Ridiculously Early Oscar Predictions For 2020

Just judging books by their covers over here.

Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.' (Sony Pictures Releasing)

One might think it's impossible to predict an awards show more than a year in advance. Not so. In Hollywood, movies are hyped for a long time before they ever debut. We've got plenty to go on. Of course, we haven't seen anything yet. But that's why predictions exist. 

Using cast information, plot summaries, and Oscar trends (biopics are always award magnets, for example), we're going to look ahead at the best potential films of the year. The Sundance Film Festival also wrapped up this week so a handful of independent movies have premiered already. Sundance is hardly an Oscar factory, but the fest has seen more than its fair share of nominees. 

Movies like Black Panther and A Star Is Born ruled 2018, and no one would've guessed either of those films would be Oscar contenders. But here we are. What'll the unknown hits of 2019 be? There are sure to be unexpected surprises, but we've got our eyes on some flicks with real awards potential... at least on paper. Let's look ahead to next year's Oscars...

Best Picture Contenders (sorted alphabetically)

1. 1917 

Produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Sam Mendes, 1917 is a war movie that certainly has Oscar pedigree. George McKay (Captain Fantastic) and Dean-Charles Chapman (Game of Thrones) are attached — so not much star power, but Spielberg called the project a "daring and ambitious" movie. We'll take his word.

An Australian musical performance of Cats. (Getty)
An Australian musical performance of Cats. (Getty)

2. Cats

Taylor Swift and Jennifer Hudson will lead an all-star cast in the movie version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's feline (and very weird) Broadway smash in 2019. These types of musicals usually do well at Oscar time. Directed by Tom Hooper (The King's Speech, Les Misérables), expect the film to be a visual marvel.

3. Harriet

Viola Davis had been circling a Harriet Tubman biopic for a few years, but Cynthia Erivo snagged the lead in Kasi Lemmons's upcoming film, simply titled Harriet. Erivo's casting has caused some controversy because she's not American, but that means little to us. She's a brilliant stage actress, and that's why they call it "acting." This is an important, powerful role people have wanted to see onscreen for a long time.

4. The Last Thing He Wanted

Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. (Sony Pictures Releasing)

Joan Didion's novels rarely find their way to the big screen but today's female filmmakers are set to change that trend. Dee Rees (Mudbound) helms The Last Thing He Wanted, about a reporter (Anne Hathaway) who quits her job covering the 1984 presidential election to take over her father’s (Willem Dafoe) arms dealing business. Ben Affleck co-stars as Hathaway's love interest. 

5. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

It's always smart to bet on Quentin Tarantino movies for Oscar love, two of his last three films have scored Best Picture nominations and Pulp Fiction did as well. Could this be Tarantino's year to finally win the big one? Perhaps. His latest hits a bunch of Oscar sweet spots: huge all-star cast (DiCaprio, Pitt, Pacino, Russell, Robbie, Roth, Olyphant, Fanning, and more), Hollywood period setting (1969), and real-life characters (Bruce Lee, Charles Manson, Steve McQueen, Sharon Tate). It's the Best Picture frontrunner on paper.

6. The Personal History of David Copperfield

Writer/director Armando Iannucci's (The Death of Stalin) ambitious adaptation of Charles Dickens's David Copperfield seems like another winner for the talented Scottish filmmaker. Oscar nominee Dev Patel stars in the title role and Tilda Swinton, Peter Capaldi, Ben Whishaw, and Hugh Laurie co-star. This one has the famous source material, talent, and period trappings to be a major awards movie.

7. The Pope

The lone Netflix movie of our top contenders, The Pope stars Anthony Hopkins as Pope Benedict and Jonathan Pryce as Pope Francis, while centering around their relationship and opposing visions for the Catholic Church. Directed by Fernando Meirelles (City of God), the film should have more than enough gravitas to go around. 

8. Radegund

Adam Driver in The Report. (Amazon Studios)
Adam Driver in The Report. (Amazon Studios)

Legend Terrence Malick's latest is a welcome departure from his recent "memory film" experiments and hopefully a return to form. Set during World War II, the movie depicts an Austrian man's refusal to fight for the Nazis. Malick's return to traditional narrative and the tense subject matter have Oscar written all over them. The movie also features some of Europe's best young (August Diehl, Matthias Schoenaerts) and veteran (Bruno Ganz) actors.

9. The Report

Investigative procedurals (think Spotlight, Zodiac) are always Oscar favorites and Sundance has already debuted what might be the best one of 2019. The Report snagged sizzling reviews out of the festival this week for its depiction of the investigation into the CIA’s post-9/11 Detention and Interrogation Program. Adam Driver, who is fast becoming a top 10 actor, headlines as lead investigator Daniel Jones. Writer/director Scott Z. Burns is Steven Soderbergh's longtime screenwriter and he's getting a lot of love.

Also for your consideration: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Ad Astra, Dry Run, Ford v. Ferrari, The Good Liar, Knives Out, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, The Laundromat, The Lighthouse, Little Women, Motherless Brooklyn, Proxima, Radioactive, Rocketman, Star Wars: Episode IX, Toy Story 4, Wendy, Where'd You Go, Bernadette 

Best Director

Ridiculously Early Oscar Predictions For 2020

1. Armando Iannucci - The Personal History of David Copperfield

2. Terrence Malick - Radegund

3. Kasi Lemmons - Harriet

4. Fernando Meirelles - The Pope

5. Quentin Tarantino - Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Also for your consideration: Pedro Almodóvar - Pain & Glory, Scott Z. Burns - The Report, Bill Condon - The Good Liar, John Crowley - The Goldfinch, Robert Eggers - The Lighthouse, Todd Haynes - Dry Run, Tom Hooper - Cats, Rian Johnson - Knives Out, Richard Linklater - Where'd You Go, Bernadette, Sam Mendes - 1917, Dee Rees - The Last Thing He Wanted, Jay Roach - Untitled Roger Ailes Project, Joe Talbot - The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Benh Zeitlin - Wendy

Best Actress

Ridiculously Early Oscar Predictions For 2020
Getty | Fox Searchlight Pictures | Amazon Studios

1. Cate Blanchett - Lucy and Desi 
Role: Lucille Ball, TV legend, script by Aaron Sorkin

2. Cynthia Erivo - Harriet
Role: Harriet Tubman, American abolitionist

3. Nicole Kidman - Untitled Roger Ailes Project 
Role: Gretchen Carlson, Ex-Fox News host, sued Roger Ailes for sexual harassment

4. Natalie Portman - Lucy In The Sky
Role: Lucy Cola, astronaut who loses track of her life after returning to Earth from space

5. Emma Thompson - Late Night
Role: Katherine Newbury, fading late night TV host

Also for your consideration: Amy Adams - The Woman in the Window, Awkwafina - The Farewell, Rhianne Barreto - Share, Eva Green - Proxima, Anne Hathaway - The Last Thing He Wanted, Scarlett Johansson - Untitled Noah Baumbach Project, Helen Mirren - The Good Liar, Julianne Moore - Gloria Bell, Elizabeth Moss - Her Smell, Lupita Nyong’o - Us, Rosamund Pike - Radioactive, Saoirse Ronan - Little Women, Honor Swinton-Byrne - The Souvenir, Michelle Williams - Janis/The Challenger, Renée Zellweger - Judy

Best Actor

Ridiculously Early Oscar Predictions For 2020
Sony Pictures Releasing | Focus | Getty

1. Leonardo DiCaprio - Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Role: Rick Dalton, fading TV star who looks into the disappearance of his neighbor, Sharon Tate

2. Tom Hanks - A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Role: Mr. Rogers, children's television legend

3. John Lithgow - Untitled Roger Ailes Project
Role: Roger Ailes, disgraced CEO of Fox News

4. Edward Norton - Motherless Brooklyn
Role: Lionel Essrog, a detective who has Tourette's

5. Dev Patel - The Personal History of David Copperfield
Role: David Copperfield, poor English boy who becomes a writer

Also for your consideration: Timothée Chalamet - The King, Willem Dafoe - The Lighthouse, August Diehl - Radegund, Adam Driver - The Report, Taron Egerton - Rocketman, Ansel Elgort - The Goldfinch, Tom Hardy - Fonzo, Anthony Hopkins - The Pope, Hugh Jackman - Bad Education, Daniel Kaluuya - Queen & Slim, Ian McKellan - The Good Liar, Gary Oldman - The Laundromat, Jonathan Pryce - The Pope, Mark Ruffalo - Dry Run

Best Supporting Actress

Ridiculously Early Oscar Predictions For 2020
Getty | Sony Pictures Releasing | BBC | ACE Pictures

1. Janelle Monáe - Harriet
Role: Unknown, Underground Railroad slave seeking freedom?

2. Margot Robbie - Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Role: Sharon Tate, actress, model, murdered by the Mason Family

3. Maggie Smith - Downton Abbey
Role: Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham

4. Octavia Spencer - Luce
Role: Harriet Wilson, teacher who finds fireworks in a student's bag

5. Alfre Woodard - Clemency
Role: Warden Bernadine Williams

Also for your consideration: Annette Bening - The Report, Ellen Burstyn - Lucy In The Sky, Allison Janney - Bad Education, Julianne Moore - After the Wedding, Ruth Negga - Ad Astra, Sarah Paulson - The Goldfinch, Kristen Stewart - Against All Enemies, Meryl Streep - Little Women/The Laundromat, Tilda Swinton - The Personal History of David Copperfield, Charlize Theron  - Untitled Roger Ailes Project

Best Supporting Actor

Ridiculously Early Oscar Predictions For 2020
Amazon Studios | Getty | Sony Pictures Releasing

1. Shia LaBeouf - Honey Boy
Role: James Lort, abusive father, scoundrel, based on LaBeouf's own dad

2. Ben Mendelsohn - The King
Role: Henry IV

3. Brad Pitt - Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Role: Cliff Booth, stunt double who helps in the search for Sharon Tate

4. Sam Rockwell - Jojo Rabbit
Role: Nazi Captain Klenzendorf

5. Ben Whishaw - The Personal History of David Copperfield
Role: Uriah Heep, villain

Also for your consideration: Chris Cooper - A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Tommy Lee Jones - Ad Astra, Aldis Hodge - Clemency, Richard Madden - Rocketman, Gary Oldman - The Woman in the Window, Robert Pattinson - The Lighthouse, Taika Waititi - Jojo Rabbit

Managing Editor, Zimbio — entertainment writer, critic, and reporter since 2011. Bay Area. Origin: Shark City.