2015 Academy Awards Best Picture nominees

Oscars 2015: Which Film Will Win Best Picture?

This year’s Best Picture nominees at the 87th annual Academy Awards are a mixed bag of art films, films about art, films about fictional countries and films about real people, some of which look at unflattering aspects of heroes and at ugly points in American history.

They’re all great films, but only one of the nominees was among 2014’s top grossers, and some of them may have left theaters before you had a chance to check them out.

Below is our rundown of the nominees. (NOTE: Some trailers are NSFW.)

American Sniper

The only nominated film to land in the ten top-grossing films released in 2014, Sniper is also the only non-fiction film in the top ten. The rest were adaptations of books, comic books or toys. It was also probably the most divisive Best Picture nominee, with those on the left criticizing it for being too pro-war (and possibly characterizing Chris Kyle as being more hero-like than he may have been), while the right reacted more favorably.

Star Bradley Cooper (nominated for Best Actor for the role) told CBS’s Charlie Rose, “[Our] task was to be as truthful as we could in telling this man’s story, ” adding “It was a very simple chore that we had.” Maybe that’s not so simple: any deviation from what is perceived as the truth in a biopic, particularly one as politicized as this one, is a weak spot that detractors can pounce on. But Cooper’s better point in the Rose interview was this: “If we could get just a kernel of what it was like for Chris to be in those situations, that somebody at home has no idea [about], then we can sort of translate that experience, because that experience is not one that I really know, and maybe other people don’t know [either].” And that’s really the best that even the most successful biopics can hope for. As for why it resonated so strongly with audiences? “My guess is… there’s a sense of truth in the film.” The truth, as always, is probably somewhere in between the right’s lionizing Kyle as a hero, and the left’s complaints Sniper smooths the edges of a hateful guy who enjoyed killing. Per Cooper, it’s about this man’s experiences at war, which few of us could imagine having to deal with, and the post traumatic stress disorder that plagued him afterwards.

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