Everything you need to know about 2019’s Oscar frontrunners

Featuring the moon landing, Lady Gaga and Timothée Chalamet

As soon as summer starts to draw to a close, taking the UK music festival season with it, a new event in the cultural calendar begins. The biggest, most starry events in the film world are taking place as we speak, and they’re dredging up some titles that are already gathering some highly coveted Oscar hype.

Over in Toronto, some of the most exciting names in the film world are gathering to watch what will, in four months time, become the most talked-about films of the year. It’s a long-winded process that, if you’re not directly involved in it, makes little sense in terms of what makes the cut and what doesn’t. Sometimes, masterpieces that deserve to be seen slip under the radar; often, piss-poor entries from Oscar-bait directors are lathered in praise and earn nominations they don’t deserve. The politics of it are messy.

But what can we, the average film watcher, take from it all? Well, with most of the biggest premieres having already taken place, it seems like we have a fairly strong idea of the films that we’ll be hearing a lot of over the next few months. So without further ado, open up your diaries and slot the names of these flicks in: these are the 10 movies gathering Oscar hype that you need to add to your watch list. Like, right now.

  1. First Man

    What’s it about?
    This Neil Armstrong biopic directed by Damien Chazelle (better known as ‘that bloke who made La La Land‘) tells the story of the famous astronaut’s ascent to fame during the years of the so-called ‘Space Race’.

    Who’s in it?
    Everybody’s favourite Hollywood heartthrob Ryan Gosling plays Armstrong while The Crown‘s Claire Foy plays his wife Janet Shearon. Kyle Chandler, who seems to be in just about everything, also shows face.

    What will it get nominated for?
    It garnered mixed reviews when it opened this year’s Venice Film Festival, but the technical skill of Chazelle’s film means its bound to replicate the success of La La Land. Don’t be surprised if it nabs the main nods (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay), while also sweeping the boards for categories like sound design and cinematography.

    When can I see it?
    October 12 2018

  2. Beautiful Boy

    What’s it about?
    Based on the memoirs of father and son David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy tells the real life story of a successful journalist whose quaint family life is upended by the realisation that his teenage son is addicted to meth.

    Who’s in it?
    Arthouse cinema’s breakout young prince Timothée Chalamet plays Nic, while funnyman-turned-serious actor Steve Carell plays his father.

    What will it get nominated for?
    Anticipation was high for Chalamet’s first film since he nabbed his Oscar nomination for last year’s Call Me By Your Name, but some critics are claiming its a bit of a cloying disappointment, and the vast majority of reviews are barely breaching the three star mark. As a result, it probably won’t be the sweep we were hoping for, but Chalamet’s performance alone is apparently strong enough to keep the film afloat. Maybe there’s a Best Supporting Actor nod in there?

    When can I see it?
    It premieres at London Film Festival next month before opening nationwide on January 19 2019.

  3. The Favourite

    What’s it about?
    Directed by oddball Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite is a peculiar, 18th century period drama about two women – one a lady and one a servant – rubbing shoulders with the queen, both vying for her attention. Apparently, a menage-a-trois of sorts ensues.

    Who’s in it?
    Broadchurch star Olivia Colman plays the Queen, while Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone play Lady Sarah and Abigail respectively. Skins star Nicholas Hoult and Taylor Swift’s beau Joe Alwyn round out the cast.

    What will it get nominated for?
    The hype out of its Venice premiere is huge! Expect a Best Picture and Original Screenplay nomination at least. There’s also a strong chance that Olivia Colman could take home the Best Actress prize, as she did at the Italian film festival this month.

    When can I see it?
    It’s set to hit UK cinemas on New Year’s Day.

  4. A Star is Born

    What’s it about?
    A remake of a remake of a remake, this story of a down-and-out musician taking a young woman with a serious set of pipes under his wing and propelling her to fame is an American classic, reinvented for 2018 by Bradley Cooper. After years in the spotlight, famed for his acting chops, this is his directorial debut.

    Who’s in it?
    As well as taking up directing duties, Bradley Cooper plays the male lead Jackson, while pop behemoth Lady Gaga proves she deserves that Golden Globe with her performance as the film’s heroine, Ally.

    What will it get nominated for?
    Few people predicted that a remake of a film made three times before by an actor-turned-director that also happened to place a pop star in its lead role would become the year’s most promising Oscar hit – but here we are. After a knockout premiere at Venice and a similarly warm reaction coming out of Venice, don’t be surprised if A Star is Born nabs nominations for Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay and a whole bunch of other technical and musical awards too.

    When can I see it?
    Not long to wait – it hits UK cinemas on October 5.

  5. If Beale Street Could Talk

    What’s it about?
    Based on a 1974 novel by legendary writer James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk tells the story of two young lovers, Tish and Fonny, whose relationship is put to the test when a rape allegation against Fonny is unearthed. It’s the third film from 2017’s Best Picture winner, Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins.

    Who’s in it?
    There are a few recognisable names in Jenkins’ cast, with the likes of Dave Franco, Regina King and Ed Skrein putting in appearances, but the two leads are played by relative newcomers Stephan James and Kiki Layne.

    What will it get nominated for?
    The reviews are still coming in, but right now, it seems highly unlikely that the Academy won’t recognise Barry Jenkins’ directorial efforts for a second time. A Best Picture nod is likely too, while there are mutters of Stephan James delivering a knockout performance worthy of an acting prize.

    When can I see it?
    After a London Film Festival premiere, it hits cinemas on January 19.

  6. Widows

    What’s it about?
    The new film from 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen, Widows tells the story of three widowed women banding together to finish the criminal heist that killed their husbands.

    Who’s in it?
    It’s an all-star line up: Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo and Michelle Rodriguez are the women at the helm, while Get Out‘s Daniel Kaluuya, Colin Farrell and Liam Neeson have supporting roles.

    What will it get nominated for?
    In the past, you were more likely to catch Steve McQueen directing searing and brutal stories about starvation and sex addiction, so his switch-up to making what looks like a grandiose Hollywood heist film might shock the Academy. Nevertheless, expect McQueen to at least be rewarded for his directing efforts here, while Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn should nab something for her work on the screenplay.

    When can I see it?
    Widows hits UK cinemas on 6th November.

  7. Roma

    What’s it about?
    Partly inspired by the upbringing of its director, Gravity’s Alfonso Cuarón, Roma chronicles the life of a middle-class Mexican family in the 1970s.

    Who’s in it?
    The cast is almost entirely unknown, comprised of local Mexican actors and non-professionals.

    What will it get nominated for?
    Roma won the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival – the same prize won by Best Picture winner The Shape of Water last year – so don’t be surprised if this low-budget film that critics have been hailing a masterpiece takes home the top prize. After all, the Academy has been showing some serious love for Mexican directors lately, with Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro Gonzales Iñárritu and – yep – Alfonso Cuaron, taking home the director’s prizes for the past few years.

    When can I see it?
    Roma doesn’t have a slated UK release yet, but it will be screening at the London Film Festival

  8. Boy Erased

    What’s it about?
    The latest film from actor-turned-director Joel Edgerton, Boy Erased recounts the life of a Catholic preacher’s teenage son, and his experience of being forced into gay conversion therapy by his parents.

    Who’s in it?
    The cast is lead by young Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges, who’s already gaining praise for his work here. But he’s joined by a mega list of talented stars: Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman play his parents, while director Xavier Dolan and pop’s new hope Troye Sivan (who we spoke to about his new record earlier in the summer) have supporting roles too.

    What will it get nominated for?
    Apparently Troye – ever the reliable pop star – has a chance at getting his first Oscar nomination for a song he’s written to be part of the movie’s the score. Elsewhere, put your money on Hedges. This might also be the project that gets the 22-year-old his second nod in just three years.

    When can I see it?
    Boy Erased will open in UK cinemas on the 8th February.

  9. High Life

    What’s it about?
    The English-language debut of the legendary French director Claire Denis, High Life tells the story of a group of convicts sent on an energy-finding mission in space. It focuses on the relationship between a father and a daughter, and how the isolating experience of being thrown into the dark abyss brings them closer together. Since it premiered at Toronto Film Festival, it’s already invited comparisons to classic sci-fi films like Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker.

    Who’s in it?
    Twilight graduate Robert Pattinson leads up a cast that includes French film royalty Juliette Binoche and Outkast’s André 3000. A match made in heaven, if we do say so ourselves.

    What will it get nominated for?
    This is definitely an underdog, but with the Academy opening their minds to stranger cinema with each passing year, and with Claire Denis long overdue some kind of recognition for her work, it would be great to see this audacious, space-age morality tale become the one that sees her get the respect she deserves.

    When can I see it?
    No word yet! We have our money on it being London Film Festival’s Surprise Film, though.

  10. Suspiria

    What’s it about?
    Set in a Berlin ballet school, Suspiria tells the story of a young dancer whose talents are obsessed over by her elderly teacher; a woman who somehow has the power to leave a path of paranoia, terror and death in her wake. Directed by Call Me By Your Name’s Luca Guadagnino, it’s a remake of the lurid and unsettling Dario Argento film – with the same name – from 1977.

    Who’s in it?
    Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz and Mia Goth lead up the gigantic, primarily women-led cast, while the original star of Suspiria, Jessica Harper, makes an appearance too.

    What will it get nominated for?
    The reviews so far have been seriously mixed, with The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin giving it a full five stars, while The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw called it “passionless”. We were somewhere in the middle. But it seems Luca’s mad-hatter ambition with his dance-horror might be strong enough to win him some love for his screenplay and the horrifying technical elements of the film too. And can we just give Tilda Swinton a prize for being Tilda Swinton? Sounds good.

    When can I see it?
    Suspiria hits UK cinemas on November 16.