Narrowing 238 documentary features down to 15 seems like an almost impossible task. Someday I’d really like to talk to the Academy members whose job it is to whittle them down. Instead of just picking the five I think will get Oscar nominations, I decided to expand and guess the 15 documentaries that will be shortlisted next week. I broke them into three different categories:

  • What I think is likely to get the Oscar nominations (again, parring down 238 to 5 leaves enormous room for error).
  • What has been tracking throughout the awards season and has a shot at being shortlisted.
  • What I personally want to see get shortlisted and perhaps even sneak in for a nomination as well.

As more information comes in, these will probably change.


Magnolia Pictures

“Dick Johnson Is Dead”


“76 Days”
MTV Documentary Films

Amazon Studios


IMDB Synopsis: Director Alexander Nanau follows a crack team of investigators at the Romanian newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor as they try to uncover a vast health-care fraud that enriched moguls and politicians and led to the deaths of innocent citizens.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET NOMINATED: Not only did “Collective” make the shortlist for Best Documentary Feature, it is also the Romanian entry for the Best International Feature category, meaning the film could be a double nominee, but like “Honeyland” was last year. “Collective” has been winning critics awards and is highly rated on both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.


IMDB Synopsis: A daughter helps her father prepare for the end of his life.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET NOMINATED: Director Kirsten Johnson was behind the lens of Oscar-winning documentary “Citizenfour” and directed the much-talked-about documentary “Cameraperson.” In this documentary, she takes a personal approach and I can already tell this is going to be a tearjerker.

#3: “GUNDA” — NEON

IMDB Synopsis: Documentary looks at the daily life of a pig and its farm animal companions: two cows and a one-legged chicken.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET NOMINATED: Produced by Joaquin Phoenix, “Gunda” seems just crazy enough to land on some people’s radars. Offering a nice balance of getting a message across without being too serious, I believe this one could have what it takes to get a nomination.

#4: “76 DAYS” — MTV Documentary Films

IMDB Synopsis: Raw and intimate, this documentary captures the struggles of patients and frontline medical professionals battling the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET NOMINATED: Timely doesn’t even begin to cover this one. “76 Days” covers the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan. I think everyone’s going to want to see this one.


IMDB Synopsis: Fox Rich fights for the release of her husband, Rob, who is serving a 60-year sentence in prison.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET NOMINATED: Probably the most nominated and award-winning documentary coming into award season, this documentary has been acclaimed from Sundance through the end-of-year critics’ awards.


“All In: The Fight for Democracy”
Amazon Studios

“Athlete A”

“Crip Camp”

“The Dissident”
Briarcliff Entertainment

“Welcome to Chechnya”
HBO Films


IMDB Synopsis: The documentary takes a look at the history, and current activism against voter suppression; barriers to voting that most people don’t even know is a threat to their basic rights as citizens of the United States.


IMDB Synopsis: Follow the Indianapolis Star reporters that broke the story about USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s abuse and hear from gymnasts like Maggie Nichols.


IMDB Synopsis: Down the road from Woodstock, a revolution blossomed at a ramshackle summer camp for teenagers with disabilities, transforming their lives and igniting a landmark movement.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET SHORTLISTED: Winning an audience award at Sundance is no small feat. And for that, I definitely see this as a strong enough contender to make one of the final cuts. Being available on Netflix helps it to be widely available. The film itself seems like something we haven’t seen in awhile.

#9: “THE DISSIDENT” — Briarcliff Entertainment

IMDB Synopsis: When Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappears in Istanbul, his fiancée and dissidents around the world piece together the clues to a murder and expose a global cover up.


IMDB Synopsis: A group of activists risk their lives fighting for LGBTQ+ rights in Chechnya.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET SHORTLISTED: This one might have them at “LGBTQ+ activists fighting for their rights.”


“I Am Greta”

The Match Factory

“The Painter and the Thief”

“Rebuilding Paradise”
National Geographic

“The Way I See It”
Focus Features

#11: “I AM GRETA” — HULU

IMDB Synopsis: The documentary follows Greta Thunberg, a teenage climate activist from Northern Europe, on her international crusade to get people to listen to scientists about the world’s environmental problems.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET SHORTLISTED: This is one of the only documentaries I saw this year and I really enjoyed it. Greta Thunberg is such a unique human being and getting to watch her ascend into the public eye is what documentary filmmaking is all about.


IMDB Synopsis: Gianfranco Rosi’s new documentary is an immersive portrait of those trying to survive in the war-torn Middle East.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET SHORTLISTED: “Notturno” is another film that made the cut for both Best Documentary Feature and Best International Feature. Selected as the Italian entry, the film has the added benefit of being from a director (Gianfranco Rosi) who was previously nominated (“Fire At Sea”).


IMDB Synopsis: An artist befriends the thief who stole her paintings. She becomes his closest ally when he is severely hurt in a car crash and needs full time care, even if her paintings are not found. But then the tables turn.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET SHORTLISTED: “The Painter and the Thief” has one of those premises that jumps off the paper when you read it. It also comes off as something the Academy chooses time and time again. Add to that the fact that it had a good showing with the Critics’ Choice Documentary Award nominations, taking one for Best Director and Best Documentary.


IMDB Synopsis: The community of Paradise, California, a town in the Sierra Nevada foothills, attempts to rebuild after devastating wildfires in 2018.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET SHORTLISTED: The documentary is directed by RON HOWARD! What a huge director for a documentary and easily enough to make it stand out of the crowd. Add to that the timely topic of wildfire and how you wouldn’t put this as a favorite, I do not know.


IMDB Synopsis: Former Chief Official White House Photographer Pete Souza’s journey as a person with top secret clearance and total access to the President.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET SHORTLISTED: Who doesn’t want to see what “total access to the President” looks like. I’ve followed Pete Souza’s social media for awhile now and have really enjoyed it.



A documentary about the Beastie Boys directed by Spike Jonze… IMDB Synopsis: Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz of Beastie Boys tell you an intimate, personal story of their band, and their 40 years of friendship together.


The fact that John Belushi was so beloved… IMDB Synopsis: Using previously unheard audiotapes recorded shortly after John Belushi’s death, director R.J. Cutler’s documentary examines the too-short life of once-in-a-generation talent who captured the hearts and funny bones of devoted audiences.


Won Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. Also, falls into the category of timely and government… IMDB Synopsis: A thousand 17-year-old boys from Texas join together to build a representative government from the ground up.


As we just lost John Lewis last year, this documentary is extremely timely… IMDB Synopsis: The film explores Georgia representative’s, 60-plus years of social activism and legislative action on civil rights, voting rights, gun control, health care reform, and immigration.


Never underestimate Taylor Swift fans… IMDB Synopsis: A look at iconic pop artist Taylor Swift during a transformational time in her life as she embraces her role as a singer/songwriter and harnesses the full power of her voice.


The synopsis speaks for itself. Plus, Sam Pollard’s been nominated before… IMDB Synopsis: Based on newly declassified files, Sam Pollard’s resonant film explores the US government’s surveillance and harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr.


Get ready for the onslaught of “the dangers of social media” documentaries. Falls into the “timely” category as well. IMDB Synopsis: Explores the dangerous human impact of social networking, with tech experts sounding the alarm on their own creations.


Crazy and different enough to grab the attention of the Academy voters. IMDB Synopsis: A look at the group of people who built the Biosphere 2, a giant replica of the earth’s ecosystem, in 1991.


“Acasa, My Home”
“Addicted to Ralphie”
“All I Can Say”
“All In: The Fight for Democracy”
“The American Sector”
“American Selfie: One Nation Shoots Itself”
“America’s Forgotten”
“The Antidote”
“Apocalypse ’45”
“The Art of Living in Danger”
“The Art of Political Murder”
“Athlete A”
“Babenco -Tell Me When I Die”
“Be Water”
“Beastie Boys Story”
“Beautiful Something Left Behind”
“Belly of the Beast”
“Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint”
“The Big Scary “S” Word”
“Black Boys”
“Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets”
“The Booksellers”
“Born to Be”
“Boys State”
“Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn”
“Capital in the Twenty-First Century”
“Chicago: America’s Hidden War”
“Childhood 2.0”
“Chuck Berry”
“Circus of Books”
“City Dream”
“City Hall”
“Coded Bias”
“Colombia in My Arms”
“Coming Clean”
“Coup 53”
“Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words”
“Creem: America’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll Magazine”
“Crip Camp”
“Crock of Gold -A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan”
“The Curve”
“Dave Grusin: Not Enough Time”
“David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet”
“Days of Cannibalism”
“Dear Santa”
“Death Protocol”
“Desert One”
“Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy”
“Dick Johnson Is Dead”
“The Dissident”
“The Dog Doc”
“The Donut King”
“Dope Is Death”
“Down a Dark Stairwell”
“Downstream to Kinshasa”
“The Earth Is Blue as an Orange”
“Ending Disease”
“Erased, Ascent of the Invisible”
“Escape from Extinction”
“Everybody Flies”
“F11 and Be There”
“Fandango at the Wall”
“Father Soldier Son”
“Feels Good Man”
“The Fight”
“Find Your Groove”
“Finding Yingying”
“Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds”
“First Vote”
“First We Eat”
“For They Know Not What They Do”
“The Forbidden Reel”
“40 Years a Prisoner”
“Freak Power: The Ballot or the Bomb”
“Freedia Got a Gun”
“The Ghost of Peter Sellers”
“Giving Voice”
“A Glitch in the Matrix”
“The Go-Go’s”
“Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind”
“Harry Chapin: When in Doubt, Do Something”
“He Dreams of Giants”
“House of Cardin”
“The Human Factor”
“Human Nature”
“I Am Greta”
“I Am Not Alone”
“I Owe You a Letter about Brazil”
“In My Skin”
“Indian Space Dreams”
“The Infiltrators”
“(In)Visible Portraits”
“Irradiés (Irradiated)”
“Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President”
“John Lewis: Good Trouble”
“Journey to Royal: A World War II Rescue Mission”
“Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl”
“A Kid from Coney Island”
“Kingdom of Silence”
“Kings of Capitol Hill”
“Kiss the Ground”
“La Madrina: The SavageLife of Lorine Padilla”
“The Last Blockbuster”
“Last Call for Tomorrow”
“Lennox: The Untold Story”
“Lessons of Love”
“The Letter”
“Libelu -Down with the Dictatorship”
“Life Is Deadly”
“Lift Like a Girl”
“Lost Course”
“Lost in Face”
“Love Child”
“Made You Look: A True Story about Fake Art”
“Man in the Arena”
“Martin Margiela: In His Own Words”
“Mighty Ira”
“Miss Americana”
“Mr. Soul!”
“The Mole Agent”
“The Monster inside Me”
“A Most Beautiful Thing”
“Mother to Earth: The Untold Story of Earth Bound”
“Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado”
“My Darling Supermarket”
“My Darling Vivian”
“My Octopus Teacher”
“My People: The Jews of Greece”
“My Psychedelic Love Story”
“My Rembrandt”
“Napoli Eden”
“Narciso Em Férias”
“The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel”
“9/11 Kids”
“9to5: The Story of a Movement”
“Oliver Sacks: His Own Life”
“On the Record”
“Once upon a Time in Venezuela”
“Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band”
“Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles”
“Our Time Machine”
“The Painter and the Thief”
“A Pandemic: Away from the Motherland”
“The Phenomenon”
“Planet of the Humans”
“The Plot against the President”
“The Pollinators”
“The Power of Movement”
“Pray: The Story of Patrick Peyton”
“Public Trust”
“Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack”
“The Reason I Jump”
“Rebuilding Paradise”
“Red Penguins”
“The Right Girls”
“Rising Phoenix”
“River City Drumbeat”
“River Tales”
“Searching for Mr. Rugoff”
“Self Portrait”
“17 Blocks The Final Cut”
“76 Days”
“Sky Blossom”
“Slay the Dragon”
“The Social Dilemma”
“Some Kind of Heaven”
“Songs of Repression”
“Spaceship Earth”
“Stars and Strife”
“The State of Texas vs. Melissa”
“Strip Down, Rise Up”
“System K”
“They Call Me Babu”
“This Is Not a Movie”
“This Is Paris”
“A Thousand Cuts”
“Through the Night”
“The Times of Bill Cunningham”
“Totally under Control”
“The Truffle Hunters”
“Trust Me”
“Uncle Tom”
“#Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump”
“Us Kids”
“WBCN and the American Revolution”
“The Walrus and the Whistleblower”
“The Way I See It”
“We Are the Radical Monarchs”
“We Don’t Deserve Dogs”
“Welcome to Chechnya”
“White Noise”
“Who Is GatsbyRandolph”
“Wild Daze”
“Wim Wenders: Desperado”
“With Drawn Arms”
“A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem”
“Women in Blue”
“You Cannot Kill David Arquette”
“Yusuf Hawkins: Storm over Brooklyn”

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