Oscars 2021: Top 45 Movies Leading The Race  This year has certainly taken a toll on all of us and the entertainment industry suffered the brunt of the global pandemic just like every other industry. But for as long as one can remember, the eternal mantra of the show business has been: “The Show Must Go On”.  Thus even amid a pandemic, there has been enough buzz created for all the worthy films — from ‘Ammonite’ to ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ to ‘Nomadland’ — all are set to stake their claim in the awards season like no other.

On Feb. 20, when the Oscars ceremony ended a shortened award season, we had no idea what the rest of the year 2020 had in store for us. We didn’t know that the following awards season would be much longer because of the pandemic. The pandemic shut down the theatres and screening rooms worldwide, disrupting release schedules and leaving voters to struggle with their computers, viewing links and two-factor authentication.

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Many tentpoles were pushed to 2021, leaving streamers like Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+ and HBO Max to prove that all the other great films don’t need to be seen in theaters, as the Academy loosened its exhibition requirement. With 12 potential contenders — including Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods”, David Fincher’s “Mank”, George Clooney’s The “Midnight Sky” and Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” — Netflix in particular has a better chance than ever to earn the top prize it’s been eyeing for years.

Related to Oscars 2021: Netflix Gearing Up to Smash 85-Year Old Best Picture Record at Oscars 2021

Festival favorites like “First Cow”, “Minari” and “Nomadland” also stand out in a year in which smaller films earned big attention. Studio heavyweights like “News of the World” and “Tenet”, however, could still fend off the indies and the streamers. Or perhaps after this long and arduous year, Academy voters will favor lighter fare like “Palm Springs” or “Soul”. As the season finally begins in earnest, HOF looks at the 45 films hoping to make the best out of what could be the strangest Oscars race ever.

Ammonite NEON

oscars 2021 top 45 movies

RELEASE DATE Nov. 13, 2020

Oscar winner Kate Winslet and four-time nominee Saoirse Ronan lead this reserved period drama about British paleontologist Mary Anning (Winslet) and her romantic relationship with geologist Charlotte Murchison.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm AMAZON

RELEASE DATE Oct. 23, 2020

Fourteen years after his first film became a box office smash (and earned an Oscar nom for adapted screenplay), Sacha Baron Cohen’s Kazakhstani journalist Borat Sagdiyev returns to a politically divided United States — this time with his scene-stealing 15-year-old daughter, Tutar (Bulgarian breakout Maria Bakalova).

Cherry APPLE TV+

RELEASE DATE Feb. 26, 2021

Avengers: Endgame directors Anthony and Joe Russo ditch comic book heroes for gritty realism with this adaptation of Nico Walker’s autobiographical novel in which an Army vet (Spider-Man’s Tom Holland) struggles with PTSD and addiction before turning to bank robbery.

Da 5 Bloods NETFLIX

RELEASE DATE June 12, 2020

Spike Lee’s latest drama follows four Black veterans who return to Vietnam in search of the remains of their fallen leader (Chadwick Boseman) and the treasure they buried together during the war. In addition to Boseman’s supporting performance, the film features a best actor contender in Delroy Lindo.


RELEASE DATE Feb. 21, 2020

Photographer and music video director Autumn de Wilde makes her feature debut with this colorful and charming adaptation that breathes fresh life into Jane Austen’s classic novel. The Queen’s Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy plays the eponymous character, who can’t help but meddle in the affairs of her family and friends.


RELEASE DATE Dec. 18, 2020

Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman impressed Sundance audiences with their performances in writer-director Florian Zeller’s adaptation of his acclaimed, award-winning stage play about an aging man and his daughter who must come to terms with his dementia and memory loss.

First Cow A24

RELEASE DATE March 6, 2020

The latest feature from indie darling Kelly Reichardt — which competed for the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival and earned four Gotham Award nominations — follows an unlikely partnership between an American cook and a Chinese immigrant who hope to find fortune in the lawless Oregon Territory.

Related to Oscars 2021: Keeping Up With The Oscars 2021

The Forty-Year-Old Version NETFLIX

RELEASE DATE Oct. 9, 2020

Radha Blank’s semiautobiographical comedy — in which the New York playwright stars as a New York playwright named Radha turning to hip-hop to find her artistic voice — was a hit at Sundance, winning the directing award. The Sundance Institute also honored Blank with this year’s Vanguard Award.


RELEASE DATE Feb. 12, 2021

Despite a February release date, this dark comedy had a world premiere at the New York Film Festival in September, where it gained early buzz for Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance as a New York heiress who flees to Paris with her son (Lucas Hedges), her cat and the pitiful fortune she has left.

Greyhound APPLE TV+

RELEASE DATE July 10, 2020

Tom Hanks wrote the screenplay for this adaptation of C.S. Forester’s novel The Good Shepherd, in which he also stars as a U.S. naval commander leading an escort of Allied ships across the Atlantic to protect a merchant ship convoy from German U-boats in 1942.

Herself AMAZON

RELEASE DATE Jan. 24, 2021

Clare Dunne co-wrote and stars in Phyllida Lloyd’s drama about a single mother who struggles to build a comfortable life for herself — a fleeting achievement that is sidelined after her abusive ex-husband sues for custody of their children.

Hillbilly Elegy NETFLIX

RELEASE DATE Nov. 11, 2020

Ron Howard’s adaptation of J.D. Vance’s controversial memoir — in which he tracks his journey from Appalachia to Yale Law — wasn’t a hit with critics, but Netflix audiences embraced it once it premiered on the streamer. Academy voters might be swayed by star performances from previous Oscar nominees Amy Adams and Glenn Close.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things NETFLIX

oscars 2021- I'm Thinking of Ending Things

RELEASE DATE Sept. 4, 2020

Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette and David Thewlis anchor this psychological horror film. Written and directed by Oscar winner Charlie Kaufman, the darkly comic movie features a woman traveling to meet her boyfriend’s family despite misgivings about their relationship.

I’m Your Woman AMAZON

RELEASE DATE Dec. 4, 2020

Julia Hart directs this ’70s-set neo-noir starring The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Rachel Brosnahan as a woman who goes on the run with her baby after her husband betrays his business partner. The stylish crime thriller features a strong supporting performance from Marsha Stephanie Blake.

The Invisible Man UNIVERSAL

RELEASE DATE Feb. 24, 2020

This modern retelling of the Universal monster classic, from Get Out producer Jason Blum, stars Elisabeth Moss as a domestic abuse survivor whose presumably dead ex-husband returns from her past to taunt her in chillingly supernatural ways.

Judas and the Black Messiah WARNER BROS.


Previous Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya stars as activist Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, in this drama about the FBI’s infiltration of the political organization that resulted in Hampton’s assassination in 1969.

The King of Staten Island UNIVERSAL

RELEASE DATE June 12, 2020

Pete Davidson plays a fictionalized version of himself in Judd Apatow’s comedy (which he co-wrote with Davidson and Dave Sirus) about a wayward 20-something who must find purpose in his life — a realization sparked when his mother, a 9/11 widow, becomes engaged to a firefighter.

Let Them All Talk HBO MAX

RELEASE DATE Dec. 10, 2020

Steven Soderbergh directs this quirky comedy about a celebrated novelist (Meryl Streep) who convinces her estranged college friends (Candice Bergen and Dianne Wiest) and her nephew (Lucas Hedges) to join her on a transatlantic cruise.

The Life Ahead NETFLIX

RELEASE DATE Nov. 6, 2020

Film icon Sophia Loren, a 1961 Oscar winner for Two Women, returns to the screen for the first time in a decade. In this Italian drama directed by her son Edoardo Ponti, Loren stars as a Holocaust survivor who forms a bond with a 12-year-old Senegalese boy (Ibrahima Gueye) in their seaside village.

The Little Things WARNER BROS.

RELEASE DATE Jan. 29, 2021

John Lee Hancock’s crime thriller boasts three Oscar winners in its cast, with Denzel Washington and Rami Malek as two California cops — a Kern County deputy and a Los Angeles detective — who join forces to hunt down a serial killer played by Jared Leto.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom NETFLIX

RELEASE DATE Nov. 25, 2020

George C. Wolfe’s adaptation of August Wilson’s play boasts emotional, over-the-top performances from Oscar winner Viola Davis (whose previous win was for Fences, another Wilson adaptation) and Chadwick Boseman (in his final role) as blues musicians who spar during a heated session in a Chicago recording studio.

Malcolm & Marie NETFLIX

RELEASE DATE Feb. 5, 2021

Euphoria creator Sam Levinson shot this black-and-white drama during the COVID-19 pandemic, quarantined with his cast and crew. John David Washington and Zendaya star as a director and his girlfriend who see their relationship tested after the premiere of his latest movie.



RELEASE DATE Nov. 13, 2020

The Academy loves to celebrate films that celebrate Hollywood. David Fincher’s drama about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, who won an Oscar alongside Orson Welles for Citizen Kane, is both a tribute to one of the greatest American films ever made and a critique of the Hollywood studio system.

The Mauritanian STX

RELEASE DATE Feb. 19, 2021

From director Kevin Macdonald, an Oscar winner for the documentary One Day in September, comes this true story about Guantanamo Bay detainee Mohamedou Ould Salahi (Tahar Rahim), who was held without charge from 2002 to 2016. Two-time Oscar winner Jodie Foster and Shailene Woodley play the American attorneys committed to bringing his case to justice.

The Midnight Sky NETFLIX

RELEASE DATE Dec. 11, 2020

After a deadly global event vanquishes the world’s population, the sole surviving adult must stop the crew of a space expedition from completing their return to Earth. Two-time Oscar winner George Clooney pulls triple duty as director, producer and star, alongside co-stars Kyle Chandler, David Oyelowo, Tiffany Boone and previous nominees Felicity Jones and Demián Bichir.

Minari A24

RELEASE DATE Feb. 12, 2021

Steven Yeun stars in this moving drama from writer-director Lee Isaac Chung — which earned both the grand jury prize and the audience award at Sundance — ­about a Korean American family that settles as farmers in small-town Arkansas in pursuit of their American dream.


RELEASE DATE Sept. 18, 2020

Jude Law and Carrie Coon both earned Gotham Award noms for this marital drama, written and directed by Sean Durkin, about a British businessman who uproots his American wife and son to settle in a foreboding estate in the English countryside, only to see his career and relationships slowly crumble.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always FOCUS FEATURES

RELEASE DATE March 13, 2020

Newcomer Sidney Flanigan leads this emotional drama from writer-director Eliza Hittman, playing a teenager who embarks on a risky trip to New York City with her cousin to obtain an abortion after being denied the care she seeks in her rural Pennsylvania hometown.

News of the World UNIVERSAL

RELEASE DATE Dec. 25, 2020

Tom Hanks plays a Civil War vet who travels the country reading the news to small-town residents in this Western from Paul Greengrass. But his encounter with a young girl (Helena Zengel) raised by the Kiowa people and now destined to be returned to her white family has him revisiting his own loss and sense of home.


TIFF - Nomadland

RELEASE DATE Dec. 4, 2020

Two-time Oscar winner Frances McDormand could earn a third trophy for Chloé Zhao’s drama — which earned the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival and the People’s Choice Award at TIFF — about a woman who traverses the Midwest in a van during the Great Recession.

On the Rocks A24/APPLE TV+

RELEASE DATE Oct. 10, 2020

Rashida Jones stars in Sofia Coppola’s breezy comedy about a Manhattan woman who enlists her wealthy playboy father (frequent Coppola star Bill Murray) to help her track her husband (Marlon Wayans), whom she is convinced is having an affair.

One Night in Miami AMAZON

RELEASE DATE Dec. 25, 2020

Oscar winner Regina King’s directorial debut follows Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke during an evening in 1964 in which the four famous men discuss art, politics and revolution — all on the eve of Clay’s conversion to Islam.

Palm Springs NEON/HULU

RELEASE DATE July 10, 2020

Stuck in the desert for a destination wedding, two single guests (Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti) find themselves instantly attracted to each other in this romantic comedy that gained buzz at Sundance. But what might have been a one-night romance quickly becomes complicated when the pair discover they are caught in a never-ending time loop.

The Personal History of David Copperfield SEARCHLIGHT

RELEASE DATE Aug. 28, 2020

Veep creator Armando Iannucci brings his fast-paced and biting comic style to this irreverent adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic. Dev Patel stars in the title role and leads an impressive ensemble that includes Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton, Ben Whishaw and Peter Capaldi.

Pieces of a Woman NETFLIX

RELEASE DATE Jan. 7, 2021

After a botched home birth, a woman is left to grieve for her lost child while her family encourages her to face the midwife, accused of criminal negligence, in court. Kornél Mundruczó’s gripping drama had its premiere at Venice, where star Vanessa Kirby won the Volpi Cup for best actress.


RELEASE DATE Dec. 4, 2020

Ryan Murphy’s adaptation of the 2018 Tony-nominated Broadway musical comedy stars Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman and Andrew Rannells as self-centered actors who travel to rural Indiana for a noble cause: to help a teenage lesbian who was barred from taking her girlfriend to prom. Kerry Washington and Keegan-Michael Key round out the starry ensemble.

Promising Young Woman FOCUS FEATURES

RELEASE DATE Dec. 25, 2020

From writer-director Emerald Fennell — a former showrunner on Killing Eve — this envelope-pushing black comedy stars Carey Mulligan as a med school dropout who seeks out predatory men to expose them to their own toxic masculinity. A hit at Sundance, the #MeToo satire will surely inspire countless think pieces between now and Oscar night.



RELEASE DATE Dec. 25, 2020

Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Questlove, Angela Bassett and Phylicia Rashad lend their voices to the latest feature from Disney and Pixar, revolving around a middle-school music teacher and jazz pianist who, after an unexpected accident, finds his soul separated from his body. Entering a heavenly world where souls in training prepare to be assigned to human bodies, he must find his way back to Earth before his body dies without him.

Sound of Metal AMAZON

RELEASE DATE Nov. 20, 2020

A heavy-metal drummer (Riz Ahmed) experiences sudden hearing loss, an incident that threatens the sobriety he struggled to maintain. In addition to Ahmed’s committed performance, the film’s creative use of sound should have an impact on voters.


RELEASE DATE Jan. 29, 2021

Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci star in this romantic drama as Sam and Tusker, respectively. When the latter is diagnosed with early-onset dementia, the couple of 20 years travel across England to the country’s Lake District in an effort to spend the time they have left together.


RELEASE DATE Aug. 26, 2020

After many pandemic-related delays, Christopher Nolan’s reality-bending thriller, starring John David Washington, earned $359 million at the global box office — one of the few titles on this list to have a traditional wide release. That could give the film a boost at the Oscars despite Nolan’s fresh feud with Warner Bros.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 NETFLIX

the trial of chicago 7 news

RELEASE DATE Sept. 25, 2020

Aaron Sorkin helmed this ensemble-led drama, which depicts the trial of anti-war activists arrested for inciting riots during the 1968 Democratic Convention. Sacha Baron Cohen, Frank Langella, Mark Rylance, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eddie Redmayne and Jeremy Strong are all contenders in the supporting actor category.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday PARAMOUNT

RELEASE DATE Feb. 12, 2021

Lee Daniels directs this biopic, scripted by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks. Andra Day plays the drug-addled blues icon, who has an affair with the undercover agent (Trevante Rhodes) targeting her as part of a federal sting operation.

Wild Mountain Thyme BLEECKER STREET

RELEASE DATE Dec. 11, 2020

John Patrick Shanley, who won an Oscar for writing Moonstruck, directs this drama based on his play Outside Mullingar, the story of an Irish clan thrown into turmoil after its patriarch announces that he will leave the family farm to his American nephew.


RELEASE DATE Dec. 12, 2020

Vanessa Kirby, Katherine Waterston, Casey Affleck and Christopher Abbott star as two couples facing hardship on the American frontier in the 19th century. The film premiered at Venice, where it won the Queer Lion award.

Source Credit: IMDb, Wikipedia

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