Here’s how to prepare for Sunday’s ceremony.
“1917” (directed by Sam Mendes)
Ten nominations: For picture, director, original screenplay, cinematography, sound editing, sound mixing, production design, makeup and hair, visual effects and original score
How to watch it: In theaters
Why to watch it: After landing a few major Oscar predictors — top honors at the British Academy’s film awards this past weekend, as well as at the Producers Guild Awards — World War I epic “1917” is the front-runner for best picture. That’s not to rule out a potential upset, as it has happened before. Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” has gained traction and, having surpassed Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” could wind up beating both the war film and the misty-eyed ode to Los Angeles.
“Parasite” (directed by Bong Joon-ho)
Six nominations: For picture, director, original screenplay, international feature film, film editing and production design
Why to watch it: If “1917″ does win best picture, then “Parasite” will surely land best international feature. The thriller, about a working-class family who infiltrates a rich household, was one of the top-rated films of 2019, landing on tons of critics’ year-end lists. The Screen Actors Guild awarded the “Parasite” cast its coveted ensemble accolade, and the film won best foreign-language feature at the Golden Globes. It won at the BAFTAs, too, in the “film not in the English language” and original screenplay categories.
While Directors Guild pick Mendes is also poised to win the Oscar for the technical prowess required to make “1917,” which was filmed and edited to look like one shot, Bong is relatively close behind. (Or closer than the other contenders, anyway.) There’s a chance the South Korean director could follow in “Roma” director Alfonso Cuarón’s footsteps by triumphing in the international feature and directing categories.
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (directed by Quentin Tarantino)
Ten nominations: For picture, lead actor, supporting actor, director, original screenplay, cinematography, sound editing, sound mixing, production design and costume design
Why to watch it: The Oscar for original screenplay has jokingly been referred to as “The Tarantino Award,” given that the filmmaker has won it twice. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” about a jaded 1960s television actor and his stuntman, is up for the award again this year, as well as best director, but Tarantino is only likely to win for his writing. Supporting actor Brad Pitt, who continued his winning streak — and comedy routine — at the BAFTAs this past weekend, will almost definitely earn the film another accolade.
“Joker” (directed by Todd Phillips)
Eleven nominations: For picture, lead actor, director, adapted screenplay, cinematography, film editing, sound editing, sound mixing, makeup and hair, costume design and original score
Why to watch it: Despite receiving mixed reviews from critics, “Joker” landed the most Oscar nominations of any film and has earned Joaquin Phoenix, who plays the infamous Batman villain in this origin story, the best actor trophy at countless ceremonies, including the Screen Actors Guild awards, the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs, where he notably used his platform to condemn systemic racism in the industry. Composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, who has made history with her several wins, is a front-runner for best original score.
Watch if you have time
“Jojo Rabbit” (directed by Taika Waititi)
Six nominations: For picture, supporting actress, adapted screenplay, film editing, production design and costume design
Why to watch it: “Jojo Rabbit,” Taika Waititi’s satire about a Hitler Youth who discovers his mother is hiding a Jewish teenager in their attic, won best adapted screenplay at the BAFTAs, following its triumph at the Writers Guild Awards on Saturday — both of which predict success at the Oscars. (The WGA Awards cannot be used to predict Tarantino’s screenplay win, as the organization excludes nonmembers from its awards and he hasn’t joined.) Designer Mayes C. Rubeo also stands a chance at winning an Oscar, having won in the Costume Designers Guild Awards’ category honoring period film.
“Judy” (directed by Rupert Goold)
Two nominations: For lead actress and makeup and hair
Why to watch it: “Judy” didn’t earn much buzz outside of front-runner Renée Zellweger’s committed performance as Judy Garland in her final years, but that might be enough of a reason to watch.
“Marriage Story” (directed by Noah Baumbach)
Six nominations: For picture, lead actor, lead actress, supporting actress, original screenplay and original score
Why to watch it: Supporting actress Laura Dern joins peers Phoenix, Zellweger and Pitt in forming the quartet of actors who have had a very, very good award season. She plays the high-powered divorce attorney representing Scarlett Johansson’s character in “Marriage Story,” a film reflecting on the disintegration of a relationship that was written and directed by Noah Baumbach. While Adam Driver was once thought to be competitive in the best actor category, Phoenix’s back-to-back wins suggest that Dern will be the only “Marriage Story” star to bring home an Oscar.
“The Irishman” (directed by Martin Scorsese)
Ten nominations: For picture, supporting actor, director, adapted screenplay, cinematography, film editing, production design, costume design and visual effects
Why to watch it: Martin Scorsese’s contemplative gangster movie won’t likely win in the oft-discussed Oscar categories, given the winning streaks of Mendes and Pitt, the later of whom has consistently managed to beat Hollywood legends Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, both nominated for “The Irishman.” Still, the critically acclaimed film, one of Scorsese’s most ambitious, is worth seeing — and quite accessible.
“Little Women” (directed by Greta Gerwig)
Six nominations: For picture, lead actress, supporting actress, adapted screenplay, original score and costume design
How to watch it: In theaters
Why to watch it: Greta Gerwig was snubbed for a best director nomination this year, attracting the ire of those who loved her adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s coming-of-age story (and especially of those who believe “Joker” director Todd Phillips didn’t deserve the fifth slot). “Little Women” was nominated in six other categories — including costume design, which Jacqueline Durran won at the BAFTAs.
“Ford v Ferrari” (directed by James Mangold)
Four nominations: For picture, film editing, sound editing and sound mixing
Why to watch it: “Ford v Ferrari” — a sports drama starring Matt Damon as automotive designer Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale as racecar driver Ken Miles as they help Ford Motor Co. attempt to beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1966 — might be the least likely nominee to win best picture. But it has a solid shot at winning film editing and sits behind front-runner “1917” in the sound categorizes.
Watch at leisure
“The Two Popes” (directed by Fernando Meirelles)
Three nominations: For lead actor, supporting actor and adapted screenplay
Why to watch it: The film has been praised for its thought-provoking exploration of the unlikely friendship between Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis; critics point to the wittiness of Anthony McCarten’s script, and masterful performances from Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce. But with Phoenix and Pitt standing in the way, neither pope is likely to win.
“Pain and Glory” (directed by Pedro Almodóvar)
Two nominations: For lead actor and international feature film
Why to watch it: That first-time nominee (?!) Antonio Banderas is unlikely to win for his lead performance in Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory,” about an aging director in the midst of a creative crisis, goes to show how competitive this year’s best actor category is. The touching film is similarly unlikely to beat “Parasite” for best international feature film, but it seems to rank there as the runner-up.
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (directed by Marielle Heller)
One nomination: For best supporting actor
Why to watch it: This critically acclaimed film only landed one nomination — for Tom Hanks’s supporting role as Mister Rogers, echoing last year when “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” stars Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant earned nominations without their director, Marielle Heller. Heller approached the children’s television host’s legacy from an unusual angle, focusing on his relationship with a journalist inspired by Tom Junod rather than telling a straightforward story about Fred Rogers’s own life.
“Knives Out” (directed by Rian Johnson)
One nomination: For original screenplay
Why to watch it: “Knives Out,” writer-director Rian Johnson’s whodunit that doubles as a commentary on class and American racial dynamics, was somewhat of a pleasant surprise in the best original screenplay category. While it won’t likely beat “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” or “Parasite,” it’s a delightful watch. Much of the praise, outside of the script, went to leads Ana de Armas and Daniel Craig.
“Harriet” (directed by Kasi Lemmons)
Two nominations: For lead actress and original song
Why to watch it: “Harriet” is the first major motion picture to tell the story of Harriet Tubman. Though the film has received some criticism — for focusing on the most well-known aspects of Tubman’s biography, and for casting the British Cynthia Erivo as the famed abolitionist — it’s worth appreciating an icon’s long journey to the big screen.
“Richard Jewell” (directed by Clint Eastwood)
One nomination: For supporting actress
How to watch it: Preorder online (Prime Video)
Why to watch it: If you like to have seen every nominated actor’s performance, then you’ll want to see “Richard Jewell” to witness Kathy Bates’s emotional turn as Jewell’s mother. If not, you can wait.
“Bombshell” (directed by Jay Roach)
Three nominations: For lead actress, supporting actress, and makeup and hair
Why to watch it: Neither lead actress Charlize Theron nor supporting act Margot Robbie, who play Megyn Kelly and a fictional Fox News employee, respectively, is likely to beat Zellweger or Dern. But “Bombshell,” about the women who ousted Roger Ailes, has attracted attention for the actors’ transformations; it won best contemporary makeup, best special makeup effects and best contemporary hair styling at the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards last month.
Correction: A previous version of this story inaccurately stated that none of Quentin Tarantino’s films had ever been nominated for best picture prior to “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood."