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These Are The (Early) 2021 Best Picture Oscar Frontrunners

It’s never too early to preview the Oscar race. But now, things are getting serious. September is always the unofficial beginning of Awards Season as the Emmys kick off and the studios start releasing their Oscar films at the Toronto and Venice film festivals. This year, COVID-19 has robbed us of the movies (mostly), but the show must go on. The Academy Awards will be held, albeit late, on April 25, 2021, and we’ve got the Best Picture frontrunners.

Of course, it’s early to start predicting and that goes double this year. The delay has created the longest Oscar eligibility window (14 months) since the 6th Oscars awarded films from a 17-month window back in 1934. Any movie released up until February 28, 2021 will be Oscar-eligible.

Many more films will be released this year, but not many in theaters. It seems like Netflix’s year to steal one. They’ve got an immense Oscar slate lined up for the next few months so prepare for some good releases. You’ll find some of them in the following list of contenders. Check out the early frontrunners for Best Picture 2020.


 'Nomadland' - These Are The (Early) 2021 Best Picture Oscar Frontrunners - Zimbio

Director: Chloé Zhao

Written by Chloé Zhao, based on the book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder

Starring: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, Charlene Swankie, Bob Wells

The presumptive overall Best Picture frontrunner is Frances McDormand and Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland, which won the TIFF People’s Choice Award in Toronto this year. It’s gaining universal praise from critics and is set to open at more festivals for the rest of the year.

The movie follows two-time Oscar winner McDormand as a blue-collar widow who sets out on the road and becomes immersed in a modern nomadic culture that teaches her how to survive on her own. It’s a toned-down, authentic account, much like Zhao’s last film — The Rider, one of the best movies of 2017.

McDormand produced Nomadland herself, inspired by journalist Jessica Bruder’s 2017 source novel — a nonfiction account of her own road odyssey. McDormand chose Zhao to lead the film and the decision paid off splendidly. McDormand co-stars with David Strathairn, but much of the cast is a gang of actual road veterans who enhance the film’s vérité style. The movie’s being hailed as a feat.


 'Mank' - These Are The (Early) 2021 Best Picture Oscar Frontrunners - Zimbio

Director: David Fincher

Written by Jack Fincher

Starring: Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Charles Dance, Tuppence Middleton, Arliss Howard, Tom Burke

Director David Fincher’s latest is a departure from his usual serial killer fare (Mindhunter, Zodiac, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Seven). The acclaimed director instead takes aim at the true story of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, who battled with director Orson Welles over screenplay credit for Citizen Kane in 1941. Gary Oldman handles the title role and is an immediate Best Actor Oscar contender. The Academy loves movies about Hollywood history and it loves Oldman just as much.

Oscar voters love Fincher, too. He has two Best Director nominations under his belt and his movies have collected 30 nods overall. The Academy could also be moved by the fact Fincher’s late father, Jack, wrote the screenplay. This one has a lot going for it. Although, it is in black and white, which may turn off some voters, and it’s a Netflix movie, which may turn off more…

‘One Night in Miami’

 'One Night in Miami' - These Are The (Early) 2021 Best Picture Oscar Frontrunners - Zimbio


Director: Regina King

Written by Kemp Powers, based on his own play, One Night in Miami

Starring: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr., Lance Reddick, Nicolette Robinson, Michael Imperioli, Beau Bridges

One Night in Miami is the movie that answers the question: What would happen if you put Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke in the same room together? It may sound like a fantasy but the film is based on a true story that playwright Kemp Powers turned into a hit play. And now Oscar-winner Regina King is making her feature directorial debut with it. Might Oscar be next?

One Night in Miami is a fictional account of a true story. It takes place immediately after 22-year-old Cassius Clay (not yet Muhammed Ali) defeats Sonny Liston to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World in 1964. High on the victory, Clay celebrates with his famous friends in a hotel room and the group stick and move with each another all night.

King became the first African-American female director to debut a film at Venice this year and One Night in Miami was the runner-up to Nomadland for the People’s Choice trophy at TIFF. Critics love it, far and wide.

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