Eight upcoming and already released films to keep an eye on for the 2021 Oscar season.

Written by: Kelly Levine – November 11th, 2020 8:45 pm pst

Films to watch out for


As we enter winter 2020, Oscar season is becoming the forefront of every film enthusiast’s mind. However, this Academy Awards cycle will be vastly different than any that has come before it. The coronavirus pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down, which means that many movie theaters in the United States will remain closed. A majority of the films up for Oscar consideration this year either premiered on streaming services or had short theatrical runs. Although the pickings are slimmer this year that doesn’t impact the quality of these highly anticipated films. 

Ma Raney’s Black Bottom

Coming to Netflix on December 18th,  Ma Raney’s Black Bottom already has major significance because it features the final performance of Chadwick Boseman, who sadly passed away of colon cancer in August of this year. Based on the play by August Wilson, Ma Raney’s Black Bottom focuses on the tension between blues singer Ma Rainey and her band as they gather at a recording studio in Chicago in 1927. Playing the eponymous Ma Raney is Viola Davis who is no stranger to the works of August Wilson. She received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Rose in the film adaptation of Fences. Her Fences co-star and director Denzel Washington is producing Ma Raney’s Black Bottom as he has personal connections to both Boseman and Davis. Washington sponsored Chadwick Boseman’s tenure at the Oxford Mid-Summer Program of the British American Drama Academy. It is highly speculated that Boseman will at least receive a posthumous nomination if not win for his role in this film. 


If you were a fan of Greta Gerwig’s Little Women or Portrait of a Lady on Fire, then look no further for your next Saoirse Ronan flick than Ammonite. The film is written and directed by Francis Lee who is most known for making the critically acclaimed God’s Own Country, which follows a farmer falling in love with a Romanian migrant worker. Like God’s Own Country, Ammonite is an LGBTQ+ story, starring Academy Award winner Kate Winslet, who plays Mary Anning, a real life famous fossil hunter. However, this story takes a more fictional turn when Mary is given an apprentice named Charlotte performed by Saoirse Ronan. The two embark on a passionate affair while Charlotte’s husband is none the wiser. Ammonite is sure to get some love from the Academy for its acting, and it would be no surprise to see Saoirse Ronan gain her fifth Oscar nomination. 


Another Netflix production, Mank, sees the return of beloved director David Fincher. The last film Fincher directed was Gone Girl in 2014, whose films always make a splash on awards season discussion. His 2010 film, The Social Network nearly took home the best picture prize, but was narrowly beaten out by The King’s Speech. Recently. Fincher has stuck to directing television like Mindhunter or House of Cards. With Mank, David Fincher strays away from his usual modern and clinical style to embrace 1930s Hollywood. The film is seen through the eyes of its protagonist, real life alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and his tireless battle to write the screenplay of Citizen Kane. Gary Oldman, who recently won an Academy Award for portraying Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour plays Mank. Other big names in the cast are Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, and Charles Dance. The screenplay for the film was written by David Fincher’s father Jack in the 90s. David originally planned to adapt his father’s script after finishing his 1997 movie The Game, but the project fell through. Years after Jack’s death in 2003, Fincher is finally able to carry on his father’s legacy with this film. 

Trial of the Chicago Seven 

Netflix is currently having a very busy year. As one of the only platforms able to distribute movies this year they’ve been taking full advantage of their fantastic 2020 lineup. Trial of the Chicago Seven is the second film directed by Academy Award winning writer Aaron Sorkin. The film follows a group of anti–Vietnam War protesters who are charged with conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intention of inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Sorkin is no stranger to writing courtroom based dramas. One of his earliest plays, A Few Good Men, focuses on military lawyers at a court-martial trial, while his most successful film, The Social Network, covers the legal proceedings of Mark Zuckerburg. The film also touts an all-star cast. Sacha Baron Cohen who made headlines by reprising his role as Borat this year will play the lead role of Abbie Hoffman. Also in the film are Jeremy Strong and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who each won Emmys this year for their roles in Succession and Watchmen respectively. The good news is that unlike the previous films mentioned, Trial of the Chicago Seven is already available to watch on Netflix. 


Frances McDormand has already won two Oscars for Best Lead Actress and is rumored to pick up a third for Nomandland. Chloé Zhao who received critical acclaim for her 2017 film The Rider, wrote and directed the film. Based on the non fiction book by Jessica Bruder, Nomandland tells the story of older American workers traveling the country in search of employment due to the recession. Frances McDormand plays Fern who is a combination of the several ‘nomads’ Jessica Bruder covers in her book. Nomandland is already gaining accolades as it won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. The winner of the Golden Lion last year Todd Phillip’s Joker garnered eleven Academy Award nominations. It also won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, making it the first film ever to win the top prize at both Venice and Toronto. Nomandland is expected to hit screens on December 4th, while Chloé Zhao remains hard at work directing Marvel’s The Eternals

One Night in Miami 

Regina King makes her directorial debut in One Night in Miami, which is a fictional tale containing real life figures. The film is about a fictionalized meeting of Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke in a Miami hotel room in February 1964, celebrating Ali’s surprise title win over Sonny Liston. The cast is relatively unknown save for Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr who is playing Sam Cooke. Since Cooke was a renowned singer in real life, hopefully we can hear a bit of Leslie’s angelic voice in the film. While Regina King is most well known for her acting expertise, she is also being praised for her skills as a director. One Night in Miami is the first film directed by an African-American person to be screened at the Venice Film Festival. The themes of friendship, and the chemistry between the cast are very clear from the short clip released on Youtube. Unfortunately we’ll have to wait a little bit longer for One Night in Miami as Amazon Studios scheduled a limited theatrical release for December 25. Then the film will be released digitally on Prime Video on January 15, 2021.


For those of us who are more inclined to seek out independent films, Minari is perfect for you. Produced by A24, The Walking Dead’s Steven Yuen stars in Minari as a patriarch who moves his Korean American family to Arkansas in order to cultivate a farm. Upon the arrival of their foul-mouthed, but well meaning grandmother, the family embarks on massive change as they chase their own American Dream. Minari has managed to stay on the minds of film critics since it’s January premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. It won both the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize as well as the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award, which are two of the highest honors at the festival. Also, Minari has held its strong 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes since January. The expected limited release for Minari is December 11th, while the wide release will happen on February 12th 2021.  

On the Rocks 

The latest work from Oscar darling Sofia Coppola, On the Rocks reunites her with her Lost in Translation star Bill Murray. On the Rocks, is very on brand for Coppola as her films explore the complexities of human connection and emotion. Rashida Jones stars as a woman who is suspicious of her husband so she enlists her father played by Bill Murray to follow him. The two have a strained relationship due to the father’s larger than life style of living, but learn to bond on this adventure through New York City. This isn’t Coppola’s first dramedy about father and daughter relationships. Her 2010 film Somewhere carried very similar themes. When On the Rocks had its world premiere at the New York Film Festival and limited release on October 2nd it was praised for its lighter tone and Murray’s performance. The last time Murray and Coppola worked together (with the exception of Netflix’s A Very Murray Christmas) Murray was nominated for an Oscar. We can safely assume he is heading for the gold again.

About The Author:

Kelly Levine is a screenwriting student at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and an intern at AfterBuzz TV. She hopes to one day pursue a career in television writing and production. Kelly loves television, movies, and all things nerdy in pop culture!

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