These 12 Must-Watch 2021 Oscar Nominees Will Make You Cry

Culture

Everything went down at The Oscars... and I mean everything. From Chloe Zhao becoming the first woman of color, and only the second woman, to win Best Director for her film "Nomadland," to the upset brewing after Anthony Hopkins beat out expected-winner Chadwick Boseman as Best Actor, there's no arguing that The 93rd Oscars were a historic event. Although it's always fun to see what the critics believe to be the best movies over the past year, there's always one problem: there are so many great films to watch! With that in mind, I set out to uncover the Top 12 Oscar-nominated films that would draw a tear from even the most heartless and stone-faced humans.

SOUL

I’ll be the first to admit that I had low expectations for this animated film. When the trailer would come on TV I would get excited seeing the cute animated man following his dreams of music… but then he would turn into a tiny floating neon blue orb that immediately deterred my attention. However, I’m happy to say that after watching it (and shedding many… many… I mean many tears) I wouldn’t have changed a single aspect of it (except, perhaps, shortened the plot point of cat and man character switch, although I do understand Disney has to include some weird antics to keep kids entertained). The music was stunningly beautiful (as most Disney soundtracks are) and I loved its message that “talent” is not as straightforward and necessary as many claim it to be and that loving life itself should be enough. Even though it can be confusing, especially at the end, I really hope (and am betting that) it will do well at the Oscars.

Nominations:

  • Animated Feature Film
  • Music (Original Score)
  • Sound

MY OCTOPUS TEACHER

If you’re a sucker for adorable movies about sea animals, this one will make you shed some happy tears. A filmmaker forms an incredible friendship with an octopus while diving in South Africa, and this documentary follows their close friendship. You will have a hard time believing this is a true documentary, but I promise you it is! I loved that this was not a sappy and cringy kind of sea documentary but instead explores the life of the filmmaker and explores how and why she was able to develop such a close relationship with such an unlikely best friend.

Nominations:

  • Documentary (Feature)

https://seachangeproject.com/my-octopus-teacher/

HUNGER WARD

This documentary is a heart-wrenching and tear-jerking look into the world of two women, Dr. Aida Alsadeeq and Nurse Mekkia Mahdi, working in Yemen to save children from extreme starvation as a result of a silent but devastating Civil War since 2015. Even before the war, Yemen was the poorest country in the Middle East and North Africa and now, according to the UN, is suffering from the world's worst humanitarian crisis. This can be an incredibly difficult film to watch, as it does not hide the extremely harsh reality of children who are severely undernourished in a war-torn country. However, it is perhaps one of the most important and eye-opening films of the past year and I strongly recommend this film to anyone passionate about learning about and aiding third-world countries.

Nominations:

  • Documentary (Short Film)

https://www.hungerward.org/

A LOVE SONG FOR LATASHA

A short yet touching documentary, this film recalls the killing of Latasha Harlins that was a major source of inspiration for the Los Angeles uprisings in 1992. I loved that it went in-depth about Harlin’s personality, hopes, and dreams, and I came to view her as a close friend whose death brought me tears and immense sadness. Although her death was (and still is) a tragic and incredibly unfair situation, I am grateful that she did not die in vain; instead, her beautiful soul has lived on through the civil rights movement that has demanded change throughout the past few decades.

Nominations:

  • Documentary (Short Film)

https://www.alovesongforlatasha.com/

IF ANYTHING HAPPENS I LOVE YOU

This is one of the top films I have ever watched that have genuinely made me cry; I have watched it twice and it never fails to touch my heart. Although it is only twelve minutes long, this animated film depicts the tragic lives led by parents whose children have been killed as a result of school shootings. The black and white animation, the metaphors and symbols, and the beautiful and sad soundtrack all work together to create a beautiful masterpiece. I can not even begin to imagine the pain endured by parents that have lost their children to a school shooter and this film has led me to become active in organizations founded to help these parents. Because it is so short and powerful, I strongly recommend watching this film in any part of your free time - but make sure you have some tissues!

Nominations:

  • Short Film (Animated)

https://ifanythinghappensiloveyou.com/

FEELING THROUGH

Another short yet incredibly moving drama, this short film is based on the connection between a needy teen and a DeafBlind man. Based on a true story, the director After a late-night chance encounter with a DeafBlind man on a New York City street, writer/director Doug Roland wrote the award-winning short film, Feeling Through. Doug knew from the start he wanted to cast a DeafBlind actor to star, so he partnered with Helen Keller Services to realize that mission

Nominations:

  • Short Film (Live Action)

https://www.feelingthrough.com/

SOUND OF METAL

This one didn’t exactly make me cry, but it’s a really touching story filled with highs and lows that really get you feeling for the main character. His love for music propels his career as a heavy-metal drummer, but his world soon stops when he begins to lose his hearing. Although the story itself is devastating and heartbreaking, the film is a beautiful masterpiece with the perfect amount of realism, believability, and humanity.

Nominations:

  • Best Picture
  • Writing (Original Screenplay)
  • Actor in a Leading Role (Riz Ahmed)
  • Actor in a Supporting Role (Paul Raci)
  • Film Editing
  • Sound

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

Based on the book “The One And Only Ivan” and inspired by a true story a gorilla named Ivan and an elephant named Stella work to escape from captivity while attempting to uncover Ivan’s secret past. Although I tend to be very selective when it comes to partly CGI movies, Disney has, unsurprisingly, done an incredible job making Ivan appear realistic (clearly demonstrated in their Oscar nomination for film effects). The film was equally as moving as the book and I really hope it does well at The Oscars.

Nominations:

  • Film Effects

http://www.theoneandonlyivan.com/

DO NOT SPLIT

This incredibly underrated short documentary details the events of the 2019-2020 Hong Kong protests. Although the film can be difficult to watch, it shows the perseverance and endless determination of the protesters and both the best and worst of humanity. The documentary, though short, was powerful and moving and I would recommend it to everyone.

Nominations:

  • Documentary (Short Subject)

MINARI

After a Korean American family moves to an Arkansas farm in pursuit of their own American dream, the challenges they face uncover the undeniable resilience of the family. Although the plot is simple, the film remains visually beautiful, charming, and poignant. It is easy to become attached to the intimate family, as they are realistic and believable, and their journey to family connectivity is exquisite and loveable.

Nominations:

  • Best Picture
  • Actor in a Leading Role (Steven Yeun)
  • Actress in a Supporting Role (YUH-JUNG YOUN)
  • Directing (Lee Isaac Chung)
  • Writing (Original Screenplay)
  • Music (Original Score)

THE LIFE AHEAD (La Vita Davanti a Se)

A Holocaust survivor running a daycare is forced to take in a resentful street boy after he robs her, and the two develop an unlikely friendship. Although this movie is not particularly cry-worthy, the heartbreaking and emotional storyline behind both characters develops into a friendship bonded by shared experiences of hardship and tribulation.

Nominations:

  • Music (Original Song) - IO SÌ (SEEN)

THE PRESENT

One glance at the YouTube comments of this short animated film and you’ll understand why it’s on my cry-worthy Oscar nomination list. A young boy obsessed with playing video games is opened up to a new world when his mother gives him a special present. Before watching the film I was curious why users were commenting about sobbing over the film, but by the end, I was in the same boat!

Nominations:

  • Short Film (Live Action)

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Maegan Fitzpatrick
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Maegan is a Junior at Bancroft School who lives near Boston, MA. She loves playing volleyball, hiking with her family, hanging with friends, and eating all types of tasty food. She is an Editor of her student newspaper and enjoys writing about her personal experiences and opinions.