The 20 best Oscar-winners on Netflix


Prestige pics abound on Netflix, with a substantial selection of Oscar-winners. Matt Glasby distills the triumphant trophy-winners down to a top twenty.

UPDATED SEPTEMBER 27

8 Mile

Nobody expected Eminem’s acting debut, the story of a poor white rapper making his bones in wrong-side-of-the-tracks Detroit, to be this good. Although Curtis Hanson’s slick, sensitive direction helps, the film’s crowning glory is the storming anthem Lose Yourself, perhaps the coolest ever Best Original Song winner.

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1917

Sam Mendes’ audacious WWI drama, which sees soldier George MacKay racing through the trenches to deliver a vital message, appears to have been filmed in one continuous shot. It wasn’t, but you’ll be too busy spotting a best-of-British supporting cast (Cumberbatch, Firth, Strong) to notice. The film won three of ten nominations, for VFX, sound mixing and Roger Deakins’ stunning cinematography.

Amy

One of UK music’s brightest stars, Amy Winehouse died a tragic, wasteful death at the age of 27, the victim of an insatiable tabloid press as much as her own addictions. Asif Kapadia’s intimate Oscar-winning documentary uses archive footage to put the focus back where it belongs: on the woman herself, and her extraordinary talent.

Arrival

A smart rejoinder to Hollywood’s usual bang-crash-wallop invasion movies (cough, Independence Day), Denis Villeneuve’s thoughtful sci-fi drama follows linguist Amy Adams, who’s drafted in by the army to communicate with aliens. But do they really come in peace? The film won one of its eight Oscar nominations, for Sylvain Bellemare’s spooky sound editing.

Brokeback Mountain

Controversially, Ang Lee’s gorgeously rough-hewn romance lost Best Picture to safe bet Crash amid whispers of Academy homophobia. Its offence? Detailing the doomed love that blooms between lonely shepherds Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in 1960s Wyoming. Awards for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Score helped sugar the pill.

Call Me by Your Name

Luca Guadagino’s sun-kissed coming-of-age tale follows student Timothée Chalamet as he spends a long, hot, boring summer with his parents in Northern Italy. Boring, that is, until Armie Hammer arrives and the two begin a tender love/lust affair. James Ivory won an Oscar for his sparkling screenplay, adapted from André Aciman’s novel.

Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino’s last good film combines two of his biggest passions: spaghetti westerns and cultural appropriation. Jamie Foxx is dynamite as the eponymous freed slave, Christoph Waltz provides Oscar-winning support, and the script brought QT a second Best Screenplay award—even though his excruciating cameo as an Aussie prospector deserved a Razzie.

The Exorcist

The first ever horror film to be nominated for Best Picture—which it lost to The Sting—William Friedkin’s classic possession movie changed the parameters of what could be shown on the big screen, both in terms of physical SFX and sacrilegious onanism. It won two of ten noms—for William Peter Blatty’s screenplay, adapted from his book, and the pioneering sound.

Joaquin Phoenix in Joker

Joker

While the prospect of an incel-apologist Taxi Driver update from the director of The Hangover may sound less than promising, Joachim Phoenix’s central performance is a twitchy tour-de-force. He became the second actor, after Heath Ledger, to win an Oscar playing Batman’s nemesis.

La La Land

Following the see-sawing fortunes of actor Emma Stone and jazz pianist Ryan Gosling, Damien Chazelle’s all-singing, all-dancing LA story is an irresistible update on the classic Hollywood musical. Sadly, its most memorable moment came when Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty named it Best Picture by mistake (Moonlight was the real winner). Hopefully the six statues it took home provided some consolation…

Mank

A tribute to sozzled Citizen Kane scribe Herman J Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), David Fincher’s boozy, black-and-white drama peeks behind the curtain at the power struggles of old Hollywood. As usual with Fincher, the technical specs are immaculate, with well-deserved Oscars for Donald Graham Burt and Jan Pascale’s opulent production design and Erik Messerschmidt’s shimmering cinematography.

The Matrix

Securing four Academy Awards for its awesome editing, sound, sound editing and VFX, Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s game-changing sci-fi contains so many jaws-on-the-floor moments it has to be seen to be believed. The fact it was shot in Sydney, and features tons of Aussie and NZ actors doing sketchy American accents, only adds to the sense of dystopian disconnect.

Mystic River

Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane (Gone Baby Gone), directed by Clint Eastwood, and starring at least three of the greatest film actors of their generation, this missing-person drama hums with palpable pain. Sean Penn and Tim Robbins scored Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor statues—the first time that’s happened since Ben Hur in 1959.

No Country for Old Men

Based on a screenplay by Cormac McCarthy, the Coen brothers’ sophisticated Neo-Western pits three immovable forces—Vietnam vet Josh Brolin, aging sheriff Tommy Lee Jones and conscience-less killer Javier Bardem—against each other, with brutal, bleakly funny results. It won four Oscars, including Best Director and Best Supporting Actor for Bardem’s bizarrely terrifying turn.

The Revenant

Leonardo DiCaprio practically bellows “GIVE ME AN OSCAR!” throughout this punishing survival drama set on the American frontier in 1823. Whether swimming through icy rivers or eating raw bison liver, he sure earned it, as did Alejandro González Iñárritu for his dazzling direction and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who shot using only natural light.

Roma

After Gravity, Mexican multihyphenate Alfonso Cuarón is no stranger to little gold statues, but the biggest surprise here is not that Roma is brilliant, but that’s it’s so intimate: a tale of the writer/director’s early life in Mexico City built on filigree details and family conflicts. It won Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Cinematography for Cuarón’s captivating compositions.

Shrek

A witty rejoinder to the Disney-fication of kids’ movies, Dreamworks’ irreverent fairytale won the first-ever Best Animated Feature Oscar. Mike Myers voices the grumpy green ogre who, along with sidekick Donkey (Eddie Murphy), takes on big baddie Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow)—said to be based on House of Mouse CEO Michael Eisner. Miaow.

The Social Network

David Fincher’s Facebook drama plays out like a digital-age Faust, with angry nerd Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) making history by creating social media but losing all his friends in the process. Of eight Oscar nominations, it won three: best score, best editing and best adapted screenplay, for Aaron Sorkin’s classy, caustic script.

Top Gun

Yes, Maverick (Tom Cruise) is a bellend and the flag-waving patriotism palls, but Tony Scott’s none-more-Eighties fly-boy flick still provides regressive pleasures aplenty. Of a Kenny Loggins-heavy soundtrack, Berlin’s Take my Breath Away nabbed the Oscar for Best Original Song.

Training Day

When rookie Ethan Hawke rides along with corrupt old-timer Denzel Washington in Antoine Fuqua’s razor-sharp cop drama, things spiral out of control faster than a PCP-spiked joint. Washington won his second Best Actor Oscar as Detective Alonzo Harris. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Macy Gray watch and learn.