The 90th Academy Awards are less than two weeks away meaning it’s time to get acquainted with the nominees. But where to start? From a historic moment in journalism to a social thriller that had everyone talking, there are a slew of fantastic movies to check out. Consider this your Oscars 2018 cheat sheet to the 10 films worth watching before March 4.
The Shape of Water (13 nominations)
Leading the nominations this year is the fantasy film The Shape of Water. It’s about a mute janitor named Eliza working at a top secret research lab in the 1960s. She forms a unique bond with a creature being held there in captivity. Sally Hawkins is up for best actress in a leading role. “One of the most magical and genuine ways of acting is when you see a person that carries reservoirs of emotion. Pain, happiness, anger—[it’s] in their bodies, almost like emotional camels, and they only release [the reservoirs] in front of the camera. And that is Sally,” writer and director Guillermo del Toro told Rolling Stone.
Dunkirk (8 nominations)
This war drama focuses on the intense World War II battle when allied soldiers from France, Belgium and the British Empire were surrounded by German soldiers on the beaches of Dunkirk, France. Even though the film isn’t recognized in any acting categories, director Christopher Nolan’s drive for authenticity was rewarded in the best directing category. He told Variety the choices he made were the result of a simple goal: reality. “You could make a period perfect CG version [of a ship] but it wouldn’t feel as real.” He opted to decorate real tankers and use real explosions in the movie.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (7 nominations)
A mother radically challenges local police by putting up three billboards asking them why they haven’t solved her daughter’s murder. The film, directed by Martin McDonagh, examines the impact one tragedy can have on a small town. In his review, Pulse film critic Dylan Skolnick said, “McDonagh’s focus on character allows him to find both pathos and comedy in a tale rooted in loss. What begins as a simple story of one woman’s righteous crusade gradually evolves into a multi-layered exploration of the morality of vengeance and the possibility of redemption, while still remaining very funny.”
Darkest Hour (6 nominations)
Set in the beginning of World War II, newly appointed Prime Minister Winston Churchill must decide whether to join the war or negotiate with Hitler as all of Western Europe watches. Biopics can be a draining experience because of the intense pressure to replicate history and often the transformation process—it took best actor nominee Gary Oldman four hours to become Churchill. He already won a Golden Globe for his performance.
Phantom Thread (6 nominations)
Set in the 1950s, this drama focuses a famous dressmaker whose life is transformed when he falls in love with a challenging younger woman. Daniel Day-Lewis is up for best actor for his role as Reynolds Woodcock. The method actor decided this would be his last movie. “Not wanting to see the film is connected to the decision I’ve made to stop working as an actor. But it’s not why the sadness came to stay. That happened during the telling of the story, and I don’t really know why,” he told W Magazine. A role that inspired a three-time Oscar winner to retire? That’s a must-see!
Lady Bird (5 nominations)
Follow Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson as she confronts the struggles that come along with being an eccentric teen at a Catholic high school in Sacramento. Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut stands out because of its honesty and simplicity. She’s up for best director while lead star Saoirse Ronan is nominated for best actress.
Get Out (4 nominations)
Get Out director Jordan Peele, best known for his work in the comedy duo Key & Peele, tells the story of a black man who meets his girlfriend’s white parents for the first time and comes across disturbing discoveries. Peele classifies the film as a social thriller. “It was very important to me to just get the entire audience in touch in some way with the fears inherent [in] being black in this country,” Peele told NPR. “Part of being black in this country, and I presume being any minority, is constantly being told that…we’re seeing racism where there just isn’t racism.” This larger message is why the film has received (and deserves) critical acclaim.
Call Me by Your Name (3 nominations)
Elio, 17, connects with his father’s research assistant in Italy in 1983. They share an interest in their Jewish heritage and Italian landscape design while Elio is exploring his sexuality. At 22, Timothee Chalamet who plays Elio is the youngest best actor nominee in 80 years. (He also stars in Lady Bird!) But, Call Me by Your Name presented a challenge beyond most films since Chalamet had to learn Italian.
I, Tonya (3 nominations)
The only movie on this list not nominated for best picture, I, Tonya is still one of the most buzzed about. It offers a new twist on one of the most infamous crimes in sports history. Don’t think you can feel remorse for Tonya Harding? Do you blame her just as much as her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly for playing a part in bashing Nancy Kerrigan’s knees? This film may have you mulling over the incident. Margot Robbie has SAG and Golden Globe nominations for her role as Harding, whom she played from age 15 to 44.
The Post (2 nominations)
We can think of no better woman to play Katharine Graham, the country’s first female newspaper publisher, than Meryl Streep. “One of the themes of the film is how difficult it is to stand up,” she told Vogue. “That sort of speaks to our moment where the truth is so amorphous and difficult to nail down.” The movie showcases a battle between the U.S. government and the press when a cover-up about the Vietnam War is discovered in the early 1970s. Graham was forced to stand up for the American people at the risk of ruining many lives.