50 films to watch this awards season

First-round voting for the Oscars, Baftas and Golden Globes is looming fast. Screen International presents an essential guide to the titles likely to be in the running across the categories

By Nikki Baughan, Ben Dalton, Charles Gant, Fionnuala Halligan, Wendy Ide

Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2021 Bafta Film Awards have been pushed back to April 11, and the US Academy Awards to April 25 — more than two months later than the early-February slots for the 2020 cere­monies.

However, first-round voting opens for the Baftas on January 12 and closes on January 26 — dates that are now looming. The narrow coterie of Golden Globes voters will already be busy watching contenders ahead of their nominations announcement on February 3 (scroll down for list of key dates).

With the British academy making it clear that voting is a responsibility as much as it is a privilege, and with voters expected to immerse themselves deeply in the titles submitted for consideration, Screen International offers what it hopes is a timely guide.

We are not suggesting that viewing should be limited to the following 50 titles — and, indeed, many are not yet on the Bafta viewing portal, and some await confirmation of UK release — but we hope our list will help concentrate minds of voters, regardless of their country of residence or in which awards scheme they vote. Also, scroll down further to find out the top 10 performances, documentaries and UK indies to watch.

In a year when the impact of the autumn festivals on awards season has been less overwhelming than usual, we expect the rich field of Sundance 2020 — or even 2021 — premieres, many of them directed by women, to make more of the running. And with studios delaying titles to next year, the contenders promoted by the streamers, notably Netflix, look set to have a significant effect on the races. Happy viewing.


10 documentaries to see:

All In: The Fight For Democracy
Lisa Cortes and Liz Garbus chart the fightback against US voter suppression, focusing especially on Stacey Abrams, whose 2016 defeat for Georgia governor spurred a drive to register voters.

Athlete A
Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk follow journalists at TheIndianapolis Star as they uncover a doctor’s sexual abuse of young female US gymnasts.

Dick Johnson Is Dead
Winner of a special jury award at Sundance highlighting innovation in nonfiction storytelling, this film sees Kirsten Johnson (Cameraperson) helping her father prepare for the end of his life.

The Dissident
Bryan Fogel — who won the documentary Oscar for Icarus in 2018 — investigates the shocking murder of The Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Russian filmmaker Viktor Kosakovskiy’s black-and-white, dialogue-free film about life on a pig farm.

Set for release by IFC Films in the US following play at Toronto and New York film festivals, Sam Pollard’s film explores the US government’s surveillance and harassment of Martin Luther King Jr.

Gianfranco Rosi — who earned a documentary Oscar nomination in 2017 for Fire At Sea — offers an immersive portrait of those trying to survive conflicts in the war-torn Middle East.

On The Record
Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering explore rape allegations against former hip‑hop mogul Russell Simmons, levelled by former Def Jam A&R executive Drew Dixon and other women.

The Painter And The Thief
Benjamin Ree scooped the world cinema documentary special jury award at Sundance for this film recording the unlikely collaboration between a Norwegian art thief and his victim.

The Truffle Hunters
Another Sundance doc, Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw celebrate a dying breed of Italian forest foragers and their truffle-snuffling hounds.

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