Nine 2024 Oscar-Winning Films That You Can and Should Watch Immediately

'Oppenheimer', an astonishing Ukraine-set documentary, a Wes Anderson short, Emma Stone's most-spectacular performance yet: they each won 2024 Oscars, and you can check them them all now.
Sarah Ward
March 11, 2024

Maybe you're the kind of film lover who wouldn't dream of navigating Oscar season without seeing every movie that you possibly can as the accolades approach. Perhaps you wait to find out who wins big before deciding what to watch that you haven't caught already. Either way, the 2024 Academy Awards have now happened, taking place on Monday, March 11, Down Under — and a new batch of pictures, and the folks behind them, now have Hollywood's most-coveted cinema trophy to their names.

We've been along for the ride since these pictures hit the big and small screen. So, if you need the full rundown, we have the list of winners, the nominees before that, our picks for who we predicted would and should win, exactly where you can see 2024's nominees in New Zealand and a drinking game designed to go with with this year's ceremony.

Now, we also have all the details on nine films that have just been anointed Oscar-winners at the 96th Academy Awards that you can check out right now. Watch them. Rewatch them. Either way, you're in for some stellar viewing. And if you're wondering where The Boy and the Heron and Godzilla Minus One are — aka two of the very best recipients of the night — they sadly aren't currently in cinemas or streaming Down Under, but keep an eye out for them when they hit digital.

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Oppenheimer

Cast Cillian Murphy and a filmmaker falls in love. Danny Boyle did with 28 Days Later and Sunshine, then Christopher Nolan followed with Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception and Dunkirk. There's an arresting, haunting, seeps-under-your-skin soulfulness about the Irish actor, never more so than when he was wandering solo through the empty zombie-ravaged streets in his big-screen big break, then hurtling towards the sun in an underrated sci-fi gem, both for Boyle, and now playing "the father of atomic bomb" in Nolan's epic biopic Oppenheimer. Flirting with the end of the world, or just one person's end, clearly suits Murphy. Here he is in a mind-blower as the destroyer of worlds — almost, perhaps actually — and so much of this can't-look-away three-hour stunner dwells in his expressive eyes. As J Robert Oppenheimer, those peepers see purpose and possibility. They spot quantum mechanics' promise, and the whole universe lurking within that branch of physics. They ultimately spy the consequences, too, of bringing the Manhattan Project successfully to fruition during World War II.

Dr Strangelove's full title could never apply to Oppenheimer, nor to its eponymous figure; neither learn to stop worrying and love the bomb. The theoretical physicist responsible for the creation of nuclear weapons did enjoy building it in Nolan's account, Murphy's telltale eyes gleaming as Oppy watches research become reality — but then darkening as he gleans what that reality means. Directing, writing and adapting the 2005 biography American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J Sherwin, Nolan charts the before and after. He probes the fission and fusion of the situation in intercut parts, the first in colour, the second in black and white. In the former, all paths lead to the history-changing Trinity test on July 16, 1945 in the New Mexico desert. In the latter, a mushroom cloud balloons through Oppenheimer's life as he perceives what the gadget, as it's called in its development stages, has unleashed.

Oscars:

Won: Best Picture, Best Director (Christopher Nolan), Best Actor (Cillian Murphy), Best Supporting Actor (Robert Downey Jr), Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score

Nominations: Best Supporting Actress (Emily Blunt), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Production Design, Best Sound

Where to watch: Streaming via Neon and iTunes.

Read our full review.

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Poor Things

Richly striking feats of cinema by Yorgos Lanthimos aren't scarce. Sublime performances by Emma Stone are hardly infrequent. Screen takes on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein couldn't be more constant. For Lanthimos, see: Dogtooth and Alps in the Greek Weird Wave filmmaker's native language, plus The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer and The Favourite since he started helming movies in English. With Stone, examples abound in her Best Actress Oscar for La La Land, supporting nominations before and after for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) and Lanthimos' aforementioned regal satire, and twin 2024 Golden Globe nods for their latest collaboration as well as TV's The Curse. And as for the best gothic-horror story there is, not to mention one of the most influential sci-fi stories ever, the evidence is everywhere from traditional adaptations to debts owed as widely as The Rocky Horror Show and M3GAN. Combining the three results in a rarity, however: a jewel of a pastel-, jewel- and bodily fluid-toned feminist Frankenstein-esque fairy tale that's a stunning creation, as zapped to life with Lanthimos' inimitable flair, a mischievous air, Stone at her most extraordinary and empowerment blazing like a lightning bolt.

With cascading black hair, an inquisitive stare, incessant frankness and jolting physical mannerisms, Poor Things' star is Bella Baxter in this adaptation of Alasdair Grey's award-winning 1992 novel by Australian screenwriter Tony McNamara (The Great). Among the reasons that the movie and its lead portrayal are so singular: as a character with a woman's body revived with a baby's brain, Stone plays someone from infancy to adulthood, all with the astonishingly exact mindset and mannerisms to match, and while making every move, choice and feeling as organic as birth, living and death. In this fantastical steampunk vision of Victorian-era Europe, London-based Scottish doctor Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe, Asteroid City) is Bella's maker. Even if she didn't call him God, he's been playing it. But curiosity, the quest for agency and independence, horniness and a lust for adventure all beckon his creation on a radical, rebellious, gorgeously rendered, gloriously funny and generously insightful odyssey. So, Godwin tries to marry Bella off to medical student Max McCandles (Ramy Youssef, Ramy), only for her to discover masturbation and sex, and run off to the continent with caddish lawyer Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law).

Oscars:

Won: Best Actress (Emma Stone), Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design

Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Yorgos Lanthimos), Best Supporting Actor (Mark Ruffalo), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score

Where to watch: In New Zealand cinemas, and streaming via Disney+ and iTunes.

Read our full review.

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Anatomy of a Fall

A calypso instrumental cover of 50 Cent's 'P.I.M.P.' isn't the only thing that Anatomy of a Fall's audience won't be able to dislodge from their heads after watching 2023's deserving Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or-winner. A film that's thorny, knotty and defiantly unwilling to give any easy answers, this legal, psychological and emotional thriller about a woman on trial for her husband's death is unshakeable in as many ways as someone can have doubts about another person: so, a myriad. The scenario conjured up by writer/director Justine Triet (Sibyl) is haunting, asking not only if her protagonist committed murder, as the on-screen investigation and courtroom proceedings interrogate, but digging into what it means to be forced to choose between whether someone did the worst or is innocent — or if either matters. While the Gallic legal system provides the backdrop for much of the movie, the real person doing the real picking isn't there in a professional capacity, or on a jury. Rather, it's the 11-year-old boy who loved his dad, finds him lying in the snow with a head injury outside their French Alps home on an otherwise ordinary day, then becomes the key witness in his mum's case.

Also impossible to forget: the performances that are so crucial in telling this tale of marital and parental bonds, especially from one of German's current best actors and the up-and-coming French talent playing her son. With her similarly astonishing portrayal in The Zone of Interest, Toni Erdmann and I'm Your Man's Sandra Hüller is two for two in movies that initially debuted in 2023; here, she steps into the icy and complicated Sandra Voyter's shoes with the same kind of surgical precision that Triet applies to unpacking the character's home life. As Daniel, who couldn't be more conflicted about the nightmare situation he's been thrust into, Milo Machado Graner (Alex Hugo) is a revelation — frequently via his expressive face and posture alone. If Scenes From a Marriage met Kramer vs Kramer, plus 1959's Anatomy of a Murder that patently influences Anatomy of a Fall's name, this would be the gripping end result — as fittingly written by Triet with her IRL partner Arthur Harari (Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle).

Oscars:

Won: Best Original Screenplay

Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Justine Triet), Best Actress (Sandra Hüller), Best Film Editing

Where to watch: Streaming via iTunes.

Read our full review.

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The Holdovers

Melancholy, cantankerousness, angst, hurt and snow: all five blanket Barton Academy in Alexander Payne's The Holdovers. It's Christmas in the New England-set latest film from the Election, About Schmidt and Nebraska director, but festive cheer is in short supply among the students and staff that give the movie its moniker. The five pupils all want to be anywhere but stuck at their exclusive boarding school over the yuletide break, with going home off the cards for an array of reasons. Then four get their wish, leaving just Angus Tully (debutant Dominic Sessa), who thought he'd be holidaying in Saint Kitts until his mother told him not to come so that she could have more time alone with his new stepdad. His sole company among the faculty: curmudgeonly classics professor Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti, Billions), who's being punished for failing the son of a wealthy donor, but would be hanging around campus anyway; plus grieving head cook Mary Lamb (Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Only Murders in the Building), who is weathering her first Christmas after losing her son — a Barton alum — in the Vietnam War.

The year is 1970 in Payne's long-awaited return behind the lens after 2017's Downsizing, as the film reinforces from its opening seconds with retro studio credits. The Holdovers continues that period-appropriate look in every frame afterwards — with kudos to cinematographer Eigil Bryld (No Hard Feelings), who perfects not only the hues and grain but the light and softness in his imagery — and matches it with the same mood and air, as if it's a lost feature unearthed from the era. Cat Stevens on the soundtrack, a focus on character and emotional truths, zero ties to franchises, a thoughtful story given room to breathe and build: that's this moving and funny dramedy. Christmas flicks regularly come trimmed with empty, easy nostalgia, but The Holdovers earns its wistfulness from a filmmaker who's no stranger to making movies that feel like throwbacks to the decade when he was a teen.

Oscars:

Won: Best Supporting Actress (Da'Vine Joy Randolph)

Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Paul Giamatti), Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing

Where to watch: In New Zealand cinemas, and streaming via iTunes.

Read our full review.

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American Fiction

Here's Thelonious 'Monk' Ellison's (Jeffrey Wright, Rustin) predicament when American Fiction begins: on the page, his talents aren't selling books. Praise comes the Los Angeles-based professor's way for his novels, but not sales, nor attendees when he's part of writers' festival panels. And even then, publishers aren't fond of his latest manuscript. Sick of hearing that his work isn't "Black enough", and also incensed over the attention that fellow scribe Sintara Golden (Issa Rae, Barbie) is receiving for her book We's Lives in Da Ghetto, he gets a-typing, pumping out the kind of text that he vehemently hates — but 100-percent fits the stereotype of what the world keeps telling him that Black literature should be. It attracts interest, even more so when Monk takes his agent Arthur's (John Ortiz, Better Things) advice and adopts a new persona to go with it. Soon fugitive convict Stagg R Leigh and his book Fuck are a huge hit that no one can get enough of. Because of the story spun around who wrote the bestseller, too, the FBI even wants to know the author's whereabouts.

Deservedly nominated for five 2024 Oscars — including for Best Picture, Best Actor for Wright and Best Supporting Actor for Sterling K Brown (Biosphere) as Monk's brother Clifford — American Fiction itself hails from the page, with filmmaker Cord Jefferson adapting Percival Everett's 2001 novel Erasure. Wright is indeed exceptional in this savvy satire of authenticity, US race relations and class chasms, and earns his awards contention for his reactions alone. Seeing how Monk adjusts himself to a world that keeps proving anything but his dream is an utter acting masterclass, in big and small moments alike. As the film dives into the character's personal chaos, that's where Brown's also-fantastic, often-tender performance comes in, plus Leslie Uggams (Extrapolations) as Monk's mother and Tracee Ellis Ross (Candy Cane Lane) as his sister, and also Erika Alexander (Run the World) as a neighbour who is a fan of his — not just Stagg R Leigh's — work. Don't discount how excellent American Fiction is beyond its literary hoax setup, in fact; as a character study, it's equally astute.

Oscars:

Won: Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Jeffrey Wright), Best Supporting Actor (Sterling K Brown), Best Original Score

Where to watch: Streaming via Prime Video.

Read our full review.

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The Zone of Interest

Quotes and observations about evil being mundane, as well as the result when people look the other way, will never stop being relevant. A gripping, unsettling masterpiece, The Zone of Interest is a window into why. The first film by Sexy Beast, Birth and Under the Skin director Jonathan Glazer in more than a decade, the Holocaust-set feature peers on as the unthinkable happens literally just over the fence, but a family goes about its ordinary life. If it seems abhorrent that anything can occur in the shadow of any concentration camp or site of World War II atrocities, that's part of the movie's point. It dwells in the Interessengebiet, the 40-square-kilometre-plus titular area that comprised and surrounded the Auschwitz complex, to interrogate how banal genocide was to those in power; commandant Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel, Babylon Berlin), even gloats that his name will be remembered and celebrated for its connection to mass extermination.

Höss was a real person, and the real Nazi SS officer overseeing Auschwitz from 1940–43. His wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller, Anatomy of a Fall) and five children are similarly drawn from truth. But The Zone of Interest finds its way to the screen via Martin Amis' fiction novel of the same name, then hones its interest down from the book's three narrators to the Höss family; a biopic, it isn't, even as it switches its character monikers back to reflect actuality. This is a work of deep probing and contemplation — a piece that demands that its viewers confront the daily reality witnessed and face how the lives of those in power, and benefiting from it, thrived with death not only as a neighbour but an enabler. Camp prisoners tend the Höss' garden. Ashes are strewn over the soil for horticultural effect. Being turned into the same is a threat used to keep the household's staff in line. All three of these details, as with almost everything in the feature, are presented with as matter-of-fact an air as cinema is capable of.

Oscars:

Won: Best International Feature, Best Sound

Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Jonathan Glazer), Best Adapted Screenplay

Where to watch: In New Zealand cinemas.

Read our full review.

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20 Days in Mariupol

Incompatible with life. No one should ever want to hear those three devastating words. No one who is told one of the most distressing phrases there is ever has them uttered their way in positive circumstances, either. Accordingly, when they're spoken by a doctor in 20 Days in Mariupol, they're deeply shattering. So is everything in this on-the-ground portrait of the first 20 days in the Ukrainian port city as Russia began its invasion, with the bleak reality of living in a war zone documented in harrowing detail. Located less than 60 kilometres from the border, Mariupol quickly segues from ordinary life to an apocalyptic scene — and this film refuses to look away. Much of its time is spent in and around hospitals, which see an influx of patients injured and killed by the combat, and also become targets as well. Many of in 20 Days in Mariupol's faces are the afflicted, the medics tending to them in horrendous circumstances, and the loves ones that are understandably inconsolable. Too many of the carnage's victims are children and babies, with their parents crushed and heartbroken in the aftermath; sometimes, they're pregnant women.

Directed by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mstyslav Chernov, and narrated by him with the grimness and soberness that can be this movie's only tone, 20 Days in Mariupol even existing is an achievement. What it depicts — what it immerses viewers in with urgency, from shelled hospitals, basements-turned-bomb shelters and more of the city destroyed day after day to families torn apart, looting, struggling to find food and bodies of the dead taken to mass graves — needs to be viewed as widely as possible, and constantly. His footage has also featured in news reports, but it can and must never be forgotten. Doctors mid-surgery demand that Chernov's camera is pointed their way, and that he shows the world the travesties taking place. The Ukrainian reporter, who has also covered Donbas, flight MH17, Syria and the Battle of Mosul for the Associated Press, does exactly that. He's doing more than ensuring that everyone bears witness, though; he makes certain that there's no way to watch 20 Days in Mariupol, which shows the vast civilian impact and casualties, and see anything but ordinary people suffering, or to feel anything other than shock, anger and horror.

Oscars:

Won: Best Documentary Feature

Where to watch: Streaming via DocPlay.

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Barbie

No one plays with a Barbie too hard when the Mattel product is fresh out of the box. As that new doll smell lingers, and the toy's synthetic limbs gleam and locks glisten, so does a child's sense of wonder. The more that the world-famous mass-produced figurine is trotted through DreamHouses, slipped into convertibles and decked out in different outfits, though — then given non-standard makeovers — the more that playing with the plastic fashion model becomes fantastical. Like globally beloved item, like live-action movie bearing its name. Barbie, the film, starts with glowing aesthetic perfection. It's almost instantly a pink-hued paradise for the eyes, and it's also a cleverly funny flick from its 2001: A Space Odyssey-riffing outset. The longer that it continues, however, the harder and wilder that Lady Bird and Little Women director Greta Gerwig goes, as does her Babylon and Amsterdam star lead-slash-producer Margot Robbie as Barbie.

In Barbie's Barbie Land, life is utopian. Robbie's Stereotypical Barbie and her fellow dolls (including The Gray Man's Ryan Gosling as Stereotypical Ken) genuinely believe that their rosy beachside suburban excellence is infectious, too. And, they're certain that this female-championing realm — and the Barbies being female champions of all skills, talents and appearances — has changed the real world inhabited by humans. But there's a Weird Barbie living in a misshapen abode. While she isn't Barbie's villain, not for a second, her nonconformist look and attitude says everything about Barbie at its most delightful. Sporting cropped hair, a scribbled-on face and legs akimbo, she's brought to life by Saturday Night Live great Kate McKinnon having a blast, and explained as the outcome of a kid somewhere playing too eagerly. Meet Gerwig's spirit animal; when she lets Weird Barbie's vibe rain down like a shower of glitter, covering everything and everyone in sight both in Barbie Land and in reality, the always-intelligent, amusing and dazzling Barbie is at its brightest and most brilliant.

Oscars:

Won: Best Original Song ('What Was I Made For?', Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell)

Nominations: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Ryan Gosling), Best Supporting Actress (America Ferrera), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song ('I'm Just Ken', Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt), Best Costume Design, Best Production Design

Where to watch: Streaming via iTunes and Neon.

Read our full review.

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The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar

After stepping into a play as a live production in a TV show in Asteroid City, and also flicking through a magazine's various articles in The French Dispatch before that, Wes Anderson gets an author sharing his writing in The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. The 39-minute short film features Ralph Fiennes (The Menu) as Roald Dahl, who did indeed pen the tale that gives this suitably symmetrically shot affair its name — the book it's in, too — with the account that he's spilling one of several in a film that enthusiastically makes Anderson's love of layers known in its playful structure as much as its faux set. So, Dahl chats. The eponymous Henry Sugar (Benedict Cumberbatch, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness) does as well. And, Dr Chatterjee (Dev Patel, The Green Knight) and his patient Imdad Khan (Ben Kingsley, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) also have a natter. The stories within stories within stories (within stories) share the fact that Khan has learned to see without his eyes, Chatterjee couldn't be more fascinated and Sugar wants to learn the trick for himself — to help with his gambling pastime.

In his three decades as a filmmaker, Anderson has only ever made both features and shorts with one of two people responsible for their ideas: himself, sometimes with Owen Wilson (Haunted Mansion), Noah Baumbach (White Noise), Jason Schwartzman (Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse) and/or Roman Coppola (Mozart in the Jungle) contributing; and Dahl. With the latter, first came Anderson's magnificent stop-motion Fantastic Mr Fox adaptation — and now The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar sits among a series of four new shorts, all of which released in September 2023, that are based on the author's work. This is still a dream match, with the director's beloved jewel and pastel colours, dollhouse-esque visuals, moving sets, love of centred framing and dialogue rhythm all proving a treat in this account of personal and spiritual growth. The cast is as divine on-screen as it sounds on paper, too, especially Cumberbatch and Patel. The next in the set, the 17-minute The Swan, pushes Rupert Friend (High Desert) to the fore in a darker tale about a bully. With The Ratcatcher and Poison, too, the only quibble is with the decision to release all four shorts separately, rather than package them together as an anthology film.

Oscars:

Won: Best Live-Action Short

Where to watch: Streaming via Netflix.

Read our full review.

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Looking for more Oscar-nominees to watch? You can also check out our full rundown of where almost all of this year's contenders are screening or streaming in New Zealand.

Published on March 11, 2024 by Sarah Ward
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