23 Diverse 2017 Films That Should Follow In 'Moonlight's Groundbreaking Oscar Footsteps
After a brief (but already infamous) mix-up, Moonlight won Best Picture at the 2017 Oscars, overcoming frontrunner La La Land in one of the biggest upsets in Academy Award history. But while fans of that movie musical may still be reeling from that "gotcha" moment, there are plenty of reasons for everybody to be celebrating Moonlight's unprecedented win. It is only the second film featuring an entirely non-white cast to win Best Picture (after 2008's Slumdog Millionaire), it is the first film both written and directed by a black auteur to win the prize, and it is the first film about an LGBT protagonist to claim the Academy's highest honor. And here's hoping 2018 will continue the trend with diverse films to follow in Moonlight's groundbreaking footsteps.
But progress can be as fleeting as La La Land's illusory Best Picture victory. Just look at what happened after 12 Years A Slave won Best Picture at the 2014 ceremony: two consecutive years of #OscarsSoWhite. After such a bold and groundbreaking Best Picture choice, it would be heartbreaking to see the Academy slide back into its old patterns next year. So while there are plenty of exciting-looking films coming out this year that fall into the vein of traditional Oscar fare — war movies (Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk), literary adaptations (Kenneth Branagh's Murder On The Orient Express), and biopics about tortured straight white male geniuses (The Current War, Darkest Hour) — I would encourage Academy members to give a closer look to films like the one on this list, which all feature a wide range of gender, sexuality, and race either in front of or behind the camera (or both).
Ex Machina writer/director Alex Garland brings us this sci-fi film about a team of scientists exploring a dangerous landscape known as Area X — except, breaking away from the norm for this type of story, all these scientists are women, including Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Creed actress Tessa Thompson, and Jane The Virgin star Gina Rodriguez. (Guatemalan-born actor Oscar Isaac also co-stars.)
2. Battle Of The Sexes
Emma Stone just won her first Oscar this past weekend, but she's already warming up for Round 2 as she stars in this film about the famous 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King (Stone) and Bobby Riggs (played by Steve Carell). The film was written by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) and directed by the husband/wife team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who also brought us Little Miss Sunshine.
3. Beach Rats
This queer film about a Brooklyn teenager on a journey of sexual discovery debuted at January's Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews, and was written and directed by budding female filmmaker Eliza Hittman.
4. The Beguiled
Sofia Coppola, one of only four women ever nominated for Best Director (for 2003's Lost In Translation), bring us a remake of a 1971 Clint Eastwood movie that refocuses the events from the female characters' point-of-view, starring Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, and Colin Farrell.
5. Burning Sands
Like Beach Rats, this cautionary tale of hazing at a traditionally black college also premiered at Sundance last month. It features a female co-writer and a cast consisting entirely of African-American actors including Luke Cage's Alfre Woodard and Moonlight stand-out Trevante Rhodes.
6. Call Me By Your Name
The newest project from Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash, I Am Love) is based on one of the most acclaimed queer novels of the 21st century and was the most universally beloved film at the entire Sundance festival. Timothée Chalamet (Homeland) stars as a teenager falling in love with a handsome grad student (The Social Network's Armie Hammer) over the course of one hot and lusty summer.
7. Crown Heights
This film, based on the true story of a man who was wrongfully convicted of the murder, won the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award at 2017's Sundance. Keith Stanfield (Straight Outta Compton, Atlanta, Get Out) stars as the real-life figure Colin Warner.
8. The Death And Life Of John F. Donovan
This French Canadian director is only 27, and yet he's already won both the Jury Prize and the Grand Prix at two different Cannes Film Festivals for his previous works. This year, Dolan — an out gay man — makes his English-language debut with this star-studded film that features Kit Harington, Jessica Chastain, Natalie Portman, Kathy Bates, Susan Sarandon, Thandie Newton, and Room's Jacob Tremblay.
9. Get Out
This film wouldn't only add to the racial diversity of the Oscars with nominations for its writer/director Jordan Peele or its star Daniel Kaluuya (Sicario, Black Mirror), but also to the genre diversity of the Academy, which hasn't awarded a horror movie since 1991's The Silence Of The Lambs. And yet, with an incredibly rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Get Out deserves any and all awards thrown its way.
10. Hotel Mumbai
The true story about the 2008 terrorist attack at India's Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is being turned into a film starring Dev Patel — an Oscar nominee this year for another India-set true story, Lion — alongside a supporting cast of mostly unknown Indian actors (as well as a few recognizable faces like Harry Potter's Jason Isaacs and the aforementioned Armie Hammer).
11. The Incredible Jessica James
After serving as a correspondent on The Daily Show for four years, Jessica Williams comes into her own as a bona fide movie star in this movie about a frustrated Brooklyn playwright. (Crown Heights' Keith Stanfield also co-stars.)
Shortly before we watch Chadwick Boseman clean up the streets of Wakanda in Marvel's Black Panther, we'll be able to watch him clean up the streets of America in this biopic of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American justice appointed to the Supreme Court, directed by black filmmaker Reginald Hudlin (a producer on Django Unchained), and co-starring This Is Us' Sterling K. Brown.
13. Mary Magdalene
Two-time Oscar nominee Rooney Mara (Carol, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) stars in this look into the life of Mary Magdalene, scripted by two female writers and also starring 12 Years A Slave's Chiwetel Ejiofor as Peter and Algerian-descended actor Tahar Rahim as Judas. Oh, and Joaquin Phoenix is playing Jesus and it's directed by Garth Davis, who helmed this year's Best Picture nominee Lion.
14. Mary Shelley
Another biopic about a famous woman named Mary, this one tells the life story of the Frankenstein author, played by Elle Fanning. The behind-the-scenes team includes a female co-writer and female director Haifaa al-Mansour, who hails from Saudi Arabia. Her previous film, Wadjda, was her native country's official submission to the Academy for the Best Foreign Language Film award in 2012, although it was not nominated.
15. Molly's Game
Aaron Sorkin takes a break from writing about tortured men geniuses like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs to write a film about a tortured woman genius instead! The Oscar-winning screenwriter is also making his directing debut with this film based on a true story about an underground poker player portrayed by Jessica Chastain. (Idris Elba co-stars.)
After graciously taking a year off to let somebody else get nominated for an Oscar for a change, Jennifer Lawrence is putting herself back into the awards conversation by starring in a movie by acclaimed filmmaker Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), in which she appears alongside fellow Oscar nominees Michelle Pfeiffer and Javier Bardem.
17. The Mountain Between Us
Idris Elba was everywhere last year, even if you didn't see him behind his alien makeup in Star Trek Beyond or his digitally-rendered tiger skin in The Jungle Book. You'll see plenty of his handsome mug this year, between Molly's Game and this film about two people who survive a plane crash and find themselves stranded in the inhospitable wilderness of Utah. (Kate Winslet plays the other survivor.) The movie is directed by Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad, who earned two Oscar nominations for his films Omar and Paradise Now.
This film from out lesbian filmmaker Dee Rees — who was also behind the 2011 indie queer film Pariah and HBO's TV movie Bessie — emerged from Sundance as a legit awards contender, with its story of two families (one black, one white) whose fates in post-WWII Mississippi are inextricably intertwined. The ensemble cast includes Mary J. Blige, Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton), Carey Mulligan (An Education), and Garrett Hedlund (Inside Llewyn Davis).
19. The Party
Female filmmaker Sally Potter (Orlando) wrote and directed this bleak comedy about a dinner party gone wrong, starring Emily Mortimer (The Newsroom) and out actress Cherry Jones (24) as a lesbian couple, as well as Oscar nominees Patricia Clarkson (Pieces Of April), and Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient).
20. The Seagull
Russian playwright wrote this script — featuring some of his most indelible female characters — 122 years ago. This year, they'll be brought to life by the likes of Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn), Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men), and Annette Bening, who could earn a deserved make-up nomination for this after being snubbed for her performance in last year's 20th Century Women.
21. A United Kingdom
This incredible true story from black female filmmaker Amma Asante (Beyond The Lights) earned stellar reviews when it opened in theaters earlier this month. Selma star David Oyelowo and Oscar nominee Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) star as the prince of Botswana and his British bride.
22. Untitled Detroit Project
Kathryn Bigelow is the only woman to ever win the trophy for Best Director, which she took home for 2009's The Hurt Locker. Now she's following up the Oscar success of both that film and Zero Dark Thirty with a new project about the Detroit riots of 1967, with a diverse cast including John Boyega (The Force Awakens), Jason Mitchell (Mudbound), Anthony Mackie (Captain America: Civil War), Jacob Latimore (Collateral Beauty), Ephraim Sykes (Hamilton), and Malcom David Kelley (Lost).
23. Woman Walks Ahead
Known primarily as a TV director (Boardwalk Empire, Masters Of Sex), Susannah White shifts over to feature film, working off a script by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises). The movie tells the true story of Catherine Weldon, a Brooklyn artist and activist who moved to the Standing Rock Reservation in the late 1800s and became one of Sitting Bull's chief confidantes — played by Jessica Chastain and Native actor Michael Greyeyes, respectively.
The chances of all of these films showing up at the 2018 Oscars are slim; but if Academy members decide to continue their commitment to progress and diversity, there's a good chance we'll hear several of their titles listed when the nominations are announced next year.