10 Oscar Contenders You Need To See From 2015

Spotlight - Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, and Brian D'Arcy James

It’s about this time ever year that the race for Hollywood’s top prize begins.

The Oscars are the crown jewel of the entertainment industry, and the battle to score the little golden guy gets more and more competitive every season. Between biopics and literary adaptations, period dramas and musicals, heavy favorites begin to emerge among members of the Academy at this time of year.

With the holidays now here and with many moviegoers having a little extra time to take it all in, we wanted to take a look at which films have the best chance at Oscar glory. Here’s our list of 10 Movies from 2015 You Need To See Before The Oscars.

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Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant
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10 The Revenant

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant

For those of you unfamiliar with the word “revenant” (and no judgement, we had to look it up also), it is a person that has come back from the dead.

After seeing the trailer, you’ll fully understand why the film carries that name as Leonardo DiCaprio’s character goes through hell and back. DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, a man that becomes separated from his hunting party and is brutally attacked by a bear. Left for dead by his friends, Glass fights the elements to make his way back to get revenge.

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, who won an Oscar last year for directing Birdman, this is a sprawling epic of a film that looks to engulf moviegoers from start to finish. Shot in chronological order (a rarity for films) and on location in the brutal and unpredictable elements of Canada's Northwest Territories, Iñárritu and his cast and crew had rougher than usual time making the film.

Based on a true story (or really more a legend that’s changed over time), this story of survival may not be for easy for all audiences to take. It’s raw, it’s brutal and it’s the type of film Oscar voters love to reward.

9 Joy

One of Hollywood’s most profitable pairings is Jennifer Lawrence and David O. Russell. The fan favorite actress and the visionary director have had Oscar-contending films out two of the last three years in this window and this will be their third together.

Hoping to follow in the same successful path as Silver Linings Playbook (for which Lawrence won an Oscar) and American Hustle (for which she was nominated) is Joy. Based on the life of Joy Mangano, the creator of the “Miracle Mop,” this film may be Lawrence’s meatiest role yet.

Along with frequent collaborators and friends Bradley Cooper as a Home Shopping Network executive and Robert De Niro as Joy’s father. It’s the type of ensemble film we’ve come to expect from Russell that usually results in multiple Oscar nominations.

8 The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight posters - Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh

Quentin Tarantino’s films are meant to be as shocking as they are violent. He has a “take no prisoners” approach to filmmaking and it has served him very well in his career. The Hateful Eight, his eighth film, is like the seven before it, in that it is catching the eyes of critics and audiences alike.

Hateful Eight centers on eight strangers who become trapped in a cabin during a massive blizzard. Everyone has their own agenda, and trusting the wrong person could be deadly. It is half suspense and half action, but all Tarantino.

Watching the film’s cast, which includes Kurt Russell (Tango & Cash), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Single White Female), Walton Goggins (Justifed) and Samuel L. Jackson (everything), makes you realize this is just a group of friends having fun. Each plays a character more despicable than the other, but they work off each other in a way that makes it pop for audiences.

Shot in 70mm film and, depending on where you watch it, coming with both a overture and intermission, this nearly 3 hour epic looks to be beautifully shot and masterfully acted. So what you want about Tarantino and his style, but the man knows how to make a movie.

7 Spotlight

Spotlight - Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, and Brian D'Arcy James

One of the Academy’s favorite genres is the based-on-a-true-story drama. These are films based on real people, places or events in our history. Spotlight checks that box in a big way and has a powerful ensemble to tell that story.

Spotlight is based on the Catholic Church scandal that rocked Boston and, eventually, the rest of the world back in 2001. The film follows the intrepid team at the Boston Globe’s "Spotlight" section, which first uncovered the shocking revelations that scores of young children were abused by Catholic priests in the Archdiocese.

The film’s cast is just as stellar as the script and includes Michael Keaton (Birdman), Rachel McAdams (The Notebook) and Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers). All three, along with co-stars John Slattery (Mad Men), Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan), Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada) and Brain d’Arcy James (Smash) are being heralded and discussed for potential acting honors.

This is very much an Oscar-bait film, but you’ll be too busy enjoying it to really notice.

6 Inside Out

Disney Dirty Jokes Inside Out Bear

Until the Academy expanded its Best Picture category in 2009, only one animated film (Disney’s Beauty and the Beast) was able to crack the field of five. Animated films don’t get the same respect as their live-action counterparts and it’s a real shame.

Voters are content to keep animated movies in their own category, but when films like Toy Story 3 and Up come out, it’s hard to ignore them. Inside Out falls into that category as well and many wonder if the Academy will really slight this genius of a film just because it is animated.

From the masters of filmmaking at Pixar, Inside Out centers on the little voices in your head that comprise a person’s emotions. The film immediately was a hit with audiences and Disney’s hoping it will have that same reaction during awards season.

5 Bridge of Spies

Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies

Prior to Bridge of Spies, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks had collaborated several times, including three films with Hanks in the lead role and Spielberg as the director. Spies enjoyed the same box office benefits of the majority of those projects and it could soon score some awards as well.

Based on the behind-the-scenes tale of the U2 spy incident, the film knows how to blend together the best elements of Spielberg's storytelling abilities and Tom Hanks' aw-shucks charm. The movie plays up Hanks’ likability to underscore the nobility of his character and it reminds audiences just how turbulent a time this was in our history.

It also doesn’t hurt that Hanks is an Oscar favorite, being one of just two people to win Best Actor in back-to-back years (the other being Spencer Tracy). Spielberg’s also seen similar success with six nominations for directing and a win for Schindler’s List. Together this is a popular pair and combined with a plot centering on a well-known historical event, it should easily garner some votes.

4 Brooklyn

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn (2015)

Brooklyn’s appeal is largely based on its female lead, Saoirse Ronan. She’s been on the cusp of breaking through since 2007s Atonement and this could be her moment.

The film follows a young Irish immigrant who moves to Brooklyn and finds a life for herself unlike anything she's ever expected. Yet when tragedy hits and she’s forced to return home she must question if any of what she found is really what she actually wants.

Ronan carries the entire film, and she does it in a truly charming way that will entrance viewers. Brooklyn also has the benefit of supporting stars Jim Broadbent and Julie Waters, who have each made a career out of roles like these.

Expect to hear Ronan’s name a lot during award season and, as a result, Brooklyn will stay a contender right up to the end.

3 Steve Jobs

This is one film that finds itself entering the awards race in a weird spot.

Critics loved it, but audiences didn’t respond and that has people questioning if it can go the distance. Yet with Best Picture sliding between 5 and 10 potential contenders and favorites falling in and out of favor, anything can happen.

Michael Fassbender was able to morph into the role of the polarizing Apple head and quickly shot himself into contention as a result. Meanwhile, co-stars Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels and Kate Winslet were able to do the same with their roles; the problem has always been the script. While screenwriter Aaron Sorkin pulled from Jobs’ biography, he took some creative liberties which gave rivals a chance to poke holes at its accuracy.

However, it wouldn’t be the first time Sorkin’s taken grief for that (i.e The Social Network and Moneyball), and both times prior it worked out pretty good for the Oscar winner.

2 Room

Room trailer and reviews with Brie Larson

Room came out of nowhere but immediately grabbed a hold of anyone who saw it.

A large portion of that falls on breakout star Brie Larson, who is having herself a nice year. Already on the radar of moviegoers from her role as Amy Schumer’s sister in the summer hit Trainwreck, Room adds to her impressive body of work.

Larson plays a mother that is kidnapped along with her young son and imprisoned in a single room for a extended period of time. The movie quickly then becomes a two-person play as audiences watch her try to stay sane for both her sake and for her child.

Room is one of those movies that will continue to build momentum as we go along through award season. As more and more people become aware of it, its reputation will grow, as will its chances of landing a Best Picture nomination.

1 The Big Short

Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling in The Big Short

Movies about finance and big business always seem to draw the spotlight of award voters and The Big Short has the same potential. It also helps that this story actually happened.

The collapse of the housing market was the biggest economic story of the last few decades and it was only a matter of time for someone to bring it to the big screen. Directed by Adam McKay, who you know mostly from comedies like Anchorman and Step Brothers, the film looks at four people who set out to punish the banks for their crooked ways.  Yet the further down the rabbit hole they go, the more they realize innocent people may be the ones who ultimately suffer the most.

The movie is an ensemble that includes Oscar winners Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Marisa Tomei and Melissa Leo, as well as Oscar nominees Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell. With this much talent attached, a movie like The Big Short is going to get a lot of attention.


How many of the above have you seen? Did we leave any frontrunners off our list? Which film do you think will take Best Picture? Hit the comments and let us know.

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