17 films and TV shows you need to watch before awards season

From Gravity and American Hustle to House of Cards and Masters of Sex, make sure you're clued up with Ellie Walker-Arnott's guide to this year's best Golden Globe, Oscars and Bafta nominations


It’s that time of year again. Those red carpets are being dusted off, the statues polished and the champagne put on ice. Awards season is very almost upon us.


But there’s still more preparation to do, people. Much more. If you want to be able to hold your own in a conversation about worthy winners and shocking oversights, you’d better sit down in front of the box and get watching. 

Go on, to the sofa with you. Here are 17 films and TV shows you should probably watch before it all kicks off… 

American Hustle

Director David O Russell reunites with Silver Linings Playbook stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper for this 70s-based, con-man flick focussed on the Abscam operation. Amy Adams is bound to lead awards ceremony conversation for her turn as Sydney Prosser, while Christian Bale impresses as Irving Rosenfeld. Brace yourself for Cooper’s curly locks. 

In cinemas now. 

The Wolf of Wall Street

Leonardo DiCaprio shines in Scorsese’s latest film as Jordan Belfort, a highly successful New York stock broker who gets caught up in a world of fraud and corruption. The high octane drama, which also stars Matthew McConaughey, Margot Robbie and a hilarious Jonah Hill, is sure to scoop some awards in the coming weeks. 

In cinemas 17 January. 


Judi Dench (the most nominated actress in Bafta history, as of yesterday) stars opposite Steve Coogan in this tale based on the life of Philomena Lee. The British film follows Philomena and journalist Martin Sipsmith as they search for the son who was forcibly taken from her as a young woman. 

In cinemas now. 

12 Years a Slave

British star Chiwetel Ejiofor (who will be the talk of tinsel town before you can say ‘Academy Award’) leads this Steve McQueen drama based on the real life of Solomon Northup, a free man who was sold into slavery. It boasts a star studded cast – think Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti and Bafta Rising Star nominee Lupita Nyong’o. 

In cinemas 10 January. 

Blue Jasmine

Woody Allen’s latest film casts Cate Blanchett as Jasmine, a New York socialite who moves in with her adopted sister in San Francisco when her marriage breaks down and attempts to start a new life.  Her downfall is unbearable to witness, but you won’t be able to stop watching. British actress Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale and Louis CK also star.

In cinemas now. 


Not one for the faint hearted, Alfonso Cuaron’s latest film Gravity follows experienced astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) who come into trouble during Stone’s first space mission when the shuttle they are attached to is hit by space debris. This film is bound to dominate in the technical categories so seeing it in 3D is a must. 

In cinemas now. 

Captain Phillips

Tom Hanks plays Captain Richard Phillips in this Paul Greengrass film about a US cargo ship which is boarded by Somali pirates. The tense 133 minute long film is a must watch for fans of Hanks, who carries much of the drama on his lonesome. Avoid if you suffer from sea sickness. 

In cinemas now. 

Saving Mr Banks

Tom Hanks again in this Disney film about the making of Mary Poppins. Emma Thompson, who plays author PL Travers, is the real star of the show, though. The film, which also stars Paul Giamatti and Colin Farrell, tells the untold story of the years Disney spent persuading Travers to let him adapt her children’s story for the big screen. Chim chimney. 

In cinemas now. 

August Osage County

Meryl Streep leads this family drama about the strong-willed women of the Weston family as troubled matriarch Violet. Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Abigail Breslin and Dermot Mulroney also star in the darkly comic film from director John Wells. 

In cinemas 24 January. 

Behind the Candelabra

HBO film Behind the Candelabra received unfettered praise from critics after it aired last year, and went on to have a cinematic release in the UK. It is a TV film though, which will hold it back from the big categories in the ceremonies this year. Michael Douglas and Matt Damon star as American performer Liberace and his younger lover Scott Thorson. 

Available on iTunes and Blinkbox. 

Orange is the New Black

Brilliant Netflix Original series Orange is the New Black follows nice, middle class 30-something Piper Chapman as she enters a women’s prison. Serving 15 months for carrying drug money for her former girlfriend Alex 10 years earlier, Piper struggles to leave her comfortable existence and new fiance behind and cope behind bars. Taylor Shillingstars alongside Laura Prepon and Jason Biggs. 


Available on Netflix.

Breaking Bad

Now it might be a bit ambitious to try and watch all 62 episodes before the Golden Globes on Sunday, but it’s certainly worth making a start – you’ll probably be surprised by how quickly you’ll steam through episodes. Cult hit Breaking Bad stars Bryan Cranston (the dad from Malcolm in the Middle) as Walter White, a middle aged chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with lung cancer and turns to meth production to secure his family’s finances.  

Available on Netflix. 

House of Cards

Kevin Spacey stars in this Netflix remake of 90s BBC political mini series House of Cards as US Representative Francis J “Frank” Underwood. Underwood has helped ensure the election of new President Garrett Walker, with the agreement that he will be made Secretary of State in return for his help. But before Walker is sworn in he is told the President will not honour their agreement, so Underwood and his wife Claire decide to seek revenge…

Available on Netflix. 


Lena Dunham’s HBO comedy about a group of dysfunctional twenty-somethings has thrilled and appalled fans in equal measure. The series, which is returning to Sky Atlantic for a third run later this year, follows New Yorkers Hannah, Marnie, Shoshanna and Jessa as they attempt to grow up, one failed relationship/public humiliation/huge mistake at a time.

Available on Blinkbox. 

Masters of Sex

Michael Sheen and Lizzie Caplan star in American series Masters of Sex, which follows groundbreaking researcher Dr William Masters and Virginia Johnson as they undertake experiments which dramatically change our understanding of sex. The 60s set drama also stars Allison Janney, Caitlin Fitzgerald and Teddy Sears. Look out for the inspired opening credits. 


Available on 4oD and iTunes. 


Disney’s latest blockbuster Frozen has broken all sorts of box office records. The frosty animated film follows feisty Anna who is princess of Arendelle, a city which is thrown into an eternal winter by her sister Elsa. In an attempt to reconcile with Elsa, and end the chilly conditions, Anna sets off on a wintery adventure with mountain man Kristoff, reindeer Sven and snowman Olaf. 

In cinemas now. 

Blue is the Warmest Colour

French coming of age drama Blue is the Warmest Colour follows high school student Adele who experiments with her sexuality after meeting blue-haired art student Emma. Leading actresses Adele Exarchopoulos
Lea Seydoux have both been praised for their fearless performances, which won them the prestigious Palme d’Or prize at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. 

In cinemas now.