The Films To Watch Out For In The Oscars Race

Culture
By Rufus Punt | 26th October 2023
Oscar Films

The end of 2023 might be approaching, but the awards season for Hollywood is just getting started. There are still a few big films to be released, but now we’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s hot and what’s not when it comes to eventual Oscar glory next year. From Oppenheimer to Past Lives, there are plenty of movies this year that look like winners, and a few that haven’t even been released yet.

With so many to keep track of, we’ve put together a list of the films to watch out for this Oscar season, whether you missed them in the cinema or are looking to see them in the coming months.

Poor Things

Poor Things

The Emma Stone-led Poor Things is definitely one of the strongest contenders for the awards next year, with the off-kilter dark comedy receiving glittering reviews.

Adapting a 1992 novel of the same name, it sees a young woman (Stone) run off in search of self-discovery and liberation after being resurrected by an eccentric scientist (Willem Dafoe). Director Yorgos Lanthimos’ previous film The Favourite just missed out on Best Picture back in the 2019 ceremony. Still, it resulted in Olivia Colman winning her first Oscar. Poor Things certainly seems like it could pick up awards in the directing, cinematography and costuming departments, as well as Adapted Screenplay and maybe even Stone’s second Best Actress Oscar.

release date: 12.01.2024

where to watch: In cinemas

Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers of the flower moon

Even at 80, Martin Scorsese is still teaching younger directors how it’s done: the three-and-a-half hours long Killers of the Flower Moon is another filmmaking achievement to add to his belt.

Set in the early 1920s, it tells the tale of the murders of Osage Nation members in Oklahoma as one Native American woman married to a white husband searches to find the truth behind the massacre. Leonardo DiCaprio as the naive and money-obsessed Ernest Burkhart will almost certainly be a strong contender for Best Actor, and Robert De Niro’s performance as the calculating William King Hale is being called his best in decades. It’s hard to see anyone beating Lily Gladstone as Mollie Burkhart, the woman at the centre of the ordeal, to grab an acting award, and the film is a strong contender for Best Picture.

release date: out now

where to watch: In cinemas and Apple Tv

Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer

So far, out of every film released this year (and even those still to come), Oppenheimer is still the one to beat. Things may change during awards season, but the story of the man who created nuclear weapons feels like it’s now destined for Oscar glory.

Cillian Murphy’s excellent performance as the torn J. Robert Oppenheimer is the favourite to win Best Actor, and Robert Downey Jr will surely be wrangling with De Niro for Best Supporting Actor, with his portrayal of the manipulative Lewis Strauss.

Emily Blunt is likely to be up there for Best Supporting Actress, and the film will almost certainly be down for a stack of technical awards for its mesmerising effects and set pieces. Christopher Nolan may be one of the biggest directors on the planet, but he’s never won a Best Director or Best Picture gong at the Oscars- this film though is easily his best shot yet. Finally, Ludwig Göransson’s incredible soundtrack, which jumps back and forth from being inspiring to haunting, is a likely Best Original Score winner.

release date: out now

where to watch: Prime Video

Barbie

Barbie

The highest-grossing film of the year is usually not one to be a strong Oscar contender (unless you’re Titanic or Return of the King) but Barbie looks like it’ll have a presence at this year’s awards. The comedy based on fashion dolls has gotten a strong reception and has become a pop culture stand-out – how often can you call those Oscar contenders?

It’s pretty doubtful it’ll pick up Best Picture, but anything with Greta Gerwig attached will undoubtedly have some recognition, even if it’s just nominations. Expect to see Barbie’s name in the Best Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling and Production Design lists.

The script Gerwig co-wrote with partner Noah Baumbach will likely be in the mix for a nod. There’s also currently something of a guerrilla campaign for Ryan Gosling to be a contender for Best Supporting Actor, which may well happen- and surely, “I’m Just Ken” will be performed at some point during the ceremony.

release date: out now

where to watch: Prime video

Maestro

Maestro

Maestro feels a bit like a film designed for Oscar voters to sit up and take notice, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a genuinely solid contender for awards. It’s a biopic about one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, but it’s also not entirely formulaic, focusing more on Leonard Bernstein (Bradley Cooper) and his wife Felicia (Carey Mulligan)’s relationship than the tortures of being an artist.

It has Scorsese and Spielberg attached as producers, and Cooper has an Oscar history with A Star Is Born and Silver Linings Playbook. Mulligan’s performance will likely get a nod, and Cooper will probably be on the list for Best Actor- though criticisms of him using prosthetics to play a Jewish man may hurt his chances.

release date: 20.11.2023

where to watch: select cinemas and netflix

The Zone of Interest

Zone of Interest

An historical drama about the Holocaust, The Zone of Interest has received a lot of critical attention, including winning the Grand Prix award at the Cannes Festival earlier this year. Centring around Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel), the commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, it tells how he and his wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller) attempt to build a dream life for themselves and the rest of their family next to the camp. It was directed by British director Jonathan Glazer, and so has been selected as the entry for Britain for Best International Picture at the Oscars, and may well materialise in other categories as well.

release date: tbc

where to watch: tbc

Past Lives

Past Lives

Celine Song’s directorial debut Past Lives looks like it’ll be another contender at the Oscars next year, with the film getting universal acclaim for its relatable themes and heartfelt nature. Following two friends who start to reconnect after growing apart, this narrative is inspired by real events in Song’s life. It’s a wistful mediation on friendship, relationships and childhood connections. It will likely make the lists for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, and the central performances from Greta Lee and Teo Yoo may well end up getting nominations for acting too.

release date: out now

where to watch: prime video

Napoleon

Napoleon

Napoleon hasn’t been released yet, nor have any official reviews been made public yet, but it certainly seems like it has the potential as an award-winning film. As you can probably glean from the title, it’s an epic historical drama about the legendary French leader and his dizzying rise to power and military glory.

Big historical epics have somewhat fallen out of fashion and Oscar prestige, but Napoleon is directed by veteran filmmaker Ridley Scott and is led by Joaquin Phoenix, who only a few years ago won the Best Actor Oscar for Joker. Rising star Vanessa Kirby is playing Napoleon’s wife Empress Josephine, in what looks like her first big prestigious role. We’ll have to see what the reviews say when it’s finally released in November- but a positive reception could make it a serious contender.

release date: 22.11.2023

where to watch: in cinemas

The Bikeriders

Bikeriders

An ode to biker culture and the transformative decade of the 60s, The Bikeriders is another film that will be angling to get in on the Oscars action come next year. It certainly has elements that appeal, with a throwback nostalgic nature and themes of loyalty and trust, led by a glittering cast. Austin Butler could well be up for an acting gong for a second year running, following his missing out on the Best Actor Award last year for Elvis, while Jodie Comer will be gunning for her first Oscar nomination for her role as Kathy in the film. Director Jeff Nichols could meanwhile be up for a directing award for the movie’s gritty and realistic feel.

 

release date: 01.12.2023

where to watch: In cinemas

Priscilla

Priscilla

Another year, another Elvis Presley film up for Oscars? It seems pretty plausible, though of course, this one is more concerned with Priscilla Presley than the King himself.

The biopic of the wife of Elvis and later successful businesswoman has received critical acclaim, particularly for its performances from Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi in the starring roles, and its analytical look at one of rock’s most famed relationships. Cailee Spaeny’s turn as Priscilla in particular has been lauded by critics, as something of a breakout role. Sofia Coppola has an Oscar history, winning Best Original Screenplay for Lost in Translation as well as a directing nom. Fashion and style are always key elements in her films, so expect nods in the costuming and design categories as well.

release date: 01.01.2024

where to watch: In cinemas

The Color Purple

The Colour Purple

The Color Purple, like Napoleon, has yet to be released, so we don’t know yet how well it’ll do with critics. However, the original novel it’s based on won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and Steven Spielberg’s previous film version received 11 Oscar nominations- though it didn’t win any. The stage musical this film adapts also received nominations at the Tony Awards in 2006 and again in 2016- so it certainly could be a contender. The story explores the lifelong struggles of Celie, an African-American woman living in the South in the early 20th century. Expect the soundtrack to get recognition, as well as the performances from Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P. Henson and Daniel Brooks.

release date: 26.01.2024

where to watch: In cinemas

The Boy and the Heron

The boy and the heron

Animation tends to go a bit under the radar during awards seasons, but anything released by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli is going to get traction. The Boy and the Heron is set to be the auteur’s last film and tells the tale of a young boy named Mahito Maki, who enters into a fantasy world and meets a talking grey heron. It received critical acclaim, and Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away won the Best Animated Feature Oscar, so it’ll surely be on the nominations list. While it’s probably best to see it in the original Japanese, the English dub version features the voices of Robert Pattinson, Gemma Chan, Christian Bale, Florence Pugh, Willem Dafoe and Mark Hamill, and both language versions will release later this year.

release date: 29.12.2023

where to watch: in cinemas

Spider-Man Across The Spiderverse

Spiderman

Comic book films are the genre that everyone’s keen to criticise these days, but a notable exception is the Spiderverse films. Focusing on young Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) and his journey to take up the mantle as Spider-Man, the first film Into the Spider-verse broke out into a hit and won the Best Animated Award for its innovative and zany animation. The sequel released earlier this year continues his adventures in the multiverse as he deals with the Spot (Jason Scwhartzman) and Miguel O’Ohara (Oscar Isaac), as well as his friendship with Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld). It’ll definitely be a fan favourite to win the animation award again.

release date: Out now

where to watch: prime video


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