Believe it or not, it’s already award-season time again in Hollywood.
The Toronto International Film Festival (September 8-18) is one of the major kickoffs to the season. As usual, this year it’s full of movies that have the potential to be winners at next year’s Academy Awards.
In fact, the 2016 best picture winner, “Spotlight,” played at TIFF 2015.
This year’s crop includes numerous hopefuls, including the Amy Adams sci-fi thriller “Arrival” and the Ryan Gosling/Emma Stone musical “La La Land.”
Here are 14 movies playing at Toronto this year that will be contenders come Oscar time:
‘American Honey’ (Release date: September 30)
“American Honey” stars Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough (“The Girlfriend Experience” TV show), and newcomer Sasha Lane, who gives an incredible performance as a young girl who gets caught up with a hard-partying group of magazine salespeople.
Lane should get serious consideration for best actress. Her performance is one of the best of the year (so far) and the faux-documentary, improvised feel of the story could also give director Andrea Arnold award notice as well.
‘Arrival’ (Release date: November 11)
- Paramount Pictures
An alien craft has landed on Earth, and a linguist (played by Amy Adams) has been called upon to translate the alien communications. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, who wowed audiences in the past with “Prisoners” and “Sicario,” it’s already generating a lot of excitement.
Adams is looking to be an early best actress Oscar favorite.
‘The Birth of a Nation’ (Release date: October 7)
- Fox Searchlight
Nate Parker’s movie about the slave rebellion led by Nat Turner swept the major awards at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, but recently Parker has been under fire because of news of his 1999 rape accusation resurfacing. (He was eventually acquitted.) Now the question lingers if audiences (and Oscar voters) will look at the movie the same way.
If Parker can weather the storm, he could be looking at nominations for acting and directing. The movie could also find itself in the best picture category.
‘Bleed for This’ (Release date: November 4)
- Open Road Films
Boxing movies have long drawn the attention of Oscar voters, and this one should, too. Miles Teller (“Whiplash”) plays real-life former world champion boxer Vinny Pazienza, who after being in a near fatal car crash has an improbable comeback to the ring.
Teller will certainly get awards consideration for this one.
‘The Eagle Huntress’ (Release date: October 28)
- Sony Pictures Classics
Not many documentaries can also play as thrilling action movies, but this one does exactly that. Filmmaker Otto Bell follows a 13-year-old girl who attempts to be the first eagle hunter in her family in 12 generations. The movie includes narration by Daisy Ridley, who is also an executive producer, and features a powerful song by Sia.
This movie will get a lot of support for a best documentary Oscar.
‘The Handmaiden’ (Release date: October 21)
South Korean director Park Chan-wook (“Oldboy,” “Stoker”) delivers another masterful work, this time adapting the Sarah Water novel “Fingersmith.” This erotic, Victorian-era thriller follows the con game between a handmaiden and a privileged family.
Though South Korea did not choose the film as its submission for the best foreign-language Oscar category, it’s possible “Handmaiden” can find nominations in cinematography, original score, or costume design – all are top-notch in the movie.
‘Jackie’ (Release date: TBD)
Natalie Portman plays Jacqueline Kennedy in the days following the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy.
Portman is one of the few who can realistically portray the queen of Camelot. It could earn her some Oscar gold.
‘La La Land’ (Release date: December 2)
Director Damien Chazelle follows up his Oscar-winning “Whiplash” with this musical set in Los Angeles and starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.
This has the potential to be an Oscar nominee across multiple categories on the acting and creative sides.
‘Loving’ (Release date: November 4)
- Focus Features
Receiving stellar reviews when it premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, “Loving” is a look at the true story of an interracial couple who are sentenced to prison in 1958 for getting married. It’s one of the most talked-about movies of the second half of the year.
Ruth Negga (Tulip from “Preacher”) looks to be a lock for an Oscar nomination.
‘Manchester by the Sea’ (Release date: November 18)
- Claire Fogler
In what’s already considered the movie of the year by many, Casey Affleck plays an uncle who becomes the guardian of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies.
Affleck has been doing great work his whole career, but this looks to be the one that could put him in the elite class of male actors working today.
‘A Monster Calls’ (Release date: December 23)
- Focus Features
With the film’s release date changed from October to December, this story of a boy befriending a giant tree monster looks to be gaining traction as an award-season hopeful.
‘Moonlight’ (Release date: October 21)
Told in three parts, this moving story looks at the life of an African-American man from the drug-plagued streets of Miami.
Expectations are high that the latest movie by director Barry Jenkins (“Medicine for Melancholy”) can break through the #OscarsSoWhite ceiling hovering over the Academy.
‘Sing’ (Release date: December 21)
Buster (Matthew McConaughey) is a koala who runs a failing theater. So he decides to put on a singing competition, which leads to some incredible results. The movie features an all-star cast (Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, Nick Offerman, Seth MacFarlane) and chart-topping songs.
The latest animated feature from Illumination Entertainment, which released “The Secret Life of Pets” earlier this year, “Sing” has major potential in the best animated Oscar category.
‘Snowden’ (Release date: September 16)
- Open Road Films
Oliver Stone brings the story of whistleblower Edward Snowden to the big screen with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Snowden.
He’s got a lot of competition ahead of him, but Gordon-Levitt is on the long list of potential Oscar best actor nominees.