Original illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis
It's that time of year again—the Oscars is rapidly approaching on February 26. While finding the perfect appetizers for your Oscars party or perfecting your cocktail game, you may have forgotten one of the most important parts about prepping for the ceremony: seeing the best of this year's nominated films. Since 2016 gave us so many incredible pictures to choose from, we decided to lend a hand in narrowing down what absolutely can't be missed. Each of the films listed here is nominated for Best Picture and what will take home the Oscar is anyone's guess. All we know is that this year, these films are up against some stiff competition. Keep reading for six of the best Oscar-nominated movies to see before the award show.
La La Land
One of the most talked-about movies of the year has been La La Land, a musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Directed by Damien Chazelle, La La Land tells the story of two aspiring artists trying to make it in the rough and tumble entertainment mecca of Los Angeles. Critics have praised the film for its exuberant, heartfelt plot that showcases Gosling and Stone's captivating chemistry. The film is nominated this year for Best Motion Picture in a Musical or Comedy. Musical fan or not, this film is a must-see before the awards—and an incredibly strong contender to win big.
Denzel Washington is no stranger to the Oscars, collecting the honor for his roles in Glory and Training Day. Here, Washington, in his third directorial effort, stars alongside Viola Davis—nominated this year for Best Supporting Actress—in a story about the complex and often turbulent nature of family dynamics. The story ruminates over a man's ambitions gone cold and how he copes with a life that has taken a different direction from what he had planned. Based on August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize–winning play of the same name, powerful dialogue takes center stage in Fences and is delivered in the very capable hands of a dynamic cast.
20th Century Fox
Hidden Figures tell the incredible true story of three African-American women working as mathematicians for NASA in the '60s. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe captivate with an uplifting charisma that urges the viewer to become suspended in the twists and turns of their individual stories. Spencer's masterful performance has earned her a nomination this year for Best Supporting Actress. A film that shines a light on a story that has been too often overlooked, Hidden Figures is not to be missed.
Manchester By the Sea
Manchester by the Sea explores the bonds of family in the face of dizzying grief. Casey Affleck stars as Lee Chandler, who, after the sudden death of his brother, is named the guardian of his nephew (Lucas Hedges). Director and screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan crafts a story of heartbreak visceral in its portrayal of loss and grief. Both Affleck and Hedges are nominated this year for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively.
The Weinstein Company
Lion weaves together a story of tragedy, identity, and ultimately hope in this tale starring Dev Patel as Saroo, a boy from a small Indian village who accidentally boards a night freighter that leads him to Calcutta. Unable to find his way back home, he is adopted by an Australian couple, played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham. As an adult, the viewer follows as Saroo ventures to find his biological family. Lion is a feature debut for director Garth Davis, who expertly crafts a touching tale that elegantly sidesteps potential clichés.
Moonlight has been, along with La La Land, one of the most talked-about films of the year—and for good reason. A piercing portrayal of contemporary African-American life, Moonlight explores a kaleidoscope of issues from identity to relationships and love. At the helm of the film is director Barry Jenkins, who pieces together a monumental effort that asks us to question how our environment shapes us into the people we become.