Where to Watch the Biggest 2022 Awards Contenders

Where to Watch the Biggest 2022 Awards Contenders

STREAMING

All Quiet on the Western Front (Netflix)

Germany’s submission for best international feature at the Oscars is an expansive war drama, adapted from the famous 1929 novel that was already the basis for the best-picture winner of 1930. The reviews for this one have been effusive too, with The Guardian calling it “remarkable, if harrowing, film-making.” It may not have a path toward the best-picture lineup, the way multiple international-feature contenders have in recent years, but future Oscar completists can get a head start with this one. —Katey Rich

Causeway (Apple TV+)

Jennifer Lawrence is the face of this quiet, observant drama, which follows a war vet’s difficult homecoming and attempts to integrate herself back into a day-to-day routine. And sure enough, the Oscar winner gives her most lived-in, affecting performance in years, under the assured direction of first-time filmmaker and Broadway regular Lila Neugebauer. To be sure, she’s back in the race. But even more exciting may be the prospect of first-time Oscar nominee Brian Tyree Henry, who all but walks away with the character piece as the neighbor with whom she strikes up a connection. The Emmy nominee gets the movie’s big scene, his careful naturalistic work winding its way toward a tender heartbreaker. “I wanted to show another side of me,” Henry told Vanity Fair earlier this month. Mission: accomplished. —David Canfield

Elvis (HBO Max)

The biopic based on Elvis Presley’s life catapulted relative newcomer Austin Butler into the best-actor Oscar race for his excellent portrayal of “early Elvis’s almost androgynous—and yet still aggressively virile—magnetism,” as Vanity Fair’s review puts it. The glitzy Baz Luhrmann drama, which debuted in Cannes and went on to become a box office smash, suffered some criticism, especially for Tom Hanks’s odd portrayal of Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, but it’s very likely going to land a best-picture nominee for hitting just enough of the right notes as a showy musical biopic. —Rebecca Ford

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (Hulu)

The topsy-turvy journey of Sophie Hyde’s virtual Sundance premiere has ended in a happy place, as following an appeal from distributor Searchlight Pictures, the Academy has deemed it eligible for Oscars consideration despite its exclusive US release on Hulu. The well-reviewed two-hander is intimate in scope, mostly taking place in a hotel room, but Emma Thompson’s extraordinary performance at its center—playing a retired teacher who hires a sex worker (Daryl McCormack) to experience her first orgasm—is major enough to have thrown some more chaos into the best-actress race. Speaking on Little Gold Men last month, Thompson said of entering the awards race as a streaming contender, “This was the best way of getting the most people to see something that’s, after all, about two people in a bedroom. It couldn’t be more intimate, and therefore perhaps in a sense, more appropriate for home viewing.” —DC

Good Night Oppy (Prime Video)

The charming winner of the Critics Choice Documentary Award for best documentary feature has been a crowd-pleaser on the festival circuit, with its remarkable archival footage of the NASA control room where engineers successfully launched and landed a pair of rovers on Mars. Spanning the unexpectedly long 14-year life of the Opportunity rover, with some starry-eyed glimpses toward the potential future of space travel, it could make anyone optimistic about what a group of determined scientists can accomplish. Added bonus: With Angela Bassett narrating, it’s a second opportunity this fall to marvel at just how much she can do. —KR

The Good Nurse (Netflix)

A dark, slow-burn of a thriller starring two past Oscar winners, The Good Nurse reveals the true story of one of the world’s most prolific serial killers. But instead of focusing on killer Charles Cullen (creepily played by Eddie Redmayne), the film centers on the ICU nurse who helped authorities finally catch him. Jessica Chastain delivers a very different, and much more subtle, performance from her Oscar-winning work in last year’s The Eyes of Tammy Faye, this time capturing the slow escalation of intensity as one woman sets out to capture a killer. —RF

The Northman (Peacock)

Most likely a contender in crafts categories if anything, this springtime release from director Robert Eggers is still quite a thing to behold, with Alexander Skarsgård as a Viking warrior who will stop at nothing—not even a naked fight on a volcano—to get revenge. Talking to VF’s Yohana Desta earlier this year about how the film came together, from Nicole Kidman’s fiery monologues to a fight scene where Anya Taylor-Joy’s character smears an attacker with menstrual blood, Eggers admitted, “I clearly enjoy the challenge!” he says. “Why shouldn’t I? If what you’re doing is not difficult, it’s probably not worth doing.” There’s an FYC ad out for this movie that promotes Björk as a supporting-actress contender—how can you not want to see that? —KR

Nope (Peacock)

Jordan Peele’s third feature has become yet another critical and commercial success in his oeuvre, boosted by charismatic star turns from Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer and especially stunning cinematography from Oscar-nominated DP Hoyte van Hoytema. Nope provides a true big-screen experience, with its vast Western landscape and gorgeous, mysterious skies, but if you missed it during its theatrical run, the visuals are striking enough—and the twists and turns exciting enough—that a stream will prove the next best thing. Just make sure you turn off the lights; in the dark, things get wild. —DC

RRR (Netflix)

Though it wasn’t chosen as India’s submission in the best-international-feature race, the Telugu-language historical epic RRR is going for a full-tilt awards campaign all the same, with particularly high hopes for its original song and accompanying, electrifying dance sequence, “Naatu Naatu.” Seeing RRR on the big screen seems to be the optimal experience, as many months of ecstatic tweets can attest, but if Netflix is the only way you’ll make it to this 182-minute spectacle, so be it. —KR

Turning Red (Disney+) 

Looking for a truly family-friendly film? Pixar has created another heartwarming animated movie that’s just as entertaining for adults as it is for the young’uns. Director Domee Shi pulled from her own childhood as the daughter of Chinese immigrants growing up in Canada for this tale of a 13-year-old girl whose dream of going to her favorite boy band’s concert is in jeopardy when she begins unexpectedly transforming into a giant red panda. Turning Red is a lock for the animated-feature category— a category Pixar has won 11 times—and revisiting those awkward early teen years (and the best of the ’90s) has never been so fun. —RF

RENTABLE

Armageddon Time

Director James Gray makes no bones about how personal his new movie is — “If someone loves the movie, great. If someone says, ‘I hated that movie,’ it means they hate part of me,” he said on Little Gold Men. “They have the right to do that, they have the right to say that, but it hurts.” Set in 1980 in Queens, the film follows a young boy names Paul (Banks Repeta) who is very much like Gray, an aspiring artist who bristles against his family’s expectations and whose friendship with a Black classmate (Jaylin Webb) leads to devastating consequences. Much more than just a coming-of-age story, it’s a stark look at the very specific circumstances of a Jewish family in the 1980s, what they sacrificed to get where they were, and what they are willing to do to keep what they see as a precarious position. With stellar supporting performances from Jeremy Strong, Anne Hathaway, and Anthony Hopkins, it’s as challenging as any film Gray has made in the past, but with an awards campaign behind it that Focus Features is hoping will help it go far. —KR

Everything Everywhere All at Once

If you haven’t had a chance to catch Everything Everywhere All at Once, which first came out in March and has been one of the most buzzed-about movies since, now is the time. It begins as a film about an exhausted laundromat owner (Michelle Yeoh) who is undergoing an audit and then transforms into a spectacular multiverse-jumping adventure that is, at its heart, a story about a mother-and-daughter relationship—and what’s more Thanksgiving-appropriate than a dysfunctional family? Yeoh’s performance, packed with action, drama, and sci-fi elements, shows off her abilities in a way that fans have never seen before. As she recently told Vanity Fair, “My 40 years of experience was like a long rehearsal for this movie.” It was worth the wait. —RF

Tár

We can’t tell you how to spend your time this weekend, but an arguably career-best performance from arguably the greatest actor of her generation isn’t the worst way to catch up on this awards season. Cate Blanchett has already started lining up tribute awards at major festivals, and is riding incredible reviews, following Tár’s limited release last month, for her portrayal of a revered classical music conductor facing a great downfall. The movie also marks a great long-awaited comeback for writer-director Todd Field, while Nina Hoss steals every one of her scenes in support. But the secret key to the movie’s success? Oscar-winning composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, who developed the film with Field and Blanchett from the beginning. —DC

Till

In a best-actress race dominated by legends of the business—Cate Blanchett, Michelle Yeoh, Emma Thompson, Olivia Colman—it speaks volumes that Danielle Deadwyler has remained such a competitive force among them. The Till star, who found acclaim earlier this year for her supporting performance in the limited series Station Eleven, is simply incredible as a mother who faces down unimaginable grief before galvanizing the Civil Rights Movement with her strength and resolve. The movie around her, which avoids depicting violence onscreen while not straying away from the brutal circumstances around Emmett Till’s murder, is strong too—one of the specialty box office’s better performers this fall, and at 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, one of the year’s best-reviewed titles. —DC

Triangle of Sadness

Director Ruben Ostlund, who won his second Palme d’Or at Cannes earlier this year, didn’t want to make a social satire that was only about mean rich people. “I didn’t want to make them ignorant or mean because I think that that is maybe the conventional way when we look at class,” he explained on Little Gold Men. “I didn’t want to go down that road because I don’t believe it’s true.” But he puts the wealthy through their paces all the same, depicting a luxury-yacht trip that ends in disastrous fashion, and with a maid played by Filipino actor Dolly de Leon suddenly in charge of the social hierarchy. “I knew I was doing something that would impact everybody who feels they don’t have the advantages others do,” the film’s breakout star told VF. “In Cannes, the European audiences, they appreciated that. But Filipinos like me? I think they would really love it. I feel like I have the whole country behind me.” —KR

Top Gun: Maverick

It’s hard to imagine many people who haven’t already seen this year’s undeniable juggernaut, now the 11th-highest grossing movie of all time. But the high-flying thrills do translate at home, and repeat viewings offer new opportunities to marvel at the kinetic editing, the you-are-there realism of the flying sequences (captured in real fighter jets), or even the surprisingly tender chemistry between Tom Cruise and Jennifer Connelly. The movie’s reputation has only grown since its release in May, so if you saw it this summer thinking it was just a popcorn adventure, now’s the time to revisit and discover a very real best-picture contender too. (It will be also be available to stream on Paramount+ as of December 22.) —KR

The Woman King

Gina Prince-Bythewood’s subversive take on the historical Hollywood epic can already claim smash festival premiere and box office success to its list of accomplishments. Now this rousing action movie, starring Viola Davis and Thuso Mbedu as warriors from the kingdom of Dahomey in 1820s Africa, will get its moment on demand as it finds new fans. No matter the size of the screen you watch on, though, pay careful attention to the visuals. And allow Prince-Bythewood and DP Polly Morgan to tell you why in this very thorough primer. —DC

ONLY IN THEATERS

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed

The second documentary to win the Golden Lion, the top prize at the Venice Film Festival, Laura Poitras’s film made hand-in-hand with her subject, Nan Goldin, remains in a strong front-runner position for the best-documentary Oscar. A chronicle of Goldin’s career as an artist but also her recent activist work against members of the Sackler family, whose company Purdue Pharma manufactured Oxycontin, it’s full of the same raw emotion that defines Goldin’s work, but with a real historic sweep. For a movie that will spark intense conversation after everyone leaves the theater, you can’t do much better. —KR

The Banshees of Inisherin

Martin McDonagh’s tragicomic account of a friendship breakup broke out of the gate as one of the fall’s strongest performers at the specialty box office, and generated instant Oscar buzz for its cast of possible first-time nominees—from industry veterans Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, playing the friends in question, to rising stars Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan, who brilliantly round out the ensemble. The project marks a personal kind of homecoming for McDonagh, previously Oscar-nominated for his Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, script, as it’s his first feature set in his native Ireland. “I wanted it to be as beautiful as possible,” McDonagh told VF of how he filmed the country. “To aim for beauty and for cinema.” —DC

Bardo

Two-time Oscar-winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s movies have often featured knockout performances by his leading actors, including Oscar-winning and nominating turns by Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant) and Michael Keaton (Birdman). This time around, it’s Mexican actor Daniel Giménez Cacho, playing a journalist grappling with his choice to move his family to the US, who handles the wild demands of a role that Iñárritu described to VF as dreamlike  and “very particular and very honest.” Not everyone will grasp or appreciate Iñárritu’s absurdist exploration of his immigrant identity, but even those who don’t can’t deny the film’s mastery of craft and cinematography. It’s in theaters only for now, and will stream on Netflix December 16. —RF

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

The follow-up to the best-picture-nominated Black Panther has something for everyone. After the loss of lead actor Chadwick Boseman, Ryan Coogler and the cast set out to explore the darkness of grief with a level of emotion not often seen in Marvel movies. But there’s still plenty of action, and the introduction of a beautiful underwater kingdom and a new, complicated villain. Expected to be a big player in multiple below-the-line categories including costumes, visual effects, and score, Wakanda Forever also allows Angela Bassett to step front and center, in a performance that deserves to be part of this year’s supporting-actress conversation. —RF

Decision to Leave

The Academy is always a little slower to warm to directors working predominantly in languages outside of English (see: Bong Joon Ho, Thomas Vinterberg, and on), which helps to explain why Park Chan-wook’s Academy moment may finally be on its way. The Handmaiden director has long been a star in his native Korea and among art house audiences around the world, but his latest, Decision to Leave, has seemed to elevate his profile ever since the filmmaker took the Cannes Film Festival’s best-director prize. An homage to film noir that balances elements of the detective and romantic genres, before completely upending them, the movie showcases an artist in complete control—and having some fun along the way. —DC

Devotion

Devotion, based on the true story of Jesse L. Brown, a pioneering Black Naval aviator who flew during the Korean War, has at its core a story of friendship between Brown and a fellow Naval aviator Tom Hudner. Devotion features stunning cinematography of the aviation sequences, combined with a deeply personal story for director J.D. Dillard. Some will come for the handsome actors playing handsome pilots (there’s a Jonas in the cast). Others for the tension-filled action sequences. But there won’t be one person who watches this film and doesn’t leave awestruck by the stunning performance that Jonathan Majors delivers as Brown, a talented pilot fighting both external and internal battles. —RF

The Fabelmans

“The decision to make the movie was maybe one of the scariest lines I’ve had to cross,” Steven Spielberg told VF’s Anthony Breznican about making The Fabelmans. “Once, with Tony’s help, I got past that, it was a very interesting experience.” The Tony he’s speaking of is Tony Kushner, who played both therapist and collaborator with Spielberg as they cowrote the screenplay, based partly on Spielberg’s childhood memories. The Oscar buzz around the movie is already deafening, with stellar performances from Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Judd Hirsch, and breakout star Gabriel Labelle—plus an audience award win at the Toronto International Film Festival in September that all but anointed it a best-picture front-runner. —KR

Glass Onion

The first Knives Out came close to a best-picture nomination and scored writer-director Rian Johnson his first-ever nod for his original screenplay. This sequel, already a hit with critics and one of the toasts of the Toronto International Film Festival, seeks to outdo its predecessor with the mighty backing of Netflix, and a particularly strong acting contender in Janelle Monáe. (No, not even she will tell you why.) Currently in theaters for a special, wide one-week preview, the movie—bringing back Daniel Craig while welcoming the likes of Edward Norton and Kate Hudson into the filed—is destined to be a holiday smash on the streaming platform. Here’s your reminder to avoid the FOMO. —DC

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Excuse me for the bluntness, but forget that other streaming Pinocchio movie that came out this year. Guillermo del Toro’s spin on the classic tale is wondrous, funny, intricately crafted, and surprisingly wrenching—and has emerged as the animation field’s clear front-runner after its London Film Festival debut. The film is so charming, in fact, it may pop in other areas with awards voters too, including its screenplay, a marvel of innovative adaptation that del Toro cowrote with Patrick McHale. The pair did a deep dive on the writing process with Vanity Fair—and revealed the toughest scene to get right on the page. —DC

The Inspection

You can feel the personal touch in Elegance Bratton’s semi-autobiographical debut narrative feature, which follows Ellis, a homeless young man (Jeremy Pope) who enlists in the Marines to win back the approval of his estranged mother (Gabrielle Union), who doesn’t accept that he’s gay. The lyrical, moving account of Ellis’s life in boot camp recalls classic war films while forging its own path, and in the powerhouse performances of Pope and Union—now Spirit Award–nominated—finds two richly emotional anchors.  For Union, especially, it’s a complete reintroduction. —DC

The Menu 

After making his name with work on a string of TV shows, including Succession’s darkly funny dinner-party episode, “Tern Haven,” Mark Mylod returns to making feature films with the only dinner that may be even worse. At a remote restaurant overseen by Ralph Fiennes’s imperious chef, a diverse group of diners—among them Nicholas Hoult, John Leguizamo, Judith Light, and Anya Taylor-Joy—discover the meal they’re paying dearly for may cost them more than they bargained. It’s a twisty, satirical thriller, and one that’s already thriving at the box office. See this one before you get spoiled—the surprises are worth savoring. —KR

She Said

She Said’s box office, like much of the adult fare released this season, hasn’t gotten off to the strongest start, which is a shame—it’s a carefully handled telling of a complicated story that rightly puts the journalists who uncovered the truth and the survivors who shared theirs to make it happen at the center. “We all know how it ended up, but this [movie] is about the job of journalism and what that job entails, and the bravery of the survivors coming forward,” star Zoe Kazan told VF. Kazan and Carey Mulligan, as the New York Times reporters, carry the film, but don’t miss out on the supporting work of Samantha Morton and Jennifer Ehle as survivors. With “a refusal to sentimentalize in the manner of so many based-on-a-true-story films,” as described in Vanity Fair’s review, She Said follows in the footsteps of best-picture winner Spotlight for its smart, carefully crafted storytelling of a true story that changed the world. —RF

White Noise

Noah Baumbach tends to make lower-budget, dialogue-driven movies that critics (and sometimes the Academy) love, no matter how many people see them. Netflix seemed to think the Oscar nominee was due for something on a bigger scale, granting Baumbach the resources to mount what many considered the unfilmable: an adaptation of Don DeLillo’s trippy, prophetic novel White Noise. Critics have been relatively mixed on the wild ride, which stars Adam Driver as a Hitler studies scholar in ’80s America as he and his family vie to protect themselves from a mysterious airborne toxic event (sound familiar?), but Baumbach fans will find plenty to love, from rich wordplay to another superb performance from his frequent collaborator (and life partner), Greta Gerwig. White Noise will be in limited theatrical release as of November 25, and on Netflix at the end of December. —DC

STILL TO COME

Avatar: The Way of Water (in theaters December 16)

What can we tell you about the 13-years-in-the-making Avatar sequel that James Cameron hasn’t already said better himself? Despite being the sequel to the highest-grossing movie of all time, it’s still shrouded in secrecy, just a few trailers and a general plot description about Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) growing up, having kids, and spending a lot of time underwater. Will it be a colossal Oscar contender like the first was? Given that Cameron has yet to make a movie that failed to meet expectations, we’re planning accordingly. —KR

Babylon (in theaters December 23)

With movie stars (Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt), veterans (Jean Smart and Tobey Maguire) and newer discoveries (Diego Calva and Li Jun Li), Damien Chazelle’s Babylon is a star-studded ensemble that explores show business in the late 1920s. A bold swing that features big, showy set pieces capturing the chaos and magic of moviemaking, Babylon may have a run time over three hours, but it’s packed with some breathtaking filmmaking, backed by a hypnotic score (from La La Land’s Oscar-winning composer Justin Hurwitz) and striking costumes and production design. When I sat down with Robbie for the December cover story, she told me how playing Nellie was “the most physically and emotionally draining character I’ve ever played, by a country mile. She demands so much of you that she left me in pieces.” It stuck with her in a way no other movie had—and she hopes audiences feel the same. —RF

Empire of Light (in theaters December 9)

An intimate, nostalgic movie for director Sam Mendes after the full-tilt spectacles of 1917 and two James Bond movies, Empire of Light captures a fleeting, fraught romance between a lonely woman (Olivia Colman) and an aspiring artist (Micheal Ward), who work together at an old movie palace in Britain. It is in some ways, yes, a movie about the magic of movies, but much more about human connection and the looming threats of Thatcher-era England; as Richard Lawson wrote in his review for VF, “it’s something humane and nourishing, a picture of rare thoughtfulness and decency.” —KR

Living (in theaters December 23)

This adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 masterpiece Ikiru features an understated performance by Bill Nighy as a lonely widower who receives a cancer diagnosis that kicks him into the realization that he needs to really start living before he’s dead. Even if it doesn’t rack up a ton of nominations, this meaning-of-life drama should be considered in at least the screenplay category for Kazuo Ishiguro’s strong adaptation, and for Nighy’s moving performance in the lead role. —RF

The Whale (in theaters December 9)

You’ve probably heard a great deal about Brendan Fraser’s transformative performance in The Whale, the latest drama from Oscar kingmaker Darren Aronofsky—the Hollywood icon is riding a deserved comeback wave for his turn as an English teacher living with severe obesity, and on the verge of death. Other than that, though, you probably don’t know much, with A24 keeping the sensitively crafted film under wraps even as its theatrical release nears. We can tell you that, along with Fraser, Hong Chau is wonderful as his character’s confidante and deserves an awards run of her own, while the stationary conceit of the film marks a seeming change of pace for the oft-experimental Aronofsky. “Unfortunately, so many characters portrayed in the media who are living with obesity are treated awfully—either they’re humiliated, made fun of, or just living in squalor,” he told me before the movie’s Venice premiere. “Obesity is just part of what Charlie is. After 10 minutes of spending time with Charlie, that’s the breakthrough that we hope the film has [for viewers].” —DC

Women Talking

Sarah Polley’s first narrative feature in over a decade assembles a remarkable, multigenerational cast of actors—from industry vets Judith Ivey and Sheila McCarthy to red-hot stars Claire Foy and Jessie Buckley—for a seismic exploration of forgiveness, trauma, and building a better world. Adapted from Miriam Toews’s novel, Women Talking is set in a remote Mennonite colony and imagines the conversations a group of women have after they’re awoken to the violence and abuse they’ve endured, at the hands of men in their lives, for years. Do they stay and fight, or do they go? A decision is reached, but it’s the journey—the talking—that makes the experience of getting there so gorgeously worth it. Indeed, that was certainly true for all of the movie’s stars. —DC

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