23 Netflix original movies that are 2021 Oscar contenders

Jason Guerrasio
malcom and marie netflix
John David Washington and Zendaya in "Malcolm & Marie." Netflix
  • As we get closer to the end of the year, Netflix is beginning to release its movies for Oscars 2021 contention.

  • Movies, including David Fincher's "Mank" and George Clooney's "The Midnight Sky" are generating buzz.

  • The streamer already has contenders such as Spike Lee's "Da 5 Bloods" and the documentary, "Crip Camp."

  • The Academy Awards will allow streaming titles to be eligible for the best picture category without having a theatrical release for the first time ever in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Netflix is preparing to have an impressive showing at next year's Academy Awards.

The streaming giant has over 20 titles in possible contention across multiple categories for the 2021 ceremony. Those films include Spike Lee's "Da 5 Bloods," the Vanessa Kirby-led "Pieces of a Woman," David Fincher's "Mank," and Aaron Sorkin's courtroom drama "The Trial of the Chicago 7."

The Oscars, which will take place on April 25, 2021, will be a little different this time around due to the coronavirus pandemic crippling movie theaters globally. Not only has the ceremony date been pushed back a few months, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will allow streaming titles to be eligible for best picture for the first time ever without having to play in theaters.

That definitely gives Netflix an advantage in scoring its first best picture Oscar ever. 

Here are 23 Netflix original movies that might walk home with a golden statue.

"The 40 Year Old Version"

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Radha Blank in "The 40 Year Old Version." Netflix

Radha Blank takes her real life frustrations as a Black creative and channels them into this fantastic dramedy in which she stars, wrote, and directed. The film is about a playwright turning 40, who decides to reinvent herself as a rapper. Blank's chances at Oscar gold could come in several categories.

"Athlete A"

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Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk's "Athlete A." Netflix

This documentary will certainly be in the running for an Oscar, as it delivers a gripping and insightful look at journalists at The Indianapolis Star, who broke the story on Larry Nassar's abuse towards Team USA women gymnasts.

"The Boys in the Band"

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Joe Mantello's "The Boys in the Band." Netflix

This drama,x based on the 1968 Mart Crowley play (who co-wrote the screenplay), centers on a group of gay friends celebrating one of their birthdays. But the night is soon thrown into turmoil revealing some harsh truths.

The cast — made up of Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, and Matt Bomer, many of the actors who starred in the 2018 revival — may impress Oscar voters. The screenplay from Crowley and Ned Martel may also get a nod.

"Circus of Books"

Circus of Books Netflix
Karen and Barry Mason are the subjects of "Circus of Books." Netflix

This fascinating doc looks at the life of Karen and Barry Mason. After answering an ad to distribute Larry Flynt's Hustler Magazine in the late 1970s, it led to the duo becoming the biggest distributor of gay porn in the US at the time thanks to their store, Circus of Books.

"Crip Camp"

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James Lebrecht and Nicole Newnham's "Crip Camp." Netflix

Another doc that could find success come Oscar night is this powerful look at some of the people, who went to a summer camp for teens with disabilities. The teens went on to be major voices in the disabilities rights movement.

"Da 5 Bloods"

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Spike Lee's "Da 5 Bloods." Netflix

Spike Lee's thrilling and emotionally-charged movie about friendship, loyalty, and redemption will certainly get Oscar attention.

Delroy Lindo's performance is a lock to get him his first-ever Oscar nomination (at the very least) and there could be attention for Lee, as well as the movie's beautiful cinematography and score.

"The Devil All the Time"

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Tom Holland in "The Devil All the Time." Netflix

This gritty drama about a group of troubled people whose lives intersect (and often not ending well) could find Oscar love in the below-the-line categories, including production design and costumes. Both are essential to bring us back to the movie's setting of the late 1950s to mid 1960s.

"Dick Johnson is Dead"

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Kristen Johnson's "Dick Johnson is Dead." Netflix

Director Kirsten Johnson uses comedy to take on a very serious topic.

With her father, Dick, suffering from dementia, she decides to come up with scenarios in which he could die. Dick plays along, leading to a very unique father-daughter story.

This one might go over Academy voters heads, but it's worth a shot.

"The Dig" (Available TBA)

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Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes in "The Dig." Netflix

There isn't much known about this one other than that it's a based on the 2007 John Preston novel about the most famous archaeological dig in modern British times, the excavation of Sutton Hoo.

With a cast that includes Lily James, Carey Mulligan, and Ralph Fiennes it's one to keep an eye out for.

"Disclosure"

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Laverne Cox in "Disclosure." Netflix

This powerful documentary chronicles how Hollywood has depicted transgender people and how it's impacted society at large.

"Hillbilly Elegy" (Available November 24)

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Glenn Close in "Hillbilly Elegy." Netflix

This drama about the American Dream, which has all the makings of an Oscar contender, is an adaptation of the acclaimed novel by J.D. Vance.

The film, directed by Ron Howard, stars Glenn Close, Amy Adams, Haley Bennett, Freida Pinto, and Gabriel Basso.

Fingers crossed that this is the film that will get Close or Adams their first Oscar wins (maybe both).

"I'm Thinking of Ending Things"

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Charlie Kaufman's "I'm Thinking of Ending Things." Netflix

If there's a Charlie Kaufman movie out, you have to consider it getting Oscar attention.

His writing-directing talents shine here in this look at a woman meeting her boyfriend's parents. It's typical Kaufman fare.

"The Life Ahead"

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Sophia Loren in "The Life Ahead." Netflix

Marking the first time Sophia Loren has been in a movie since 2009's "Nine," this film could pull at the heart strings of Academy voters.

In it, Loren plays a Holocaust survivor who forms a bond with an immigrant boy from Senegal. And to top it all off, the movie is directed by Loren's son, Edoardo Ponti.

If Netflix plays it cards right, this could go beyond a best foreign language nomination hopeful and leap to a lead actress nod for Loren.

"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" (Available December 18)

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Chadwick Boseman (left) and Viola Davis in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." Netflix

Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman (marking his final role before his death) star in this adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play from August Wilson in which Davis plays legendary blues singer Ma Rainey.

This film, Chadwick Boseman's final onscreen appearance, could potentially be big for Netflix's award season push.

"Malcolm & Marie" (Available February 5)

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John David Washington and Zendaya in "Malcolm & Marie." Netflix

Sam Levinson, creator of the hit HBO series "Euphoria," directs this drama between a filmmaker (John David Washington) and his girlfriend (Zendaya) as their relationship is tested while home from a movie premiere and awaiting the critical response.

This one has received major buzz ever since the streaming giant bought it for $30 million.

"Mank" (Available December 4)

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Gary Oldman in "Mank." Netflix

Here's another one Netflix is getting behind in a big way.

David Fincher's first feature film since 2014's "Gone Girl" looks at the man behind the script for "Citizen Kane," Herman J. Mankiewicz (played by Gary Oldman).

From a script written by Fincher's late father, Jack, here we follow the unlikely creation of one of the greatest movies ever made and the self-destructive person who made it possible (that's not named Orson Welles).

"The Midnight Sky" (December 23)

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George Clooney in "The Midnight Sky." Philippe Antonella/Netflix

George Clooney stars and directs in this movie in which he plays a scientist, who's trying to stop a crew of astronauts from returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe.

Along with Clooney, Felicity Jones, Kyle Chandler, and David Oyelowo all star. But this film might be gunning for a best director nomination for Clooney.

"Over the Moon"

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Glen Keane's "Over the Moon." Netflix

Over in the best animation Oscar category, Netflix might try its luck with this musical that follows a girl, who builds a rocket ship in hopes of meeting the moon goddess.

"Pieces of a Woman" (January 7)

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Shia LaBeouf and Vanessa Kirby in "Pieces of a Woman." Netflix

Vanessa Kirby is definitely a frontrunner in the best actress category thanks to her incredible performance in this drama that focuses on a woman who loses her baby during child birth.

Don't sleep on Ellen Burstyn being in the running for the supporting actress category. She delivers as the disapproving mother of Kirby's character. 

"The Prom" (Available December 11)

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Meryl Streep and James Corden in "The Prom." Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix

This Ryan Murphy musical, which is a big screen adaptation of the 2016 musical of the same name, taps some major stars to portray a group of New York stage actors, who set out to Indiana to support a girl who's not allowed to bring her girlfriend to prom.

Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key, Jo Ellen Pellman, and Tracey Ullman star.

"Rebecca"

"Rebecca."
Lily James in "Rebecca." Kerry Brown/Netflix

Lily James plays a young newlywed who finds herself having to live up to the legacy of her new husband's late first wife Rebecca.

The lush locations and costume design could grab the attention of Oscar voters.

"The Trial of the Chicago 7"

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Sacha Baron Cohen (right) in "The Trial of the Chicago 7." Niko Tavernise/Netflix

Aaron Sorkin writes and directs this powerful look at the protestors responsible for the uprising at the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the courtroom circus that transpired a year later.

Sacha Baron Cohen and Jeremy Strong give Oscar-worthy performances and there's buzz around Sorkin getting nominated in the directing and screenplay categories.

"The White Tiger" (Available January 22)

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Adarsh Gourav and Priyanka Chopra Jonas in "The White Tiger." Tejinder Singh Khamkha/Netflix

Ramin Bahrani ("99 Homes," "Fahrenheit 451") delivers a powerful story that focuses on India's social class.

It looks at a village boy (Adarsh Gourav) who grows to become the driver of a rich landlord. Through his cleverness, he attempts to get out of living in servitude.

It's certainly another Netflix title with Oscar potential.

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