5. I Am Not Your Negro
Nominated for best documentary, "I Am Not Your Negro" uses the works of author James Baldwin to take a look at how the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers still influence racial tensions today. Directed by Raoul Peck and narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, this film blends the past with the present and faces the ongoing struggles and triumphs in black America -- how far we've come, but how far we still have left to go regarding race relations.
4. Hacksaw Ridge
Mel Gibson, nominated for best director, returns to Hollywood with a bang with his new movie "Hacksaw Ridge." With six nominations total, the war film about an unarmed protagonist is one of the most talked about films of the year. Andrew Garfield stars as real-life hero Desmond Doss, a World War II soldier who refused to carry a weapon because of his faith, yet saved the lives of over 75 soldiers. Gibson takes a traditional war film and gives it a new and true twist. The eyes are on the only man without a firearm, and he is the greatest hero.
3. Hidden Figures
Another film based on historical events, best picture nominee "Hidden Figures" tells the story of the courageous (and "hidden") women who helped the U.S. win the space race. Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, and Octavia Spencer play the three African-American women who worked for NASA and were instrumental in sending the first Americans to space. The addresses racism and segregation in the early 1960s head on, and tells the story of the women who overcame when the odds were stacked against them. It celebrates a part of American history too often overlooked in the history books. And with Pharrell Williams as producer and musical creator and an all-star cast, "Hidden Figures" artfully pays tribute to the amazing efforts of three women kept in the shadows for over half a century.
Directed and starring Denzel Washington, "Fences" is nominated for four Academy Awards this year. This look at 1950s Pittsburgh is based on August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Washington and Viola Davis play Troy and Rose Maxson, a married couple raising a son, Cory, and working to keep their family together despite the struggles they face personally and in a racially segregated society. A powerful commentary on life in the mid-20th century for an African-American family, "Fences" offers a dramatic, powerful examination of the importance of strong family in the midst of the hardships for African-Americans in 1950s America.
1. La La Land
Nominated for a whopping 14 Oscars, the film "La La Land" takes us back to the old days of musicals. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have become synonymous with names like Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and Ginger Rogers.
The movie shares the story of Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), dream-chasers who meet in Hollywood while pursuing careers in acting and music. The music, the scenes, and plot all point to the golden age of film musicals, yet still have a modern feel thanks to a star-studded cast. This record-breaking, award-winning, feel-good film tells viewers to never give up on what they are passionate about. The big musical numbers and powerful performance puts "La La Land" as possibly the best film of the year.