2021 was a weird year for movies. Well, not for movies themselves, but for moviegoing. Studios like Warner Bros. tried new hybrid release models, dropping their big films—Dune, The Matrix Resurrections—on HBO Max the same day they hit theaters. Streaming services continued to pump out scores of content, like Netflix’s Don’t Look Up and The Power of the Dog. Audiences, meanwhile, just tried to navigate what was playing where. (Don’t worry, they always found it. Spider-Man: No Way Home, which was a theater-exclusive, brought in nearly $260 million domestically in its opening weekend, even as Covid-19 cases surged.)
If you’re wondering, though, how all of this impacted this year’s Oscar race, it did and it didn’t. On the one hand, quite a few nominees—more than half of this year’s Best Picture contenders—got their footing on streamers. But others—Drive My Car, Licorice Pizza—are strictly theatrical.
Either way, you can currently stream most of the top nominees already from the comfort of your own home—and surely you haven’t had time to watch all of them already. Here’s how to catch up before the Oscars airs on March 27.
The Power of the Dog
Director Jane Champion’s Netflix film led the pack this year with 12 nominations, including nods for Best Picture and one for Champion herself. It’s easy to see why. It’s a slow-burn about toxic masculinity and closeted desire set against a backdrop of the American West. Also, it’s beautiful.
Dune, which started its run on HBO Max as well as in theaters, got a whopping 10 nominations, including one for costumes, aka those amazing stillsuits. Curiously, director Denis Villeneuve did not get a nod. Dune is not currently on WarnerMedia’s streaming service, but it is available to rent or buy from many others—and will likely be returning to HBO Max sometime in the future.
Don’t Look Up
What would happen if a meteor were about to destroy Earth and no one listened, or just tried to politicize it? What if it was also a metaphor for the struggle of being a scientist in a world where no one wants to hear about climate change? That’s Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up, which nabbed four nominations for Netflix.
It’s almost a cliche to say Guillermo del Toro has done it again, but with Nightmare Alley, he did. Much like his Oscar-winning Shape of Water, Nightmare Alley—adapted from the novel by William Lindsay Gresham that was also turned into a film in 1947—is a blend of everything the director does best: supernatural elements, noir styling, using Ron Perlman. Naturally, it got four nods, including in technical categories like production design and cinematography.
The acronym CODA stands for “child of deaf adult,” and Apple TV+’s film of same name puts one such teenager at the forefront. Ruby (Emilia Jones) is a hearing kid in a deaf family who can sing, but would need to break away from her home to do so. A sweet coming-of-age story that just snagged three nominations, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Troy Kotsur—the first for a deaf man.
Tragedy of Macbeth
This adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic from Joel Coen—an Apple Original Film—earned a tidy three nods, including one for its lead Denzel Washington.
The Lost Daughter
Weirdly, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s feature-directing debut, based on Elena Ferrante’s novel, didn’t get a nomination for Best Picture, but it did get a much-deserved one for lead Olivia Colman, and one for Gyllenhaal for Best Adapted Screenplay.
OK, so maybe this movie was made for TikTok, but that didn’t stop it from getting three nominations, including one for Best Animated Feature. Disney+ subscribers can watch it there, but it’s also available to rent elsewhere.
Writer-director Kenneth Branagh’s black-and-white film, set amidst the tumult of life in Northern Ireland in the 1960s, swept through a lot of the Oscars’ major categories, including Best Picture, nabbing seven nominations. Originally, it was only in theaters, but now you can buy it on other services.
This biopic about Richard Williams, the father of tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams, was also an HBO Max offering. Currently nominated for six Academy Awards—including one for Best Actor for Will Smith, who plays Richard—the movie is currently available to rent on a variety of services.
Drive My Car
Adapted from a Haruki Murakami short story, Drive My Car follows stage actor-director—and recent widower—Yusuke Kafuku (played by Hidetoshi Nishijima), as he goes to direct a new production in Hiroshima, and the young woman (Toko Miura), who serves as his chauffeur to and from the production’s many rehearsals. It’s a heart-wrenching tale of loss that snagged four nominations, but unfortunately it’s not yet streaming anywhere in the US.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film, loosely based on events of his own youth in Southern California, was also a theatrical-only release. So unfortunately, you can’t watch the film, which just got three Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Picture, anywhere just yet. But based on release windows, it’ll likely be available to rent before the Oscars air.
West Side Story
The Academy gave Steven Spielberg’s take on the classic musical an impressive seven nods. Unfortunately, it’s not streaming anywhere.
Full List of Oscar Nominees: