Variety's Awards Circuit is home to the official predictions for the upcoming Oscars from Film Awards Editor Clayton Davis. Following Academy Awards history, buzz, news, reviews and sources, the Oscar predictions are updated regularly with the current year's contenders in all categories. Variety's Awards Circuit Prediction schedule consists of four phases, running all year long: Draft, Pre-Season, Regular Season and Post Season. Eligibility calendar and dates of awards will determine how long each phase lasts and will be displayed next to revision date.

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2021 OSCARS PREDICTIONS:
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

UPDATED: Nov. 19, 2020 (PRE-SEASON)

With the election behind us, who will survive the inevitable political documentary purge? Films like “Totally Under Control” and “Boys State” seem safe at the moment but as we’ve learned in previous years, no one wants to be the frontrunner in the documentary race. Ask “Apollo 11” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” “Dick Johnson Is Dead” won big at the Critics Choice Documentary Awards, putting it back in the mix of things.

† = no release date scheduled / could be delayed / may not be eligible
†† = could be campaigned in lead or supporting categories / original or adapted screenplay categories


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Totally Under Control Courtesy of Neon

AND THE PREDICTED NOMINEES ARE:

  1. "Totally Under Control" (Neon)
    Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan , Suzanne Hillinger

  2. "Boys State" (Apple TV Plus)
    Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss

  3. "John Lewis: Good Trouble" (Magnolia Pictures and Participant)
    Dawn Porter

  4. "Dick Johnson is Dead" (Netflix)
    Kirsten Johnson

  5. "Time" (Amazon Studios)
    Garrett Bradley

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President Barack Obama walks along the West Colonnade of the White House with Chief White House Photographer Pete Souza Feb. 18, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson) Lawrence Jackson / The White House

NEXT IN LINE CONTENDERS:

  1. "Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution" (Netflix)
    James Lebrecht, Nicole Newnham

  2. "The Way I See It" (Focus Features)
    Dawn Porter

  3. "All In: The Fight for Democracy" (Amazon Studios)
    Lisa Cortes, Liz Garbus

  4. "Collective" (Magnolia Pictures and Participant)
    Alexander Nanau

  5. "MLK/FBI" (IFC Films)
    Sam Pollard

  6. "Assassins" (Greenwich Entertainment)
    Ryan White

  7. "Rebuilding Paradise" (National Geographic Documentary Films)
    Ron Howard

  8. "On the Record" (HBO Max)
    Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering

  9. "Kingdom of Silence" (Showtime)
    Rick Rowley

  10. "Be Water" (ESPN)
    Bao Nguyen

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I AM GRETA — The story of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish schoolgirl who, at 16, is leading the global school strike for action on climate change. Greta Thunberg, shown. (Photo By: Courtesy of Hulu) Courtesy of Hulu

TOP-TIER AWARDS CONTENDERS:

  1. "I Am Greta" (Hulu)
    Nathan Grossman

  2. "Gunda" (Neon)
    Anita Rehoff Larsen, Victor Kossakovsky

  3. "The Dissident" (Briarcliff Entertainment)
    Bryan Fogel

  4. "Belushi" (Showtime Documentary Films)
    R.J. Cutler

  5. "Mr. Soul!" (Shoes in the Bed Productions)
    Melissa Haizlip, Sam Pollard

  6. "The Truffle Hunters" (Sony Pictures Classics)
    Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw

  7. "A Thousand Cuts" (PBS Distribution and FRONTLINE PBS)
    Ramona S. Diaz

  8. "The Painter and the Thief" (Neon)
    Benjamin Ree, Ingvil Giske

  9. "Disclosure" (Netflix)
    Sam Feder

  10. "Oliver Sacks: His Own Life" (Zeitgeist Films)
    Ric Burns

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ATHLETE A Maggie Nichols in ATHLETE A. Cr. NETFLIX © 2020 Courtesy of Melissa J. Perenson

ALSO IN CONTENTION:

  1. "Belly of the Beast" (Idle Wild Films / PBS Independent Lens)
    Erika Cohn

  2. "The Velvet Underground" (Apple TV Plus)
    Todd Haynes

  3. "Athlete A" (Netflix)
    Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk

  4. "Welcome to Chechnya" (HBO Documentary Films)
    David France

  5. "Giving Voice" (Netflix)
    James D. Stern, Fernando Villena

  6. "Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry" (Apple TV Plus)
    R.J. Cutler

  7. "Miss Americana" (Netflix)
    Lana Wilson

  8. "Spaceship Earth" (Neon)
    Matt Wolf, Stacey Reiss

  9. "Through the Night" (Longshot Factory)
    Loira Limbal

  10. "The Human Factor" (Sony Pictures Classics)
    Dror Moreh

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(L-R): Timothy Leary and Joanna Harcourt-Smith in MY PSYCHEDELIC LOVE STORY. Photo Credit: Joanna Harcourt-Smith/Courtesy of SHOWTIME. Courtesy of Showtime

MORE AWARDS CONTENDERS:

  1. "My Psychedelic Love Story" (Showtime)
    Errol Morris

  2. "Feels Good Man" (Wavelength Productions)
    Giorgio Angelini & Arthur Jonesos

  3. "Skyblossoms: Diaries of the Next Greatest Generation" (Peacock)
    Richard Lui

  4. "The Fight" (Magnolia Pictures and Topic Media)
    Eli B. Despres, Josh Kriegman, Elyse Steinberg

  5. "Desert One" (HISTORY and Greenwich Entertainment)
    Barbara Kopple

  6. "Coded Bias" (7th Empire Media and PBS Independent Lens)
    Shalini Kantayya

  7. "Untitled 'WeWork' Documentary" (Hulu)
    Jed Rothstein

  8. "Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles" (IFC Films)
    Laura Gabbert

  9. "#UNFIT: The Psychology of Donald Trump" (Dark Star Pictures)
    Dan Partland

  10. "Rewind" (Independent Lens)
    Sasha Neulinger

  11. "Finding Yingying" (MTV Films and Kartemquin Films)
    Diane Quon, Jiayan “Jenny” Shi

  12. "The Social Dilemma" (Netflix)
    Jeff Orlowski

  13. "Bedlam" (Independent Lens)
    Kenneth Paul Rosenberg, Peter Miller

  14. "Softie" (LBx Africa/POV)
    Sam Soko

  15. "Crazy, Not Insane" (HBO Documentary Films)
    Alex Gibney

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Shawn Mendes In Wonder Netflix

UNRANKED AWARDS CONTENDERS:

  • "9to5: The Story of a Movement" (No U.S. Distribution) – Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert
  • "76 Days" (MTV Documentary Films) – Weixi Chen, Hao Wu
  • "Apocalypse '45" (Discovery / Abramorama) – Erik Nelson
  • "Billie" (Greenwich Entertainment) – James Erskine
  • "Blood on the Wall" (National Geographic Documentary Films) – Sebastian Junger, Nick Quested
  • "Bruce Springsteen's A Letter to You" (Apple TV Plus) – Thom Zimny
  • "Coup 53" (Amirani) – Taghi Amirani, Paul Zaentz
  • "Crock of Gold" (Magnolia Pictures) – Julien Temple
  • "Dave Grusin: Not Enough Time" (Jindo Jazz) – Barbara Bentree
  • "Dear Santa" (IFC Films) – Dana Nachman
  • "Kiss the Ground" (Big Picture Ranch) – Josh Tickell and Rebecca Tickell
  • "The Go-Go's" (Showtime) –
  • "The Last Ice" (National Geographic Documentary Films) – Scott Ressler
  • "My Darling Vivian" (The Film Collaborative) – Matt Riddlehoover
  • "The Mole Agent" (Gravitas Ventures) – Maite Alberdi
  • "My Octupus Teacher" (Netflix) –
  • "Notturno" (No U.S. Distribution) – Gianfranco Rosi
  • "Olympia" (Abramorama) – Harry Mavromichalis, Sid Ganis
  • "Our Time Machine" (POV) – S. Leo Chiang, Yang Sun
  • "Planet of the Humans" (Rumble Media) – Jeff Gibbs
  • "Public Trust" (Patagonia Films) – David Garrett Byars
  • "The Reason I Jump" (Kino Lorber) – Jerry Rothwell
  • "Red Penguins" (Universal Pictures) – Gabe Polsky
  • "River City Drumbeat" (Argot Pictures) – Anne Flatté, Marlon Johnson
  • "Shawn Mendes: In Wonder" (Netflix) – Grant Singer
  • "Stars and Strife" (No U.S. Distribution) – David Smick
  • "Stray" (Magnolia Pictures) – Elizabeth Lo
  • "Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story" (Shout! Studios) – April Wright
  • "We Are the Radical Monarchs" (POV) – Linda Goldstein Knowlton
  • "Wuhan, Wuhan" (No U.S. Distribution) – Yung Chang, Gong Cheng

† = no release date scheduled / could be delayed / may not be eligible
†† = could be campaigned in lead or supporting categories / original or adapted screenplay categories

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