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The Biggest Oscar Bait Films of All Time

Updated July 27, 2020 6.9k votes 720 voters 15.4k 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.

  • The Danish Girl1

    The Danish Girl


    ActorsEddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard

    Directed byTom Hooper

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  • Seven Pounds2

    Seven Pounds

    December 19, 2008

    ActorsWill Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Madison Pettis, Octavia Spencer

    Directed byGabriele Muccino

    Seven Pounds is a 2008 American fantasy drama film, directed by Gabriele Muccino, in which... more on Wikipedia
  • Hidden Figures3

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

    Directed byTheodore Melfi

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  • Moonlight4

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

    Directed byBarry Jenkins

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  • The King's Speech5

    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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  • Lincoln6


    November 9, 2012

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

    Directed bySteven Spielberg

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  • Monster7


    December 17, 2003

    ActorsCharlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Rose Byrne, Bruce Dern, Scott Wilson

    Directed byPatty Jenkins

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  • 12 Years a Slave8

    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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  • Terms of Endearment9

    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 Imitation Game10

    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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  • Selma11



    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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  • Amelia12


    October 23, 2009

    ActorsEwan McGregor, Richard Gere, Hilary Swank, Christopher Eccleston, Mia Wasikowska

    Directed byMira Nair

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  • The Theory of Everything13

    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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  • Schindler's List14

    Schindler's List

    December 15, 1993

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

    Directed bySteven Spielberg

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  • The Iron Lady15

    The Iron Lady

    January 13, 2012

    ActorsMeryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Iain Glen, Harry Lloyd, Richard E. Grant

    Directed byPhyllida Lloyd

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  • Brokeback Mountain16

    Brokeback Mountain

    December 9, 2005

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

    Directed byAng Lee

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  • Atonement17

    ActorsKeira Knightley, Benedict Cumberbatch, Saoirse Ronan, James McAvoy, Vanessa Redgrave

    Directed byJoe Wright

    Atonement is a 2007 British romantic drama film directed by Joe Wright and based on Ian... more on Wikipedia
  • Nine18


    December 18, 2009

    ActorsNicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, Penélope Cruz, Sophia Loren, Fergie

    Directed byRob Marshall

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  • The People vs. Larry Flynt19

    ActorsCourtney Love, Edward Norton, Woody Harrelson, James Cromwell, Crispin Glover

    Directed byMiloš Forman

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  • Spotlight20

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

    Directed byTom McCarthy

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  • J. Edgar21

    J. Edgar

    November 3, 2011

    ActorsLeonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench, Lea Thompson, Armie Hammer

    Directed byClint Eastwood

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  • Call Me by Your Name22

    ActorsArmie Hammer, Timothee Chalamet, Amira Casar

    Directed byLuca Guadagnino

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  • The Shape of Water23

    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 Aviator24

    The Aviator

    December 25, 2004

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

    Directed byMartin Scorsese

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  • The Lovely Bones25

    The Lovely Bones

    December 11, 2009

    ActorsRachel Weisz, Mark Wahlberg, Susan Sarandon, Saoirse Ronan, Stanley Tucci

    Directed byPeter Jackson

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