Oscars 2020 predictions: Films you need to know about ahead of the 92nd Academy Awards

Bethany Minelle, Arts and entertainment reporter

It's the biggest event in showbiz, where Hollywood stars shine and acting careers are made.

And despite the 92nd Academy Awards being months away, the buzz around potential Oscar-winning films is starting to build.

Film festivals including Toronto, Venice, London and Cannes have helped single out the front-runners.

So which movies and actors could be in the running for entertainment's most coveted trophy?

Joker

Todd Phillips's origin-story of the Clown Prince of Crime, starring Joaquin Phoenix, has been getting lots of attention, but not necessarily for all the right reasons.

Premiering at Venice Film Festival (where it won the Golden Lion award), it earned an eight-minute standing ovation.

However, later red-carpet events were pulled by Warner Brothers ahead of its release due to controversy around its violent themes.

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In the US, law enforcement upped staffing around screenings and warned fans not to wear masks or take fake weapons into cinemas.

The Aurora cinema in Colorado, where a mass shooting took place following a showing of The Dark Knight Rises in 2012, refused to show the film.

On the plus side, Phoenix has received almost unanimous praise, reportedly losing 52 pounds for the role to achieve the "wolf-like and malnourished" look director Todd Phillips wanted.

And if there's one thing Oscar voters love, it's a transformative performance.

Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for his 2008 turn as the Joker, and Phoenix will surely be hoping to add a second gong to the character's award cabinet.

In cinemas Friday 4 October 2019.

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Based on an Esquire article, this biopic stars Tom Hanks as American children's presenter Fred Rogers.

Welshman Matthew Rhys plays the journalist tasked with writing a feature on the much-loved star, while Can You Ever Forgive Me filmmaker Marielle Heller directs.

It will be interesting to see how well this film translates internationally, as while Rogers is a household name in the US (a kind of American Valerie Singleton or John Craven), he's little known in the UK.

However, the Oscars loves a biopic, and this one's about love, kindness and understanding so seems like a shoe-in.

A documentary on the same theme - Won't You Be My Neighbor? - was snubbed at last year's awards, so could this movie make up for it bagging Tom Hanks his third best actor gong?

In cinemas Friday 6 December 2019.

The Irishman

Robert De Nero partners up with director Martin Scorsese for the ninth time in this gangland crime epic.

Based on the book I Heard You Paint Houses, it tells the story of the never-solved mystery of who killed off union leader Jimmy Hoffa.

A Netflix film, it premiered at the New York Film Festival, showing off ambitious de-aging visual effects which took up to 30 years off its leading men - Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci - all of whom are in their 70s.

Jumping back and forth between decades, and with a three-and-a-half-hour running time, some audience members may feel they've gained a couple of years by the end of the film.

One thing's for sure, as a well-known critic of Donald Trump, if De Niro bags a gong on the night chances are he'll have something political to say at the podium.

It's also worth noting that Martin Scorsese has received more best director nods than any other living filmmaker.

There's every chance he could soon be earning his ninth nod.

In cinemas Friday 1 November 2019 and on Netflix Wednesday 27 November.

Judy

Renee Zellweger plays Hollywood legend Judy Garland in this biopic about the twilight of the star's career.

Thirty years after shooting to fame as a child actor in The Wizard Of Oz, the toll of sleeping pills, diet pills and numerous marriages has taken its toll.

The movie shows Garland just six months before her death in 1969, as she performs at Talk Of The Town in London, with varying degrees of success.

With hours in the make-up chair every day to apply prosthetics and a wig, Zellweger will be hoping for some recognition from Academy voters.

Impressively, she also sings in the role, belting out big numbers including Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

Will her bravery in taking on one of the most celebrated singing voices of an age pay off, earning her a best actress nod?

She already has a best supporting Oscar for Cold Mountain, so will be hoping this could be time for the big one.

In cinemas 2 October 2019.

Le Mans '66 / Ford V Ferrari

Christian Bale and Matt Damon head up this motoring movie, which has not one, but two titles.

Sold as Le Mans '66 in the UK, US audiences apparently prefer Ford V Ferrari.

It tells the story of the friendship between former racing driver Carroll Shelby (Damon) and ill-tempered racer Ken Miles (Bale).

It was a partnership that shaped 1960s motor racing.

Walk The Line's James Mangold directs.

Bale and Damon both already have one Oscar each, but as to the politics over which would compete for best actor in this film, it's anyone's guess.

The film's impressive racing scenes are likely to get attention in the technical categories.

In cinemas Friday 15 November.

JoJo Rabbit

A comedy about an invisible friend who happens to be Hitler doesn't sound like a natural Oscar contender, but this film might just do it.

Scarlett Johansson leads the cast, directed by What We Do In The Shadows actor and creator Taika Waititi.

Front and centre of the film, Waititi casts himself as Hitler.

The anti-hate satire has so far divided critics, which is not surprising due to its challenging themes.

The film took home the People's Choice Award at Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) - which normally signals it's a dead cert to be nominated for the biggest Oscar of them all - best picture.

In fact, ten of the last eleven People's Choice Winner have gone on to score best picture nominations, including last year's winner Green Book.

In cinemas Friday 3 January 2020.

Marriage Story

Again with Scarlett Johansson in a lead role, but this time alongside Adam Driver.

The pair play husband and wife Nicole and Charlie, whose marriage gradually unravels during the course of the film.

Inspired by director Noah Baumbach's real life divorce from actress Jennifer Jason-Leigh, this is a very personal film to both him, and twice-divorced Johansson who was going through her second divorce at the time of filming.

It's a thoroughly modern streaming service offering (Netflix), but with Roma getting plenty of nominations last year that doesn't rule it out.

Looking back nearly 30 years, divorce-drama Kramer Vs Kramer took home five Academy Awards including best picture, best actor and best director.

Can this movie repeat the break-up magic?

In cinemas Friday 6 November, on Netflix Friday 6 December 2019.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino's take on the infamous Manson murders, this is the this ninth, and possibly penultimate, film.

The director has said he intends to direct just one more film after this (whether he sticks to that self-imposed rule is yet to be seen).

Describing it as a love letter to all thing's Hollywood, there has been some controversy over his use of real-life figures Charles Manson and Sharon Tate, but the murdered actress' sister is said to be a fan of the film.

It's certainly got the star power to garner plenty of attention, with Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie leading the cast.

After finally bagging his first gong two years ago for The Revenant, could DiCaprio be on a roll?

In cinemas Wednesday 14 August 2019.

Other likely contenders

Avengers: Endgame

Comic book films may do well at the box office, but they have traditionally been overlooked at the Oscars.

Could Black Panther's nomination for Best Film at this year's awards (a first for the genre) help pave the way for this big action offering?

None of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have ever won an Oscar in one of the main five categories, so if the concluding part of the infinity saga finds itself in with a chance, it would be a very big deal indeed.

In cinemas Thursday 25 April 2019.

Toy Story 4

This long-running Pixar favourite broke records at the box-office, impressed critics and pleased fans when it was released earlier this year.

The chance of Woody, Buzz and Bo Peep not making an appearance in the best animation category seems slight.

It will likely itself up against Frozen II, as Elsa and Anna make a triumphant return five years after the original, so it's likely to have strong competition.

In cinemas Friday 21 June 2019.

The Two Popes

Two iconic actors - Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce - go head-to-head in this Vatican two-hander, directed by City of God's Fernando Meirelles.

Premiering at the Telleride Film Festival in Colorado, many were pleasantly surprised by how funny it was.

Based on a play, the humorous pope-off could well get acting nods for its lead stars.

In cinemas Friday 29 November, on Netflix Friday 20 December 2019.

The Aeronauts

Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones will be hoping their second big screen partnership can rustle up some of the same Oscar magic as The Theory Of Everything.

It will certainly be the only Victorian hot air balloon thriller up for consideration (vertigo sufferers, you have been warned).

This time both get to play scientists, so could it be Felicity's turn for a best actress nod?

In cinemas Friday 6 December, on Amazon Prime Video Friday 20 December 2019.

Rocketman

This biopic of Elton John created a big buzz at the box office when it was released earlier this year, but will Academy voters have forgotten about it?

Taron Egerton plays the flamboyant singer, lending his own vocals to the role.

Egerton and John reportedly got on so well, the singer gave the actor his own diamond earring to wear in the role.

But the question is, will it get Egerton his first Oscar nomination?

In cinemas Wednesday 22 May 2019.

Little Women

Director Greta Gerwig's debut feature film Ladybird got five nods at the Oscars two years ago, and made her one of only five women in history to be nominated for best director.

Now she's turning to Louisa May Alcott's classic tale of three young women finding their way in the world for her third big screen offering.

The all-star cast includes millennial stars Saorise Ronan, Timothée Chalamet and Emma Watson, as well as veteran actors including Meryl Streep and Laura Dern.

In cinemas Thursday 26 December 2019.

1917

A First World War drama filmed as if shot in a single take.

With comparisons to Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk, the emotional period-piece is likely to play well to the Academy audience.

Since winning best picture for one of his first films (American Beauty), director Sam Mendes hasn't made much of a splash at the Oscars - could this bring him back into the game?

In cinemas Friday 10 January 2020.

The Farewell

This low budget, part foreign-language dramedy looks like a long-shot, but you never know.

Crazy Rich Asians star Aquafina stars as a Chinese-American granddaughter coming to terms with her grandmother's terminal cancer - a diagnosis her grandmother is totally unaware of.

Based on real-life experience of director Lulu Wang, the film finds unexpected humour in the East and West culture clash and the taboo topic of death.

It won the Audience Choice award at Sundance London.

If Awkwafina were to be nominated for Best Actress she would be the first Asian-American woman in the category.

In cinemas Friday 20 September 2019 Entertainment Film Distribution.

The Peanut Butter Falcon

This feel-good buddy movie brings together two unlikely runaways, played by Shia LaBeouf and Zack Gottsagen, as they cross the American South on a raft.

If first-time film star Gottsagen - who has Down's Syndrome - were to be nominated, and then win, he would be only the third disabled actor to be recognised at the Academy Awards 90-year history.

Worth taking note of

The King

Timothee Chalamet leads this historical and Shakespearean mash-up, merging Henry IV Part One, Part Two and Henry V.

In cinemas 11 October, on Netflix 1 November 2019.

The Laundromat

Will Meryl Streep get her 22nd Oscar nomination for her widow-detective role in Steven Soderbergh's Netflix drama?

In cinemas Friday 27 September, on Netflix Wednesday 18 October 2019.

Bombshell

Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, and Margot Robbie star as Fox News employees standing up to workplace sexism in a pre-Me Too world.

In cinemas Friday 24 January.

Ad Astra

Brad Pitt plays an astronaut sent to find his father in James Gray's space drama.

In cinemas Wednesday 18 September 2019.

The Report

Adam Driver portrays a real-life senate worker exposing abuses in CIA intelligence gathering post-9/11.

In cinemas 15 November, streaming on Amazon Prime Video from 29 November.

Dolemite Is My Name

Eddie Murphy is on the comeback trail as a blaxploitation pioneer Rudy Ray Moore - will it earn him an Oscar nod?

In cinemas Friday 4 October, on Netflix Friday 25 October 2019.

Parasite

A black comedy about social climbers by South Korean director Bong Joon-ho - it took home the Korean Palme d'Or.

In cinemas Friday 7 February 2020.

And stranger things have happened…

Hustlers

A singer so famous she's known by just three letters, could J-Lo get her first Oscar nomination for her role as a savvy stripper?

In cinemas Friday 13 September.

Cats

Will the likes of Taylor Swift, Dame Judy Dench and Idris Elba garner Academy attention for their unnerving part-human part-feline performances?

The movie should get some technical recognition for its patented "digital fur technology" at the very least.

In cinemas Friday 20 December.

Downton Abbey

Like the royals, afternoon tea and the British accent, the Americans love Downton.

So, what better way for them to show it than to nominate the movie version for an Oscar?

In cinemas Friday 13 September.

The 92nd Academy Awards take place on Sunday 9 February.