Wednesday, May 22, 2024

2020-2021 Oscar Contenders That Aren’t From Netflix

By Agambir Bajwa 

​Over the past few months, it’s been tricky to predict how the 2020-2021 awards season will move forward, given our current coronavirus situation. I mean movie theatre openings keep getting pushed back, cases in the United States continue to rise, and it seems like films are getting delayed every week. Tenet has had 4 release dates by now, and it’s only July. Through this insanity, it can seem like Netflix, with the amount of awards contenders it has, can be the only company keeping the awards conversation alive this year. 

​It’s no doubt that this year’s awards season will be different from the rest. Certain movies that look good on paper might not be released this year. Some movies may go to PVOD or streaming, but some cannot afford too. In this moment of uncertainty, I’ve made a list of films coming out in the latter half of this year and early 2021 that could be possible awards contenders that aren’t from Netflix. That way, at least we can have something positive to look forward to.

However, each film has a release date listed beside it (if given by the studio) and my opinion on whether it should be released in theaters or go straight to PVOD/ Streaming. Again, each film is different, and I’ve put on my “business hat” while giving my opinion because we have to remember, that Hollywood at the end of the day is like any other business, and their movies need to make money, especially nowadays.

Please Note: The films mentioned below have completed filming and are either in post-production or completely finished. Some films have specific release dates given by the studio, which are subjected to change as we head into award season. This isn’t a list of every single possible contender coming out, just one’s that I am aware of.


“Tenet” (Warner Bros. – Global Launch starting August 26, 2020)
Oscar Trajectory: Coming off of “Dunkirk,” the expectations for “Tenet” are high. If this is the first major film welcoming audiences back to theaters and helps the theatre chains financially, it will be a massive bonus in “Tenet’s” cap.
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Visual Effects, Production Design, Best Sound & Best Original Score
Theatrical/PVOD?: This needs to be a theatrical release because there is no way “Tenet” will be profitable on PVOD. It will be interesting to see how Warner Bros tackles the staggered release for “Tenet,” especially because Nolan’s films do tend to be very secretive.

“Those Who Wish Me Dead” (Warner Bros. – October 23, 2020)
Oscar Trajectory: This film is directed by Taylor Sheridan (“Hell or High Water”) and has an all-star cast and a very compelling story. If it’s as good as Sheridan’s previous work, I would expect it to get nominated across the board. 
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress (Angelina Jolie), Best Supporting Actor (Nicholas Hoult, Jon Bernthal & Tyler Perry) & Best Adapted Screenplay
Theatrical/PVOD?: Again, this film doesn’t seem that expensive to make, so I could see it doing very well on PVOD with a cast like this. I think we’ll need to see some footage from the movie to decide.

​“News of the World” (Universal – December 25, 2020)
Oscar Trajectory: Paul Greengrass reuniting with Tom Hanks could be excellent. Their last collaboration was with “Captain Phillips,” which was nominated for six Oscars. Also, Tom Hanks is a bit of a hero right now, so I could see this going far.
Possible Nominations: Best PictureBest Director, Best Actor (Tom Hanks) & Best Adapted Screenplay
Theatrical/PVOD?: Again, we’ll have to see some footage from the film, but I think it could be another PVOD release. I don’t know if people will go out of their way to see this type of film in theaters during a pandemic.

“Respect” (United Artists – January 15, 2021)
Oscar Trajectory: I know many people think this could be the next “Judy” or “Harriet,” but I think the film looks very promising from its trailers. If there is a lot of audience support for this film, I think it could do really well.
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress (Jennifer Hudson), Best Supporting Actor (Forest Whitaker), Best Supporting Actress (Audra McDonald), Best Adapted Screenplay, Production Design, Costume Design & Make-Up and Hair
Theatrical/PVOD?: This seems like the perfect holiday film for everyone. I think it could do really well financially if they make it seem like an event movie.

“Ammonite” (Neon – No Release Date)
Oscar Trajectory: This film is part of the Cannes, and TIFF line-up this year, which seems very promising on top of this being a romance between Oscar favorites Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan. 
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Kate Winslet), Best Supporting Actress (Saoirse Ronan), Best Original Screenplay, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography & Best Original Score 
Theatrical/PVOD?: I’m mixed on this decision. For a smaller film like this, the box office isn’t the only measure of success, “Ammonite” could do very well down the line on VOD and streaming. I would say that they should do a theatrical release. If it doesn’t work out, there isn’t too much harm done.

“Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” (20th Century Pictures – January 22, 2021)
Oscar Trajectory: This film adapts a very popular musical, and I think the story just seems fantastic. You also have the team who worked on the stage production working on the film, so I think it could do very well if it’s really good. 
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Richard E. Grant), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Production Design & Best Costume Design
Theatrical/PVOD?: This film could do really well in theaters if they make it seem like an “event” movie.

“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures – Fall 2020)
Oscar Trajectory: With “Nomadland” and “The Eternals,” I think Chloé Zhao might step up within the industry. It’s a TIFF, Venice, and New York Film Festival premiere which seems promising. Also, the story here seems very powerful. 
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Frances McDormand) & Best Adapted Screenplay
Theatrical/PVOD?: Again, I’m not sure how big of a theatrical audience there is for this movie. I think it’s a better fit for PVOD, but if we see some footage, and there’s tons of audience interest, it should be a theatrical release. 

Soul (Disney – November 20, 2020)
Oscar Trajectory: This seems like Pixar’s best film – it’s a Cannes selection, and was rumored to go to Telluride. Pixar has never done this before, so I would imagine “Soul” is a very special film. 
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay  & Best Animated Feature
Theatrical/PVOD?: Again, this is clearly a theatrical film, and I think it could do very well in theaters. There is no way it can do as well on PVOD. The only way I see this film being pulled from theaters is if Disney gets desperate for content on Disney+. Other than “The Mandalorian” season two, there isn’t much high profile content coming to Disney+.


“The Father” (Sony Pictures Classic – No Release Date)
Oscar Trajectory: This premiered at Sundance and has been getting a lot of buzz for Anthony Hopkins, so I would imagine it could get him a nomination, but other than Hopkins, I think this film might struggle to get into other categories. 
Possible Nominations: Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins) & Best Adapted Screenplay
Theatrical/PVOD?: I don’t think there’s a big enough audience for this film to justify a theatrical release, so I would just send it straight to PVOD.

“C’mon, C’mon” (A24 – 2020)
Oscar Trajectory: This film is written and directed by Mike Mills and stars Joaquin Phoenix coming off of his Oscar-winning performance in “Joker.” If it’s as good as Mills’ other film “20th Century Woman,” it could get a couple of nominations. 
Possible Nominations: Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix) & Best Original Screenplay 
Theatrical/PVOD?: I think this could do well on PVOD, I just don’t see it doing well theatrically. It isn’t the type of film the average person will see in the middle of a pandemic.
“The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (Searchlight Pictures – No Release Date)
Oscar Trajectory: This film has the potential to be very good based on the story it’s depicting. It stars Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Bakker and Andrew Garfield as Jim Bakker. It’s from the director of “The Big Sick,” Michael Showalter, so it could be a very competitive film. 
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Jessica Chastain), Best Supporting Actor (Andrew Garfield), Best Adapted Screenplay & Best Costume Design
Theatrical/PVOD?: Again, this is the type of film where we need to see some footage to determine if it’s worth seeing in theaters or just a streaming movie. I could see a lot of interest in this movie if it’s any good, so I would release it theatrically.

“Dune” (Warner Bros. – December 18, 2020)
Oscar Trajectory: The only reason this film is on this list is because it’s directed by Denis Villeneuve. I’m scared for this movie because the first adaptation of “Dune” didn’t do that well critically or financially. Warner Bros./ Villeneuve seems intent on making this into a franchise and not focusing on delivering one really good movie, which in my opinion, isn’t always a good sign. 
Possible Nominations: Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Hair and Makeup, Best Sound & Best Original Score
Theatrical/PVOD?: Again, there’s no way “Dune” can turn a profit on PVOD, and even a theatrical release is worrisome because Villeneuve’s work has never connected with mainstream audiences, and the film seems to be following a similar trajectory to “Blade Runner 2049.” Villeneuve is the opposite of Nolan at the box office, because Nolan is a household name, no matter what he does, mainstream audiences and cinephiles are interested. With Villeneuve, mainstream audiences don’t see his films in theaters, and it seems like he’s only well regarded with cinephiles. With a film of this scale and budget, “Dune” needs to have both a business and artist sense. I wonder if Villeneuve can deliver financially and artistically this time.

“Next Goal Wins” (Searchlight Pictures – No Release Date)
Oscar Trajectory: This is Taika Waititi’s next film, following his Oscar-winning “Jojo Rabbit.” I wonder if this film might be too comical for the Academy to want to nominate it. Still, if anyone can balance powerful dramatic moments, with comedy, it’s Taika Waititi.
Possible Nominations:Best Actor (Michael Fassbender) & Best Original Screenplay
Theatrical/PVOD?: The story here seems more like a Netflix film, so I would send this to Disney+ or PVOD.


“On The Rocks” (A24/ Apple TV+ – 2020)
Oscar Trajectory: This is Sofia Coppola’s latest film starring Rashida Jones and Bill Murray. However, it is a drama/ comedy, and the story seems kind of small, so I don’t think it’ll break through unless it’s exceptional. I could see “On The Rocks” being this year’s “The Big Sick.” 
Possible Nominations: Best Supporting Actor (Bill Murray) & Best Original Screenplay
Theatrical/PVOD?: It’s already going to Apple TV+, so is this even a question?

“Red, White, and Water” (A24 – Early 2021)
Oscar Trajectory: This film is from a first time director, stars Jennifer Lawrence, and is about her character struggling to adjust to life back home after suffering traumatic brain injuries while fighting in Afghanistan. This is not only a perfect role for Lawrence to come back into the mainstream, but this is the type of film that gets a lot of attention (if it’s any good). Let’s hope A24 can run a solid campaign for this film. 
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Supporting Actor (Brian Tyree Henry), Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound & Best Cinematography. 
Theatrical/PVOD?: Again, we’ll have to see footage from the film to determine if it’s worth releasing theatrically, but story-wise, this film seems like it demands to be seen on the big screen.

“Stillwater” (Focus Features – Fall 2020)
Oscar Trajectory: “Stillwater” comes from the Oscar-winning director of “Spotlight,” Tom McCarthy, and stars Matt Damon and Abigail Breslin. It’s about a father traveling to France from Oklahoma to help his daughter, who has been arrested for murder. I don’t know how this will do, box office wise, and awards wise, but it seems interesting. 
Possible Nominations: Best Actor (Matt Damon), Best Supporting Actress (Abigail Breslin) & Best Original Screenplay
Theatrical/PVOD?: I don’t think that there’s a big enough audience for this film to be released theatrically. It seems like something that belongs on a streaming service.

“The French Exit” (Sony Pictures Classics – 2020)
Oscar Trajectory: This film seems a bit strange, but I love it. It’s about a socialite (Michelle Pfeiffer) who moves to Paris with her son (Lucas Hedges) with the little money she has left, and their cat voiced by Tracy Letts. It could be very good, or it could be bad, but I’m really excited about it.
Possible Nominations: Best Actress (Michelle Pfeiffer), Best Supporting Actor (Lucas Hedges) & Best Original Screenplay
Theatrical/PVOD?: This just seems like a PVOD or streaming film. I just don’t think this type of film can do well theatrically nowadays.

“Mulan” (Disney – No Release Date)
Oscar Trajectory: It’s the first blockbuster with an all Asian cast, so it can follow a similar awards trajectory to “Black Panther.”
Possible Nominations: Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Hair and Make-Up & Original Song 
Theatrical/PVOD?: While I’m really excited to see “Mulan,” I don’t know how much audience interest remains. The majority of the marketing campaign finished in March, and they’ve already had two big premieres. I have a feeling that “Mulan” won’t seem fresh to audiences anymore because it feels like it already came out ages ago, so I would move it to Disney+, which is in desperate need of content. Again, it won’t be very profitable on Disney+ as it would be in theaters, but the hype has significantly dialed down and this film by no means is a slam dunk at the box office.

“Wonder Woman 1984” (Warner Bros. – October 2, 2020)
Oscar Trajectory: It’s a shame that the first “Wonder Woman” wasn’t nominated for any Oscars because not only was it a fantastic film, but it was the highest-grossing film directed by a woman, the first major superhero film starring a woman, had a very diverse cast, and changed how women were perceived in the industry and the mainstream. If the second film is a big hit like the first, I could see it getting into some technical categories. 
Possible Nominations: Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Hair and Make-Up, Original Score & Best Sound
Theatrical/PVOD?: “Wonder Woman 1984” cannot afford to be released on PVOD. With the budget it has, it needs to be released theatrically. However, the problem here is that two-thirds of the film has been revealed through merchandise and novels for the film, which came out in early June when the film was initially supposed to be released. This will be a tricky situation for Warner Bros to handle. I don’t think that the film can take much more of a delay because it was supposed to come out in November 2019 and the more it gets delayed, the less I think mainstream audiences will be interested in it.

“The Woman in the Window” (20th Century Pictures – No Release Date)
Oscar Trajectory: This film has an all-star cast, is directed by Joe Wright and written by Tracy Letts. This should be the perfect Oscar movie, but the early buzz around it is that it’s not that good. However, no one has seen the movie, so that can all change.
Possible Nominations: Best Actress (Amy Adams), Best Cinematography & Best Editing 
Theatrical/PVOD?: While my heart says theatrical, my mind says PVOD. The trailer’s visuals are great, and there is big-screen talent working in-front of and behind the camera, so it pains me to say this, but it should go to PVOD. I don’t think there is a big-enough audience to support this movie theatrically nowadays. To be honest, this seems like the perfect fit for Apple TV+. If I was a Disney/ Apple executive, I would be pursuing this.

So, this has been my take on certain films coming out in the latter half of this year and early 2021 that seem like awards contenders. Which films do you think will get nominated this year? How do you think they should be released? What do you think will happen with the Oscars next year? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or on our Twitter account. Also be sure to check out the NBP Team’s Oscar Predictions here.

You can follow Agambir and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @AgambirBajwa

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