From Martin Scorsese to Quentin Tarantino: The 10 best Oscar-winning films on Netflix
(Credit: Netflix / A24)

Editor's Choice

From Martin Scorsese to Quentin Tarantino: The 10 best Oscar-winning films on Netflix

“I think it’s a great honour to win an Oscar but I think if you aim to be rewarded in your life you’ll get nowhere. I think that the biggest reward is the work itself and what you get out of it and the connections you make with other people.” – Natalie Portman

The Academy has often received flak and criticism for its partial and biased judgement, numerous times on basis of colourism, sexism, lack of diversity and homophobia (Brokeback Mountain was inarguably the Best picture). No matter how much we try and downplay the Academy Awards, every single person associated with filmography in Hollywood dreams of having an Oscar to their name someday, to feed their ego. Winning an Oscar becomes the highlight of their career. Take Leonardo DiCaprio for instance. His disgruntled face at every Academy Award shows, clapping begrudgingly for others, while his brilliant performances went unnoticed year after year was the butt of many jokes. When he finally won one for his outstanding performance in Inarritu’s The Revenant, the look of relief and calm on his face was evident. Even his best friend Kate Winslet expressed her unbridled joy in witnessing Leo finally winning the award. 

The typical Academy Award show format sees awards being handed out over 24 different categories, which include direction, acting, cinematography, editing, costume design and many other categories. While every Award show sees a monumental controversy regarding the (poor) choices on behalf of the members, it is an overall enjoyable experience. To hear the actors and actresses bawl their hearts out about a role they have invested so much in is definitely inspirational and moving. Receiving a nomination itself is a huge deal, winning is a different game altogether. 

Netflix has a wide variety of films with a specific category in its interface titled ‘award-winning’ films. We decided to list out the 10 best Oscar-winning films streaming on Netflix that you need to watch right now. 

Let’s get going! 

10 best Oscar-winning films on Netflix:

10.  Rango (Gore Verbinski, 2011)

Rango is a pet chameleon who is left stranded in the Mojave desert after falling off his owner’s car by accident. he is quickly incorporated in Dirt, an Old West town inhabited by various anthropomorphic animals which also has a dearth of water. For various heroic feats, Rango is appointed the Sheriff by the Mayor. Suddenly, he stumbles upon the foul play by the mayor as well as the impending dangers of the vicious Rattlesnake Jake. How far will Rango go to protect the people he so adores?

Johnny Depp and Isla Fisher have extraordinary chemistry in this animated flick. Smart and creative, this film is a product of unwavering effort and determination. With a funny and innovative premise, it is heartwarming to see rango save the day while impressing Isla Fisher’s desert iguana Beans enough for her to show interest in him. The film won an Academy Award for the Best Animated Feature. The film was very different from other animated films and it was a delight to witness the magic unfold on-screen. 

“No man can walk out on his own story.”

9. Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012)

Recipient of three Academy Awards, Affleck’s 2012 film is based on a true story involving CIA agent and exfiltration expert Tony Mendez, who goes to Iran under the guise of a sci-fi film (like Star Wars) director to rescue six US Embassy employees, roaming the streets, during the Tehran hostage crisis; the American embassy staff were taken as hostages by Iranian Islamists as a retaliatory action against the US President’s decision to put the last Iranian Shah into an asylum during the Iranian Revolution. This was also known as the ‘Canadian Caper’ due to the immense support extended to the US by the Canadian government. 

Although the film has been vehemently criticised for not giving enough credit to the Canadian embassy and for providing inaccurate details regarding the British and New Zealand embassies, it is a wonderful depiction of the nail-biting escape mission. Devoid of the apparent ‘sexiness’ that comes with the job, Affleck portrays the life of a CIA agent for what it is- physically and psychologically exhausting. Mendez does not win via rambunctious shootouts but by being level-headed, strategic and composed. Affleck’s film is a cathartic and emotional journey of the hard work and efficiency of CIA personnel to succeed in their covert mission; despite few hiccups along the way, the seamless direction and gritting narrative peppered with dark comedy make Argo one of the best films on Netflix. 

“History starts out as farce and ends up as a tragedy.”

8. The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)

Harvard University sophomore Mark Zuckerberg is sad and angry after getting dumped by his girlfriends Erica Albright and ends up making a website for on-campus dating. Slowly, as it gains popularity, he navigates his way through financial success while sacrificing personal relationships. He starts facebook which goes on to become one of the leading global social networking sites but faces obstacles in form of lawsuits from the people who claimed Zuckerberg had stolen their intellectual property as well as former friend Eduardo Saverin with whom he severed ties to fuel his own interest. 

Adapted from Ben Mezrich’s book The Accidental Billionaires, the film has been masterfully crafted following the ingenious ideas of Fincher as well as the screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. The film indulges in its own creative freedom while focusing on how financial success alienates one from personal relationships. A brilliant ensemble cast sees Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield delivering standout performances. Insanely detailed character studies, as well as a gripping tale, makes this film one of the best films released in 2010. The film won three Academy Awards, including one for Sorkin’s adapted screenplay. 

“Your best friend is suing you for 600 million dollars.”

7. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)

Daniel Day-Lewis plays the role of a ruthless and mercenary oilman who strives relentlessly and stops at nothing to become the most influential oil mogul. He refuses to stop at anything and can even take drastic measures such as manipulating his adopted son. 

Dealing with ruthlessness, capitalism and greed, the film focuses on the conflict of humanity. Day-Lewis’ incredible performance as the despicable and volatile Daniel Plainview goes down as one of his best performances. Jonny Greenwood’s music was harrowing and unabashedly remorseless to its core by the accompanying scenes. This is undoubtedly one of Anderson’s finest as he manages to deal with the problems of ambition and hunger for success in humans with poise and effortless ease. 

“I have a competition in me. I want no-one else to succeed. I hate most people.”

6. Dallas Buyers Club (Jean-Marc Vallee, 2013)

Dallas Buyers Club is a biographical drama that is based on the story of Ron Woodroof, a cowboy electrician based in Texas, diagnosed with AIDS in the mid-1980s when not much was known about the disease which led to stigmatization and ostracization of the diagnosed patients. Given a month to live, in a desperate attempt to experiment with the treatment of the disease, he illegally smuggled in pharmaceutical drugs. He distributed these drugs to fellow patients and established the “Dallas Buyers Club” despite the growing resentment and protest of the Food and Drug Administration. 

Jared Leto is brilliant in the film but Matthew McConaughey’s phenomenal performance is sure to blow everyone’s minds. His epic portrayal of Woodroof’s desperation and anguish as well as the harrowing path he chooses for his own survival is indeed shocking. The actor had to lose around fifty pounds for the role to get into character. He survived eating nothing but egg whites, fish, tapioca pudding and plenty of wine. Within five months, he went from 188 to 135 pounds.  Following this intense weight loss journey and incredible performance, Matthew won his first-ever Academy Award in 2014 for Best Actor in Leading Role; a reward he well deserved after the weight loss left him hyper and clinically aware. Commenting on his legendary character, Matthew McConaughey praised Woodroof’s resilience and expressed his gratitude for the warm reception of the film saying, “It’s vital it has translated, it has communicated with people, it’s become personal with people. That’s something I’m very proud of.” 

“I got one life, right? Mine. But I want somebody else’s sometimes.” 

5. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016) 

The film revolves around the stages of growth in the lives of Chiron- childhood, adolescence and adulthood. As the African-American boy tries to survive in the world, grappling with issues including sexuality, identity, abuse etc., the advice of drug-dealer Juan functions as a guiding force and helps him get by.  The film won three Academy Awards, including the Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali. 

A raw and captivating take on the intersection of blackness, masculinity and vulnerability, Moonlight is visually fluid and seductive. It is mellow and compassionate about the crisis of identity and sexuality in a lonely world. Somehow the experiences of Juan and Chiron find a common ground in being a black vulnerable man trying to seek his place in the world. The subtle imagery complements the intricate character study. As Chiron adapts to the ways of the world and tries regaining confidence, we see ourselves shedding tears. In one of the most vulnerable yet beautiful scenes, as Juan teaches Chiron how to float, it is almost as if the former is teaching him to float in the waters of life. The duality of existence, the possibility of being different from what one is perceived to be, is continuously highlighted in the film. Supported by a stellar cast, top-notch writing and wonderful cinematography, Moonlight is mesmerisingly poetic and remains etched in the minds of the audience forever.  

“In moonlight, black boys look blue.”

4. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino, 2012)

Rescued by a German travelling bounty hunter, Dr King Schultz, Black Salve and “the fastest gun in the South”, Django Freeman, sets out on a journey to free his wife, Broomhilda, from a despicable, narcissistic and malicious Mississippi plantation owner and brutal slave-fight enthusiast, Calvin Candie. 

Jamie Foxx as Django does absolute justice to the role. He is indeed the “The Fastest Gun in the South”. With incredible ability to fight the injustice and violence perpetrated by slave masters, bold and daring, Django fights his way through the hierarchy to achieve his goal. Each and every character is unparalleled in this wonderfully concocted film where systemic oppression and racism run rampant, even in the black man-servant who would betray his own people to please his master. Abound in ruthless characters, the film has a riveting storyline that exposes the cruelties of the American South. The film got several nominations, ultimately winning two- one for the Original Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino and one for Christopher Waltz for his phenomenal performance as Schultz. 

“I like the way you die boy!”

3. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)

Adapted from Nicholas Pileggi’s book Wiseguy, the film revolves around the lives of three pivotal figures and their lives as a part of the 1960s and ‘70s New York mafia. It follows the journey of a young, petty criminal Henry Hill, who along with his friends, the jack-of-all-trades Jimmy Conway and the intimidating Tommy DeVito, ascends the organized crime ladder to live a life of luxury. Unbeknownst to him, the brutalities soon cause a sea change in their lives,  bringing into the picture the question of survival. 

An obvious fan favourite, this film made Scorsese the household name he is. The film, which questions the extent of willful ignorance on the part of an individual towards his compatriot’s immorality,  stars an incredible ensemble comprising Robert De Niro, Jo Pesci, Ray Liotta, Lorraine Bracco and Paul Sorvino. The rehearsals led to a variety of improvs and ad-libs which gave the actors creative freedom to express themselves and the best ones were retained in the improvised script. Deemed “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant”, Goodfellas is considered one of the greatest films of all time. Scorsese had used “all the basic tricks of the New Wave from around 1961” to create his masterpiece. Phenomenal performances and a crisp, gritting narrative make this Scorsese’s greatest film of all time. However, he missed out on winning an oscar; Pesci won an Academy Award for his supporting role.

 “Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut.”

2. Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach, 2019) 

 Baumbach’s film is a stinging tale of rocky marriages that end in divorces and how it affects the life of the couple as well as the child. Theatre director Charlie Barber is in an estranged marital relationship with his wife, Nicole. Following disagreements and heartbreaks, the couple decides to part ways, sharing custody of their son Henry. 

In what is supposedly one of the most realistic films to date, Baumbach elaborates on how the process of going through contentious divorce proceedings is an isolated experience, which brings a great deal of anguish. It celebrates the end of an era shared closely by two people who find it difficult to fill in the gulf created in their respective lives after respective departures. Detailed and tastefully balanced, Marriage Story is devoid of the usual melodrama that dominates the screen in such movies. Via the growing anxiety, tension and heartache, both Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are phenomenal in the balanced script; they play their roles, as two individuals who love each other yet cannot be together, with effortless ease in a film that preserves the precious moments that follow legal as well as emotional separation. Despite several nominations, this film won only one Academy Award which went to Laura Dern for her supporting role as Nora Fanshaw, Johansson’s attorney. 

 “You and I both know you chose this life. You wanted it until you didn’t.” 

1.  Roma (Alfonso Cuaron, 2018)

The first Mexican entry to win Best Foreign Language Film, as well as the Best Cinematography and Best Director awards at the 91st Academy Awards, Alfonso Cuaron’s slow, artistic and emotionally resonating masterpiece, employs intimacy and clever use of shadow and light to affect the viewers deeply. Set in 1970-71 Mexico, ridden with the horrors and hardships of a student massacre, the film chronicles the life of an indigenous housekeeper, Cleo, who lives a simple life, caught between her duties as a devoted nanny and anxieties of impending motherhood.

 Roma is an intricate combination of slapstick comedy and personal hardships. The camera pans leisurely as it captures Cleo and her surroundings via an intimate lens. Cleo is content with her humbled existence; she has pure love and affection for the children she tends to. Tragedy strikes in her own life when her daughter is stillborn; it is interesting to note how nobody can save Cleo’s daughter, however, Cleo risks her lives to save the kids from drowning. A poignant commentary on the class and power dynamics that existed in the society, the film focuses on the humble acceptance of fate and disempowerment by the indigenous people. Cleo is the epitome of grace; she adds to the emotional atmosphere of the film that makes it a wonderful cinematic experience.  Shot in a stunning monochrome, it reflects on the artistic mood, memory and monotone of a 1970s Roma. the film deservedly won three Academy Awards for Best Director, Best Cinematography as well as Best International Feature Film. 

“We are alone. No matter what they tell you, we women are always alone.”