliantly portrays the life of happiness that any person, from any cultural-descent, deserves to find in the United States.

Starring Steven Yuen and Yeru Han, this film won the Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for Yeri Han’s performance as Monica and was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year and Best Achievement in Directing. Minari is available for rent on Youtube, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, and Google Play.

Promising Young Woman, Emerald Fennell, Carrie Mulligan, Best Original Screenplay
Carey Mulligan as Cassandra - source: NPR

7. Promising Young Woman

Ratings: 7.5/10 on IMDb

A film about a med-student turned anti-hero vigilante, Promising Young Woman tells the story of Cassie, a down on her luck college dropout who spends her time punishing sleazy men and sexual predators.

Written and directed by Emerald Fennel, this crime thriller is both freaky and heartfelt as Carey Mulligan expertly portrays Cassie’s mid-life crises, crafting a story about balancing love, finding one's true self, and protecting the innocent.

Emerald Fennel won her first Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, and the film was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year and Carey Mulligan for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. Co-starring Bo Burnham and featuring Alison Brie, this film is one of the best of 2020. It’s available for rent on Youtube, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime Video, and Google Play.

Judas and the Black Messiah, Shaka King, Daniel Kaluuya, Best Supporting Actor, Lakeith Stanfield, HBOmax
Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya as Bill O'Neil and Fred Hampton - source: ScreenRant

8. Judas and the Black Messiah

Ratings: 7.0/10 on IMDb

Following the lead-up to the murder of Chicago Black Panther Chairman, Fred Hampton, Judas, and the Black Messiah is a tangled tale of deception, love, peace, and loyalty.

Writer/Director Shaka King expertly crafts a heart-pounding experience about the fight for racial equality with actor Daniel Kaluuya, yet simultaneously weaves a web of FBI trickery with actor Lakieth Stanfield.

This film, which premiered on HBOmax, won two Academy Awards for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song) and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Daniel Kaluuya). This film is available for rent on Youtube, Amazon Prime Video, and Apple TV.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Netflix, George C. Wolfe, Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Viola Davis as Ma Rainey - Source: Deadline

9. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Ratings: 7.0/10 on IMDb

The third Chicago-based film on this list, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a superb Netflix Original, combining the talent of Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman to tell the story of a 1920s recording session gone awry. Director George C.

Wolfe delicately adapts this August Wilson stage play onto the silver screen, illustrating the importance of blues music and the black artists who fought to keep their creative freedom amidst a white-dominated industry.

The film won two Oscars for Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling and Best Achievement in Costume Design. Viola Davis was also nominated for Best Achievement by an Actress in a Leading Role and Chadwick Boseman posthumously for Best Achievement by an Actor in a Leading Role. Find this thought-provoking film on Netflix.

Da 5 Bloods, Spike Lee, Chadwick Boseman, Netflix
image source: Variety

10. Da 5 Bloods

Ratings: 6.5/10 on IMDb

Another Netflix Original and film featuring the late Chadwick Boseman, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods is an adventure story about four Vietnam War veterans who return to Vietnam in search of buried treasure and the remains of their deceased comrade.

While this film may not be Lee’s finest work, Da 5 Bloods succeeds in examining the trauma of war and the adversities that came with being a black serviceman in the U.S. military in the 1960s. Starring Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, and Clarke Peters, this most recent film by Spike Lee is an educational and thought-provoking experience.

It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score) and was nominated for a slew of Best Acting/Performance awards at other ceremonies including BAFTA and the Screen Actors Guild. Watch this Spike Lee joint on Netflix.

Keeping up with Oscar noms can be difficult, but hopefully, this list helps you prioritize the best films worth watching! I hope you enjoy these films as much as I did!

Chris is a recent Brooklyn College grad who's eager to share his thoughts on entertainment, lifestyle routines, and the state of the world.

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