Oscars Obliterate Old Record With 238 Qualifying Documentaries

A final batch of 25 films pushed the total well past the old record of 170

He Dreams of Giants
"He Dreams of Giants" / Screen Media

NOTE: This story was originally published on Jan. 16, after a final batch of documentary features was made available to Oscar voters. After it was published, the Academy determined that two films that had been sent to voters and placed on required viewing lists, “The Lost Paradise” and “Music Got Me Here,” did not meet eligibility requirements. Those films were removed from the list. This story, which originally stated that 240 films had qualified, has been revised to incorporate those two removals.

The Oscars Best Documentary Feature race, which set a new record for entries in December when it passed the previous record of 170, has now left all previous years in the dust with 238 eligible films.

An additional 25 documentary features were placed in the members-only online screening room devoted to the category on Saturday, in what the Academy told voters would be “the final batch” of this year’s entries. It was the last of seven groups of documentaries that qualified and were placed into the screening room: 25 in July, 12 in August, 16 in September, 33 in October, 36 in November, a huge group of 93 in December and now 25 in January.

Academy rules put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic made it easier than usual for documentaries to qualify for the Oscars this year, which opened the door for a field that obliterated the previous record, which was set in 2017. Films could qualify simply by being chosen for two film festivals from a list of 22, whether or not those festivals actually took place; by winning any one of more than 50 festival awards; or by making themselves available in the Academy Screening Room within 60 days of a streaming, VOD or a broadcast premiere.

To guarantee that each eligible film will be viewed by a minimum number of voters, each member of the Academy’s Documentary Branch is assigned certain films as required viewing. Final assignments have yet to be made, but with the record number of contending films, the number of required films for each voter is likely to be more than 30.

The first round of voting, in which the 240 contenders will be narrowed down to a 15-film shortlist, will take place from Feb. 1-5.

While the December group of films included many of the highest profile documentaries in this year’s race, the January group consisted, for the most part, of lesser-known films. They include docs about socialism (“The Big Scary ‘S’ Word”), stem cell research (“Ending Disease”), life in a simulation (“A Glitch in the Matrix”), the Russia investigation of Donald Trump (“The Plot Against the President”) and Terry Gilliam’s attempt to film “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” (“He Dreams of Giants”).

Three additional documentary shorts were also added to the screening room, bringing the total number of contenders in that category to 114. That is also a record, topping the 104 entries in 2018.

Here is the list of the 238 documentary features that are eligible in the category.

Films in the final January batch are indicated with an asterisk.

“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 Special”
“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 Individual”
“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”
“The Ghost of Peter Sellers”
“Giving Voice”
“A Glitch in the Matrix”
“Freak Power: The Ballot or the Bomb”
“Freedia Got a Gun”
“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”
“Irradies (Irradiated)”
“Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President”
“John Lewis: Good Trouble”
“Journey to Royal: A WWII 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 (Savage) Life of Lorine Padina”
“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”
“The Mole Agent”
“The Monster Inside Me”
“A Most Beautiful Thing”
“Mother to Earth: The Untold Story of Earth Bound”
“Mr. Soul!”
“Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado”
“My Darling Vivian”
“My Darling Supermarket”
“My Octopus Teacher”
“My People: The Jews of Greece”
“My Psychedelic Love Story”
“My Rembrandt”
“Napoli Eden”
“Narciso Em Ferias”
“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”
“The Walrus and the Whistleblower”
“The Way I See It”
“WBCN and the American Revolution”
“We Are the Radical Monarchs”
“We Don’t Deserve Dogs”
“Welcome to Chechnya”
“White Noise”
“Who Is Gatsby Randolph”
“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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