The film festival season is ending and awards season is just around the corner. If you’re like me most years, you have every intention of seeing all the important films, but by the time the Oscars roll around, you’re scrambling just to see the frontrunners.
To help you (and me) get ahead of the game, I’ve compiled a list of films that are already generating buzz in film critic circles and have a good shot at being nominated.
Below are 22 films, listed by release date, that you should have on your radar.
Apple (Currently on Apple TV+)
IMDB Summary: As a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) Ruby is the only hearing person in her deaf family. When the family’s fishing business is threatened, Ruby finds herself torn between pursuing her love of music and her fear of abandoning her parents.
Director: Sian Heder
Why it’s on the list: Made big waves at Sundance. Marlee Matlin has the best shot at a second Oscar since she won her first one in 1987.
Nominations to watch for: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Marlee Matlin), Adapted Screenplay
NEON (EDIT: Now December 3)
IMDB Summary: FLEE tells the extraordinary true story of a man, Amin, on the verge of marriage which compels him to reveal his hidden past for the first time.
Director: Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Why it’s on the list: As a deeply heartfelt animated documentary, it redefines what a documentary can be.
Nominations to watch for: Best Picture, Best Director, Documentary Feature, Animated Feature
Bleecker Street (October 8 in Select Theaters)
IMDB Summary: Aftermath of a violent tragedy that affects the lives of two couples in different ways.
Director: Fran Kranz
Why it’s on the list: The acting looks phenomenal and it’s exciting to see so much attention on a group of actors that often play second fiddle to bigger stars.
Nominations to watch for: Best Supporting Actor (Jason Isaacs), Best Supporting Actress (Ann Dowd)
The Last Duel
20th Century Studios (October 15)
IMDB Summary: King Charles VI declares that Knight Jean de Carrouges settle his dispute with his squire by challenging him to a duel.
Director: Ridley Scott
Why it’s on the list: Ridley Scott making a period piece is about as classic Oscar bait as you can get. The cast is all around excellent and the reviews coming from NYFF have been really positive.
Nominations to watch for: Best Supporting Actress (Jodie Comer), Adapted Screenplay, Production Design, Sound
Warner Brothers/HBO Max (October 22)
IMDB Summary: Feature adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel, about the son of a noble family entrusted with the protection of the most valuable asset and most vital element in the galaxy.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Why it’s on the list: Not only does this film look visually stunning, but it looks like it could be a technical category juggernaut. The best recent comparison might be Mad Max: Fury Road.
Nominations to watch for: Best Picture, Best Director, Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, Cinematography, Production Design, Sound, Visual Effects, Costume Design, Hair & Makeup
Netflix (October 29)
IMDB Summary: “Passing” follows the unexpected reunion of two high school friends, whose renewed acquaintance ignites a mutual obsession that threatens both of their carefully constructed realities.
Director: Rebecca Hall
Why it’s on the list: Ruth Negga turns in another brilliant performance in this beautifully shot film.
Nominations to watch for: Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress (Ruth Negga)
NEON (November 5)
IMDB Summary: During her Christmas holidays with the royal family at the Sandringham estate in Norfolk, England, Diana decides to leave her marriage to Prince Charles.
Director: Pablo Larraín
Why it’s on the list: Kristen Stewart has been (not so quietly) building her resume for years and finally has a chance at Oscar gold. Pablo Larraín’s latest film looks absolutely gorgeous.
Nominations to watch for: Best Picture, Best Director, Original Screenplay, Best Actress (Kristen Stewart), Best Supporting Actor (Timothy Spall)
Focus Features (November 12)
IMDB Summary: A young boy and his working class family experience the tumultuous late 1960s.
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Why it’s on the list: Kenneth Branagh is loved and respected in Hollywood and this is his most personal undertaking to date. Nine times in the last 11 years, the Oscar winner for best picture has had its American premiere in Telluride. My super early prediction is that Belfast will continue this trend. Following its incredibly well-received premiere in Telluride, it’s the clear frontrunner for Best Picture. Its November release should keep the momentum going into 2022.
Nominations to watch for: Best Picture, Best Director, Original Screenplay, Best Actress (Caitriona Balfe), Best Supporting Actress (Judi Dench), Best Supporting Actor (Ciarán Hinds), Film Editing, Cinematography
Netflix (November 12)
IMDB Summary: On the cusp of his 30th birthday, a promising young theater composer navigates love, friendship, and the pressures of life as an artist in New York City.
Director: Lin Manuel Miranda
Why it’s on the list: This musical based on the life of theater composer Jonathan Larson (creator of the musical RENT) is Lin Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut.
Nominations to watch for: Best Actor (Andrew Garfield), Sound
Warner Brothers/HBO Max (November 19)
IMDB Summary: A look at how tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams became who they are after the coaching from their father Richard Williams.
Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green
Why it’s on the list: Could this be the film that finally gets Will Smith his Oscar? He’s currently a front runner for best actor.
Nominations to watch for: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Will Smith), Best Supporting Actress (Aunjanue Ellis), Original Screenplay, Film Editing
A24 (November 19)
IMDB Summary: A radio journalist embarks on a cross-country trip with his young nephew.
Director: Mike Mills
Why it’s on the list: It got rave reviews in Telluride and Joaquin Phoenix looks like he’s following up his Oscar award winning turn as the Joker with another great performance.
Nominations to watch for: Original Screenplay, Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix)
House of Gucci
MGM/UA (November 24)
IMDB Summary: Spanning three decades of love, betrayal, decadence, revenge, and ultimately murder, we see what a name means, what it’s worth, and how far a family will go for control.
Director: Ridley Scott
Why it’s on the list: Did you not read the summary? Sure to be entertaining, this stellar cast looks like it’s having so much fun.
Nominations to watch for: Best Director, Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor (Adam Driver), Best Actress (Lady Gaga), Best Supporting Actor (Jerod Leto/Al Pacino)
MGM/UA (November 26)
IMDB Summary: The story of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine growing up, running around and going through the treacherous navigation of first love in the San Fernando Valley, 1973.
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Why it’s on the list: The Academy loves PTA. Most of his films have scored at least one Oscar nomination and this one is supposed to be his most tender and romantic to date. Also making it super fun, the film stars Alana Haim (of the band Haim) and Cooper Hoffman (son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman), both of them making their feature film debut.
Nominations to watch for: Best Picture, Best Director, Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Bradley Cooper)
The Power of the Dog
Netflix (December 1)
IMDB Summary: Charismatic rancher Phil Burbank inspires fear and awe in those around him. When his brother brings home a new wife and her son, Phil torments them until he finds himself exposed to the possibility of love.
Director: Jane Campion
Why it’s on the list: The acclaimed director of The Piano (1993) is back directing her first feature film since 2009. The cast is said to be incredible, but it’s Dunst I’m rooting for in this one.
Nominations to watch for: Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch), Best Supporting Actor (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Best Supporting Actress (Kirsten Dunst), Film Editing, Cinematography,
West Side Story
20th Century Studios (December 10)
IMDB Summary: An adaptation of the 1957 musical, West Side Story explores forbidden love and the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Why it’s on the list: This retelling of a classic is one of the most anticipated films of the year. Ariana DeBose is said to shine in the role of Anita…and speaking of Anita, we see the return of Rita Moreno (who originally won an Oscar for the role of Anita in 1962).
Nominations to watch for: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Ariana DeBose), Film Editing, Cinematography, Production Design, Sound
The Hand of God
Netflix (December 15)
IMDB Summary: The story of a boy in the tumultuous Naples of the 1980s. Sorrentino’s most personal film yet is a tale of fate and family, sports and cinema, love and loss.
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Why it’s on the list: It’s a powerful story, it won the Grand Jury Prize at Venice, and Sorrentino is already a proven Oscar winner (La Grande Bellezza, 2013).
Nominations to watch for: Best Picture, Original Screenplay, International Feature Film (Italy)
Searchlight Pictures (December 17)
IMDB Summary: An ambitious carny with a talent for manipulating people with a few well-chosen words hooks up with a female psychiatrist who is even more dangerous than he is.
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Why it’s on the list: His follow up to his Best Picture winner The Shape of Water, del Toro directs an all-star cast and, as always, the production design looks absolutely incredible.
Nominations to watch for: Best Picture, Best Director, Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor (Bradley Cooper), Best Actress (Cate Blanchett), Best Supporting Actress (Rooney Mara/Toni Collette), Film Editing, Cinematography, Production Design, Costume Design
Don’t Look Up
Netflix (December 24)
IMDB Summary: The story of two low-level astronomers, who must go on a giant media tour to warn mankind of an approaching comet that will destroy planet Earth.
Director: Adam McKay
Why it’s on the list: I’ll be honest. I’m not a huge McKay fan. His films always feel more flash than substance, but they always seem to get some Oscar attention. This one looks pretty hilarious though, and you definitely can’t find a better cast.
Nominations to watch for: Original Screenplay, Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill/Rob Morgan), Best Supporting Actress (Meryl Streep)
Sony Pictures Classics (December 24)
IMDB Summary: The story of two mothers who give birth the same day.
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Why it’s on the list: This is Pedro Almodovar’s feature length follow up to “Pain and Glory” and Cruz is said to be magnificent.
Nominations to watch for: Best Actress (Penélope Cruz), Original Screenplay [I would have added it for International Feature Film as well, but Spain surprisingly just submitted a different film for that category!]
The Tragedy of Macbeth
A24/Apple (December 25)
IMDB Summary: A Scottish lord becomes convinced by a trio of witches that he will become the next King of Scotland, and his ambitious wife supports him in his plans of seizing power.
Director: Joel Coen
Why it’s on the list: The directing and acting powerhouses alone make it a must-see. But the fact that it’s a visually stunning and somewhat horrific looking retelling of a Shakespeare classic makes it even that much more irresistible.
Nominations to watch for: Best Picture, Best Director, Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress (Frances McDormand), Best Actor (Denzel Washington), Best Supporting Actor (Corey Hawkins), Cinematography, Production Design, Costume Design,
The Lost Daughter
Netflix (December 31)
IMDB Summary: A woman’s beach vacation takes a dark turn when she begins to confront the troubles of her past.
Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Why it’s on the list: Olivia. Freaking. Coleman.
Nominations to watch for: Best Actress (Olivia Coleman), Adapted Screenplay
Being the Ricardos
Amazon Studios (TBA)
IMDB Summary: Follows Lucy and Desi as they face a crisis that could end their careers and another that could end their marriage.
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Why it’s on the list: I haven’t seen anything substantial about this film, so it’s hard to tell how it will do. But rumors are that it’s really good and could be up for multiple nominations. Also, a Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz biopic with names like Aaron Sorkin, Nicole Kidman, and Javier Bardem attached is hard to bet against.
Nominations to watch for: Best Director, Best Actress (Nicole Kidman), Best Actor (Javier Bardem…rumors are that he’s the real standout!), Production Design, perhaps Costume Design, Hair & Makeup
Bonus Possible Nominations
Respect – Best Actress (Jennifer Hudson)
Cyrano – Best Actor (Peter Dinklage)
The Rescue – Documentary
The French Dispatch – Production Design
No Time to Die – Song
Eternals – Visual Effects
The Matrix Resurrections – Visual Effects
Important Awards Season Dates
February 8 – Oscar Nominations Announced
February 13 – British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards
February 26 – Producers Guild of America (PGA) Awards
February 27 – Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards
March 12 – Directors Guild of America (DGA) Awards
March 20 – Writers Guild of America (WGA) Awards
March 27 – 94th Academy Awards (Oscars)
CANCELED: Golden Globes – NBC has announced that, in light of recent controversies surrounding a lack of diverse voices within the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, it will not air the 2022 Golden Globes ceremony.