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Taking a look at potential Best Documentary Feature contenders

(Updated to include the official 166 Oscar contenders)

Ahoy there folks! For what will be my final installment in the annual category/contender rundown, I’m going to finish things up by moving on from the big eight categories, as you might have guessed. Yes, I’m taking a look now at another one of the in betweens, or as I call them, the “mini-majors”. That’s where the focus will be today. This time out, that happens to be the rarely boring and highly unpredictable Best Documentary Feature race. Obviously, this is a rather hard one to pin down early on, or really ever, but as always, I’m feeling more than up for the challenge. Especially in terms of the quality this year in Documentary Feature, it’s really an embarrassment of riches. Take a gander below and obviously keep in mind that this one also will be more fluid than normal going forward, as lots is still to be decided. Here we go. This will be a fun one…

Here now are the five documentary films that I actually have currently cracking the unofficial lineup later on this year:

1. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? – In one of the best and most competitive fields in years, the top slot currently belongs to Morgan Neville’s look at the life of Fred Rogers. Best Documentary Feature going to a biopic of Mr. Rogers? Believe it. This is a really close race right now, but if there’s a slight favorite here in November, it’s this one. The precursors will be essential, one way or another.

2. Three Identical Strangers – I’d be shocked if this doc wasn’t nominated. It’s as much a mystery as a character study, and could easily be the main competition in Documentary Feature. Tim Wardle’s doc, along with many of these mentioned here, has made some strong box office money too, which can’t hurt. Don’t sleep on this one, as it could really end up surprising…

3. Minding the Gap – Slowly but surely, this small film is becoming a likelier and likelier title to score a nod. Bing Liu’s movie has snuck up on the race, likely in advance of scoring some huge critical awards soon. If so, the doc may well see some potential as an upset pick. I’m not there yet, but would anything surprise you this year?

4. RBG – Seemingly very safe for a nom is this look at the Notorious RBG, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West made a real crowd pleaser, at least for those of us on the left. The Academy likely feels similarly, so if as many Oscar voters as expected flock to this one, a nomination should happen with ease. Will it be too light to compete for the win? Stay tuned to find out!

5. Free Solo – You can never count out Michael Moore, so Fahrenheit 11/9 remains in play, as does something a little more esoteric like Maria by Callas or They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead. Still, for this final spot, I think Free Solo is in a good position. Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi have crafted something with a bit of a following already. Discount it at your own peril…

Next in line I’d have these ten contenders (just sans my own personal commentary here) for Best Documentary Feature:

6. Fahrenheit 11/9
7. Maria by Callas
8. Whitney
9. The King
10. They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead
11. The Final Year
12. Love Gilda
13. The Sentence
14. Generation Wealth
15. Believer

And here’s another small group to give you 30 contenders in total right now:

16. Jane Fonda in Five Acts
17. Science Fair
18. Dark Money
19. Shirkers
20. Pope Francis: A Man of His Word
21. Reversing Roe
22. The Bleeding Edge
23. Monrovia, Indiana
24. Inventing Tomorrow
25. Weed the People
26. McQueen
27. Of Fathers and Sons
28. Eating Animals
29. Quincy
30. The Last Race


Now, here are all of the official 166 Academy Award contenders in the category:

“Above and Beyond: NASA’S Journey to Tomorrow”
“Active Measures”
“Amazing Grace”
“American Chaos”
“Andy Irons: Kissed by God”
“Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex Fashion & Disco”
“Avicii: True Stories”
“Bali: Beats of Paradise”
“Bathtubs over Broadway”
“Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché”
“Better Angels”
“Bill Coors: The Will to Live”
“Bisbee ’17”
“The Bleeding Edge”
“Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat”
“Breaking Point: The War for Democracy in Ukraine”
“Call Her Ganda”
“Charm City”
“Chef Flynn”
“The China Hustle”
“Christian Audigier The Vif”
“The Cleaners”
“Crime + Punishment”
“Dark Money”
“Daughters of the Sexual Revolution: The Untold Story of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders”
“The Dawn Wall”
“The Distant Barking of Dogs”
“Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes”
“Eating Animals”
“Fahrenheit 11/9”
“Fail State”
“Family in Transition”
“Far from the Tree”
“The First Patient”
“Foreign Land”
“40 Years in the Making: The Magic Music Movie”
“Free Solo”
“Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable”
“Generation Wealth”
“Ghost Hunting”
“The Gilligan Manifesto”
“The Gospel According to André”
“Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami”
“Graves without a Name”
“The Great Buster: A Celebration”
“Hale County This Morning, This Evening”
“Half the Picture”
“The Heart of Nuba”
“The Homeless Chorus Speaks”
“In Search of Greatness”
“In the Land of Pomegranates”
“Inventing Tomorrow”
“Invisible Hands”
“Jane Fonda in Five Acts”
“John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection”
“The Judge”
“Kangaroo: A Love Hate Story”
“Killer Bees”
“The King”
“King in the Wilderness”
“Kusama – Infinity”
“The Last Race”
“Leaning into the Wind: Andy Goldsworthy”
“Letter from Masanjia”
“Licu, a Romanian Story”
“Living in the Future’s Past”
“Lots of Kids, a Monkey and a Castle”
“Love & Bananas: An Elephant Story”
“Love, Cecil”
“Love, Gilda”
“Love Is Tolerance – Tolerance Is Love – Make Tolerance Great Again!”
“Making The Five Heartbeats”
“Maria by Callas”
“Matangi / Maya / M.I.A.”
“Minding the Gap”
“Monrovia, Indiana”
“The Most Unknown”
“New Moon”
“Nossa Chape”
“Of Fathers and Sons”
“Of Love & Law”
“On Her Shoulders”
“Opera about Poland”
“The Opera House”
“The Oslo Diaries”
“The Other Side of Everything”
“The Panama Papers”
“Path of Blood”
“People’s Republic of Desire”
“Philosopher King – Lee Teng-hui’s Dialogue”
“Pick of the Litter”
“Police Killing”
“Pope Francis – A Man of His Word”
“The Price of Everything”
“The Price of Free”
“Qiu (Inmates)”
“The Rachel Divide”
“The Raft”
“Recovery Boys”
“Restoring Tomorrow”
“Reversing Roe”
“The Road Movie”
“Robin Williams: Come inside My Mind”
“Ruben Blades Is Not My Name”
“Samouni Road”
“Saving Brinton”
“Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland”
“Science Fair”
“Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood”
“Searching for Ingmar Bergman”
“Seeing Allred”
“The Sentence”
“Shot in the Dark”
“The Silence of Others”
“Sisters of the Wilderness”
“A Son of Man”
“Studio 54”
“Summer in the Forest”
“Tea with the Dames”
“That Summer”
“That Way Madness Lies…”
“They Fight”
“They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead”
“This Is Congo”
“This Is Home: A Refugee Story”
“Three Identical Strangers”
“To Be Continued”
“Travel Ban”
“The Trial”
“Triumph: The Untold Story of Perry Wallace”
“Trust Machine”
“Under the Wire”
“United Skates”
“Unknown Distance”
“Up Down and Sideways”
“The Waldheim Waltz”
“We Could Be Heroes”
“Weed the People”
“What Haunts Us”
“What Lies Upstream”
“Wonderful Losers: A Different World”
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
“Yellow Is Forbidden”


Stay tuned to see how it all turns out in Best Documentary Feature!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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