2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Picture

Predicting the Best Picture winner is often the toughest among the 24 categories at the Oscars. We learned this at the 2020 Academy Awards. We were certain the top prize would go to “1917” but it was “Parasite” that prevailed. When making our Best Picture Oscar predictions, we weigh many factors, the most important of which is the effect of the preferential ballot that is used only for this race (voters rank all the nominees with the winner being the one that is the consensus choice.)

We also take into account the pedigree of the filmmakers, the critical reception to their previous films, the box office tally and the track record of the studios. We’ve taken all of these into consideration again as we look ahead to the 2021 Academy Awards. (Scroll down for the 2021 Oscars predictions for Best Picture.)

Early contenders were launched at the Sundance Film Festival in January and others will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May; that is where “Parasite” debuted. But the majority of the Best Picture hopefuls won’t screen until September where they will unspool at one or more of  four film festivals: Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York. Others will just make the eligibility deadline with limited releases in December, as was the case with “1917.”

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.

DISCUSS All the Oscar contenders with Hollywood insiders in our notorious forums

UPDATED: March 16, 2020

Leading Contenders

“Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix – Fall)
Director: Spike Lee
Writers: Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo, Spike Lee, Kevin Willmott
Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Delroy Lindo, Paul Walter Hauser, Norm Lewis
Plot: Four Vietnam veterans return to Vietnam in search of the remains of their fallen squad leader and the promise of buried treasure.

“The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics – Fall)
Director: Florian Zeller
Writers: Christopher Hampton and Zeller who adapted the latter’s play of the same name.
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell
Plot: A man refuses all assistance from his daughter as he ages.

“The French Dispatch” (Searchlight Pictures – July 24)
Writer/Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet,Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, Steve Park, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson.
Plot: A love letter to journalists set in an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional 20th-century French city that brings to life a collection of stories published in “The French Dispatch” magazine.

“Hillbilly Elegy” (Netflix – Fall)
Director: Ron Howard
Writer: Vanessa Taylor who adapted the memoir of the same name by J.D. Vance.
Cast: Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Gabriel Basso, Freida Pinto, Bo Hopkins
Plot: A modern exploration of the American Dream about three generations of an Appalachian family.

“Mank” (Netflix – Fall)
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Jack Fincher
Cast: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Tuppence Middleton, Arliss Howard
Plot: Screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz battles with director Orson Welles over screenplay credit for “Citizen Kane.”

“News Of The World” (Universal – December 25)
Director: Paul Greengrass
Writers; Paul Greengrass, Luke Davies
Cast: Tom Hanks, Mare Winningham, Helena Zengel
Plot: A travelling newsreader is tasked with bringing an orphaned girl to her living relatives in the aftermath of the American Civil War.

“Next Goal Wins” (Searchlight Pictures – Fall)
Director: Taika Waititi
Writers: Iain Morris and Waititi who adapted the documentary of the same name.
Cast:: Michael Fassbender, Elisabeth Moss, Kaimana, Beulah Koale, Rachel House, Armie Hammer.
Plot: A coach takes the American Samoa national football team to the World Cup.

“Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures – Fall)
Director:  Guillermo del Toro;
Writers: del Toro and Kim Morgan who adapted the novel of the same name by William Lindsay Gresham.
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins
Plot: A corrupt con-man teams up with a female psychiatrist to trick people into giving them money.

“Tenet” (Warner Bros. – July 17)
Writer/Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh
Plot: A secret agent is tasked with preventing World War III through time travel

“Trial of the Chicago 7” (Paramount – September 25)
Writer/Director: Aaron Sorkin
Cast: Michael Keaton, Eddie Redmayne, Alex Sharp, Sacha Baron Cohen
Plot: The story of 7 people on trial stemming from various charges surrounding the uprising at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

“West Side Story” (20th Century – December 18)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Tony Kushner who adapted the stage play of the same name by Arthur Laurents
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, Corey Stoll, Brian d’Arcy James, Rita Moreno
Plot: Teenagers Tony and Maria, despite having affiliations with rival street gangs, the white Jets and Puerto Rican Sharks, fall in love in 1950s New York City.

Strong Contenders

“Ammonite” (Neon – Fall)
Writer/Director:  Francis Lee
Cast:Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Fiona Shaw
Plot: 1840s England, an infamous fossil hunter and a young woman sent to convalesce by the sea develop an intense relationship, altering both of their lives forever.

“Dune” (Warner Bros. – December 18)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writers:  Eric Roth, Jon Spaihts and Villeneuve who adapted the novel of the same name by Frank Herbert.
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin
Plot:  The son of a noble family is entrusted with the protection of the most valuable asset and most vital element in the galaxy.

“Good Morning, Midnight” (Netflix – Fall)
Director: George Clooney
Writer: Mark L Smith who adapted the novel of the same name by Lily Brooks-Dalton.
Cast. George Clooney, Felicity Jones, Kyle Chandler, David Oyelowo, Demian Bichir
Plot: A lonely scientist in the Arctic races to stop astronauts from returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe.

“Ironbark” (Lionsgate – Fall)
Director: Dominic Cooke
Writer: Tom O’Connor
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel Brosnahan, Jessie Buckley
Plot: The true story of the British businessman who helped the CIA penetrate the Soviet nuclear programme during the Cold War.

“King Richard” (Warner Bros. – November 25)
Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green
Writer: Zach Baylin
Cast: Will Smith, Jon Bernthal, Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton.
Plot: A look at how tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams became who they are after the coaching from their father Richard Williams.

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix – Fall)
Director: George C. Wolfe
Writer: Ruben Santiago-Hudson who adapted the play of the same name by August Wilson.
Cast: Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman
Plot: When Ma Rainey, the “Queen of the Blues,” makes a record in a studio in Chicago, 1927, tensions boil between her, her white agent and producer, and bandmates.

“On The Rocks” (A24 – Fall)
Writer/Director: Sofia Coppola
Cast: Rashida Jones, Bill Murray, Marlon Wayans, Jessica Henwick, Jenny Slate
Plot: A young mother who reconnects with her larger than life playboy father on an adventure through New York City.

“Prisoner 760” (BBC – Fall)
Director: Kevin MacDonald
Writer: Michael Bronner who adapted the memoir “Guantanamo Diary” by Mohamedou Ould Slahi.
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim, Shailene Woodley, Zachary Levi
Plot: A man held in custody at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp turns towards a pair of lawyers to aid him.

“Stillwater” (Focus – November 6)
Director: Tom McCarthy
Writers:  Thomas Bidegain, Noé Debré
Cast: Matt Damon, Abigail Breslin, Camille Cottin, Deanna Dunagan
Plot: A father travels from Oklahoma to France to help his daughter who has been arrested for murder.

Possible Contenders

“Annette” (Amazon – Fall)
Director: Leos Carax
Writers: Ron Mael, Russell Mael
Cast: Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard
Plot: A stand-up comedian and his opera singer wife, have a 2 year old daughter with a surprising gift.

“Blonde” (Netflix – Fall)
Writer/Director: Andrew Dominik who adapted the novel of the same name by Joyce Carol Oates.
Cast: Ana De Armas, Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Julianne Nicholson
Plot: A fictionalized take on the life of Marilyn Monroe.

“The Boys In The Band” (Netflix – Fall)
Director: Joe Mantello
Writer; Matt Crowley, who adapted his play of the same name.
Cast: Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer |
Plot: A group of gay men who gather in a NYC apartment for a friend’s birthday party.

“The Eyes Of Tammy Faye” (Searchlight Pictures – Fall)
Director: Michael Showalter
Writer: Abe Sylvia
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield,  Vincent D’Onofrio
Plot: Televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker seek redemption after their religious empire and marriage crumbles.

“French Exit” (Sony Pictures Classics – Fall)
Director: Azazel Jacobs
Writer: Patrick deWitt, who adapted his novel of the same name
Cast: Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges, Tracy Letts
Plot: A close to penniless widow moves to Paris with her son and cat, who also happens to be her reincarnated husband.

“In the Heights” (Warner Bros. – June 26)
Director: John Chu
Writer: Quiara Alegría Hudes, who adapted her book for the musical of the same name.
Cast: Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Jimmy Smits
Plot: A bodega owner has mixed feelings about closing his store and retiring to the Dominican Republic after inheriting his grandmother’s fortune.

“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures – Fall)
Writer/Director: Chloé Zhao
Cast: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, Charlene Swankie
Plot: A woman in her sixties who, after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West.

“The Prom” (Netflix – Fall)
Director: Ryan Murphy
Writers: Chad Beguelin, Bob Martin, Jack Viertel
Cast: Meryl Streep,  Nicole Kidman, James Corden, Andrew Rannells, Keegan-Michael Key, Awkwafina
Plot: Four Broadway actors travel to a conservative town to help a lesbian student banned from bringing her girlfriend to high school prom.

“Red, White, and Water” (A24 – Fall)
Director: Lila Neugebauer
Writer: Elizabeth Sanders
Cast; Jennifer Lawrence, Brian Tyree Henry, Samira Wiley
Plot: A US soldier suffers a traumatic brain injury while fighting in Afghanistan and struggles to adjust to life back home.

“Respect” (UA – October 9)
Director: Liesl Tommy
Writer: Tracey Scott Wilson
Cast: Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Tate Donovan
Plot: The life story of legendary R&B singer Aretha Franklin.

“The Woman in the Window” (20th Century – May 15)
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.

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