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: December 5, 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.
“Bombshell” (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.
“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.
“The Irishman” (Netflix – November 1; streams Nov. 27)
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.
“Jojo Rabbit” (Fox Searchlight – October 18)
Writer/Director: Taika Waititi (who adapted the novel “Caging Skies” by Christine Leunens)
Cast: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Waititi
Plot: A young boy in Hitler’s army finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home.
“Joker” (Warner Bros. – October 4)
Director: Todd Phillips
Writers: Todd Phillips, Scott Silver
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy
Plot: A failed stand-up comedian is driven insane and becomes a psychopathic murderer.
“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.
“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.
“Marriage Story” (Netflix – November 6; streams December 6)
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.
“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.
“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.
“Parasite” (Neon – October 11)
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Writers: Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin-won
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam
Plot: All unemployed, Ki-taek’s family takes peculiar interest in the wealthy and glamorous Parks for their livelihood until they get entangled in an unexpected incident.
“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.
“Dolemite Is My Name” (October 4; streams Oct. 25)
Director: Craig Brewer
Writers: Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Keegan-Michael Key, Wesley Snipes, Chris Rock, Craig Robinson, Mike Epps, T.I.
Plot: The story of Rudy Ray Moore, who transformed himself into a blaxploitation star during the 1970s.
“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.
“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.
“A Hidden Life” (Fox Searchlight – December 13)
Writer/Director: Terrence Malick
Cast: August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Michael Nyqvist, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jürgen Prochnow, Bruno Ganz
Plot: A conscientious objector refuses to fight for the Nazis in World War II.
“Richard Jewell” (Warner Bros. – Dec. 13)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Billy Ray
Cast: Paul Walter Hauser. Sam Rockwell, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde
Plot: Security guard Richard Jewell saves thousands of lives from an exploding bomb at the 1996 Olympics, but is vilified by journalists and the press who falsely report that he was a terrorist.
“The Two Popes” (Netflix – November 27; streams December 20)
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.
“Uncut Gems” (A24 – December 13)
Directors: Josh and Benny Safdie
Writers: the Safdies and Ronald Bronstein
Cast: Adam Sandler, Lakeith Stanfield, Idina Menzel, Judd Hirsch, Eric Bogosian, and Pom Klementieff
Plot: A jewelry store owner must find a way to pay his debts when his merchandise is taken from his girlfriend.
“Waves” (A24 – November 15)
Writer/Director: Trey Edward Shults
Cast: Sterling K. Brown, Alexa Demie Renée Elise Goldsberry, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Lucas Hedges, Taylor Russell
Plot: Two young couples navigate through the emotional minefield of growing up and falling in love.
“Clemency” (Neon – December 27)
Writer/Director: Chinonye Chukwu
Cast: Alfre Woodard, Wendell Pierce, Aldis Hodge
Plot: Years of carrying out death row executions have taken a toll on prison warden Bernadine Williams.
“Dark Waters” (Focus Features – November 22)
Director: Todd Haynes
Writers: Matthew Carnahan, Mario Correra (based on a magazine article by Nathaniel Rich)
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.
“Judy” (Roadside Attractions – September 27)
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.
“Just Mercy” (Warner Bros. – December 25)
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Writers: Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham (who adapted Bryan Stevenson’s memoir of the same name)
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Rob Morgan, Rafe Spall, Tim Blake Nelson
Plot: Civil rights defense attorney Bryan Stevenson recounts his experiences and details the case of a condemned death row prisoner whom he fought to free.
“The Lighthouse” (A24 – Oct. 18)
Director: Robert Eggers
Writers: Robert Eggers, Max Eggers
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson
Plot: The story of two lighthouse keepers on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.
“Pain & Glory” (Sony Pictures Classics – October 4)
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.
“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.
“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
Writer: Stephany Folsom
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.
“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.
Click on the linked categories below to read our previews of each of these races.