2020 Oscar Contenders

The Oscars are over. Long live the Oscars! It has barely been two month since the 2019 Academy Awards aired and I’m already excited to bring you a whole new crop of contenders for the 2020 Academy Awards. We’re only a few months into the new year but the calendar is filling up with awards bait. So without any further ado, here’s your guide to next year’s potential Oscar nominees.

Alita: Battle Angel

Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron’s sci-fi epic got moved from fall to February. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this piece of eye candy nominated in several of the technical categories for visual and sound effects. To read about the animation process for the film, check out my article here: http://runpee.com/what-is-animated-in-alita-battle-angel/.

Mapplethorpe (March 1)

Matt Smith stars in this biopic about the controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. While I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Smith as the Doctor, I’m excited to see him getting the kind of mature roles he wanted to play outside of genre pictures. I’m glad to see some LGBT rep;presentation this early in the year.

The Professor and the Madman  (March 7)

Based on a popular nonfiction book about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, this drama features performances by Sean Penn and Mel Gibson. I’m not sure how I feel about watching Mel Gibson onscreen in a drama again (I’ve been able to safely ignore the action films he’s made over the past several years). However, it’s a moot point as Mel Gibson himself doesn’t even want audiences to see this movie. He tried to have it blocked from being shown. According to Slashfilm, Gibson and director Farhad Safinia felt that scenes should be shot on location in Oxford, England but Voltage Pictures refused. The two of them eventually walked off the project and Voltage finished the film with a different director. The footage they got before the walkout looks pretty decent though. Awards bait type speeches and stuff. We’ll see if it holds together.

Gloria Bell (March 8)

Another Oscar season, another Julianne Moore performance. I’m here for it. This character study portrays a woman who is different things to the different people in her life, none of whom see all of the pieces of her. In one radio interview, Moore talked about the suspense in small moments or interactions within the film. It makes me interested to see it.

The Highwaymen (in theaters March 15, on Netflix March 29 )

Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson play the cops who went after Bonnie and Clyde in this two-hander. Costner is largely under appreciated during the latter part of his career even though he remains one of our finest actors. He’s had pivotal roles in movies like Hidden Figures and Molly’s Game that I feel could have gotten Best Supporting Actor nominations. But they don’t even get talked about, much less celebrated. Harrelson at least got a nomination for his turn in Three Billboards which had one of the most heartbreaking moments of the year. I’m excited to see them together. The trailer is fun.

The Aftermath (March 15)

As much as I love Keira Knightley, this movie looks so boring. However, Oscar loves war and tortured love stories, so it has the whiff of awards bait. I briefly got my wish for Jason Clarke to play a sweetheart when I saw him in First Man. But apparently he’s now back to playing villains and jerks.

The Hummingbird Project  (March 15)

God, I love this trailer. Jesse Eisenberg getting wheeled into the ER while he’s on his phone still wheeling and dealing. Alexander Skarsgård dancing in his bathrobe. I think I just love madness and chaos. And this movie has it. Could it be this year’s Big Short?

US (March 22)

It’s official: Jordan Peele is a master of the horror genre. He totally avoided the sophomore slump and delivered an even more complex thriller on his second time out. This is a movie you need to see twice. Trust me. It gets so much better on a second viewing. I’m hoping Lupita Nyong’o gets a Best Actress nomination for this. Right now, it easily has a spot on my Top 10 list. Expect to see it on the obligatory Best of the Year So Far lists in June.

Hotel Mumbai (March 22)

Based on a real life terrorist attack, this is supposed to be a hard sit but a powerful experience. Dev Patel may find himself on the red carpet again for his performance.

Stockholm (March 22)

At this point, I wouldn’t rule out Ethan Hawke reading the phone book. He keeps on taking on interesting projects. And he’s so prolific. This is at least his second film out this year so far. Even though it’s a comedy, I wouldn’t count it out. Juliet Naked was a comedy and his performance in that could’ve merited award nominations. His recent drama First Reformed got a Best Original Screenplay nomination this year.

J.T. Leroy (March 29)

This movie closed the Toronto International Film Festival last year. However, for whatever reason, it did not get a release until this Oscar season. Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern have both been at the top of their game lately and I’m excited to see them work together on a project. This biopic tells the story of the two figures behind the fictitious literary figure Jeremiah Terminator Leroy who was a brief literary sensation in the ‘90s.

Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart. Photo courtesy of Jazo PR.

Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart. Photo courtesy of Jazo PR.

Beach Bum (March 29)

Harmony Korine is back with a follow-up to Spring Breakers. This star studded film features Matthew McConaughey as a poet with writer’s block. He seems kind of like Hunter S. Thompson if Thompson were more of a hippie and a pothead and less of a hardcore drug user. There is a lot of anticipation for this dark comedy.

Warning: language, drug use, and naked McConaughey butt.


This was the first movie that I put on the list. Sam Rockwell may garner another Oscar nomination for playing another racist. Taraji P. Henson looks fierce. She might get her second Oscar nomination for this. It may be the first major drama of the year. The movie definitely has a strong trailer.

Teen Spirit (April 5)

Elle Fanning will get her Oscar someday. This rock ‘n’ roll movie is a great display of Fanning’s talent but probably not quite Oscar-worthy. It’s still one of my favorites of the year so far and may show up at the Independent Spirit Awards.

High Life (April 5)

Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche star in this sci-fi thriller. It could be the new Ex Machina or Annihilation.

Her Smell (April 12)

Another rock ‘n’ roll movie! This one stars Elisabeth Moss in what looks to be a powerful performance as a self-destructive punk rock singer. She had a great role in Us so I’m dying to see what she does here.

The White Crow (April 26)

This suspenseful biopic tells the story of ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev’s defection. Ralph Fiennes may get his first directing nomination for this film.

All Is True (May 10)
Kenneth Branagh plays Shakespeare in his final days. Also starring Judi Dench and Ian Mckellen. Judi Dench won an Oscar for another project involving Shakespeare. And three of Branagh’s Oscar nominations are for Henry V and Hamlet. This is total awards bait.

Tolkien (May 10)

Nicholas Hoult stars in this biopic about the author of The Lord of the Rings series. While I’m not expecting special effects on par with anything from the Peter Jackson films, the preview does give a glimpse of Middle Earth. The ring has been bad luck for Bilbo and Frodo but good luck for producers.

Souvenir (May 17)

This won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. Tilda Swinton is in it but it stars her daughter Honor Swinton Byrne. There is already a sequel starring Robert Pattinson in the works. The move is about a film student who gets involved in a complicated relationship which threatens her future.

Ad Astra (May 24)

This sounds like the best film Christopher Nolan never made. From the IMDB page: “Astronaut Roy McBride travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet.” Director James Gray has the chops to do it too. He did an excellent job with the indie The Lost City of Z. This sic-fi flick stars Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones. As if I wasn’t already sold. Unfortunately, there is no trailer yet.

Rocket Man (May 31)

Taron Egerton stars as Elton John in this biopic. (Another rock ‘n’ roll movie!) When I watch this trailer, I feel the same excitement I did for Bohemian Rhapsody. Taron becomes Elton! This could well be this year’s Bohemian Rhapsody. I’m glad I only have to wait a few more weeks for this.

Late Night ( June 7)

This was one of the biggest hits at Sundance. Look for writer-producer co-star Mindy Kaling to at least get a Best Screenplay nomination for this film. This Devil Wears Prada-esque comedy could also score some acting nominations for Kaling and Emma Thompson. This is one of my most anticipated movies of the summer.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (June 14)

This movie received a standing ovation at its Sundance premiere and won the Directing Award for U.S. Dramatic film. Joe Talbot directed and co-wrote this film with star Jimmie Fails. Fails plays a man trying to move back into his childhood home. The film deals with the theme of gentrification.

The Dead Don’t Die (June 14)

Not content with making a film about vampires (Only Lovers Left Alive), Jim Jarmusch’s new film will be about zombies. And it stars Bill Murray who is apparently still down for making movies about the undead after one of the greatest cameos of all time in Zombieland. The rest of the amazing cast includes Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Selena Gomez, Carol Kane, and Tom Waits. The indie director has never been nominated for an Oscar. But if you can’t get an Oscar for making a zombie film starring Bill Murray, then what do you have to do?!

The Farewell (July 12)

Awkwafina was an official MVP of last summer’s movie season elevating both Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians with her comic performances. This summer, she’ll be entertaining audiences as the lead actress in the popular Sundance dramedy The Farewell. The movie is about a family that finds out their matriarchal grandmother is going to die soon. Rather than tell her, they decide to keep her in the dark. Awkwafina’s character struggles with the family’s desire to prevent undue suffering by telling her vs her own desire to say goodbye. I mean, I love Awkwafina in the commercial where she talks to the plant. I would love to see her get an Oscar nomination.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (July 26)

A new Quentin Tarantino film is always a reason for Oscar buzz. The film has something to do with the Manson murders. But the first trailer hints that it may be about a lot more than that as well. It definitely has a cool retro vibe. It’s too early to tell if any of the performances might get nominated or if this might be the film that finally wins Tarantino his directing Oscar.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? (August 9)

Based on the best-selling novel, this movie is about a woman who disappears from her own life, leaving her daughter and husband to search for her. Blanchett can turn nearly anything into gold. She was an amazing Bob Dylan in I’m Not There and I loved her underrated performance in Carol. She was such a great Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator (for which she won her first Oscar). I wasn’t impressed by her role in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine though for which she won her second Oscar. My point is, she’s an Oscar favorite and always one to watch. This one comes out in August just as Hollywood is starting to transition into Oscar season in September. Coincidence? I think not.

Brian Banks ( Aug 9)

Director Tom Shadyac returns with a drama based on the real life case of Brian Banks who was committed to USC during his junior year of high school when he was falsely accused of rape. He fought to clear his name partnering with the California Innocence Project.

Blinded by the Light (August 14)

This was the most expensive acquisition at Sundance this year.  It was sold to New Line for $15 million and set a new festival record for the most money spent on a film.  The movie is about a teenage Pakistani boy in England in the ‘80s who’s obsessed with Bruce Springsteen. The film was directed by Gurinder Chadha, who directed the feel-good hit Bend It Like Beckham.    

Brittany Runs a Marathon (August 23)

This comedy won the Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic film at Sundance and was picked up by Amazon.. It’s about a woman who improves her life by taking up running.

The Goldfinch (September 13)

Based on the best-selling novel by Donna Tartt, the movie follows a young man who survives a terrorist attack at an art museum where his mother is killed. Ansel Elgort plays the lead with Jeffrey Wright, Luke Wilson, Nicole Kidman, and Denis O’Hare rounding out the cast. I can’t wait to see Ansel Elgort in this. I”m such a Baby Driver fan. This is an amazing cast.

Downton Abbey (September 20)

The beloved BBC show gets the big screen treatment in one last hurrah. With Oscar winning writer Julian Fellowes attached, this has Oscar potential even if it is tied to a TV series and is not a stand-alone film.

Joker (Oct 4)

Joaquin Phoenix stars in Todd Phillips’ dark take on the Joker’s origins. This may be a great showcase for Phoenix’s talent. He could become the second actor to be nominated or even win an Oscar for playing the Joker (after Heath Ledger). I have loved this character ever since Jack Nicholson played the part in Tim Burton’s Batman. I can’t wait to see this. It seems like a lot of thought and care has been put into this telling of the Joker’s story.

The Woman in the Window (October 4)

Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Letts adapts A.J. Finn’s best-selling thriller about an agoraphobic woman in New York who begins spying on her neighbors and witnesses an act of violence. This modern day Rear Window also stars Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, and Brian Tyree Henry. Joe Wright is the director, fresh off Darkest Hour where he and Gary Oldman made Oscar magic. I wouldn’t doubt their ability to do it again.

Gemini Man (October 11)

In Ang Lee’s sci-fi thriller, Will Smith plays an assassin being hunted by his younger clone. This movie could be a return to form for both men.

The Good Liar (Nov 15)

Ian McKellen plays a con artist who starts to fall in love with his well-to-do mark played by Helen Mirren. The movie is directed by Bill Condon who previously directed McKellen to a Best Actor nom in Gods and Monsters. Don’t be surprised if lightning strikes twice.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Nov 22)

This is easily one of the most anticipated projects of the year. Everyone wants to see Tom Hanks play Mister Rogers. One of America’s favorite actors playing one of America’s most beloved icons. What’s not to love? Marielle Heller who directed The Diary of a Teenage Girl and Can You Ever Forgive Me? might finally get her well-deserved Best Director nomination.

Queen and Slim (Nov 27)

This timely drama comes out in November. This is from the press release:

“While on a forgettable first date together in Ohio, a black man (Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya) and a black woman (Jodie Turner-Smith, in her first starring feature-film role), are pulled over for a minor traffic infraction. The situation escalates, with sudden and  tragic results, when the man kills the police officer in self-defense. Terrified and in fear for their lives, the man, a retail employee, and the woman, a criminal defense lawyer, are forced to go on the run. But the incident is captured on video and goes viral, and the couple unwittingly become a symbol of trauma, terror, grief and pain for people across the country.”

Knives Out (Nov 27)

Director Rian Johnson returns to his roots with a new detective story. (If you haven’t seen Brick, find a copy and watch it!) Unfortunately, Joseph Gordon-Levitt isn’t starring this time. But a whole slew of other people are, including Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Daniel Craig, Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, LaKeith Stanfield, Christopher Plummer, Don Johnson, Riki Lindhome (Garfunkel and Oates in the house!), and Frank Oz. That’s like a Murder on the Orient Express-type cast. This is going to be fun!

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (December 20)

This installment supposedly ends the Skywalker saga. Where they’re going to find another set of characters in the Star Wars universe who capture our hearts and imagination in the same way, I honestly don’t know. This is Oscar’s last chance to honor this era of the Star Wars franchise. This is the Return of the King of Star Wars. If you don’t agree, ask yourself why Disney is being so careful with it. They didn’t even release a title or trailer until Star Wars Celebration.

Cats (December 20)

Cats is a movie that honestly probably should have come out in the ‘80s at the height of the musical’s popularity. While it’s being directed by Tom Hooper who won an Oscar for one of my all-time favorite films The King’s Speech, he also gave us a somewhat disappointing Les Mis. The cast list makes it look like it’ll be campy fun no matter what. Idris Elba, Rebel Wilson, Ian McKellan, Judi Dench, James Corden, huge cat fan Taylor Swift, and Jennifer Hudson who is going to blow the roof off of “Memories” are all part of the cast. Will that be enough to distract from the fact that there’s not much plot to this episodic musical? We’ll see.

A teasing shot of the set of CATS. Credit: GILES KEYTE. Courtesy of Universal.

A teasing shot of the set of CATS. Credit: GILES KEYTE. Courtesy of Universal.

Fair and Balanced (Dec 20th)

Director Jay Roach (Trumbo) tells the story of Fox News with John Lithgow as Roger Ailes, Malcolm McDowell as Rupert Murdoch, Charlize Theron as Megan Kelly and more. No word yet on who is playing Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter, or Satan.

Little Women (Dec 25th)

Recently, there has already been a 2017 TV min-series adaptation of Little Women and a 2018 theatrical modern retelling. However, this Christmas, the March sisters are getting the full Hollywood treatment in this period piece. Greta Gerwig is directing after her Oscar-nominated film Ladybird. The cast includes Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, Bob Odenkirk, and Chris Cooper.

Call of the Wild (Dec 25)

This CGI/live-action hybrid adaptation of the classic Jack London novel boasts a cast that includes Karen Gillan, Dan Stevens, Harrison Ford, and Bradley Whitford.

Release dates unknown:

Big Time Adolescence

If this Sundance favorite ever gets picked up by a distributor, Pete Davidson could be looking at a Best Supporting Actor nomination. I don’t understand why no one wants to take a chance on this film.

By the Grace of God

This won the Silver Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. Based on an ongoing scandal, the movie tells the story of three adult men who band together to expose the code of silence that continues to enable a priest who abused them as boys. It’s this year’s Spotlight. The trailer alone is powerful. Look for it in the Best Foreign Film category. Could it pull off a Best Picture nom as well?


This movie won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. Alfre Woodard stars as prison warden whose years of executions are starting to take a toll on her.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile

This Ted Bundy biopic starring Zac Efron got mixed reviews at Sundance. You’ll get to decide for yourself this fall. Netflix plans to release it late in the year for awards consideration.


Steve Coogan, Asa Butterfield, and Isla Fisher star in Michael Winterbottom’s dark comedy about the rich.

Honey Boy

Amazon acquired this Sundance film. Shia LaBeouf wrote the autobiographical film, in which he plays his own father, as a way of exorcising his demons. It got a standing ovation.

The Irishman

Netflix may be a major player at the Oscars again next year with this Martin Scorsese film. The cast includes Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin, Bobby Cannavale, and Ray Romano. Despite negative reports about this being the director’s most expensive film ever, it could be another masterpiece.

Jojo Rabbit

Director Taika Waititi’s new film is about a young boy in Hitler’s army who find out his mother is hiding a Jewish boy in their home (according to the IMDB page). The cast includes Scarlett Johanson Thomasin McKenzie, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, and Stephen Merchant. Waititi himself plays Hitler. I just hope this isn’t Waitit’s The Day the Clown Cried.

The King

Not much is known about this movie so far apart from the director (David Michôd) and the A-list cast which includes Ben Mendelsohn, Timothée Chalamet, Robert Pattinson, Joel Edgerton, Lily-Rose Depp, and Thomasin McKenzie. From the character list, it looks like some kind of adaptation of Henry IV with Edgerton playing Falstaff.

Last Night in Soho

Edgar Wright’s new horror film won’t have the humor of Shaun of the Dead or The World’s End. It will be his first straightforward scary movie. Anya Taylor Joy is already signed on to star. Matt Smith has just signed on. Thomasin McKenzie is rumored to be attached as well. Not much is known about the plot.

The Last Thing He Wanted

Writer-director Dee Rees (Mudbound) returns to Netflix with this 1980s set political thriller. Anne Hathaway plays a journalist who takes over her father’s role as an arms dealer in Central America. The film also stars Willem Dafoe (may he finally get his Oscar), Ben Affleck, and Toby Jones.

The Laundromat

Steven Soderbergh’s Netflix film follows a group of journalists who discover files linking the world’s power elite to hidden bank accounts to avoid paying taxes. The movie stars Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, David Schwimmer, Will Forte, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Jeffrey Wright.

Lost Girls

This Netflix movie stars Amy Ryan as a mother looking for her missing daughter who makes a horrifying discovery in the woods where the murdered bodies of four girls have been dumped. Gabriel Byrne and busy bee Thomasin McKenzie also star.


Neon and Topic Films went in together to acquire this film at Sundance. The movie was directed by Julius Onah and adapted from JC Lee’s play. The psychological thriller stars Naomi Watts and Tim Roth, as parents whose adopted child’s identity is called into question.

Lucy in the Sky 

Natalie Portman stars in this movie about an astronaut who starts to unravel and lose touch with reality after returning to Earth from a mission. Director Noah Hawley is known for television work, for writing, directing, and producing episodes of Fargo, Legion, and Bones.

Official Secrets
IFC Films bought this drama at Sundance. The movie stars Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes, and is based on British secret service officer/whistle blower Katherine Gunn, who tried to stop the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  

Pain and Glory

Pedro Almodóvar’s new movie is a semi-autobiographical film starring Antonio Banderas as a filmmaker and Penelope Cruz as his mother. The film will play at Cannes in May.

The Pope

Director Fernando Meirelles and writer Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything, Darkest Hour, Bohemian Rhapsody) bring this biopic about Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce, may he someday get the nomination he deserves) and his predecessor Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) to Netflix.

The Report

Amazon Studios acquired this film at Sundance. it is about an investigation into the CIA’s torture practices following 9/11. It stars Adam Driver, Jon Hamm, and Annette Bening, and was written and directed by Scott Z. Burns.  

The Sound of Silence

Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions picked up the rights to this one ahead of Sundance. It’s about a “house tuner” in New York City who calibrates the sound in people’s homes to adjust their moods until he meets a client with a problem he can’t solve. It stars Peter Sarsgaard, Rashida Jones, and Austin Pendleton. Pendleton was so good in the only recently released 5-25-77 that I’ve been wanting to see more of him.

Troop Zero

Amazon premiered this crowd-pleaser starring Viola Davis, Allison Janney, and Jim Gaffigan at Sundance.  Directed by Bert & Bertie, the movie is an underdog story about a girl who wants to win a national competition to get her voice on NASA’s golden record and rallies her scout troop to help her.  

The True History of the Kelly Gang

This biopic about the Australian criminal and his gang as they flee the authorities in the 1870s stars Charlie Hunnam, Russell Crowe, Nicholaus Hoult, George MacKay (from Captain Fantastic), and, of course, Thomasin McKenzie in a pear tree.

The Truth

Director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s film Shoplifters was nominated for Best Foreign Film at this year’s Oscars. The Truth will be his first English language film. It stars Juliette Binoche as a woman who returns to France after her mother (Catherine Deneuve) publishes a controversial autobiography. The film also stars Ethan Hawke.


The plot follows an unfolding divorce from New York to Los Angeles. The cast includes Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, and Julie Hagerty.


Ben Zeitlin’s follow up to Beasts of the Southern Wild is the story of a young girl who is kidnapped and taken to a destructive ecosystem where mystical pollen breaks the relationship between aging and time.

As exhaustive as this list is, there will still probably be plenty of surprises at Cannes, unforeseen schedule changes, and unannounced releases between now and the cutoff date for Oscar eligibility. Ain’t it exciting? You’ve got to love the wide, wide world of film. And we’re here to help you navigate it. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/EtchedinGold/) to stay on top of who’s still in the Oscar race and who isn’t.