There are a number of ways in which a film could be classified as “Oscar bait,” and not all Oscar bait movies are the same, but there are some qualities that you can plainly see are tailor-made for film’s highest awards. For starters, Oscar bait movies are released in the winter, which is the season where the nominating committee will decide what earns a nomination (so they’re fresh in the committee members’ minds). With this list of Oscar bait films, you’ll find plenty of movies – both good and bad – that are specifically trying to bait the committee and voters into picking them.
What many consider to be the “original” Oscar bait movie, The Deer Hunter, used the Academy Awards as a way to market the movie. They were having a difficult time getting people to watch, but they found that, after getting an award nomination, the average moviegoer was more inclined to come to the movie in a more open frame of mind. This practice has now become standard business practice for films like Shakespeare in Love and Seven Pounds, which had differing levels of success.
The Danish Girl
The Danish Girl is a 2015 romantic drama film directed by Tom Hooper, and loosely inspired by the lives of Danish painters Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener. Lili (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda’s (Alicia Vikander) marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili’s groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer. … more on Wikipedia
Moonlight is a 2016 American coming-of-age drama film directed by Barry Jenkins, based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unpublished semi-autobiographical play. A chronicle of the childhood, adolescence and burgeoning adulthood of a young, African-American, gay man growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami. … more on Wikipedia
Hidden Figures is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed by Theodore Melfi, based on the non-fiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly. The story of a team of female African-American mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program. … more on Wikipedia
12 Years a Slave
12 Years a Slave is a 2013 period drama film directed by Steve McQueen, based on the 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is taken and sold into the trade. … more on Wikipedia
Selma is a 2014 historical drama film directed by Ava DuVernay and written by Paul Webb. It is based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by James Bevel, Hosea Williams, and Martin Luther King, Jr. of Southern Christian Leadership Conference and John Lewis of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
The Theory of Everything
The Theory of Everything is a 2014 British biographical coming of age romantic drama film directed by James Marsh and adapted by Anthony McCarten from the memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Wilde Hawking, which deals with her relationship with her former husband, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, his diagnosis of motor neuron disease, and his success in physics.
Lincoln is a 2012 American epic historical drama film directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as United States President Abraham Lincoln and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln. The screenplay by Tony Kushner was based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, and covers the final four months of Lincoln’s life, focusing on the President’s efforts in January 1865 to have the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution passed by the United States House of Representatives.
The Imitation Game
The Imitation Game is a 2014 historical thriller film directed by Morten Tyldum, with a screenplay by Graham Moore loosely based on the biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the British cryptanalyst Alan Turing, who helped solve the Enigma code during the WWII and was later prosecuted for homosexuality. The film’s screenplay topped the annual Black List for best unproduced Hollywood scripts in 2011.
The King’s Speech
The King’s Speech is a 2010 British historical drama film directed by Tom Hooper and written by David Seidler. Colin Firth plays King George VI who, to cope with a stammer, sees Lionel Logue, an Australian speech and language therapist played by Geoffrey Rush. The men become friends as they work together, and after his brother abdicates the throne, the new King relies on Logue to help him make his first wartime radio broadcast on Britain’s declaration of war on Germany in 1939. Seidler read about George VI’s life after overcoming a stuttering condition he endured during his youth.
Spotlight is a 2015 American biographical drama film directed by Tom McCarthy. The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.
Call Me by Your Name
Call Me by Your Name is a 2017 Italian-American romantic coming-of-age drama film directed by Luca Guadagnino, based on Andre Aciman’s novel of the same name. In 1980s Italy, a romantic relationship blossoms between a 17-year-old Italian-American Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) and his father’s American research assistant, Oliver (Armie Hammer).
Schindler’s List is a 1993 American epic historical period drama, directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg and scripted by Steven Zaillian. It is based on the novel Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally, an Australian novelist. The film is based on the life of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved the lives of more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories.
The Iron Lady
The Iron Lady is a 2011 drama and biography film written by Abi Morgan and directed by Phyllida Lloyd.
The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water is a 2017 American fantasy romance film directed by Guillermo del Toro. Lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of silence and isolation until she discovers a secret classified experiment.
Brokeback Mountain is a 2005 American epic romantic drama film directed by Ang Lee. It is a film adaptation of the 1997 short story of the same name by Annie Proulx; the screenplay was written by Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry. The film stars Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams, and Randy Quaid, and depicts the complex romantic and sexual relationship between two men in the American West from 1963 to 1983.