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The Biggest Oscar Bait Films of All Time

Updated July 27, 2020 8.5k votes 726 voters 15.6k 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.

  • American Hustle1

    ActorsJennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Robert De Niro, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper

    Directed byDavid O. Russell

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  • Call Me by Your Name2

    ActorsArmie Hammer, Timothee Chalamet, Amira Casar

    Directed byLuca Guadagnino

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  • Moonlight3

    ActorsTrevante Rhodes, André Holland, Janelle Monáe, Ashton Sanders, Jharrel Jerome

    Directed byBarry Jenkins

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  • The King's Speech4

    The King's Speech

    September 6, 2010

    ActorsHelena Bonham Carter, Colin Firth, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, Geoffrey Rush

    Directed byTom Hooper

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  • 12 Years a Slave5

    ActorsChiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti

    Directed bySteve McQueen

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

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  • Gone with the Wind6

    Gone with the Wind

    December 15, 1939

    ActorsClark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Havilland, Hattie McDaniel, George Reeves

    Directed bySam Wood, George Cukor, Victor Fleming

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  • Selma7



    ActorsOprah Winfrey, Common, Cuba Gooding Jr., Tim Roth, Tom Wilkinson

    Directed byAva DuVernay

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

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  • Schindler's List8

    Schindler's List

    December 15, 1993

    ActorsLiam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Embeth Davidtz, Norbert Weisser

    Directed bySteven Spielberg

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  • The Danish Girl9

    The Danish Girl


    ActorsEddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard

    Directed byTom Hooper

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  • Brokeback Mountain10

    Brokeback Mountain

    December 9, 2005

    ActorsAnne Hathaway, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kate Mara, Anna Faris, Michelle Williams

    Directed byAng Lee

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  • American Sniper11

    ActorsBradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Jonathan Groff, Kyle Gallner, Leonard Roberts

    Directed byClint Eastwood

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  • Birdman12

    ActorsEmma Stone, Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis

    Directed byAlejandro González Iñárritu

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  • Hidden Figures13

    ActorsTaraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst

    Directed byTheodore Melfi

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  • The Imitation Game14

    ActorsKeira Knightley, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Charles Dance, Matthew Goode

    Directed byMorten Tyldum

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

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  • The Shape of Water15

    ActorsSally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins

    Directed byGuillermo del Toro

    The protagonist is handicapped, the antagonist is sexist, racist and conservative. Features POC and gay characters, themes of xenophobia, homophobia and racism. Also, evil Russians.

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  • The Aviator16

    The Aviator

    December 25, 2004

    ActorsKate Beckinsale, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gwen Stefani, Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin

    Directed byMartin Scorsese

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  • The Theory of Everything17

    ActorsEddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Harry Lloyd, Emily Watson, David Thewlis

    Directed byJames Marsh

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

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  • The Big Short18

    ActorsChristian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Melissa Leo

    Directed byAdam McKay

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  • The Tree of Life19

    ActorsBrad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Fiona Shaw, Tye Sheridan

    Directed byTerrence Malick

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  • The Revenant20

    The Revenant

    December 25, 2015

    ActorsLeonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter

    Directed byAlejandro G. Iñárritu

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  • Spotlight21

    ActorsMark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci

    Directed byTom McCarthy

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  • Terms of Endearment22

    Terms of Endearment

    December 9, 1983

    ActorsJack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, John Lithgow, Shirley MacLaine, Jeff Daniels

    Directed byJames L. Brooks

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  • The Deer Hunter23

    The Deer Hunter

    December 8, 1978

    ActorsMeryl Streep, Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Cazale, John Savage

    Directed byMichael Cimino

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  • Chicago24


    December 10, 2002

    ActorsCatherine Zeta-Jones, Lucy Liu, Renée Zellweger, Queen Latifah, Richard Gere

    Directed byRob Marshall

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  • Lincoln25


    November 9, 2012

    ActorsJoseph Gordon-Levitt, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader

    Directed bySteven Spielberg

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