Oscar Predictions: 25 Movies You Need to See Before the 2020 Academy Awards Nominations

Oscars 2020
Art by Nick Mantle / Images via STXfilms / Warner Bros. / NEON / 20th Century Fox / Sony Pictures

From 'A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood' to 'The Irishman' to '1917.'

Oscars season is officially upon us -- though, if you're a dedicated armchair pundit, it's been upon us for a while now. The 2020 Oscars will cap off an abbreviated awards season -- the telecast is scheduled for Feb. 9, weeks earlier than usual -- so in many ways, the race to the Dolby stage began before the 2019 Oscars ever aired.

Now that the festival circuit has come to an end -- with would-be nominees premiering to Oscar buzz or seeing their hopes die on the vine -- and awards season festivities have officially commenced, it's time to start sussing out the films and performances that will go all the way. See our individual breakdowns here:

Best Picture

Best Actress

Best Actor

Best Supporting Actress

Best Supporting Actor

Below, ET has compiled our Oscars essentials list, i.e. 25 movies we're predicting will get nominations this year. While this list covers everything we expect to be up for Best Picture -- along with Best Actor, Actress and Director -- there's no way of knowing if it's entirely comprehensive until the Academy announces their nominations on Jan. 13.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood may be a movie about Mister Rogers, but Fred Rogers is not the lead. Which works to Tom Hanks' advantage: In a Best Actor-heavy year, the two-time Oscar winner's portrayal of Rogers is a shoo-in for Best Supporting Actor. Beyond that, things feel a bit more up in the air. This is the same Academy that passed over the similarly minded Won't You Be My Neighbor? documentary, after all.

A groundswell of love for the film upon release would help solidify its place in the Best Picture race and boost its standing in categories like Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Production Design, the latter for the film's meticulously recreated sets of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. While I'd love to see Marielle Heller compete for Best Director, it's hard to imagine her not being overshadowed by some of the heavier hitters in the mix.

Where to watch: In theaters Nov. 22

Avengers: Endgame

Marvel Studios cracked the Best Picture race for the first time with Black Panther, suggesting the Academy is willing to grant its stamp of approval on certain superhero movies. Might Endgame follow suit, both in recognition of what a monumental achievement it is as a film and in how big a hit it was? (It is officially the highest-grossing film of all time.) Or could Robert Downey Jr. pop up in an acting field -- as fans have called for -- despite opting not to launch a formal campaign? Likely, you'll find this one nominated in Best Visual Effects.

Where to watch: Streaming on Disney+ on Nov. 12


Any murkiness over how Bombshell -- which tells the story of the Fox News women who brought down Roger Ailes -- would play to Hollywood audiences was assuaged when early audiences called it a slam dunk for Best Picture, with Charlize Theron, who portrays Megyn Kelly, and Margot Robbie, playing a composite character named Kayla Pospisil, easy picks for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. The script, by Oscar-winning The Big Short writer Charles Randolph, should appear in Best Original Screenplay.

Jay Roach for Best Director, Nicole Kidman, who plays Gretchen Carlson, for Best Supporting Actress and John Lithgow, as Ailes, for Best Supporting Actor all feel a bit further down the list, while Regina Spektor's track, "One Little Soldier," is a bit of an unknown in the Best Original Song race. At the end of the day, Bombshell is guaranteed at least one nomination: Best Makeup & Hairstyling, for Kazu Hiro (who won the award in 2018 for Darkest Hour) and his team's uncanny transformation of Theron into Kelly.

Where to watch: In theaters Dec. 20


Universal's Cats musical is the giant, furry question mark of Oscars prognosticating. Is it going to be a total disaster? Or will it make a run for Best Picture? Best Director for Tom Hooper? Best Supporting Actress for Jennifer Hudson? Best Production Design and Best Original Song -- for a new number, "Beautiful Ghosts," penned by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Taylor Swift -- seem probable, but mostly it feels impossible to nail down at this point. I mean, does digital fur technology count for Best Makeup & Hairstyling or Best Visual Effects?!

Where to watch: In theaters Dec. 20

Dolemite Is My Name

The Academy loves a good comeback narrative, and Dolemite is one helluva comeback vehicle for Eddie Murphy, who was Oscar-nominated once before in 2007. (He was favored to win Best Supporting Actor at the time for his performance in Dreamgirls.) Now, his portrayal of Rudy Ray Moore, the godfather of rap, has him back in the Best Actor conversation. (And Murphy returning to host Saturday Night Live is a brilliant campaign move.) But in an increasingly crowded field, will voters overlook this charming comedy for something with more gravitas?

Where to watch: On Netflix now

Downton Abbey

From the Emmys to the Oscars, the Crawleys would like to formally invite your consideration. Looking back on which Emmys the final season won -- Hairstyling, Production Design and Supporting Actress -- is more or less reflective of where I see it appearing on Academy ballots: Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Costume Design and Best Production Design, with two-time Oscar winner Maggie Smith up for Best Supporting Actress for what may well be her last turn as The Dowager Countess.

Where to watch: In theaters now

The Farewell

Every year, there's a film that sails out of Sundance on the hopeful wings of Oscar buzz, only to be blanked come nominations time. (Your Eighth Grades, your Sorry to Bother Yous.) This year that's writer-director Lulu Wang's deeply personal dramedy, The Farewell. As (naively?) optimistic as I still am about the film earning a nomination for Best Picture or Best Actress for Awkwafina, the smart money is on either a semi-surprise Best Supporting Actress nomination for Zhao Shuzhen or Best Original Screenplay for Wang.

Where to watch: Digitally on Oct. 29, on Blu-ray and DVD on Nov. 12

Ford v Ferrari

Despite what their name placement on the poster may lead you to believe, Matt Damon does not play Ford and Christian Bale does not play Ferrari. Still, the movie is so much a two-hander that both stars will be competing for Best Actor, instead of dabbling in some light category fraud and running one in supporting. Bale has the showier role as driver Ken Miles, and in a crowded race, I expect he will get in over Damon, who plays car designer Carroll Shelby. Throw in some technical recognition -- Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Editing -- and Ford v Ferrari seems primed for a Best Picture nomination.

Where to watch: In theaters Nov. 15

Frozen 2

Like its predecessor, expect to see Frozen 2 nominated for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song, the latter I predict will once again be for the movie's Idina Menzel showstopper. (This time it's the endlessly catchy "Into the Unknown.") The more pressing question is whether the Frozen follow-up will repeat the original's two-for-two win ratio, especially considering this year's Animated Feature race will be Walt Disney Animation Studios versus Pixar, which has Toy Story 4.

Where to watch: In theaters Nov. 22


Harriet feels like the sort of prestige biopic that's easy to see Academy voters rallying around, but after a muted reception on the festival circuit, it would have to generate a lot of momentum in theaters for the picture or director Kasi Lemmons to become major contenders. Still, Harriet has two key points of entry into the Oscars race: Best Actress, for Cynthia Erivo's portrayal of Harriet Tubman, and Best Original Song, for Erivo and co-writer Joshuah Brian Campbell's "Stand Up." Either way, it's progress toward Erivo's inevitable EGOT.

Where to watch: In theaters Nov. 1


I would love nothing more than to see Hustlers -- the most important movie of 2019 -- get nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costume Design and Best Choreography (an award that should have been created immediately upon seeing Jennifer Lopez's introductory pole dance). Those are feeling slightly more like long shots. What feels right and real is a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Lopez, for her endlessly captivating turn as stripper-turned-scammer Ramona. If you don't think J.Lo delivered one of the best performances of the year, then I don't know what movie you saw.

Where to watch: In theaters now

The Irishman

If Roma's Best Picture nomination proved the Oscars' strained relationship with Netflix was improving, then Martin Scorsese's mob opus might break down that barrier once and for all. Rarely does Scorsese miss with the Academy -- 2016's Silence, aside -- and The Irishman will no doubt return him to both the Best Picture and Best Director races. (But will he win? As revered as he is by his peers, Scorsese has only one Oscar win for helming The Departed). The movie should also be up for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Production Design, among other technical categories.

I'd put money on Robert De Niro making Best Actor for his performance as the titular mobster, and Al Pacino being in Best Supporting Actor for playing Jimmy Hoffa. Joe Pesci, who co-stars as mafioso Russell Bufalino, would be my second pick in Supporting Actor, but The Irishman is earning such raves that I wouldn't be surprised to see them both nominated. The technology used to (very impressively) de-age the actors is sure to get recognized in Best Visual Effects, too.

Where to watch: In select theaters Nov. 1, streaming on Netflix on Nov. 27

Jojo Rabbit

One of the clearest harbingers for an eventual Best Picture nomination is the Toronto International Film Festival's People's Choice Award. The past few years alone saw Oscar favorites like La La Land, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and 2019's winner, Green Book, take the prize. This year, it went to Jojo Rabbit, effectively reserving its spot in the Best Picture race. Mostly positive reviews and a solid-enough opening will help the Nazi comedy's prospects down the ballot, but nothing is guaranteed. (It is a Nazi comedy.)

The Best Director race is in need of some fresh faces, and how great would it be to see Taika Waititi pop up there? It'll be a fight to get in, with spots seemingly preordained for Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino. (That Waititi is the literal face of the film could work for or against him. Just ask Bradley Cooper.) He may land in Best Adapted Screenplay, instead, while Scarlett Johansson delivers a truly supporting performance -- a smaller part she capitalizes on with wit and heart -- that could earn her one of two nominations this year, this one for Best Supporting Actress.

Where to watch: In theaters now


Last year, the Venice Film Festival bestowed its top prize, the Golden Lion, upon eventual Best Picture nominee Roma. The year before that it was The Shape of Water, which went on to win Best Picture. So when Joker won it -- and in the year after Black Panther shattered the Oscars' superhero glass ceiling -- it jumped to the top of the heap.

But now, with the controversy, polarizing reviews and record-breaking box office having come and gone, it's hard to gauge where Joker stands. Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay are still a possibility, while Best Makeup & Hairstyling seems likely, but no matter what you think of the movie, we can all agree Joaquin Phoenix will be among the Best Actor nominees for his portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime.

Where to watch: In theaters now


In ways that are both similar to and couldn't be more different from Joker, Judy received favorable enough reviews, but no matter what you think of the film as a whole, the reason to see it was always Renée Zellweger's performance as Judy Garland. Early on, she was cemented as the Best Actress frontrunner -- and so far, no one has come close to challenging that status. Additionally, Judy should nab a spot in the newly expanded Best Makeup & Hairstyling category for the wig work and subtle prosthetics that transformed Zellweger into Garland.

Where to watch: In theaters now

Little Women

The Little Women of 1994 was nominated for three Oscars (including Winona Ryder for Best Actress), so awards season pundits inevitably wondered whether Greta Gerwig's take would follow suit -- turns out, three nominations would be lowballing it. Little Women is an easy pick for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, for Gerwig's adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's beloved novel, and though this year's Best Director race is tight, I'm backing Gerwig. (If she does, she'll be the first female filmmaker to ever be nominated there twice.) Plus, there's Best Costume Design, Best Production Design and Best Original Score for two-time Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat.

And that's before you consider the acting possibilities: Saoirse Ronan should count on a fourth Oscar nomination, for Best Actress, for playing Jo March, while Florence Pugh, who plays Amy, is the clear pick among the Little Women cast for Best Supporting Actress. (Meryl Streep is great -- she's Meryl Streep! -- as is Laura Dern, but Pugh runs away with it. Dern will likely run for Marriage Story, anyway.) Academy wunderkind Timothée Chalamet, meanwhile, could sneak into Best Supporting Actor. Never count out Timmy T.

Where to watch: In theaters Dec. 25

Marriage Story

Noah Baumbach's last movie, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), was on the Oscars bubble, but his latest -- a love story about divorce -- is safely among the films leading this year's Best Picture race, with Baumbach seemingly set for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. If those nominations feel inevitable at this point, then the acting nominations might as well be announced now: Best Actor for Adam Driver (who is arguably the frontrunner at this point), Best Actress for Scarlett Johansson (which would be her first-ever nomination) and Best Supporting Actress for Laura Dern, who plays Johansson's character's divorce lawyer.

Where to watch: In select theaters Nov. 6, streaming on Netflix on Dec. 6

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino's love letter to Old Hollywood is the type of Oscars juggernaut that could appear in nearly every category on the ballot: Best Picture, where it's sure to be nominated; Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for Tarantino (who has won the latter twice but not the former); Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio's performance as the fading Western star, Rick Dalton; Best Supporting Actor for Brad Pitt's turn as his trusty stuntman, Cliff Booth; plus, Best Production Design and Best Costume Design and best whatever else you have to throw at it.

The one field that seems unsettled is Best Supporting Actress. Margot Robbie's sensitive rendering of Sharon Tate made her an early favorite, but she'll eventually have to choose which supporting turn to hitch her star to, lest she risk splitting votes and find herself nomination-less. (Academy rules stipulate she can't be nominated in the same category twice.)

Where to watch: In theaters, re-released as an extended cut with 10 minutes of unseen footage

Pain and Glory

If Parasite is the Roma of this year's race (more on that below), then Spain's entry, Pain and Glory, is the Cold War, the film everyone is expecting to be among the five Best Foreign Language Film picks -- newly rebranded to Best International Feature Film -- but which has the potential to break into any number of categories: Pedro Almodóvar, an Oscar winner for writing and nominee for directing 2003's Talk to Her, is up for Best Director, while his star and stand-in in the meta tale, Antonio Banderas, has a similarly promising chance of being in Best Actor.

Where to watch: In select theaters now


South Korea's Oscar entry, Parasite, has been the Best International Feature Film front-runner since it won the Palme d'Or at Cannes. But after breaking box office records when it opened stateside, it's now positioned to follow a similar trajectory as Roma and break into Best Picture, Best Director (for Bong Joon-ho) and Best Original Screenplay. Personally, I'd also love to see a pair of Best Supporting Actor and Actress nominations for Song Kang-ho and Hye-jin Jang.

Where to watch: In select theaters now

The Report

Steven Soderbergh's last Oscar nominations were in 2001, when he was dual-nominated for directing Erin Brockovich and Traffic (the latter for which he won). Still, whenever he has a new project out, it's worth doing an Oscars check. This year, he has his hand in two: He directed The Laundromat, which seemed dead on arrival, especially because its stars have other roles to throw their weight behind (Banderas for Pain and Glory, Streep for Little Women).

The Report, which Soderbergh produced and Scott Z. Burns directs, however, boasts an Annette Bening performance that has Best Supporting Actress potential. Adam Driver's solid work in this, meanwhile, will mostly support his Best Actor campaign for The Marriage Story.

Where to watch: In theaters Nov. 15, streaming on Amazon Prime on Nov. 29

Toy Story 4

Toy Story 3 was the first film in the franchise to be nominated for Best Animated Feature, since the category wasn't actually introduced until 2002. That the fourth one will get that nomination is all but guaranteed. Likewise, each Toy Story thus far has earned a Best Original Song nod for its Randy Newman-penned track, a feat "The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy," sung by Chris Stapleton, should repeat. Whether Toy Story 4 will be recognized beyond those categories -- say, making it into Adapted Screenplay like its precursor -- remains to be seen.

Where to watch: On Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand

The Two Popes

The Two Popes, a sort of odd-couple dramedy about Pope Francis and Pope Benedict, has been slowly and steadily delighting viewers on the festival circuit, but will soon make its way to Netflix and a much larger audience. That's when we'll really be able to suss out its Oscar chances. Still, I expect Jonathan Pryce (who plays Francis, aka the Cool Pope) and Anthony Hopkins (Benedict) will run in Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively. If the movie also picks up a Best Adapted Screenplay nod, it's not unreasonable to think the streamer might have a third Best Picture entry on its hands.

Where to watch: In select theaters Nov. 27, streaming on Netflix on Dec. 20


Get Out made history when it was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, and with Jordan Peele taking home the prize for Best Original Screenplay, many wondered whether his follow-up would be another outlier to the Academy's general disregard for all things horror. Alas, though there are a number of places I could see Us sneaking in -- Best Original Screenplay, the sound categories -- its best bet is Lupita Nyong'o in Best Actress.

Where to watch: On Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand


Sight unseen, Sam Mendes' WWI epic has loomed over this year's Oscars race, with many pundits holding a spot for 1917 and its helmer in the Best Picture and Best Director races. (Mendes was last nominated for directing American Beauty, which he won.) After seeing the first trailer, we went ahead and penciled it in straight down the below-the-line ballot -- Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing, the latter of which heavily favor war films -- to be safe.

Fun fact: 1917's cinematography is by 14-time Academy Award nominee Roger Deakins, who won his first Oscar in 2018 for Blade Runner 2049. The music is by composer Thomas Newman, who is also a 14-time nominee and could finally collect his first Oscar for Best Original Score.

Where to watch: In theaters Dec. 25