732 voters

The Biggest Oscar Bait Films of All Time

Updated July 27, 2020 8.8k votes 732 voters 15.8k views47 items

List RulesDramas that were released late in the year (Oct-Dec) and seem obviously catered toward Oscar voters. Can be from any year.

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. Of course, some Oscar bait movies utterly fail to bait any Oscars.

So take a look at this list of films that were (probably) made just to win someone an Oscar and upvote the most blatant Academy Awards bait offenders, whether you liked the movie or not.

  • 1

    The Aviator

    December 25, 2004
    Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial
    The Aviator is a 2004 American biographical drama film directed by Martin Scorsese, written by...  more

    More The Aviator 

    #13 of 37 The Best Martin Scorsese Movies#8 of 61 The Best Movies with Rich People Spending Big

  • 2

    The Deer Hunter

    December 8, 1978
    The Deer Hunter is a 1978 American epic drama film co-written and directed by Michael Cimino...  more

    More The Deer Hunter 

    Unbelievable Stories From Behind The Scenes Of 'The Deer Hunter'#46 of 1,184 Every Oscar Winning Film Ever

  • 3
    American Hustle is a 2013 American comedy-drama film directed by David O. Russell. It was...  more

    More American Hustle 

    #888 of 1,506 The Most Rewatchable Movies#39 of 123 The Best Mafia Films Of All Time

  • 4

    The King's Speech

    September 6, 2010
    The King's Speech is a 2010 British historical drama film directed by Tom Hooper and written...  more

    More The King's Speech 

    #1 of 14 Pretty Good Movies About Historical Royals#3 of 46 35+ Great Political Movies Based on True Stories

  • 5
    Moonlight is a 2016 American coming-of-age drama film directed by Barry Jenkins, based on...  more

    More Moonlight 

    #45 of 46 Movies That Won Best Picture at the Oscars and Golden Globes#77 of 102 The Best Black Romance Movies, Ranked

  • 6

    Gone with the Wind

    December 15, 1939
    Gone with the Wind is a 1939 American epic historical romance film adapted from Margaret...  more

    More Gone with the Wind 

    #3 of 28 Civil War Movies List#24 of 91 The Best Movies That Are Super Long

  • 7

    Based on real events, biography of a persecuted minority person, features themes of racism.

    12 Years a Slave is a 2013 period drama film directed by Steve McQueen, based on the 1853...  more

    More 12 Years a Slave 

    #133 of 246 The Best Rainy Day Movies#7 of 23 23 Disturbing, Brutal Movies Based on Real-Life Atrocities

  • 8



    Based on real events, biography of a popular minority rights activist, features themes of racism.

    Selma is a 2014 historical drama film directed by Ava DuVernay and written by Paul Webb. It is...  more

    More Selma 

    #555 of 665 The Best Black Movies Ever Made, Ranked#176 of 276 The Best Movies Based On True Stories

  • 9

    Schindler's List

    December 15, 1993
    Schindler's List is a 1993 American epic historical period drama, directed and co-produced by...  more

    More Schindler's List 

    #57 of 372 'Old' Movies Every Young Person Needs To Watch In Their Lifetime#10 of 277 The Top Tearjerker Movies That Make Men Cry

  • 10

    The Danish Girl

    The Danish Girl is a 2015 romantic drama film directed by Tom Hooper, and loosely inspired by...  more
  • 11

    Brokeback Mountain

    December 9, 2005
    Brokeback Mountain is a 2005 American epic romantic drama film directed by Ang Lee. It is a...  more

    More Brokeback Mountain 

    #94 of 126 The Greatest Date Movies Of All Time#8 of 43 The Best Movies Coming to Netflix in April 2021

  • 12
    Hidden Figures is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed by Theodore Melfi, based on...  more

    More Hidden Figures 

    #1 of 92 Great Historical Black Movies Based On True Stories#4 of 136 The Very Best Movies of 2016, Ranked

  • 13

    Based on real events, biography of a popular person, protagonist is persecuted for being gay.

    The Imitation Game is a 2014 historical thriller film directed by Morten Tyldum, with a...  more

    More The Imitation Game 

    #191 of 557 The Greatest Film Scores of All Time#150 of 222 The Greatest World War II Movies of All Time

  • 14
    Call Me by Your Name is a 2017 Italian-American romantic coming-of-age drama film directed by...  more

    More Call Me by Your Name 

    Things You Didn't Know About Call Me By Your Name (And How Shia LaBeouf Almost Starred In It)#44 of 97 The Best Movies of 2017, Ranked

  • 15
    Born on the Fourth of July is a 1989 American drama film adaptation of the best-selling...  more

    More Born on the Fourth of July 

    #36 of 50 The Best Oscar-Nominated Movies of the '80s#19 of 42 The All-Time Best Tom Cruise Movies

  • 16
    The Big Short is a 2015 American biographical comedy-drama film directed by Adam McKay, based...  more

    More The Big Short 

    #36 of 82 The Best Movies Based on Non-Fiction Books#3 of 64 The Greatest Movies About Making Money

  • 17

    Based on real events, biography of a popular person, protagonist is handicapped.

    The Theory of Everything is a 2014 British biographical coming of age romantic drama film...  more

    More The Theory of Everything 

    #104 of 122 Great Movies That Place In The '60s#106 of 125 The Best Period Movies Set in the '80s

  • 18

    Shakespeare in Love

    December 11, 1998
    Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial
    Shakespeare in Love is a 1998 British-American romantic comedy-drama film directed by John...  more

    More Shakespeare in Love 

    #84 of 92 The Very Best Oscar-Winning Movies For Best Picture#155 of 781 The Greatest Chick Flicks Ever Made

  • 19
    The Tree of Life is a 2011 American experimental drama film written and directed by Terrence...  more

    More The Tree of Life 

    #430 of 549 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made#54 of 93 The Best Movies With Christian Themes

  • 20

    Monster's Ball

    February 8, 2002
    Monster's Ball is a 2002 American romantic drama film directed by German-Swiss director Marc...  more

    More Monster's Ball 

    #47 of 53 The Saddest Romance Movies That Will Make You Cry#20 of 29 The Best Classic Movies Streaming On Hulu

  • 21

    The Revenant

    December 25, 2015
    The Revenant is a 2015 American semi-biographical epic western film directed by Alejandro G....  more

    More The Revenant 

    #112 of 400 The Best Western Movies Ever Made#162 of 306 The Greatest Movie Themes

  • 22
    Spotlight is a 2015 American biographical drama film directed by Tom McCarthy. The true story...  more

    More Spotlight 

    All The Things 'Spotlight' Gets Wrong (And Right) About The Pulitzer Prize-Winning True Story#124 of 340 The Best Political Films Ever Made

  • 23

    Terms of Endearment

    December 9, 1983
    Terms of Endearment is a 1983 comedy-drama film adapted from the novel of the same name by...  more

    More Terms of Endearment 

    #224 of 512 The Greatest Movies Of The 1980s, Ranked#183 of 305 The Funniest '80s Movies

  • 24

    The Reader

    December 12, 2008
    Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial
    The Reader is a 2008 German-American romantic drama film based on the 1995 German novel of the...  more

    More The Reader 

    #216 of 370 The Best Movies Based On Books#53 of 81 The Best Period Romance Movies

  • 25
    Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), commonly referred to as Birdman, is a 2014...  more

    More Birdman 

    #171 of 291 The Greatest Soundtracks of All Time#119 of 139 The Best Movies You Never Want to Watch Again