End the search for a movie to watch! You can’t go wrong with a winner. Accolades from the Academy, the Golden Globes, BAFTA, and prestigious festivals like Cannes, the Berlinale, VeniceSundance, and more. Whether the award is in recognition of the cinematography, acting, sound, directing, editing, art direction, or all of the above (we call that Best Picture) — all of these winners easily qualify as essential viewing.

Top 5 Staff Picks

1. City of God  

Spanning the 1960s through the 1980s in a dangerous favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil known as the “city of god,” and narrated by a young aspiring photographer who calls it home, City of God won a BAFTA for Best Editing, and was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Film Editing. Directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, it is a Brazilian crime drama and coming-of-age story that focuses on the gang warfare that rules Brazil’s notorious neighborhood.

A faceless man who is discovered after a plane crash and unable to remember his name is cared for by a nurse for the British allies. Slowly recovering his memory, he begins to tell, through flashbacks, an incredible story of a love affair. Winner of nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress (for Juliette Binoche), Anthony Minghella’s The English Patient is an exquisite, epic story of love during wartime. Exceptional actors Ralph Fiennes, Juliette BinocheWillem Dafoe, and Kristin Scott Thomas bring the novel of same name by Michael Ondaatje, set in the Sahara during World War II, to life.  

A gang leader acquires a French restaurant, and along with his wife and associates, begins dining there nightly. When his wife begins an affair with another patron, murder turns up on the menu! With costumes by John Paul Gaultier, music composed by Michael Nyman, cinematography by Sacha Virney, and a cast including Helen Mirren, Richard Bohringer, Michael Gambon, and Alan Howard, it would be hard not to be completely obsessed with filmmaker Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. Decadent and lush with detail and mixing gothic and macabre tragicomic elements, this international film floored audiences upon its release and remains Greenaway’s most well-known work.

Italian director Roberto Minervini's Stop the Pounding Heart is a lyrical hybrid of documentary and drama that constructs a loose narrative between two families in rural Texas. The crux of the film is the budding relationship between Sarah, who belongs to a large and extremely religious family of goat herders who homeschool their twelve children, and Colby, an aspiring bull rider from another Christian (albeit slightly less strict) family. Minervini’s observational lens captures a community and studies them, presenting a little-seen pocket of American life in the most naturalistic and poetic fashion while addressing topics such as gender roles, spirituality, and sense of self.

5. Kadosh 

Israeli director Amos Gitai’s drama is a haunting look inside an Orthodox Jewish community in Mea Sharim where two sisters experience the oppressive intervention of the local rabbi. Rivka and Malka are both kept from their true loves by his rulings, one of which separates Rivka from her loving but childless marriage, and the other forbids Malka from loving an outsider.

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Ready to feel the prestige? Watch the full Spotlight: Heavy Hitters!

Whether Staff Picks or Weekend Playlists, we think you’ll love some of our other hand-picked collections! Get lost in the urban jungle with Set in the City, rediscover gems once thought lost with Restorations, discover unique cinematic signatures with Director’s Lens, and geek out on top-notch writing with Script to Screen.