Whether you’ve heard of the films isn’t necessarily an indication of their quality — maybe in some cases — but a snapshot of how Hollywood distributors have been forced to grapple with unusual release plans in, yes, these unprecedented times. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made an exception this year, considering films that debuted on streaming services instead of holding to its steadfast requirement that they premiere in theaters to qualify.
That means you can watch a good number of Oscar-nominated films at home on services you might already subscribe to, while others are available on-demand. Here’s a viewing guide to this year’s slate, including best picture contenders and a few films starring major acting nominees. The Academy Awards will air April 25 on ABC.
“Mank” (dir. David Fincher)
Nominated for: Best picture, best director, best actor, best supporting actress, best cinematography, best production design, best makeup and hairstyling, best costume design, best original score and best sound
What it’s about: Named for Herman Mankiewicz, “Mank” follows the ailing screenwriter (played by Gary Oldman) as he develops the screenplay for “Citizen Kane” in 1930s Hollywood. The film, written years ago by Fincher’s late father, was in part inspired by the critic Pauline Kael’s contested argument that Mankiewicz was the primary author of Orson Welles’s classic film.
“Nomadland” (dir. Chloé Zhao)
Nominated for: Best picture, best director, best actress, best adapted screenplay, best cinematography and best editing
What it’s about: “Nomadland” is an intimate look at a woman named Fern (Frances McDormand), who lives in a van as she travels through the American West looking for work in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Fern lost her husband, and the film features real-life nomads Linda May, Swankie and Bob Wells, mentors and friends who help Fern find meaning in transience.
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (dir. Aaron Sorkin)
Nominated for: Best picture, best supporting actor, best original screenplay, best original song, best cinematography and best editing
What it’s about: Sorkin’s searing courtroom drama, which he also wrote, focuses on the legal proceedings that followed antiwar demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The film is named for the seven defendants who remained after Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale, initially grouped with everyone else, was removed to be tried separately.
“Minari” (dir. Lee Isaac Chung)
Nominated for: Best picture, best director, best actor, best supporting actress, best original screenplay and best original score
What it’s about: The semi-autobiographical “Minari” is about a family that moves from California to rural Arkansas, where patriarch Jacob (Steven Yeun, the first Asian American to ever be nominated for best actor) is determined to make a life for his young family by starting a farm.
“Judas and the Black Messiah” (dir. Shaka King)
Nominated for: Best picture, best supporting actor (twice), best original screenplay, best original song and best cinematography
How to watch: The film left HBO Max after the 31-day streaming window ended, but it probably will be available on-demand in the future.
What it’s about: “Judas and the Black Messiah” follows William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield), a young man who avoids jail time in late 1960s Chicago by becoming an FBI informant. He provides the bureau with sensitive information that eventually leads to police and federal agents killing Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), chairman of the Black Panther Party’s Illinois chapter.
“Promising Young Woman” (dir. Emerald Fennell)
Nominated for: Best picture, best director, best actress, best original screenplay and best editing
What it’s about: “Promising Young Woman” is about a medical school dropout named Cassie (Carey Mulligan), who seeks to avenge a crime committed against her best friend. The overtly feminine film, Fennell’s directorial debut, has been praised for “reinventing” the revenge thriller.
“The Father” (dir. Florian Zeller)
Nominated for: Best picture, best actor, best supporting actress, best adapted screenplay, best production design and best editing
What it’s about: Landing Anthony Hopkins his sixth Oscar nomination is “The Father,” an adaptation of director Florian Zeller’s play about a man grappling with dementia. The film has earned positive reviews, especially for its lead performance.
“Sound of Metal” (dir. Darius Marder)
Nominated for: Best picture, best actor, best supporting actor, best original screenplay, best sound and best editing
What it’s about: “Sound of Metal” follows Ruben (Riz Ahmed), a punk-rock drummer who begins to lose his hearing and, thus, his sense of self. Worried about Ruben’s sobriety, his girlfriend urges him to enroll at a sober house for deaf people run by a Vietnam War veteran (Paul Raci). The film’s sound design is notable for its experimental quality, at times mimicking Ruben’s hearing loss.
“One Night in Miami” (dir. Regina King)
Nominated for: Best supporting actor, best adapted screenplay and best original song
What it’s about: Based on a play by Kemp Powers, who is nominated for adapting the screenplay, “One Night in Miami” is about a fictional encounter between Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) at the Hampton House in February 1964. The film marks King’s first time directing a feature film.
“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (dir. Jason Woliner)
Nominated for: Best supporting actress and best adapted screenplay
What it’s about: “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” the follow-up to Sacha Baron Cohen’s 2006 Oscar-nominated comedy, brings the fictional Kazakh journalist back for another round of antics — this time with the help of his daughter, Tutar (Maria Bakalova). Set during the Trump era, the film’s most buzzed-about prank was at the expense of Rudy Giuliani, the former president’s attorney.
“Another Round” (dir. Thomas Vinterberg)
Nominated for: Best director and best international feature film
What it’s about: Perhaps the least familiar to Americans of the titles on this list, “Another Round” is Denmark’s entry to the international film category and stars Mads Mikkelsen as a schoolteacher who, with three friends, tries to see if drinking daily will add a spark to his humdrum life.
If you’re a completist, you might consider streaming “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” on Hulu to witness Andra Day’s Oscar-nominated lead performance (in a film that otherwise earned middling reviews). Vanessa Kirby rounds out the best actress category with her turn as a woman dealing with a traumatic home birth in “Pieces of a Woman” on Netflix, where you can also find Glenn Close’s nominated supporting role as Mamaw in the widely panned “Hillbilly Elegy.” The streamer swept with “Mank,” but its latest Spike Lee film, “Da 5 Bloods,” was snubbed in major categories — particularly in best director for Lee, and best actor for Delroy Lindo.
This post has been updated.