Frontrunners are already forming in the Oscar race for Best Original Screenplay, according to early combined predictions at Gold Derby. While most films in contention have not yet been released, many were recently seen by film industry insiders at the Toronto, Telluride and/ or Venice Film Festivals. We’ve confirmed most category placements with studios or campaigners, but — as awards season veterans know — such labels can change later. The whole bottom three of this list from last month — “Us,” “Queen and Slim” and “The Lighthouse” — have been replaced by a trio of film fest faves.
Here are the current top 10 original screenplay picks according to racetrack odds based upon our users’ predictions as of Sept. 17:
1. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”: Quentin Tarantino‘s ode to hippie-era Tinseltown has many of his big-screen trademarks, from bare female feet and rambling speeches to spot-on vintage music cues and over-the-top violence. But this now-middle-aged game changer also indulges in a nostalgia for what might have been by shifting the course of tabloid history with a happy ending.
Oscar history: Tarantino’s two Oscar wins came in this category. He shared his honor for 1994’s “Pulp Fiction” will co-scribe Roger Avary while he went solo for his script for 2012’s “Django Unchained.” He also was nominated for his 2009 screenplay for his World War II -inspired effort “Inglourious Basterds.”
2. “Marriage Story” (opens limited on Nov. 6, starts streaming on Netflix on Dec. 6): Some might assume that what might be a 21st-century version of “Kramer vs. Kramer” — about a bitter divorce between a New York-based playwright (Adam Driver) and a TV actress in L.A. (Scarlett Johansson) that includes a custody battle — is based on director/writer Noah Baumbach‘s own divorce from actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, who — like the couple in the film — had a young son.
Oscar history: It turns out Baumbach is a whiz at depicting difficult break-ups, considering that his first and only Oscar nomination was tied to his original screenplay for 2005’s “The Squid and the Whale,” which was based on his own parents’ divorce in the ’80s.
3. “The Farewell”: Bejing-born, Miami-raised director/writer Lulu Wang has been declared a star in the making ever since her 2014 feature debut “Posthumous” landed. Her second film came about after she shared a story on NPR’s “This American Life” in 2016 about how her grandmother wasn’t told about her terminal cancer diagnosis by her family and they stage a wedding as an excuse to have one last reunion. That tale became the basis of Sundance sensation, “The Farewell,” which opened in July and stars comic actress Awkwafina as Wang’s stand-in in a more serious and emotion-driven role.
4. “Parasite” (opens on Oct. 11 in Los Angeles and New York): South Korean director/writer Bong Joon-ho (“The Host,” “Snowpiercer”) won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year with this class-conscious skin crawler that pits two families against one another — one wealthy, one poor — as they engage in a series of violent events.
5. “Pain and Glory” (Oct. 4): Spanish movie maestro Pedro Almodovar‘s saga is about an aging film director (Antonio Banderas), who is in a middle of a creative dry spell while dealing with physical and mental problems as he reflects upon moments in his life.
Oscar history: The director/writer won an Academy Award for his original screenplay for 2002’s “Talk to Her.”
6. “Booksmart”: A sort of “Superbad” for girls as two studious high school seniors (Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever) realized that they missed out on much of the fun that they could have had if they hadn’t been so wrapped up with doing well in school. They try to make up for lost time and get more than they bargained for. Actress Olivia Wilde‘s directing debut was written (and re-written) by four woman: Emily Halper, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel and Kate Silberman.
7. “The Two Popes” (opens limited Nov. 27, streams on Netflix on Dec. 20): This charming two-hander pits conservative German pontiff Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) with the future humanist Argentinian pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce) as they has out issues about the future of the Catholicism in 2013. The movie is directed by Fernando Meirelles and written by Anthony McCarten (“Darkest Hour”), whose adapted script for 2014’s “The Theory of Everything” earned an Oscar nomination.
8. “The Report” (opens Nov. 15): Adam Driver stars as a Senate staffer who is picked to lead an investigation of the CIA’s use of torture on terrorist suspects after the 9/11 attacks. His committee’s findings are met with resistance from the CIA and the White House. Directed and written by Scott Z. Burns, who has previously written screenplays for 2oo9’s “The Informant!” and 2011’s “Contagion.” He produced the 2006 Oscar-winning doc “An Inconvenient Truth.”
9. “Waves” (opens Nov. 1): A family drama written and directed by Trey Edward Shults, the 30-year-old breakout filmmaker behind 2015’s “Krisha” and the 2017 horror movie “It Comes at Night.” It concerns a middle-class African-American family in Florida that suffers a terrible loss and must cope with the aftermath. The drama’s style and story-telling reflects of his mentor Terrence Malick.
10. “Knives Out” (opens Nov. 27): In the style of Agatha Christie crime story adaptations of yore, director/writer Rian Johnson (2005’s “Brick,” 2008’s “The Brothers Bloom” and 2017’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) puts a dark comedy spin on the whodunit genre, complete with an all-star cast topped by Daniel Craig as Detective Benoit Blanc. The spoof earned raves from the often hard-to-please critics at the Toronto film fest, who tend to relish such playful palate cleansers among the higher-brow offerings when done this well.
Be sure to make your Oscar nominee predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on January 13. And join in the fun debate over the 2020 Academy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our film forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.