Awards season is a time when we get to celebrate and recognize the stand-out films, actors, and creators from the past year. It is also a time when some may discover a new favourite movie amongst nominees or even feel that they have exhausted options to watch since the same titles are in circulation. In this article, we will give hand-picked film recommendations based on the 2024 Oscar nominations to allow you to discover a new genre, director, or style you might enjoy!
If you liked: Barbie
Ladybird (2017) & Little Women (2019):
’Ladybird’ follows its title character during her last year of high school as she tries to escape her small Californian hometown by applying to college in New York, much to the dismay of her intensely opinionated and complicated mother.
‘Little Women’ follows the lives of the March sisters as they come of age in the aftermath of the American Civil War. The sisters’ bonds are deeply complex, developing further throughout the runtime as we learn about their dreams, passions, and struggles to grapple with what it means to be a woman in the 19th century.
Since both of these films are the predecessors to Barbie, I believe that any fan of the movie must indulge in Greta Gerwig’s equally (sometimes even more so) moving earlier work that explores similar themes of girlhood and femininity. While each of Gerwig’s works has had distinctly different atmospheres, they are just as appealing as one another and should not be overlooked.
Legally Blonde (2001)
Elle Woods is your typical blonde girl, she’s a beauty queen, president of a sorority, and dating a boy from her campus. All she wants is to be Mrs Warner Huntington III but her dreams are shattered when her boyfriend breaks up with her for being too blonde. Despite this, she decides to subvert his expectations, and everyone else’s, by becoming a Harvard-educated lawyer against all odds.
Legally Blonde portrays an overwhelmingly positive type of feminism and is heavily female-focused with similar messaging to that of Barbie. With her slightly naive but positive attitude, pink aesthetic as well as her character arc of leaning to succeed in a patriarchy, Reece Witherspoon’s comedic portrayal of Elle Woods is the essence of a Barbie come to life!
If you liked: Oppenheimer
‘Dunkirk’ is a retelling of the 1940 event of the same name in which Allied soldiers are miraculously evacuated after being surrounded and therefore trapped by the German army.
I think any fan of Christopher Nolan and Cillian Murphy’s partnership will take great pleasure in the viewing experience that is ‘Dunkirk’. Similarly to Oppenheimer, ‘Dunkirk’ explores humanity in a tragedy, grappling with man-made catastrophes and the impacts of war.
This limited series delves into the real tragedy which was the Chernobyl nuclear accident. It delves into the lead-up to and cause of the catastrophe in addition to telling the stories of the brave men and women who sacrificed themselves to save Europe from an unimaginable disaster.
While not a movie, ‘Chornobyl shares many of the same hard-hitting moments and horror-esque qualities of Oppenheimer. A major element of both works is the psychological terror that is humanity's ability to destroy itself.
If you liked: Past Lives
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Joel Barish, heartbroken to hear that his ex-girlfriend underwent a procedure to wipe him from her memory, decides to do the same out of spite. However, as he watches memories of her fade away, he realizes that he made a mistake and cannot trade his past love for an erasure of his pain.
‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ is, in its simplest form, a story about acceptance. Much like ‘Past Lives’, we watch these two characters drift in and out of love with each other as we see more and more of their relationship’s collapse throughout the runtime. Both films are genuine, devastating, portrayals of relationships where these characters are unable to be together and are equally unable to acknowledge that.
‘Minari’ follows a family of Korean immigrants in the 1980s who struggle to adjust to small-town, farm life. David, the 7-year-old son of the family, is especially curious about the new surroundings and people he is presented with. Meanwhile, Jacob is hellbent on creating a farm, throwing away the family finances, his marriage, and stability while seeking his dream.
Where I think ‘Past Lives’ and ‘Minari’ have a majority of their similarities is in their abilities to tell such impactful, relatable, and compelling stories in such simplicity.
We only get glimpses into these characters' lives but can profoundly understand them. Not to mention the extremely realistic portrayal of the immigrant experience that can be found in each story which is heart-wrenching to any viewer.
If you liked: The Holdovers
Dead Poets Society (1989)
When John Keating, an English teacher known for his unorthodox methods, is introduced to an uptight all-boys preparatory boarding school, the dynamic between his students shifts under his poetic encouragement. His class is enamoured by his inspiring lessons, leading to them finding out about the Dead Poets Society, a club Mr Keating was a part of in his younger years. They decide to reform this club, a catalyst for life-changing occurrences for all boys involved.
‘Dead Poets Society’ shares the same melancholic winter aesthetic found in ‘The Holdovers’, lending to the devastatingly beautiful experience that is both of these works of art. I find that the sort of odd comfort that I experienced when watching ‘Dead Poets Society’ was replicated in my first watch of ‘The Holdovers’. Additionally, it is undoubtedly pleasurable to see young actors perform such dramatic scenes which is evident in all of the boys of the Dead Poets Society and Dominic Stessa’s performance as Angus in ‘The Holdovers’.
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
A dysfunctional family made up of quirky, flawed characters road trip across America in an old van for little Olive to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant held in Florida.
Where ‘The Holdovers’ is an obvious winter film, ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ is the epitome of a summer film. Alexander Payne’s ‘The Holdovers’ main draw is the found family relationship between the main characters and while ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ is about a blood-related family, their struggles to connect and conflicts mirror the same entices of the found family trope.
If you liked: May December
Directed by Sophia Coppola, ‘Priscilla’ is a biopic about the unseen side of Elvis and Priscilla Presley’s whirlwind romance and eventually turbulent marriage.
’Priscilla’ explores the ethics of age-gap relationships and the effects of a marriage in the public eye, while not consciously being a movie like ‘May December’, Priscilla’s life is closely tied to Hollywood and the film industry which leads to similar themes and atmospheres. Moreover, both films delve intimately into the psyche of the characters and their marriages in each of the respective films.
A Marriage Story (2019)
Stage director, Charlie, and actress, Nicole, struggle to part ways through the gruelling divorce that pushes them to their personal extremes.
Much like ‘May December’, ‘A Marriage Story’ is a dissection of a quickly unravelling marriage and explores themes like pain, self-discovery, and acceptance. Furthermore, if you liked ‘May December’ for its harrowing performances then you will find equally moving acting in the raw depiction of the main characters' heartbreak and anger.
If you liked: Poor Things
The Lobster (2015) & The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
In an alternate universe, single people are taken to The Hotel, where they are made to find a romantic partner within 45 days to avoid being transformed into an animal of their choice and sent off into the wilderness.
‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’ follows Dr. Steven Murphy, a renowned cardiovascular surgeon, and wife and two children. However, their idyllic life is thrown into question when Martin, the son of Dr. Murphy’s previous patient, insinuates himself into the doctor's life in gradually unsettling ways.
Anyone who was entranced by the dystopian style of ‘Poor Things’ will surely be interested in exploring any of Yorgos Lanthimos’ similarly weird previous work. All of the director's films pose deep questions about morality and life, a must-watch.
Swiss Army Man (2016)
Alone on a deserted island, Han has given up all hope of making it home. But when a dead body washes ashore, everything changes and Hank is inspired to make one last attempt at escaping.
Just like ‘Poor Things’, ‘Swiss Army Man’ is one of the weirdest films I have ever seen but, that is not to its detriment. ‘Swiss Army Man’ is a fun, modern look at the question of “how do we live?”. It shares the same out-of-this-world aesthetics as ‘Poor Things’ as well as has a similar theme of reanimation.