Predicting the winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture is never easy. We were sure the top prize at the 2019 Oscars would go to “Roma” but it was “Green Book” that won. In coming up with our 2020 Oscar predictions, we considered a slew of factors, starting with the preferential ballot used to determine the winner. Add in the pedigree of the filmmakers, the critical reception to the films, the box office tally and the track record of the studios. We take all of these into consideration again as we look ahead to the 2020 Academy Awards. (Scroll down for the most up-to-date 2020 Oscars predictions for Best Picture.)
Contenders began to emerge at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Others will be seen for the first time at the Cannes Film Festival in May. However, most of the top tier of Best Picture hopefuls won’t screen until September at four film festivals: Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York. And a few will be held back till the last weeks of eligibility, getting limited releases in December.
We predicted “Roma” to be a strong contender at the Academy Awards for Best Picture as it was the first film from Alfonso Cuaron after he won Best Director for “Gravity.” It dominated the critics awards and reaped a leading 10 Oscar nominations. The multi-hyphenate Cuaron won as director, cinematographer and producer of the Best Foreign Language Film of the year.
“Green Book” was named Best Picture despite its helmer, Peter Farrelly, being snubbed by the directors branch of the academy. He did share in the Original Screenplay win and Mahershala Ali took home his second Supporting Actor Oscar in three years for a scene-stealing turn as jazz musician Don Shirley.
UPDATED: March 11, 2019
Please note: Only those films with confirmed release dates are listed below. Check back often as new contenders are scheduled while other are dropped due to delays or critical reaction.
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (Sony – November 22)
Director: Marielle Heller
Writers: Micah Fitzerman-Blue, Noah Harpster
Cast: Tom Hanks, Susan Kelechi Watson, Matthew Rhys
Plot: A jaded magazine writer is assigned a profile of Fred Rogers.
“Cats” (Universal – December 20)
Director: Tom Hooper
Writer: Lee Hall (who adapted T.S. Eliot’s poetry collection “Old Possum’s Books of Practical Cats”)
Cast: Jennifer Hudson, Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, James Corden, Rebel Wilson
Plot: A tribe of cats called the Jellicles must decide yearly which one will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new Jellicle life.
“Downton Abbey” (Focus – September 20)
Director: Michael Engler
Writer: Julian Fellowes
Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Michelle Dockery, Joanne Froggatt, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton
Plot: The continuing story of the Crawley family, a wealthy owner of a large estate in the English countryside in the mid 20th century.
“Fair and Balanced” (Lionsgate – December 20)
Director: Jay Roach
Writer: Charles Randolph
Cast: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Allison Janney, Connie Britton
Plot: A few women decide to take on Fox News boss Roger Ailes and the toxic male culture he presided over.
“Ford v. Ferrari” (20th Century Fox – November 15)
Director: James Mangold
Writers: James Mangold, Jason Keller, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth
Cast: Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Caitriona Balfe, Jon Bernthal, Remo Girone
Plot: The true story of the battle between Ford and Ferrari to win Le Mans in 1966.
“Gemini Man” (Paramount – October 11)
Director: Ang Lee
Writers: Billy Ray, Jonathan Hensleigh
Cast: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen
Plot: An over-the-hill hitman faces off against a younger clone of himself.
“The Goldfinch” (Warner Bros. – October 11)
Writer/Director: John Crowley (who adapted Donna Tartt’s novel of the same name)
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman, Jeffrey Wright, Sarah Paulson
Plot: A boy in New York is taken in by a wealthy Upper East Side family after his mother is killed in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“The Irishman” (Netflix – Fall)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Steven Zaillian (who adapted “I Heard You Paint Houses” by Charles Brandt)
Cast: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin.
Plot: A mob hitman recalls his possible involvement with the slaying of Jimmy Hoffa.
“The Last Thing He Wanted” (Netflix – Fall)
Writer/Director: Dee Rees (who adapted Joan Didion’s novel of the same name)
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Willem Dafoe, Ben Affleck, Toby Jones
Plot: A journalist quits her newspaper job and becomes an arms dealer for a covert government agency.
“The Laundromat” (Netflix – Fall)
Writer/Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, Alex Pettyfer, David Schwimmer, Will Forte, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeffrey Wright
Plot: A group of journalists unearth 11.5 million files, linking the world’s most powerful political figures to secret banking accounts to avoid taxes.
“Little Women” (Sony – December 25)
Writer/Director: Greta Gerwig (who adapted Louisa May Alcott’s novel of the same name)
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Timothee Chalamet, Emily Watson, Meryl Streep
Plot: Four sisters come of age in America in the aftermath of the Civil War.
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (Sony – July 26)
Writer/Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie
Plot: A faded TV actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry in 1969.
“The Report” (Amazon – Fall)
Writer/Director: Scott Z. Burns
Cast: Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Morrison
Plot: In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, CIA agents begin using extreme interrogation tactics on those they think were behind it.
“Us” (Universal – March 22)
Writer/Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss
Plot: A family’s serenity turns to chaos when a group of doppelgängers begin to terrorize them.
“The Woman in the Window” (Fox 2000 – October 4)
Director: Joe Wright
Writer: Tracy Letts (who adapted A.J. Finn’s novel of the same name)
Cast: Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Wyatt Russell
Plot: An agoraphobic woman living alone in New York begins spying on her new neighbors only to witness a disturbing act of violence.
“Ad Astra” (20th Century Fox – May 24)
Director: James Gray
Writers: James Gray, Ethan Gross
Cast: Brad Pitt, Ruth Negga, Tommy Lee Jones
Plot: An astronaut travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of the planet.
“Dry Run” (Focus Features – Fall)
Director: Todd Haynes
Writers: Matthew Carnahan, Mario Correra
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Mark Ruffalo, Bill Pullman, William Jackson Harper
Plot: A corporate defense attorney takes on an environmental lawsuit against a chemical company that exposes a lengthy history of pollution.
“Harriet” (Focus – Fall)
Director: Kasi Lemmons
Writers: Kasi Lemmons, Gregory Allen Howard
Cast: Cynthia Erivo, Janelle Monae, Joe Alwyn, Leslie Odom Jr.
Plot: The story of iconic freedom fighter Harriet Tubman, her escape from slavery and subsequent missions to free dozens of slaves through the Underground Railroad.
“Late Night” (Amazon – June 7)
Director: Nisha Ganatra
Writer: Mindy Kaling
Cast: Mindy Kaling, Emma Thompson
Plot: A late-night talk show host suspects that she may soon be losing her long-running show.
“Lucy in the Sky” (Fox Searchlight – Fall)
Director: Noah Hawley
Writers: Brian C. Brown, John-Henry Butterworth
Cast: Natalie Portman, Zazie Beetz, Jon Hamm
Plot: The story of a female astronaut who, upon returning to Earth from a life-changing mission in space, begins to slowly unravel and lose touch with reality.
“Motherless Brooklyn” (Warner Bros. – November 1)
Writer/Director: Edward Norton (who adapted Jonathan Lethem’s novel of the same name)
Cast: Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Bruce Willis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Leslie Mann, Bobby Cannavale, Alec Baldwin
Plot: A a private detective afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome tries to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend in 1950s New York.
“1917” (Universal – December 25)
Writer/Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay
Plot: Set against the backdrop of the last full year of World War I.
“Pain & Glory” (Sony Pictures Classics – Fall)
Writer/Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz, Asier Etxeandia
Plot: A film director reflects on the choices he’s made in life as past and present come crashing down around him.
“The Personal History of David Copperfield” (Film 4 – Fall)
Director: Armando Iannucci
Writers: Simon Blackwell (who adapted Charles Dickens’ novel of the same name)
Cast: Dev Patel, Gwendoline Christie, Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Ben Whishaw
Plot: The story follows the life of David Copperfield from childhood to maturity.
“The Pope” (Netflix – Fall)
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Writer: Anthony McCarten
Cast: Jonathan Pryce, Anthony Hopkins
Plot: The relationship and opposing visions between Pope Francis and Pope Benedict, both of whom must address their own pasts and the demands of the modern world in order to move the church forward.
“Rocketman” (Paramount – May 31)
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Writer: Lee Hall
Cast: Taron Egerton, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard
Plot: A musical fantasy about the uncensored human story of Elton John’s breakthrough years.
“Toy Story 4” (Disney/Pixar – June 21)
Director: Josh Cooley
Screenwriter: Screenplay by
Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale
Plot: When a new toy called “Forky” joins Woody and the gang, a road trip alongside old and new friends reveals how big the world can be for a toy.
“Wendy” (Fox Searchlight – Fall)
Writer/Director: Benh Zeitlin
Cast: Shay Walker, Tommie Milazzo
Plot: Set on a mysterious island where aging and time have come unglued, the tale of two children from different worlds fighting to maintain their grip on freedom and joy.
“The Best of Enemies” (STX – April 5)
Writer/Director: Robin Bissell (who adapted Osha Gray Davidson’s book of the same name)
Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Sam Rockwell, Babou Ceesay, Anne Heche, Wes Bentley
Plot: Civil rights activist Ann Atwater faces off against C.P. Ellis, Exalted Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan, in 1971 Durham, North Carolina over the issue of school integration.
“The Farewell” (A24 – July 12)
Writer/Director: Lulu Wang
Cast: Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin
Plot: A Chinese family discover their grandmother has only a short while left to live and decide to keep her in the dark, scheduling a wedding to gather before she dies.
“Gloria Bell” (A24 – March 8)
Director: Sebastian Lelio
Writers: Sebastian Lelio, Alice Johnson Boher
Cast: Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Sean Astin
Plot: A free-spirited woman in her 50s seeks out love at L.A. dance clubs.
“The Good Liar” (Warner Bros. – November 15)
Director: Bill Condon
Writer: Jeffrey Hatcher (who adapted Nicholas Searle’s novel of the same name)
Cast: Ian McKellen, Helen Mirren, Russell Tovey, Jim Carter, Mark Lewis Jones
Plot: A seasoned conman finds himself growing to care for the woman he orchestrated his latest scheme against after meeting her online.
“Judy” (BBC Films – Fall)
Director: Rupert Goold
Writers: Tom Edge (who adapted Peter Quilter’s stage play “End of the Rainbow”)
Cast: Renée Zellweger, Rufus Sewell, Finn Wittrock
Plot: Judy Garland arrives in London in the winter of 1968 to perform a series of sold-out concerts.
“The King” (Netflix – Fall)
Writer/Director: David Michod
Cast: Timothee Chalamet, Robert Pattinson, Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton
Plot: A retelling of Shakespeare’s “Henry V”
“Knives Out” (Lionsgate – November 27)
Writer/Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Lakeith Stanfield, Michael Shannon, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer.
Plot: A modern murder mystery in a classic whodunit style.
“Queen & Slim” (Universal – November 27)
Director: Melina Matsoukas
Writers: James Frey, Lena Waithe
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Bokeem Woodbine, Jodie Turner-Smith
Plot: A couple’s first date takes an unexpected turn when a police officer pulls them over.
“The Souvenir” (A24 – May 17)
Writer/Director: Joanna Hogg
Cast: Tilda Swinton, Honor Swinton-Byrne, Tom Burke, Richard Ayoade
Plot: A film student in the early 1980s becomes romantically involved with a complicated and untrustworthy man.
“Tolkien” (Fox Searchlight – May 10)
Director: Dome Karukoski
Writers: David Gleeson, Stephen Beresford
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, Colm Meaney, Anthony Boyle, Patrick Gibson
Plot: The formative years of the orphaned author as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts at school.
Untitled Noah Baumbach Project (Netflix – Fall)
Writer/Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern
Plot: The story follows an unfolding divorce that spans from New York City to Los Angeles.
“Where’d You Go Bernadette” (United Artists – August 9)
Writer/Director: Richard Linklater (who adapted Maria Semple’s novel of the same name)
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, Kristen Wiig, Laurence Fishburne, Emma Nelson
Plot: After her anxiety-ridden mother disappears, 15-year-old Bee does everything she can to track her down.
“Yesterday” (Universal – Summer)
Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Richard Curtis
Cast: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran
Plot: A struggling musician realizes he’s the only person on Earth who can remember The Beatles.
Click on the linked categories below to read our previews of each of these races.