How to watch 2024 Oscars best picture nominations - and why you should

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
5 Min Read
Cillian Murphy in a scene from ‘Oppenheimer’.
Cillian Murphy in a scene from ‘Oppenheimer’. Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon/AP

The Oscars is coming on Monday. The annual tradition of the glitz, glamour and earnest acceptance speeches from teary celebrities is like a second Christmas for all those who celebrate. Or, let’s be honest, it’s THE Christmas.

But even if you’re not that into the ceremony, the best picture field is usually a great watchlist of some of the best films of the past year. What have you seen? What have you missed?

And here’s how you can watch them this weekend.

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OPPENHEIMER

Christopher Nolan’s historic epic about J. Robert Oppenheimer is the frontrunner is almost every category it’s nominated in. If it loses best picture, it will be the biggest surprise since Moonlight beat out La La Land. Starring Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt and a really, really big explosion, the film captures man’s hubris in attempting to control destructive power in the lead-up to and fallout from the development of the nuclear bomb.

Watch it: Digital rental and select cinemas

Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer
Oppenheimer is the frontrunner with 13 nominations. Credit: AP

THE ZONE OF INTEREST

Based on a true story, British director Jonathan Glazer’s German-language film follows the Commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp as he and his family live an idyllic rural life on the other side of the wall of pure horror. Something of a formalist exercise in how Glazer keeps everything at a distance, the distress is ramped up when you’re forced to confront how banal monstrosity can be. Because the thing we never want to admit is that evil is a part of the human experience.

Watch it: In cinemas

The Zone Of Interest is up for five Oscars.
The Zone Of Interest is up for five Oscars. Credit: Madman Entertainment

THE HOLDOVERS

Alexander Payne’s story crackles with acerbic wit and humanism, boosted by superb performances from Paul Giamatti and Da’Vine Joy Randolph. It’s a more traditional film than some of its compatriots in the category but it’s a perfect one. It’s centred on a curmudgeon teacher at a boys boarding school who is saddled with the kids who couldn’t go home for Christmas. What starts as a resentful assignment becomes a moment for lonely people to realise they don’t have to be.

Watch it: Digital rental and in select cinemas

The Holdovers is in cinemas from January 11.
The Holdovers is nominated for five Oscars. Credit: Focus Features/Seacia Pavao

BARBIE

Fizzy, poignant and uproariously funny, Barbie was never meant to be one of the most culturally significant films of the year. It was, after all, Barbie. But Greta Gerwig’s creative vision, combined with Margot Robbie’s hustle and Ryan Gosling’s comedic talents pushed Barbie to be witty, heartfelt and relevant again to generations of girls and women. From the eye-popping production design to the emotional beats – also, Alan! – Barbie rewards a rewatch, and a rewatch and a rewatch. You’ll pick up new details every time.

Watch it: Digital rental

Margot Robbie stars in Barbie
Barbie has eight nominations. Credit: Warner Bros

ANATOMY OF A FALL

The gripping courtroom drama Anatomy of a Fall is concerned with much more than just “did she do it”. The “she” in question is Sandra (Sandra Huller) and the “it” is whether she killed her husband, whose bleeding body was found having fallen (but was he pushed?) from the top floor of their country chalet. A dissection of relationship breakdowns, the French film interrogates how stories are constructions and the truths and lies we choose to believe.

Watch it: In cinemas

Sandra Hüller as Sandra, with Swann Arlaud as her lawyer, in Anatomy of a Fall.
Sandra Hüller as Sandra, with Swann Arlaud as her lawyer, in Anatomy of a Fall. Credit: Supplied/TheWest

POOR THINGS

The wonderfully weird Poor Things has a truly original and enthralling performance from Emma Stone, whose continued collaboration with idiosyncratic Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos has gifted audiences with thought-provoking and delightful works. Stone plays Bella Baxter, a character with the body of a woman and the mind of a child. Everything is fresh for Bella and to see the world and the full experience of being a person through the eyes of someone so curious and without shame is a marvel.

Watch it: Disney+ and select cinemas

Poor Things has been nominated 11 times.
Poor Things has been nominated 11 times. Credit: Yorgos Lanthimos/ Yorgos Lanthimos

PAST LIVES

One of the most beautifully understated films, Past Lives blends subtlety with towering emotions. The climactic scene will provoke feelings you didn’t even know you had. Written and directed by first-time filmmaker Celine Song, the film stars Greta Lee as Nora, a young playwright whose family left from Seoul when she was a kid. Now in New York City, yearning and desire for an unresolved past self is stirred when her childhood sweetheart, Hae Sung (Teo Yoo), visits her and her husband.

Watch it: Digital rental and select cinemas

Greta Lee in Past Lives
Past Lives has two nominations. Credit: Jon Pack/Twenty Years Rights/A24/TheWest

AMERICAN FICTION

Starring Jeffrey Wright, the blistering American Fiction is damn funny, and it’s smart, tackling issues of authorial authenticity, cultural stereotypes and performativity in a way that never feels like a lecture. Cord Jefferson’s film is centred on Monk, a writer who writes a book full of what he views as disparaging tropes about the African-American community. He did it to make a point about the publishing and literary industry, but then it becomes an immediate hit. Awkward.

Watch it: Amazon Prime Video

American Fiction has five nominations.
American Fiction has five nominations. Credit: Claire Folger/ Claire Folger

KILLLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

Martin Scorsese luxuriates in the world-building of his expansive, ambitious film centred on the historical Osage Indian Murders, a spate of killings in the 1920s in which members of the Osage tribe were murdered for their oil rights. There is incredible artistry in this film, the attention to its production design, its cinematography and its performances is extraordinary. In particular, Lily Gladstone as the defiant Molly Burkhart is a revelation.

Watch it: Apple TV+

Lily Gladstone, Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio in "Killers of the Flower Moon," in cinemas now.
Killers of the Flower Moon is nominated for 10 Oscars. Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon/Apple TV

MAESTRO

Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan’s chemistry is super-charged in this Cooper-directed biopic about Leonard Bernstein, the first American-born person to conduct the New York Philharmonic. His talent is as outsized as his personal life is complicated. His continued affairs with men does not seem to diminish his love for his wife, Felicia, but the two are not always aligned. The first half of the film has the dynamism of an old-school screwball rom-com while Mulligan’s performance builds to an emotional climax that, once again, proves the British actor has never been anything but transcendent.

Watch it: Netflix

Maestro is Bradley Cooper's opus to composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein.
Maestro is up for seven Oscars. Credit: Netflix

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