Dozens of films are up for Oscar nominations, but only a few will take home the coveted golden statue.
You may not have the time, interest or money to watch every film, so we’ve compiled a list of noteworthy movies. Here’s a rundown of the films that racked up the most Oscar nominations to help you narrow down which movies are worth your time at the theater.
‘Joker’ | Rachel Trauner
Nominations: Best picture, performance by an actor in a leading role, achievement in cinematography, achievement in costume design, achievement in directing, achievement in film editing, achievement in makeup and hairstyling, achievement in music written for motion pictures, achievement in sound editing, achievement in sound mixing, adapted screenplay
Todd Phillips’ “Joker” is disturbingly compelling but an absolute must-see. In the film, clown-for-hire Arthur Fleck – played by Joaquin Phoenix – feels isolated by a society that knocks him down time and time again, literally. When Fleck stops taking his medications and gets ahold of a gun, the man behind the clown mask seeks revenge on the world that turned its back on him.
Phoenix portrays Fleck’s mental devolution with such intensity that his every little movement and mannerism sends chills down your spine. The movie’s eerie score and shady aesthetic compliment Phoenix’s delusional performance. For a full two hours, your heart will pound and you won’t be able to pull your eyes away from the screen in this suspenseful film.
‘Ford v. Ferrari’ | Kiran Hoeffner-Shah
Nominations: Best Picture, achievement in film editing, achievement in sound editing, achievement in sound mixing
“Ford v. Ferrari” is not just an action-packed racing movie – it’s a human interest story. Matt Damon and Christian Bale star in the true story of visionary automaker Carroll Shelby and race car driver Ken Miles, who take on Enzo Ferrari’s racing empire. While the story moves slowly at times, “Ford v. Ferrari” takes the time to show the grit that comes with the world of professional racing. James Mangold’s film jumps between adrenaline-inducing racing scenes and heart-wrenching personal struggles, all while teaching a valuable lesson that not every attempt for success pays off.
‘The Irishman’ | Gracie Jamison
Nominations: Best picture, performance by an actor in a supporting role, achievement in cinematography, achievement in costume design, achievement in directing, achievement in film editing, achievement in production design, achievement in visual effects, adapted screenplay
For a movie about following rules, “The Irishman” sure does break a few. In many ways, the movie shows director Martin Scorsese wrestling with his own inner demons, as his films often do, but it also serves as an overview and arguable culmination of his career. Based on the book, “I Heard You Paint Houses,” the movie slowly takes us along on the journey of an average, working-class man’s life as he joins the Irish mob and becomes close friends with powerful labor union leader and figure in organized crime, Jimmy Hoffa. Robert De Niro plays the title character, Frank Sheeran, and shows us with nuance, vulnerability and gentle humor the consequences of decay. “The Irishman” is a vital reminder to the viewer about the inevitability of time passing.
‘1917’ | Gracie Jamison
Nominations: Best picture, achievement in cinematography, achievement in directing, achievement in makeup and hairstyling, achievement in music written for motion pictures, achievement in production design, achievement in sound editing, achievement in sound mixing, achievement in visual effects, original screenplay
We’ve seen dozens of movies about war, but “1917” is worth adding to the list. The film is made to look as if it is one single shot, taking your breath away and breaking your heart at some jaw-dropping moments. Featuring something of a dream team in director Sam Mendes and 14-time Oscar nominee writer Roger Deakins, “1917” centers around two men seeking to save a battalion from walking into a trap. The scenes, some of which show a town in flames and images of combat, look like paintings on the screen, while the moments of human bravery touch your soul. If a movie can reinvent the wheel, it’s this one.
‘Jojo Rabbit’ | Anna Boone
Nominations: Best picture, performance by an actress in a supporting role, achievement in costume design, achievement in film editing, achievement in production design, adapted screenplay
“Jojo Rabbit” is a dramedy showing the story of an impressionable 10-year-old German boy named Jojo living in Nazi Germany during World War II. Throughout the film, Jojo confides to his imaginary friend: Hitler. But when he discovers a Jewish teenage girl his mother has been hiding in the attack, Jojo’s developing Nazi beliefs and trust in his imaginary pal are tested. The directors cased an odd mix of actors like Rebel Wilson and Scarlett Johansson, but the star-studded group embodies the film’s elements of satire and drama.
‘Little Women’ | Carly Neilson
Nominations: Best picture, performance by an actress in a leading role, performance by an actress in a supporting role, achievement in costume design, achievement in music written for motion pictures, adapted screenplay
The novel “Little Women” has been adapted several times, but Greta Gerwig’s modern take on the American classic will inspire you with stories of young women. The movie depicts the upbringing of four sisters, each with different dreams for their futures, from a small Massachusetts town during the Civil War. The March sisters navigate their transition into adulthood, facing challenges with love and the responsibilities of a woman in the 1800s. The film is filled with Hollywood’s best with actors Saoirse Ronan, Timothee Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Florence Pugh, Laura Dern and Emma Watson. “Little Women” is a must-see for anyone who wants to leave the theater with a full heart.
‘Marriage Story’ | Bridie O’Connell
Nominations: Best picture, performance by an actor in a leading role, performance by an actress in a leading role, performance by an actress in a supporting role, achievement in music written for motion pictures, original screenplay
Bringing humor and heart to a somewhat mundane divorce, Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson unravel the complexities of keeping a family together during a separation in Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story.” Tragically, both Nicole – played by Johansson – and Charlie – played by Driver – read notes aloud detailing everything they admire about each other but are not willing to tell one another before a lengthy separation. Nicole and Charlie continue to support each other professionally and share time with their son while the stresses of divorce settle in and a fight unravels. The plot inches along slowly, but a thoughtful script and seasoned actors bring emotion to the table and paint an accurate image of a family split.
‘Parasite’ | Bridie O’Connell
Nominations: Best Picture, achievement in directing, achievement in film editing, best international feature film, achievement in production design, original screenplay
Making history as the first Korean film to be nominated for best picture and several other Oscar categories, Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” tells the story of the poverty-stricken Kim family who artfully manipulate their way into replacing the household staff of the affluent Park family. Commenting on class division and social inequality, the film shows the light and dark sides of both families, crafting parallels between the families while creating a double-edged sympathy and distrust of both families’ behaviors. The film culminates in an unexpected plot twist during a birthday party for the Park family’s young son. Enticing and unsettling, “Parasite” is nothing short of cinematic brilliance.
‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ | Brennan Fiske
Nominations: Best picture, performance by an actor in a leading role, performance by an actor in a supporting role, achievement in cinematography, achievement in directing, achievement in production design, achievement in sound editing, achievement in sound mixing, original screenplay
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” tells the story of Rick Dalton – played by Leonardo DiCaprio – an aging actor struggling to find his place after his heyday in a ’50s western television show, and Cliff Booth – played by Brad Pitt – who is Dalton’s longtime stunt double and best friend. Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, the film explores themes of consequence and companionship as Rick and Cliff navigate the changing landscape of Hollywood during the late ’60s. While the film includes many flashbacks and flash-forwards, it is never difficult to tell where you are in the timeline. The film is a lengthy two hours and 40 minutes, but “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” delivers one of the most intense and jaw-dropping endings of the year if you can see it through.