15 of the best Oscar-winning movies on Netflix Australia

The Academy Awards aren’t always the best arbitrator of quality in film. But, if you’re delving into the world of quote-unquote “serious cinema,” spending time parsing the films the Academy has anointed is not a bad jumping off point.

So, if you’ve got yourself a Netflix account, you could do worse than to direct your attention towards these red carpet darlings…

Argo (2012)

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The Movie: The true story of how the CIA used a fake movie shoot as cover for an operation to rescue American embassy workers from post-revolution Iran in 1979. Ben Affleck directs and heads a fantastic ensemble, including Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, Tate Donovan, Scoot McNairy, Clea DuVall, Kyle Chandler, Victor Garber and Michael Parks as Marvel comics legend Jack Kirby, who played a small part in the actual mission. Surprisingly breezy for a movie about terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism.

The Awards: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay for Chris Terrio and Best Editing. Affleck was not nominated for Best Director, which was widely regarded as a snub. The once and future Mr Lopez was sanguine about it, saying: “I also didn’t get the acting nomination and no-one’s saying I got snubbed there!”

Babette’s Feast (1987)

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The Movie: When she wins the lottery, French housekeeper Babette decides to spend all her winnings on cooking up a sumptuous meal for the pious Danish community she has lived in for the past. Based on the story by Karen Blixen, Babette’s Feast is, when reduced to its plot, the story of one really good meal. But it’s really about community, gratitude, art, love, and how the ritual of breaking bread embodies all that is good in life.

The Awards: Best Foreign Language Film, of course.

The Big Short (2015)

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The movie: Comedy veteran Adam McKay gets semi-serious with this sprawling, angry analysis of the events leading up to the Global Financial Crisis of 2007. Funnier than it sounds, with a cast including Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt, with Melissa Leo, Hamish Linklater, John Magaro, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, Finn Wittrock, and Marisa Tomei, who make the sometimes baffling fiscal maneuvering easier to swallow.

The awards: A win for Best Adapted Screenplay, and received nominations including Best Picture, Best Director (McKay) and Best Supporting Actor (Bale).

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

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The movie: Decades on from the original Blade Runner, android bounty hunter K (Ryan Gosling) is on the trail of what looks to be a replicant baby and finds Harrison Ford’s grizzled Rick Deckard. Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) delivers a thoughtful, fascinating sci-fi tale that is a worthy companion to the original—and in many ways surpasses it.

The awards: Five nominations, a win for Best Visual Effects and, amazingly, the first win for Best Cinematography for legendary lenser Roger Deakins.

The Departed (2006)

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The Movie: Leonardo DiCaprio is a cop undercover in the Irish Mob. Matt Damon is a criminal undercover in the Massachusetts State Police. Martin Scorsese is directing, and Jack Nicholson is leaving no scenery unchewed. A remake of the acclaimed Hong Kong crime drama Infernal Affairs, The Departed relocates the action to Boston, ups the machismo, and lets the sparks fly.

The Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay for William Monahan, and Best Editing for long-time Scorsese collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker.

Forrest Gump (1994)

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The Movie: Wildly popular telling of the titular big-hearted idiot’s (Tom Hanks) amiable tour through the back half of the 20th century. Essentially a boomer fairytale, with the boomeriest soundtrack that ever boomed. Quite enjoyable if you ignore its essential conservatism, and the occasional moment of actual satire is welcome.

The Awards: Oh, so many: Best Picture, Best Actor (Hanks), Best Director (Robert Zemeckis), Best Visual Effects, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing. Effectively shut Pulp Fiction out of the big prizes, which a lot of people are still sore about.

Gladiator (2000)

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The Movie: Left for dead after a brutal coup by the ambitious Emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), Roman general Maximus (Russell Crowe) is enslaved as a gladiator, fighting his way up the ranks until he can stand toe to toe with the man who murdered his emperor and his family. Mel Gibson may have begun the historical epic revival five years earlier with Braveheart, but Ridley Scott perfected the form here.

The Awards: Five wins out of seven nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Costume Design, and acting wins for Crowe and Phoenix.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

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The Movie: The final film in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved fantasy doorstopper. Very, very long.

The Awards: Effectively letting the final film stand in for the whole trilogy, the Academy showered The Return of the King with gold statues: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay for Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Editing, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects. Tied for most Oscar wins ever with Titanic and Ben-Hur.

Mank (2020)

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The Movie: David Fincher digs deep into the writing of Citizen Kane, with Gary Oldman as sozzled genius Herman J. Mankiewicz. He was the screenwriter who channeled his growing distaste for media magnate and patron William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) into the script for the greatest movie of all time.

The Awards: A mammoth 10 nominations but only two wins: Best Cinematography for Erik Messerschmidt and Best Production Design.

Marriage Story (2019)

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The movie: Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson agree to an amicable separation that quickly becomes anything but. Noah Baumbach’s examination of a relationship coming apart will ring painfully true to anyone who has been through similar (so most of us) and has the self-awareness to recognise the petty, guilt-wracked, wounded horsetrading that ensues (not enough of us).

The awards: Six nominations across most of the major categories, but only one win. Laura Dern scooped up Best Supporting Actress as a hard-nosed, unsentimental divorce lawyer.

No Country for Old Men (2007)

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The Movie: The Coen brothers adapt Cormac McCarthy’s philosophical thriller, putting Javier Bardem’s crazy-coiffed cartel enforcer on the trail of Josh Brolin’s Vietnam veteran hunter and a bag full of drug money, while Tommy Lee Jones’ ageing sheriff tries to head off the inevitable bloodbath. Nobody comes out happy.

The Awards: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for the Coens, plus a Best Supporting Actor for Bardem.

Roma (2018)

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The movie: Alfonso Cuarón’s black and white memoir of life in early 1970s Mexico City, chiefly told through the eyes of Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), the Indigenous housekeeper to the wealthy, bourgeoise family of a philandering doctor (Fernando Grediaga).

The awards: A Netflix film, Roma made history with its raft of nominations, marking the first time a film chiefly intended for streaming won major awards season acclaim. In the end it took home Best Foreign Language Film, plus Best Director and Best Cinematography for Cuarón.

Spirited Away (2001)

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The Movie: A 10-year-old girl finds herself stuck working as a cleaner in a magical bathhouse that caters to various spirits and supernatural creatures. From director Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, one of the most revered animation houses in the history of film, this whimsical full length cartoon is a guaranteed charmer.

The Awards: Best animated feature, of course.


The Theory of Everything (2014)

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The movie: Eddie Redmayne gets in the chair to play genius physicist Stephen Hawking, unlocking the secrets of the universe and romancing future wife Jane (Felicity Jones) while motor neurone disease gradually robs him of his physical capabilities.

The awards: Five nominations, with a Best Actor win for Redmayne.

Training Day (2001)

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The movie: Ethan Hawke’s freshly minted narcotics cop takes a shakedown on shift with Denzel Washington’s seasoned street detective, only to find himself spiralling down into a world of corruption, drugs and murder. It has a tough, savvy script written by Davi Ayer and muscular direction from Antoine Fuqua.

The awards: A Best Actor win for Washington and a Best Supporting nomination for Hawke.