2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Documentary Feature [UPDATED: November 9]

Predicting the winner of the Best Documentary Feature Oscar will become a lot easier in the new year when the academy announces the 15 films that have made the shortlist. Those semi-finalists are culled from the 150 plus titles that qualify every year for consideration. (Scroll down for the most up-to-date 2021 Oscars predictions for Best Documentary Feature.)

To winnow these down to a manageable number, the academy adds newly eligible documentary feature to a virtual screening room available to all 500 plus members of the documentary branch. While all members are encouraged to watch as many of these as they can, one-fifth of the voters are assigned each title. In the new year, each branch member will submit a preferential ballot listing their top 15 choices.

All of these ballots will be collated to determine the 15 semi-finalists. Branch members will then be encouraged to watch those films on this list that they haven’t seen yet before casting another preferential ballot on which they list their top five choices. The resulting five Documentary Feature nominees will be unveiled along with all the other Oscar categories on March 15. All academy voters can cast ballots for the winner of this race, which will be revealed during the Oscar ceremony on April 25.

Usually to be eligible for consideration, a documentary feature usually has to first qualify with week-long runs in Los Angeles and New York City which merited reviews by film critics of leading publications or be screened at certain film festivals. Those requirements have been waived this year, with streaming allowed as a means of qualification.

Fourteen of the films noted below are nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Critics Choice Awards; in its first four years, the CCDA has predicted 13 of the 20 eventual Oscar nominees and one winner (“O.J.: Made in America” in 2017).

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UPDATED: November 9, 2020

Leading Contenders

“All In: The Fight for Democracy” (Amazon)
Directors: Lisa Cortes, Liz Garbus

“Athlete A” (Netflix)
Directors: Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk
CCDA Nominee

“Boys State” (Apple TV+)
Directors: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss

“Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution” (Netflix)
Directors: James Lebrecht, Nicole Newnham
CCDA Nominee

“Dick Johnson is Dead” (Netflix)
Director: Kirsten Johnson
CCDA Nominee

“The Dissident” (Briarcliff Entertainment)
Director: Bryan Fogel

“Gunda” (Neon)
Directors: Anita Rehoff Larsen, Victor Kossakovsky
CCDA Nominee

“John Lewis: Good Trouble” (Magnolia Pictures/Participant)
Director: Dawn Porter

“MLK/FBI” (IFC Films)
Director: Sam Pollard

“Rebuilding Paradise” (National Geographic)
Director: Ron Howard

“The Truffle Hunters” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Directors: Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw

“Welcome to Chechnya” (HBO)
Director: David France

PREDICT the 2021 Oscar nominations through March 15

Strong Contenders

“Assassins” (Greenwich Entertainment)
Director: Ryan White

“I Am Greta” (Hulu)
Director: Nathan Grossman

“Belushi” (Showtime)
Director: R.J. Cutler
CCDA Nominee

“The Fight” (Magnolia Pictures/Topic Studios)
Directors: Eli B. Despres, Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg
CCDA Nominee

“Fireball” (Apple+)
Directors: Directors: Werner Herzog, Clive Oppenheimer

“The Go-Go’s” (Showtime)
Director:  Alison Ellwood
CCDA Nominee

“My Psychedelic Love Story” (Showtime)
Director: Errol Morris

“Oliver Sacks: His Own Life” (Zeitgeist Films)
Director: Ric Burns

“The Painter and the Thief” (Neon)
Directors: Benjamin Ree, Ingvil Giske
CCDA Nominee

“River City Drumbeat” (Argot Pictures)
Directors: Anne Flatte, Marlon Johnson

“The Social Dilemma” (Netflix)
Director: Jeff Orlowski
CCDA Nominee

“Spaceship Earth” (Neon)
Directors: Matt Wolf, Stacey Reiss

“Time” (Amazon)
Director: Garrett Bradley
CCDA Nominee

“Totally Under Control” (Neon)
Directors: Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan, Suzanne Hillinger

“The Velvet Underground” (Apple TV+)
Director: Todd Haynes

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Possible Contenders

“Acasa, My Home” (HBO)
Director: Radu Ciorniciuc

“Be Water” (ESPN)
Director: Bao Nguyen

“Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn (HBO)
Director: Ivy Meeropol

“City Hall” (PBS
Director: Frederick Wiseman

“Collective” (Magnolia Pictures/Participant)
Director: Alexander Nanau

“Dads (Apple+)
Director:  Bryce Dallas Howard

“Disclosure” (Netflix)
Director: Sam Feder

“Feels Good Man” (Wavelength Productions)
Directors: Giorgio Angelini, Arthur Jonesos
CCDA Nominee

“Giving Voice” (Netflix)
Directors: James D. Stern, Fernando Villena

“The Human Factor” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Director: Dror Moreh

“Kingdom of Silence” (Showtime)
Director: Rick Rowley

“Once Upon a Time in Venezuela” (Spiraleye)
Director: Anabel Rodriguez Rios

“Miss Americana” (Netflix)
Director: Lana Wilson

“Mr. Soul!” (Shoes in the Bed Productions)
Directors: Melissa Haizlip, Sam Pollard
CCDA Nominee

“The Mole Agent” (Gravitas Ventures)
Director: Maite Alberdi

“My Octopus Teacher” (Netflix)
Directors: Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed
CCDA Nominee

“Notturno” (21 Unofilm)
Director: Gianfranco Rosi

“A Secret Love” (Netflix)
Director: Chris Bolan
CCDA Nominee

“Stray” (Magnolia Pictures)
Director: Elizabeth Lo

“76 Days” (MTV)
Directors: Weixi Chen, Hao Wu

“A Thousand Cuts” (PBS)
Director: Ramona S. Diaz

“The Way I See It” (Focus Features)
Director: Dawn Porter

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