In just a few days, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will honor last year's best performances and projects at the 88th Oscars ceremony, and unlike in years past, there's quite a bit for fans of geek-friendly films to be happy about this time around. From the “Best Picture” nominations for Mad Max: Fury Road and The Martian to the multiple nominations for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Ex Machina in other categories, it's a good Oscar year for sci-fi and fantasy fare.
It's also a good year for actors and actresses with roots in the geeky movie world, as nearly every nominee has at least one – and often more – memorable role from genre films past and present. In the interest of offering yet another spin on the pre-Oscars movie marathon, here are some films you can line up to get a very different perspective on this year's “Best Actor” and “Best Actress” nominees.
BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)
Godzilla – This franchise-rebooting 2014 film put the king of the giant monsters back in the spotlight, but it also featured the Trumbo star in a prominent role as a nuclear power plant supervisor who suspects there might be something monstrous lurking under the surface of Japan. The part he played in the film wasn't the biggest one – that honor goes to the movie's monster stars – but it was a key role in bringing Godzilla roaring into theaters again.
Matt Damon (The Martian)
Elysium – Filmmaker Neill Blomkamp's follow-up to District 9 cast Matt Damon as a factory worker in a dystopian future where Earth's population is divided between the an orbiting luxury habitat and the overpopulated, pollution-ravaged surface of the planet where the inhabitants work to provide for the wealthy elite. Not only does Damon get to wear a cool exo-suit for most of the movie, but the film also features Sharlto Copley in a memorably despicable turn as the film's villain.
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)
Critters 3 – Sure, you can watch Inception if you want to see Leonardo DiCaprio in a good movie, but where's the fun in that? Before he became this year's Oscar favorite, DiCaprio got his first featured role in this 1991 installment of the Critters franchise. Unlike the first two films, Critters 3 had the carnivorous alien creatures stalking the residents of a tenement building in the city instead of chomping their way through farm country, and DiCaprio played the stepson of the building's corrupt landlord. It beats getting attacked by a grizzly bear, right?
Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
Prometheus – Ridley Scott's pseudo-prequel to Alien created as many questions as it answered, and cast the Steve Jobs star as an android in service to an enigmatic industrialist looking for the secret of life in some very dark, very scary places. Fassbender is locked in to reprise his role in the 2017 sequel, Alien: Covenant, so here's a reason to get reacquainted with his robot alter ego, David.
Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)
Jupiter Ascending – The Matrix duo of Andy and Lana Wachowski directed this FX-driven, 2015 film about a young woman on Earth (Mila Kunis) who discovers that she's the heir to an intergalactic kingdom, only to be chased across the universe by a royal family trying to end her claim to the throne. Eddie Redmayne embraces his inner bad guy as the vicious Balem, one of the heads of the cosmic royal families pursuing Kunis' character.
BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Cate Blanchett (Carol)
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – Cate Blanchett played the powerful elven queen Galadriel in all three of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings as well as The Hobbit prequel trilogy, making her one of the few characters to appear in all six films. A role that requires you to speak Elvish? Now that's some next-level geekery.
Brie Larson (Room)
Scott Pilgrim vs the World – She didn't play one of Ramona Flowers' evil exes, but Brie Larson did play the ex-girlfriend of Scott Pilgim himself in Edgar Wright's 2010 adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's hit comic book series. The Room actress portrayed Natalie “Envy” Adams in the film, the lead singer of the awesome band The Clash at Demonhead and the new girlfriend of Todd Ingram, the vegan-powered ex-boyfriend of Ramona that Scott must fight.
Jennifer Lawrence (Joy)
X-Men: First Class – This one's a bit of a no-brainer, with Jennifer Lawrence portraying the shape-changing Mystique throughout the rebooted X-Men franchise. With Lawrence returning in the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse, she isn't leaving her geeky movie role behind any time soon, even if she is getting to be a familiar face at the Oscars.
Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)
Zardoz – Widely regarded as one of the weirdest (and according to some, the worst) sci-fi films ever made, this surreal 1974 adventure directed by Excalibur filmmaker John Boorman features a ponytailed, loincloth-and-suspender-clad Sean Connery as a character named Zed, who battles a race of immortal entities called “Eternals.” Charlotte Rampling plays one of the aforementioned Eternals, who brings Zed into the middle of an internal struggle among her kind.
Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)
Hanna – Saoirse Ronan plays a 15-year-old assassin trained by a rogue CIA agent in this 2011 film that combines intense action sequences with a dose of sci-fi and fairy tale themes. Ronan earned quite a bit of attention for her performance in the film, which harkened back to classic action cinema despite having a teenage protagonist. Fellow nominee Cate Blanchett also plays a featured role in the film, so consider it a two-fer in your Oscar movie marathon.
Question of the Week: Which geeky movies are your favorite films from this year's Oscar nominees?
Rick Marshall is an award-winning writer and editor whose work can be found at Movies.com, as well as MTV News, Fandango, Digital Trends, IFC.com, Newsarama, and various other online, print, and on-air news outlets. He's been called a “Professional Geek” by ABC News and Spike TV, and his personal blog can be found at MindPollution.org. You can find him on Twitter as @RickMarshall.