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15 Oscar-Nominated Netflix Films to Watch in Honor of Awards Season

Pieces of a Woman. Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

Every year, Netflix inches closer and closer to scooping the top prize at the Oscars. In 2019, it was with Alfonso Cuarón’s black-and-white heavyweight Roma; in 2020, with Martin Scorsese’s elegiac The Irishman and Noah Baumbach’s heartrending Marriage Story; and last time around, with David Fincher’s critical darling Mank and Aaron Sorkin’s zippy courtroom drama The Trial of the Chicago 7. Nomadland was ultimately triumphant in 2021, but Netflix took home seven statuettes in total, the most of any single studio.

For 2022, the streaming giant has more aces up its sleeve. Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog is a Best Picture frontrunner and Paolo Sorrentino’s The Hand of God is firmly in the mix for Best International Feature. Meanwhile, in the acting categories, Olivia Colman (The Lost Daughter) Andrew Garfield (Tick, Tick… Boom!) and Ruth Negga (Passing) are all surging.

How many wins will the company rack up on Oscars night? And will it finally clinch the award that has so far eluded it? Ahead of the ceremony, we look back on 15 incredible Netflix films that caught the industry’s eye in previous years, were rightfully rewarded, and paved the way for these new contenders.

What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015)

In mining the life and legacy of Nina Simone, Liz Garbus uncovered a deliberately provocative and fiercely political musical genius and earned a Best Documentary Oscar nomination in the process. It’s impossible not to be swept away by the power of her songs and the strength of her character.

13th (2016)

Activist Angela Davis, author Jelani Cobb and civil rights advocate Michelle Alexander are just some of the luminaries that provide insight in Ava DuVernay’s alarming exposé on historic racism in the US criminal justice system. Expansive and meticulous, it was nominated for Best Documentary.

Icarus (2017)

Jaw-dropping doesn’t even begin to describe Bryan Fogel’s Oscar-winning documentary in which he meets a loveable whistleblower (Grigory Rodchenkov) and inadvertently stumbles upon the Russian doping scandal. As they unpick the vast conspiracy, two of his associates are found dead.

Mudbound (2017)

Dee Rees became the first Black woman to be nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Rachel Morrison the first woman for Best Cinematography with this evocative period piece. Mary J Blige got nods too, for her chameleonic supporting role and the soul-stirring original song “Mighty River”.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Six tales of the American frontier – encompassing shoot-outs, botched robberies and a gold-mining expedition – make up Joel and Ethan Coen’s crowdpleaser. It was nominated for its whimsical script, intricate costumes and the mournful ballad “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings”.

Roma (2018)

The closest the streaming giant has so far come to winning Best Picture was with Alfonso Cuarón’s monochrome masterpiece about a live-in maid in Mexico City. It left with three statuettes from its staggering 10 nods: for Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Foreign Language Film.

The Edge of Democracy (2019)

With impassive aerial shots, startling archival footage and poetic narration, Petra Costa’s operatic Oscar-nominated documentary chronicles the downfall of two Brazilian presidents and the rise of populism. Flitting from corruption investigations to taped calls, it’s an urgent and unnerving watch.

American Factory (2019)

Years after a General Motors plant closes in Ohio, a Chinese billionaire brings new jobs to the area. In Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar’s nuanced study of what follows, for which they scooped the Best Documentary Oscar, cultures clash, friendships are forged and the future remains uncertain.

The Irishman (2019)

Unjustly, this ruminative mob thriller went home empty-handed despite its 10 nominations: for Martin Scorsese’s faultless direction, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci’s magnetic performances, and the gamechanging visual effects that de-aged their faces, among others. It’s an extraordinary feat.

Marriage Story (2019)

Expertly written and infinitely memeable, Noah Baumbach’s affecting account of a relationship in crisis landed Laura Dern an Oscar and received nods in five other categories, including for Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson’s goosebump-inducing turns, and Randy Newman’s gentle score.

The Two Popes (2019)

A riveting, revelatory depiction of a recent transfer of power, Fernando Meirelles’s cloistered drama casts Anthony Hopkins as the grizzled Pope Benedict and Jonathan Pryce as his idealistic successor, Pope Francis. Both were Oscar-nominated, alongside Anthony McCarten for his joyous screenplay.

Da 5 Bloods (2020)

It was Terence Blanchard’s sweeping score that secured Spike Lee’s hallucinatory war epic its only nomination, but it’s also worth watching for a spate of other reasons: the sly nods to contemporary politics, the truly shocking twists and a career-defining turn from Delroy Lindo.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

Aaron Sorkin’s true-life tale about a group of anti-war protesters is a riot. It was a contender for Best Picture and nominated for its moody cinematography, quippy script, slick editing, Sacha Baron Cohen’s scene-stealing supporting role and Celeste’s moving “Hear My Voice”.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)

With George C Wolfe’s musical melodrama, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson became the first Black women to win the Oscar for Makeup and Hair. It scooped the Costume Design prize, too, and Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis and its production designers were also nominated.

Pieces of a Woman (2020)

Vanessa Kirby’s Oscar-nominated take on a mother grieving the loss of her child in Kornél Mundruczó’s harrowing saga is a tour de force. The astonishing 24-minute birth scene – in which her anxious excitement gives way to confusion and horror – will leave you reeling.

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