Oscars 2020: The Runners And Riders


With awards season about to get into full swing, it’s high time that we took a look at the films standing in contention for the biggest prizes of all at next years Academy Awards.

The Irishman

In contention for: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best A. Screenplay, Best Visual Effects

The three and a half-hour magnum opus of cinematic legend Martin Scorsese, The Irishman is undoubtedly one of the big hitters in this year’s awards season.

A stunningly moving and deeply impressive piece of work, it feels like the stand-out film of the year through and through, and with the greatest potential to go on as an all-time classic. Its lead performances are astonishing, and will all be in contention for nominations at least.

Its screenplay is equally flawless, and will be tough to match in the Adapted Screenplay category. Meanwhile, it might not seem like the film to do it, but The Irishman might just have Best Visual Effects nailed down, thanks to its groundbreaking ‘de-aging’ CGI.

Read a full review of The Irishman here.


In contention for: Best Picture, Best Director, Best O. Screenplay, Best International Feature, Best Editing

Having a non-English-language film in the running for Best Picture is always a delight, and there have arguably been few in the past quite as competitive and widely adored as Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite.

A masterful thriller from the South Korean director, the film is an exhilarating and darkly hilarious watch from start to finish, featuring a totally unpredictable screenplay that pulls you back and forth on a breathless rollercoaster throughout.

Its widespread acclaim, immense talent and brilliant style are all worthy of awards recognition, but its fun factor and accessibility are arguably what’s helping to push it so close to the highest award of all. It has the recently re-titled Best International feature already sewn up, but with a tough fight, Parasite could feasibly win Best Picture too come February.

Read a full review of Parasite here.

Marriage Story

In contention for: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best O. Screenplay

Alongside The Irishman and Parasite, Marriage Story stands as one of my three favourite films of the year, and it looks to be in real contention for all of the Big Five awards at the Oscars.

Noah Baumbach’s deeply moving and beautifully genuine story of a dysfunctional marriage, the film is a gorgeous, funny, emotional and relatable watch, complete with two powerhouse lead performances from Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, along with a stunningly natural and engrossing screenplay.

Marriage Story feels like a real Oscar classic, with stunning power coming from an understated, real-world story. It faces a strong fight in the Best Picture and Director category, but is a frontrunner for Actor and Original Screenplay as things stand, and I personally hope it stays that way when the ceremony rolls round.

Read a full review of Marriage Story here.


In contention for: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography

There’s always one film that dominates the so-called technical categories, and while The Irishman might have Visual Effects in the bag, Sam Mendes’ one-shot war thriller 1917 looks set to sweep all the rest.

Almost a dead-cert for Best Cinematography with Roger Deakins, the film’s one-shot style takes things up a level, shooting in story order in exterior, natural locations – an immense technical feat that only adds to the immersion and power of its story of bravery and fear.

Couple that with almost universal critical acclaim from those who’ve seen it so far, and 1917 has a very strong chance at taking Best Picture too. The field is so competitive with so many quality films this year, but 1917’s combination of stunning spectacle, historical value and riveting drama has all the ingredients for a worthy overall winner.

Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood

In contention for: Best Picture, Best O. Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, Best Editing

Quentin Tarantino’s latest passion project takes us to Hollywood in the 1960s, and a unique look at the lives of an aging actor, his stunt double, and a rising starlet, all set against the backdrop of the infamous Manson family cult.

Featuring an immersive and detailed portrayal of its time period that goes far beyond most other films, Tarantino’s love letter to the fading years of Hollywood’s Golden Age is undeniably impressive, and with a few of his classic trademarks of intricate storytelling, exciting violence and genre-breaking humour, fans of the director with surely have lots to appreciate.

Personally, I’m not the greatest advocate of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, given I feel it lacks the consistency and focus of many of Tarantino’s best films, and certainly the other main contenders for this year’s Oscars, but there’s no denying that there’s a lot of love for this film around the world. Its July release may hurt it when it comes to maintaining momentum through the awards campaign, but don’t count it out till the last minute.

Read a full review of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood here.


In contention for: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best O. Screenplay, Best Makeup & Hairstyling

Of all the major riders and runners this season, Bombshell looks set to be the one to raise a few eyebrows. With a timely story that looks at sexual harassment and discrimination in the media, the film goes on the attack with a provocative and passionate attitude, and will certainly feature heavily in the biggest conversations over the next few months.

With great hype around its trio of lead performances, the film is certain to pick up some nominations in the acting categories, while its rapid-fire, passionate and insightful Sorkin-esque script stands it in good stead to fight a strong fight in the Original Screenplay category.

It might not quite have the momentum to threaten the main frontrunners just yet, but with a later release and strong industry hype, Bombshell might come out of nowhere and be the big surprise of the upcoming campaign.


In contention for: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best O. Screenplay

By far and away the boldest blockbuster of the year, Joker became the first R-rated film to gross over $1bn at the box office, and received admittedly polarising but impressive critical and audience reception at the same time.

While it might be crowded out in Best Picture by some stronger features, the film’s popularity will surely carry it to a nomination, while lead Joaquin Phoenix stands a real chance in the Best Actor category for his harrowing performance as Arthur Fleck, a disturbed man who takes to a life of crime as he seeks revenge on the cruel world around him.

Joker’s polarising reception will generate huge debate when it comes to being nominated, but that will only keep its momentum and hype at fever pitch all the way to the Oscars ceremony in February, and although it might not take home the top prize, there’s a real chance it could fight an intense battle in a number of other categories.

Read a full review of Joker here.

The Chasing Pack

In stark contrast to the mess of last year, the field this awards season is so jam-packed with quality that the competition looks to be more exciting and fierce than ever.

So, here’s a list of other big hitters that you must make sure to check out before the big day on February 9, 2020.

Ford v Ferrari/Le Mans ’66 (dir. James Mangold)

The Farewell (dir. Lulu Wang)

Jojo Rabbit (dir. Taika Watiti)

Little Women (dir. Greta Gerwig)

The Two Popes (dir. Fernando Meirelles)

A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood (dir. Marielle Heller)

Richard Jewell (dir. Clint Eastwood)

Rocketman (dir. Dexter Fletcher)

Knives Out (dir. Rian Johnson)


About Author

The Mad Movie Man, AKA Anthony Cullen, writes articles and reviews about movies and the world of cinema. Since January 1st, 2013, he has watched and reviewed a movie every day. This is the blog dedicated to the project: www.madmovieman.com