Oscars 2014: AirTalk's critics pick 7 must-see films that weren't nominated

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Sunday marked AirTalk's 12th annual FilmWeek with Larry Mantle, and our panel of film critics reviewed this year's Oscar nominations, with "Frozen," "Nebraska" and "Dallas Buyers Club" emerging as audience and critic favorites. 

But what about all those fantastic films that fell under the radar? Our panelists agreed: The Oscars are more of a popularity contest than an indicator of a great flick. That's why we put together this list of movies that our critics say are totally worth watching.

To hear the FilmWeek's special Oscar preview in its entirely, tune into AirTalk 11:30 a.m. Friday.

RELATED: KPCC's full coverage of the 2014 Academy Awards

1. "Caesar Must Die" 

Watch the trailer for "Caesar Must Die"

Filmed in Rome's Rebibbia Prison, this documentary follows inmates as they prepare for a performance of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani took home a Golden Bear at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival.  

2. "Blackfish"

Watch the trailer for "Blackfish"

One of the most controversial documentaries of the year, Blackfish gives viewers an inside look at SeaWorld. It focuses on the captivity of Tilikum, an orca that's allegedly been involved in the death of three individuals. Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the film will make you think twice about your childhood visits to the popular theme park. 

3. "The Grandmaster"

Watch the trailer for "The Grandmaster"

This is arguably Chinese filmmaker Wong Kar Wai's best film yet. (His previous features include “In the Mood for Love,” “Chungking Express,” “Happy Together,” and “2046”)  It's the story of martial-arts master Ip Man, also known as the man who trained Bruce Lee. 

Correction: 'The Grandmaster" was nominated for two Academy Awards this year: best cinematography and costume design. Nevertheless, our critics felt it was overlooked in other categories. 

4. "Muscle Shoals"

Watch the trailer for "Muscle Shoals"

This doc celebrates Rick Hall, the founder of FAME Studios in the magic village of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. It's a charming film that explores the signature sounds he developed in songs such as "I'll Take You There" and "When a Man Loves a Woman".  

5. "Short Term 12"

Watch the trailer for "Short Term 12"

Short Term 12 is told through the eyes of Grace (Brie Larson), a twenty-something supervisor at a foster-care facility for at-risk teenagers.  The film premiered at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival, where it won both the Grand Jury Narrative Feature Award and the Narrative Audience Award. Prepare yourself for a roller coaster of emotion

6. "Rush"

Watch the trailer for "Rush"

Directed by Ron Howard and starring Chris Hemsworth, our critics felt this action-packed sports drama was shafted by the Academy. It follows the rivalry between race car drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the 1976 Formula One motor-racing season. 

7. "Stories We Tell"

Watch the trailer for "Stories We Tell"

This flick was written and directed by Sarah Polley, whose 2006 film,  "Away from Her," was nominated for an Oscar. In her first feature-length documentary, "The Stories We Tell," Polley investigates the secrets intertwined throughout her own family. 

What's we miss? Tell us your favorite movies of the year in comments, on our Facebook page or on Twitter ("@" mention @KPCC).

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