Let’s face it – some Oscar movies can be pretty boring. They may be nominated and even win the prestigious Academy Award, but that doesn’t mean they’re the riveting watches we want them to be. And while they’re obviously not bad, they don’t quite have that binge-watchable, putting-it-on-my-favorite-movies-list quality about them. Which is sad, because they were obviously really well made.
However, that’s not to say that all Oscar movies are complete snoozefests. In fact, oftentimes a movie that seems like it’s got all the potential in the world to put you to sleep will wind up blowing your frickin’ mind. Whether it’s because of the A+ storytelling, phenomenal acting, or wow-worthy set and costume designs, these 19 Oscar-winning movies have stood the test of time and are well worth a watch.
19. The Theory of Everything
The Theory of Everything is one of the most underrated Oscar-winning movies of recent years. It may not have gotten the same hype as films like Boyhood and Birdman, which were both also nominated for Best Picture in the same year, but that doesn’t mean that it’s any less amazing.
The film shows the love story between acclaimed scientist Stephen Hawking and his wife, Jane. The Theory of Everything didn’t need to be flashy or have a ton of special effects to be a lovely and heartwarming film. Eddie Redmayne (who won an Oscar for this role) and Felicity Jones were impeccable and gave such complex, moving performances. It’s also worth noting that the score, composed by Johan Johannsson, is one of the most beautiful of all-time. You’re in for a treat.
Moonlight got caught up in that huge Best Picture fiasco during the 2017 Academy Awards. The mix-up provided for one of the wildest moments from an award show in years. Yet, the whole thing kind of overshadowed the fact that Moonlight really did win Best Picture, and that it won because it was the best picture of the year.
The film followed a young, African-American man as he grows up and comes to terms with being gay. There are too many good things to say about the film: the cinematography was impeccable, the performances were incredible, and, perhaps most importantly, it showcased a facet of the black American experience that has rarely been seen either in the mainstream media or discussed within the African-American community. All in all, it was not only a great film, but a thought-provoking one at that.
17. Inside Out
Even those with an aversion to animated films can’t help but admit that this one is pretty adorable, and should be considered one of the all-time-greats from Oscar history. Inside Out won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2016, and it was well-deserved.
The film concerned a group of personified “feelings” within a young girl’s mind. Those feelings were voiced by the likes of Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling, so the cast alone suggests the film will be some mix of thoughtful and hilarious, something Amy and Mindy have perfected. The animated feature itself is moving and says a lot about the world around us.
16. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a classic for a reason, and not just because Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly is a national treasure in the film. Hepburn manages to put her own spin and charm into the role that Truman Capote first wrote in his novella of the same name. As always, the film contained a romance between Holly and Fred (a departure from Capote’s novella). It also gave viewers a lovely view of New York City through the eyes of the main characters. Audrey was nominated for Best Actress in 1962, but the film did win an award for Best Original Music Score.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s has, of course, inspired a lifetime of chicness. If you’re wondering where all of that originated in pop culture today, you should check out this classic film.
15. Slumdog Millionaire
Slumdog Millionaire was a thrilling feature that won eight of the ten Academy Awards it was up for. The film concerned a young man who was on a Who Wants To Be A Millionaire game show in India. During the course of the film, and during his time on the game show, Dev Patel‘s character reminisces about past experiences which have helped lead him to the answer. We won’t spoil it, but drama naturally ensues when the producer and host of the show realize that Jamal is on his way to win the grand prize.
For the hopeless romantics out there, the film also sees the love story between Jamal and Latika play out. Dev and Frida Pinto’s chemistry in the film is undeniable, and it’s just another reason why this movie should be on your queue.
14. The Dark Knight
Yes, The Dark Knight is an Academy Award-winning film. It also just happens to be one of the best superhero movies ever made. It features Christian Bale’s Batman (the best Batman, TBH – Ben Affleck, who?) as he goes toe-to-toe with his arch nemesis, the Joker, played by the late Heath Ledger. Trust me, you’re going to want to tune into this film for Ledger’s performance alone, which he won the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for. He was simply electric as the film’s main villain. His quotes, “Why so serious?” and “Let’s put a smile on that face,” are classic and iconic lines for a reason. They might just also give you nightmares. His Joker was at one time both chilling and entertaining.
Juno is one of those quirky dramedies that really sticks with you. The film followed a high school student, named Juno, who becomes pregnant and decides to give her baby up for adoption. Throughout the movie, Juno experiences an up-and-down relationship with her baby daddy, Paulie, and has an equally tumultuous relationship with the couple she chooses to give her baby to. Let’s just say that whole adoption situation ends in a surprisingly sweet way that you won’t expect.
Diablo Cody rightfully won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film. The dialogue in Juno will really keep you on your feet. Cody also brings all of the characters in the film to life, which is only aided by some incredible performances from star Ellen Page and supporting actress Jennifer Garner. Plus, the MUSIC. It’s a must-see if you haven’t already.
12. Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark is widely considered to be the best of the Indiana Jones franchise, and the Academy was in agreement as it won five awards at the 1982 Oscars ceremony and was nominated for four more.
This Harrison Ford flick is what it is because of the supreme performance of its lead actor, let’s be honest. Steven Spielberg directed a thrilling film, and the editing, sound – everything – was perfect. But, the film wouldn’t be what it was without Ford’s incredible charm. But really, the Indiana Jones films are cultural artifacts that everyone should watch at least once. So, now’s the time!
11. Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette is flawless. The Sofia Coppola-directed film has a different take on the controversial Queen of France. While some may already have an opinion formed about her (let them eat cake, anyone?), that opinion may change after viewing this beautiful film. The movie will give you some serious costume and interior design envy (Marie Antoinette even earned an Oscar for Best Costume Design, BTW), but besides all of the beauty, the film presents a kinder, more complete view of the very complex historical figure. It does all of that while being wildly entertaining – with romantic storylines, a little humor, and even an eclectic soundtrack full of 21st-century hits. Surprised? Trust when we say it comes together superbly in the film.
10. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is… weird. But that’s also kind of what makes it so interesting. There was nothing quite like it when it first came out, and there really hasn’t been anything like it since. It’s in a league of its own. So it makes sense that that film won Best Original Screenplay at the 2005 Academy Awards.
The premise is that the two main characters, portrayed by Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey, fall in love, then fall out of love, and eventually have one another erased from their minds to ease the heartbreak. Let’s face it, everyone knows at least one person they’d have erased from their memories if they could – but this movie will make you seriously question if you’d do it when given the chance.
Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, cabaret, singing… should I go on? Chicago has everything, which is why it not only won a slew of Oscars (including Best Picture), but it’s considered one of the best musicals in recent history.
Chicago’s the kind of musical that any Broadway fan will instantly enjoy, but even non-Broadway fanatics will find themselves obsessed with this prison-centric flick. There’s something for everyone here! “Cell Block Tango,” will be an instant fave.
8. Life is Beautiful
Fair warning: You won’t be able to talk about Life is Beautiful without shedding a tear once you watch. Anyone who’s already watched knows what we’re talking about. It’s one of the most heartbreaking and beautiful films ever made – and that’s saying something.
Roberto Benigni is a tour de force in his role of Guido, which earned him an Oscar for Best Lead Actor. He’s kind of the perfect dude and you’ll fall in love with him instantly. And, unbelievably, the whole movie is within the landscape of the Holocaust. If you haven’t seen it, just be ready to feel every single emotion under the sun, and definitely stockpile the tissues.
7. Star Wars
You heard that right. Star Wars is an Academy Award-nominated and winning film. So in between your other Oscar fare, you might want to give this one a re-watch. We barely need to extoll the virtues of the film, but here goes: Star Wars is a cinematic masterpiece like no other. There are few other films in history that have been able to similarly capture such a fantastical landscape, filled with interesting characters and futuristic technology, and capture the fans’ hearts at the same time.
This is the film that started it all, with Luke, Leia, Han Solo (and friends, of course, can’t forget Chewbacca!) journeying through a galaxy far, far away. If you’re interested in film at all, you can’t skip the start of one of the most successful movie franchises in history.
You’re lying to yourself if you don’t think Titanic is one of the most swoon-worthy movies ever. The film put Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet on the map when it premiered in 1997. And although it was the first time the Academy totally snubbed Leo for his performance, the James Cameron flick did win ten Oscars that year, including Best Picture.
But, back to that love story. DiCaprio’s Jack and Winslet’s Rose set the tone for cinematic romances for years to come. Their chemistry has pretty much been unrivaled in any other film to date. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.
5. Moulin Rouge!
Moulin Rouge! has two amazing things going for it (amongst other things, of course): singing and Nicole Kidman. When you have those two factors in any movie, it’s already a winner. Kidman is flawless in everything she does, that just isn’t up for debate. Her performance in Moulin Rouge!, for which she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, is no exception.
The film’s soundtrack is also nothing to scoff about. Seriously, all you need to do is watch Moulin Rouge! once to have tunes like “Lady Marmalade” and “El Tango de Roxanne” stuck in your head for days – nay, years. Like Chicago, it’s one Academy Award-winning musical that you can’t miss.
4. Mad Max: Fury Road
At the 2016 Academy Awards, Mad Max: Fury Road racked up a ton of awards in the technical categories, which came as a surprise to no one. The film was a visual masterpiece. Between the fast-paced nature of it to the incredible costumes and makeup that transformed actors like Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult, it really did seem like watching art in motion.
It’s also a surprisingly feminist movie, despite its titular focus on Mad Max. The movie centers on Theron’s Furiosa, who escapes the compound in order to find other sources of water and protect the king’s concubines. Mad Max: Fury Road surprises and impresses on all levels.
Cleopatra’s probably the most classic of all of the films on this list. The movie gave new meaning to the word “grand.” With its opulent costumes and elaborate set pieces, Cleopatra seemingly created the gold standard of elegance for film. It won the 1964 Academy Award for Best Costume Design and Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, and Best Visual Effects.
The film was also special in that it showcased Liz Taylor and Richard Burton together in their respective roles of Cleopatra and Mark Antony. Of course, the two actors had a turbulent relationship in real life (they got divorced, twice) and that passion between them could be felt throughout the entire movie. In case you haven’t seen the must-see classic, be sure to add it to your queue.
Her was a very different movie than the Oscars had ever seen. The main character, Theodore, has his own Siri-like operating device which contains an AI, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. The OS is supposed to act as a personal assistant, but things between Theodore and his device quickly take a turn for the romantic. It might sound weird (okay, it definitely will), but he actually falls in love with her, Samantha. Her’s script has some completely earth-shattering one-liners (in a good way), and the story itself will make you think a lot about the role of technology in our society. The Spike Jonze flick was nominated for the 2014 Best Picture but lost to 12 Years a Slave. However, Jonze did win the award for Best Original Screenplay and it was well deserved.
1. The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a charming movie from Wes Anderson. If you’re familiar with Anderson’s other work (Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom), you’ll likely love this Oscar-winning fare as well. The film is pretty much a rollercoaster ride from start to finish, with some of Anderson’s trademark quirkiness thrown in for good measure.
The Grand Budapest Hotel stands out amongst his others films because it’s, frankly, beautiful. The cinematography, with its gorgeous blush hues, gave the movie a certain glow to it. And, since it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, you know you’re in for a very well-scripted feature. It really doesn’t disappoint. While Wes’s other aforementioned movies only scored Oscar noms but couldn’t pull a win, this 2014 hit earned four Academy Awards that season.