Oscars: These Are the 42 Films Vying for Best Picture

8:00 AM 10/31/2019

by Rebecca Ford

Awards season is here, and dozens of films are ready to shake up this slightly shorter race, from a group of hungry hustlers to an imaginary friend named Hitler.

Courtesy of STX, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Netflix, Columbia Pictures, Universal, Amazon Studios, Lionsgate and Twentieth Century Fox

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced in August 2018 that the 92nd Oscars would take place on Feb. 9, 2020, it marked the earliest date ever for the awards. The move also set Hollywood abuzz with talk of a truncated campaign season: three weeks shorter than in recent years. It remains to be seen how this shorter race will affect a film's momentum, but as the season kicks off in earnest, the field remains crowded with plenty of hopefuls.

Todd Phillips' Joker took the season's first big prize when it won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in August. It's unusual for a Hollywood studio production to be lauded at the fest, which favors international auteurs, let alone a comic book movie. The victory solidified the Warner Bros. drama as an immediate contender, though it's not without controversy: When it screened at other fests ahead of its Oct. 9 release, it was met with some criticism for its violence.

Joker wasn't the only strong debut at Venice. Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story earned serious buzz, and the Netflix title was one of only a couple of films to do the four-festival tour of Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York. At Toronto, Fox Searchlight's Jojo Rabbit played especially strong and earned the audience award, often an Oscar bellwether. And several actors — including Renée Zellweger in Judy, Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers and Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes — made strong first impressions during festival season.

While many films wait to debut (some, including Sam Mendes' war drama 1917 and Clint Eastwood's Richard Jewell, still haven't been seen), there are also a few trying to keep up momentum months after premiering, namely Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (it bowed in July but returned to theaters Oct. 25 with an additional 10 minutes of footage). And the Korean-language Parasite, which won the top prize in Cannes, has become a breakout in the U.S. after opening in October with the highest per-screen average of the year. Can it follow Roma's playbook to land nominations or wins in categories other than international film?

Other big questions loom. Will Netflix, with several strong contenders, including Martin Scorsese's The Irishman, have another go at best picture? Will Apple's first foray make a dent? As the race revs up, The Hollywood Reporter takes a look at 42 top contenders vying for attention.

  • '1917'

    Universal

    DreamWorks Pictures

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 25

    Sam Mendes' World War I drama that's designed to look like it's one continuous take hasn't screened for media, but a well-executed war epic could turn voters' heads even with a fashionably late arrival.

  • 'Ad Astra'

    Fox

    Twentieth Century Fox

    RELEASE DATE Sept. 20

    BOX OFFICE $125.8 million*

    James Gray's ambitious soul-searching, space-exploring drama follows Brad Pitt's astronaut as he scours the galaxy for his missing father (Tommy Lee Jones).

  • 'The Aeronauts'

    Amazon

    Telluride Film Festival

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 6

    The Theory of Everything stars Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne (both of whom earned acting noms — and a win for Redmayne — for the 2014 biopic) reunite to play a couple who attempt to explore the sky via hot air balloon.

  • 'Avengers: Endgame'

    Disney

    Courtesy of Marvel

    RELEASE DATE April 26

    BOX OFFICE $2.8 billion

    Marvel broke into the best picture nominations in 2018 with Black PantherEndgame is now the highest-grossing movie of all time, and both Titanic and Avatar — previous holders of that distinction — got best picture nominations (Titanic won).

  • 'The Banker'

    Apple

    Apple

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 6

    Is there room for another streaming company in the awards race? Apple steps in with this drama starring Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Mackie as two men who, in the 1960s, game the racist system by establishing a bank for themselves.

  • 'A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood'

    Sony

    Courtesy of TIFF

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 22

    Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks portrays TV icon Fred Rogers in Marielle Heller's follow-up to Can You Ever Forgive Me? The 2018 Mr. Rogers doc Won't You Be My Neighbor? proved there's an appetite for feel-good films about the kind-hearted kids TV host.

  • 'Bombshell'

    Lionsgate

    Courtesy of Lionsgate

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 20

    The first trailer for the Jay Roach-helmed drama based on the Fox News women who spoke out against Roger Ailes created plenty of buzz, mostly because of the transformation of producer-star Charlize Theron into a perfect doppelganger for Megyn Kelly.

  • 'Booksmart'

    Annapurna

    Annapurna Pictures

    RELEASE DATE March 10

    BOX OFFICE $24.6 million

    Olivia Wilde's feature directorial debut, a coming-of-age comedy about high schoolers (Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever) trying to let loose for one night before they graduate, charmed critics despite a soft box office performance.

  • 'Cats'

    Universal

    Courtesy of Matthew Murphy/Hollywood Pantages Theatre

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 20

    The first trailer with its CG-created catsuits was swiftly mocked all over the internet, but with an original song by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Taylor Swift and a name cast including Jennifer Hudson, Judi Dench, Idris Elba and Ian McKellen, this Tom Hooper-helmed musical could be catnip for the Globes.

  • 'Clemency'

    Neon

    Courtesy of London Film Festival

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 27

    Taking Sundance's top prize, the prison-set drama helmed by Chinonye Chukwu earned praise for powerful performances by Alfre Woodard (playing a prison warden) and Aldis Hodge (as a death row inmate).

  • 'Dark Waters'

    Focus

    Courtesy of: Focus Features

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 22

    Todd Haynes' thriller stars three-time Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo as an attorney who takes on chemical company DuPont and exposes a deadly history of industrial pollution. Roma, Green Book and Spotlight production company Participant backed the film.

  • 'Dolemite Is My Name'

    Netflix

    Courtesy of TIFF

    RELEASE DATE Oct. 25

    Awards season loves a comeback. Eddie Murphy returns for his first major film role since 2012 to star as stand-up comedian and actor Rudy Ray Moore in the '70s-set film from Hustle & Flow helmer Craig Brewer.

  • 'Downton Abbey'

    Focus Features

    Jaap Buitendijk/Focus Features

    RELEASE DATE Sept. 20

    BOX OFFICE $172.6 million

    Four years after the popular British series wrapped, the Crawley family reunited for this big-screen outing. It was a smash at the box office, landing Focus' largest opening ever with $31 million, and has gone on to become the studio's top domestic earner of all time.

  • 'The Farewell'

    A24

    Courtesy of A24

    RELEASE DATE July 19

    BOX OFFICE $19.6 million

    The Sundance breakout is based on writer-director Lulu Wang's real family, who chose not to tell their grandmother about her cancer diagnosis. Starring breakout Awkwafina in her first dramatic role, the film had the best per-theater average of the year in its opening weekend.

  • 'Ford v Ferrari'

    Fox

    Telluride Film Festival

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 15

    Five-time Oscar nominee Matt Damon and four-time nominee Christian Bale (who won in 2011 for The Fighter) star in this sports biopic as men enlisted by Ford Motor Co. to create a race car that can give Ferrari a run for its money.

  • 'Harriet'

    Focus

    Courtesy of Focus Features

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 1

    The first major motion picture about Harriet Tubman's escape from slavery and leadership in the Underground Railroad stars Grammy/Tony/Emmy winner and Broadway star Cynthia Erivo and features supporting turns from Janelle Monáe, Leslie Odom Jr. and Joe Alwyn.

  • 'A Hidden Life'

    Fox Searchlight

    Telluride Film Festival

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 1

    Terrence Malick's films haven't made a dent on the awards circuit since 2011's The Tree of Life (it earned three Oscar nominations), but his latest, about an Austrian farmer (August Diehl) who refuses to fight for the Nazis in World War II, has earned the reclusive helmer his most favorable reviews in years.

  • 'Honey Boy'

    Amazon

    Natasha Braier/Courtesy of Sundance Institute

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 8

    Another comeback story brewing, Honey Boy is the semi-autobiographical film based on Shia LaBeouf's experience as a child star and as an adult grappling with addiction. LaBeouf wrote the script and plays his own troubled father in a strong performance opposite Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges, who portray the young and older version of LaBeouf.

  • 'Hustlers'

    STX

    Alison Cohen Rosa/STXfilms

    RELEASE DATE Sept. 13

    BOX OFFICE $136 million

    On paper, a crime drama centered on a group of strippers who manipulate their customers for cash wouldn't seem like it would be the talk of awards season. But after a rapturous premiere in Toronto and a standout performance by Jennifer Lopez as the leader of the girl gang that also includes Constance Wu, Cardi B and Lizzo, the box office hit could rake in some awards attention, especially for Lopez.

  • 'The Irishman'

    Netflix

    Netflix

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 27

    Martin Scorsese reunites with Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci for the first time since 1995's Casino (the filmmaker had to coax Pesci out of retirement) for his mob crime drama centered on the events that led to the disappearance of labor leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). Its three-and-a-half-hour running time will cause some voters to skip the limited theatrical release and watch it on the streaming service instead.

  • 'Jojo Rabbit'

    Fox Searchlight

    Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

    RELEASE DATE Oct. 18

    BOX OFFICE $1.5 million

    Ten of the past 11 winners of TIFF's top Audience Award prize have secured a best picture nomination (last year's victor, Green Book, won the Oscar), which bodes well for Taika Waititi's World War II satire. Centered on a youngster (Roman Griffin Davis) who aspires to be a Nazi and seeks advice from his imaginary friend Hitler (played by Waititi), the film also could see its strong supporting cast (Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell and Thomasin McKenzie) earn accolades.

  • 'Joker'

    Warner Bros.

    Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

    RELEASE DATE Oct. 4

    BOX OFFICE $852 million

    In the first comic book-based film to win the Golden Lion in Venice, Todd Phillips delivers a gut-punching performance by Joaquin Phoenix as the Batman villain, a mentally ill clown and aspiring comedian who's abused by the grim world around him. There has been controversy and criticism surrounding the film's realistic violence and messaging, but it is already the highest grossing R-rated movie of all time and could break into the awards race despite its superhero genre roots.

  • 'Judy'

    Roadside

    Courtesy of TIFF

    RELEASE DATE Sept. 27

    BOX OFFICE $30.9 million

    Renée Zellweger disappears into the role of Judy Garland in the adaptation of West End and Broadway play End of the Rainbow. And the parallels between her own experience with judgment by the public and the press give this biopic (in which she also sings iconic Garland songs, including "Somewhere Over the Rainbow") an added boost.

  • 'Just Mercy'

    Warner Bros.

    Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 25

    Michael B. Jordan produced and stars in the film about real-life attorney Bryan Stevenson. The project, the first made under Warner Bros.' inclusion initiative, features powerful performances from Jamie Foxx and Rob Morgan as death row inmates.

  • 'Knives Out'

    Lionsgate

    Claire Folger/MRC

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 27

    Rian Johnson's ensemble whodunnit was an audience pleaser at TIFF and features a strong cast including Daniel Craig, Chris Evans and Jamie Lee Curtis.

  • 'The Last Black Man in San Francisco'

    A24

    Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

    RELEASE DATE June 7

    BOX OFFICE $4.5 million

    Written by Jimmie Fails (who also stars with Jonathan Majors) and director Joe Talbot, this Bay Area-set story about gentrification scooped up a directing award and a special jury prize at Sundance.

  • 'The Lighthouse'

    A24

    Courtesy of TIFF

    RELEASE DATE Oct. 18

    BOX OFFICE $3.6 million

    Robert Eggers' unconventional black-and-white psychological thriller about two mostly drunk lighthouse keepers may not be for everyone but provides stand-out performances by Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe.

  • 'Little Women'

    Sony

    Wilson Webb

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 25

    Lady Bird helmer Greta Gerwig takes on the Louisa May Alcott classic, enlisting her muses Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet to play Jo and Laurie and rounding out the cast with Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Laura Dern.

  • 'Marriage Story'

    Netflix

    Telluride Film Festival

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 6

    Noah Baumbach's devastating look at a marriage falling apart features strong performances from leads Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson plus a memorable score by Randy Newman.

  • 'Motherless Brooklyn'

    Warner Bros.

    Telluride Film Festival

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 1

    Edward Norton wrote, directed and stars as a private investigator struggling with Tourette's syndrome in the drama based on the 1999 novel of the same name. The supporting cast features plenty of names, including Bruce Willis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale and Willem Dafoe.

  • 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood'

    Sony

    Andrew Cooper

    RELEASE DATE July 26

    BOX OFFICE $368.9 million

    Quentin Tarantino's revisionist take on the Manson murders won't be welcomed in China anytime soon (it was pulled a week before its scheduled Oct. 25 release) but it earned plenty of acclaim stateside, especially for leads Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt.

  • 'Pain and Glory'

    Sony Pictures Classics

    Telluride Film Festival

    RELEASE DATE Oct. 11

    BOX OFFICE $31.4 million

    Oscar winner Pedro Almodóvar keeps it close to home with his Spanish-language drama starring Antonio Banderas (who won the best actor award in Cannes) as a film director reflecting on his life choices.

  • 'Parasite'

    Neon

    Courtesy of TIFF

    RELEASE DATE Oct. 11

    BOX OFFICE $97.3 million

    South Korea has never even had a movie nominated for Oscar's foreign film (now called international feature) trophy, but Bong Joon-ho's twisted, genre-bending take on the haves and have-nots has been so lauded by critics and audiences that it could pop up as a nominee in several other categories as well. In its limited opening release, the Palme d'Or winner shattered records to earn the biggest per-screen tally for any foreign-language film released in the U.S. — ever.

  • 'Queen & Slim'

    Universal

    Screenshot courtesy of Universal Pictures

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 27

    With its Nov. 14 world premiere at the AFI Fest, this romantic thriller about a couple (Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith) on the run after they kill a cop has a script by Lena Waithe and is helmed by music video director Melina Matsoukas in her feature directorial debut.

  • 'The Report'

    Amazon

    Telluride Film Festival

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 15

    Adam Driver is juggling three promising projects this fall; here, he plays a Senate staffer investigating the CIA's use of torture in this tense drama written and directed by Scott Z. Burns.

  • 'Richard Jewell'

    Warner Bros.

    Warner Bros./YouTube

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 13

    With its world premiere at the AFI Fest on Nov. 20 ahead of its late-in-the-season release date, Clint Eastwood's film (about the real-life security guard who was vilified in the media after finding a suspicious backpack during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics) is taking the same path as Eastwood's 2014 hit American Sniper, which earned six nominations.

  • 'Rocketman'

    Paramount

    Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

    RELEASE DATE May 31

    BOX OFFICE $195.2 million

    A glitzy world premiere at Cannes saw Elton John performing live on the beach to promote the biopic about his life. And Taron Egerton really sings in the film helmed by Dexter Fletcher (who took over directing duties on the best picture Oscar-nominated Bohemian Rhapsody).

  • 'Toy Story 4'

    Disney

    Walt Disney Studios

    RELEASE DATE June 21

    BOX OFFICE $1.1 billion

    Toy Story 3 was nominated for best picture (and won for animated film and original song). The latest installment, which has earned the second biggest box office tally of any film on this list, sees Woody and the gang joined by a new friend, Forky.

  • 'The Two Popes'

    Netflix

    Courtesy of TIFF

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 27

    The shining stars of Fernando Meirelles' tale, with a script by three-time Oscar-nominee Anthony McCarten, are the performances by Anthony Hopkins (as Pope Benedict XVI) and Jonathan Pryce (as Pope Francis).

  • 'Uncut Gems'

    A24

    Telluride Film Festival

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 13

    The Safdie brothers chased Adam Sandler for years to get him to play the brash jewelry store owner and gambler at the center of this intense New York-set crime drama. It was worth it ­— Sandler is winning accolades for his work.

  • 'Us'

    Universal

    Claudette Barius/Universal Studios

    RELEASE DATE June 18

    BOX OFFICE $255.1 million

    Jordan Peele proved with Get Out that there was a place for his smart horror in the Oscar landscape, earning four noms and a win. His follow-up stars Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o in dual roles as a woman fighting off her deadly underworld alter ego.

  • 'Waves'

    A24

    Telluride Film Festival

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 15

    Director Trey Edward Shults traces the tumultuous life of a black family in Florida. Starring Sterling K. Brown, Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Taylor Russell, the emotional drama (with score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) touts an unusual story structure as it explores how a family dynamic shifts after a loss.

    This story first appeared in the Oct. 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.