A Look at the Oscar Shortlists: Who’s In and Who’s Out?

Image from Jayro Bustamente’s LA LLORONA — Courtesy of Shudder

The road to Oscar continues today as the Academy has released their shortlists for nine categories. With so many submissions, the branches for these categories narrow down the eligible entries to a select few that will then go on to be the choices for nominations when ballots open next month.

Here is a look at each of the nine categories, including surprising omissions and inclusions.


Members of the Academy’s documentary branch select the films for the documentary feature and short categories. This year, there are 15 features moving forward from a record 238 entries. There aren’t a lot of surprises here, with the exception of both of Dawn Porter’s films failing to make the list. Neither The Way I See It nor John Lewis: Good Trouble are here, and and the Covid film, Totally Under Control is also noticeably absent.

The films, listed in alphabetical order by title, are:

  • “76 Days” (MTV Documentary Films)
  • “All In: The Fight for Democracy” (Amazon Studios)
  • “Boys State” (Apple TV+)
  • “Collective” (Magnolia Pictures and Participant)
  • “Crip Camp” (Netflix)
  • “Dick Johnson Is Dead” (Netflix)
  • “Gunda” (Neon)
  • “MLK/FBI” (IFC Films)
  • “The Mole Agent” (Gravitas Ventures)
  • “My Octopus Teacher” (Netflix)
  • “Notturno” (Neon)
  • “The Painter and the Thief” (Neon)
  • “Time” (Amazon Studios)
  • “The Truffle Hunters” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • “Welcome to Chechnya” (HBO)


With 93 countries submitting films for the International Feature category, this was another strong competition. Three countries or territories entered the race for the first time ever, a sign of the strength and increasing opportunity for emerging voices and artistry. The International Feature shortlist narrows 93 films down to 15.

This is the first time Guatemala or Tunisia have ever made the shortlist. Ivory Coast won the Oscar in 1976 but years of political turmoil meant the country wouldn’t submit another film until 2015. Spain and Italy are frequent contenders in this category, and their misses are a bit surprising.

The films, listed in alphabetical order by country, are:

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina, “Quo Vadis, Aida?”
  • Chile, “The Mole Agent”
  • Czech Republic, “Charlatan”
  • Denmark, “Another Round”
  • France, “Two of Us
  • Guatemala, “La Llorona
  • Hong Kong, “Better Days”
  • Iran, “Sun Children
  • Ivory Coast, “Night of the Kings”
  • Mexico, “I’m No Longer Here”
  • Norway, “Hope”
  • Romania, “Collective
  • Russia, “Dear Comrades!”
  • Taiwan, “A Sun”
  • Tunisia, “The Man Who Sold His Skin”


The category for Makeup and Hairstyling stubbornly held on to a limit of three nominees until they finally changed the rules last year and expanded to five.

In spite of a lack of campaign presence from their studios, Birds of Prey and The Glorias both managed to secure places. Bill & Ted Face the Music missed the lineup, and so did The Trial of the Chicago 7, while four other Netflix titles made it. Pinocchio is a bit of a surprise simply because it arrived so late and has been largely missing from the conversation. Perhaps the most surprising miss, though is Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman. Since all four of its original songs were also overlooked, this could be a sign that the film won’t be as popular with the Academy as it has been with voters in other groups. Or it might simply be a fact of a very competitive group of artists.

The films, listed in alphabetical order by title, are:

  • “Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” (Warner Bros.)
  • “Emma.” (Focus Features)
  • “The Glorias” (Roadside Attractions)
  • “Hillbilly Elegy” (Netflix)
  • “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” (Netflix)
  • “The Little Things” (Warner Bros.)
  • “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
  • “Mank” (Netflix)
  • “One Night in Miami…” (Amazon Studios)
  • “Pinocchio” (Roadside Attractions)


With 136 eligible film scores, the Music Branch has reduced the list to 15. While highly unlikely, Netflix could end up in a five-way race with itself, as it has six of the fifteen places. Just a year after Hildur Guðnadóttir won the Oscar for her original score on Joker, Lolita Ritmanis is now the only woman who could be nominated this year for her work on the Latvian film, Blizzard of Souls( which did not make the shortlist for International Feature). This is also the second category where The Little Things has shown up, and that shows some industry support for the divisive Warner Bros. movie a week after Jared Leto nabbed Golden Globe and SAG nominations.

The scores, listed in alphabetical order by film title, are:

  • “Ammonite,” Dustin O’Halloran and Volker Bertelman (Neon)
  • “Blizzard of Souls,” Lolita Ritmanis (Film Movement)
  • “Da 5 Bloods,” Terence Blanchard (Netflix)
  • “The Invisible Man,” Benjamin Wallfisch (Universal Pictures)
  • “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey,” Jon Debney (Netflix)
  • “The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se),” Gabriel Yared (Netflix)
  • “The Little Things,” Thomas Newman (Warner Bros.)
  • “Mank,” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (Netflix)
  • “The Midnight Sky,” Alexandre Desplat (Netflix)
  • “Minari,” Emile Mosseri (A24)
  • “Mulan,” Henry Gregson-Williams (Disney)
  • “News of the World,” James Newton Howard (Universal Pictures)
  • “Soul,” Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross (Disney/Pixar)
  • “Tenet,” Ludwig Göransson (Warner Bros.)
  • “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Daniel Pemberton (Netflix)


It was supposed to be the Year of the Musical, but with so many films moving to 2021 and beyond, there were still 105 original songs to consider. Of those, 15 films progress to the nomination phase. As mentioned above, none of the four original songs from Promising Young Woman made the list, which is disappointing. It’s also disappointing that “Tigress and Tweed” from The United States vs. Billie Holiday was left out. And there were big misses from the animated entries, “Rocket to the Moon” from Over the Moon and “Carried Me With You” from Onward.

But 11-time nominee Diane Warren is still looking for her first Oscar and she has two chances to do it this year with “Io Sì” from The Life Ahead and “Free” from The One and Only Ivan. Could this be her year? Or will Borat steal the spotlight?

The original songs, along with the motion picture in which each song is featured, are listed below in alphabetical order by film title and song title:

  • “Turntables” from “All In: The Fight for Democracy” (Amazon Studios)
  • “See What You’ve Done” from “Belly of the Beast”
  • “Wuhan Flu” from “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” (Amazon Studios)
  • “Husavik” from “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” (Netflix)
  • “Never Break” from “Giving Voice”
  • “Make It Work” from “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” (Netflix)
  • “Fight For You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros)
  • “lo Sì (Seen)” from “The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se)” (Netflix)
  • “Rain Song” from “Minari” (A24)
  • “Show Me Your Soul” from “Mr. Soul!”
  • “Loyal Brave True” from “Mulan” (Disney)
  • “Free” from “The One and Only Ivan” (Disney)
  • “Speak Now” from “One Night in Miami…” (Amazon Studios)
  • “Green” from “Sound of Metal” (Amazon Studios)
  • “Hear My Voice” from “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)


The visual effects category is typically dominated by big budget superhero fare, war movies, and occasional animated features. That trend certainly continues this year, with an intriguing list that includes Birds of Prey which, again, didn’t campaign. In fact, Warner Bros. hasn’t even included it on their FYC site as of this reporting. Wonder Woman 1984, on the other hand, got a campaign and missed the list. Mank showing up here is good news for Netflix, as it is the only likely Best Picture contender to make it to this point in Visual Effects. Likewise, Disney/Pixar must be happy to see Soul as the only fully animated feature to be named.

In addition to Wonder Woman, it’s also disappointing to see The Invisible Man fall short, especially after it made the list for Original Score, proving the film made it to Academy members. And after a huge reaction, a character redesign, and generally glowing reviews, Sony’s Sonic the Hedgehog is also a glaring omission.

The films, listed in alphabetical order by title, are:

  • “Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” (Warner Bros.)
  • “Bloodshot” (Lionsgate)
  • “Love and Monsters” (Paramount Pictures)
  • “Mank” (Netflix)
  • “The Midnight Sky” (Netflix)
  • “Mulan” (Disney)
  • “The One and Only Ivan” (Disney)
  • “Soul” (Disney/Pixar)
  • “Tenet” (Warner Bros.)
  • “Welcome to Chechnya” (HBO)


Out of 96 submissions, these are the ten Animated Short Films that will move forward:

  • “Burrow”
  • “Genius Loci”
  • “If Anything Happens I Love You”
  • “Kapaemahu”
  • “Opera”
  • “Out”
  • “The Snail and the Whale”
  • “To Gerard”
  • “Traces”
  • “Yes-People”


With 174 entries, these are the 10 live-action short films that will move ahead:

  • “Bittu”
  • “Da Yie”
  • “Feeling Through”
  • “The Human Voice”
  • “The Kicksled Choir”
  • “The Letter Room”
  • “The Present”
  • “Two Distant Strangers”
  • “The Van”
  • “White Eye”


Out of 114 submissions, these are the 10 documentary short subject films that will move on:

  • “Abortion Helpline, This Is Lisa”
  • “Call Center Blues”
  • “Colette”
  • “A Concerto Is a Conversation”
  • “Do Not Split”
  • “Hunger Ward”
  • “Hysterical Girl”
  • “A Love Song for Latasha”
  • “The Speed Cubers”
  • “What Would Sophia Loren Do?”

The nominations for the 93rd Academy Awards will open on March 5 and remain open until March 10. The nominations will be announced on March 15.

Written by
Karen Peterson is the Awards Editor for We Live Entertainment. She previously worked as the Assistant Editor at Awards Circuit, now owned by Variety. Her work can also be found at Citizen Dame and at the Watch and Talk podcast. Her non-awards season hobbies include Angels baseball, taking pictures of other peoples' pets, and tweeting about The Bachelor franchise.

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