Early 2015 Oscar Contenders


We've spent the last six months debating whether it would be "12 Years a Slave" or "Gravity" that would bring home the gold come Oscar night. (In the end, it was … both!)

Now that the Academy Awards honoring 2013's best are history, why not get started on looking at which of this year's films will be contenders?

Keep an eye out for these buzzy 2014 releases so you don't have to play catch-up come nomination time next winter.

[Related: 50 Years After Sidney Poitier, '12 Years a Slave' Makes Its Own Oscar History]

1. "Grand Budapest Hotel"
Release Date: March 7
The Early Buzz: Wes Anderson is at the peak of his game, following the Oscar-nominated "Moonrise Kingdom" with this candy-colored, magically realized comedy set in a grand European hotel. In a comic role, Ralph Fiennes leads an international cast including Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe and Saoirse Ronan.

[Related: Critic's Pick: 'The Grand Budapest Hotel']

2. "Can a Song Save Your Life?"
Release Date: July 4
The Early Buzz: Keira Knightley charms as half of an English couple that comes to New York when her partner (People's "Sexiest Man Alive," Adam Levine) scores a record deal. After he dumps her, she mooches about until meeting a down-on-his-luck record producer (an irresistible Mark Ruffalo), and they rescue each other through music and a mutual love affair with New York City. From the folks behind "Once."

3. "Get on Up"
Release Date: Aug. 1
The Early Buzz: Director Tate Taylor follows up 2011's Oscar contender "The Help" with the rags-to-riches musical biopic of soul singer and eminent Southerner James Brown ("42" star Chadwick Boseman). Oscar nominee Viola Davis, Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, Dan Aykroyd and Jill Scott co-star in a film distributor Universal hopes will make the similar impact on the awards race to its 2004 biopic "Ray."

4. "The Giver"
Release Date: Aug. 15
The Early Buzz: Alexander Skarsgaard, Meryl Streep, Taylor Swift, Jeff Bridges, and Katie Holmes star in a literary adaptation based on Lois Lowry's classic utopian novel directed by Phillip Noyce. Could this lead to Aussie vet Noyce's first nomination?

5. "Gone Girl"
Release Date: Oct. 3
The Early Buzz: From Gillian Flynn's menacing page-turner comes the highly anticipated crime drama about love, lies, dysfunctional marriage and murder. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike play hellishly married Nick and Amy Dunne, a couple that take "'til death do us part" way too seriously, while two-tie Oscar nominee David Fincher ("Benjamin Button," "The Social Network") directs.

6. "The Homesman"
Release Date: Oct. 3
The Early Buzz: Nine years after making his directorial debut with "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada," Tommy Lee Jones returns to filmmaking (and will appear in) this star-studded pioneer drama featuring Hilary Swank, James Spader, Hailee Steinfeld, Meryl Streep and her daughter Grace Gummer.

7. "Interstellar"
Release Date: Nov. 7
The Early Buzz: The McConaissance rolls on as the "Dallas Buyers Club" Oscar winner joins Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain for this dystopian sci-fi spectacular about space travel from three-time Oscar nominee Christopher Nolan ("Inception," the "Dark Knight" trilogy). No one's quite sure what exactly it's about yet, but one thing's for sure: It looks special.

8. "Fury"
Release Date: Nov. 14
The Early Buzz: Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, and the no-longer-famous Shia LaBeouf star in an old-fashioned WWII war drama about an ultra-dangerous mission behind Nazi lines with a Sherman tank, written and directed by David Ayer ("End of Watch," "Training Day"). The film made some headlines in November, but for undesirable reasons: Its loud production on Remembrance Day angered British locals.

9. "Home"
Release Date: Nov. 26
The Early Buzz: The DreamWorks Animation entry follows a motley crew of aliens – "Men in Black" parody alert – laying low on the home planet. It's bound to please with the vocal talent of Jim Parsons and Steve Martin, and could be the frontrunner for Best Animated Feature in a Pixar-less year at the movies.

10. "Inherent Vice"
Release Date: Dec. 12
The Early Buzz: Paul Thomas Anderson follows up his Oscar-nominated "The Master" with an adaptation of the novel from the legendarily unadaptable Thomas Pynchon. Set on the cusp of 1970, the hipster crime drama follows a pothead detective (Joaquin Phoenix) as he unravels a series of shady dealings in the shadow of the Charles Manson murders. Benicio del Toro, Reese Witherspoon, and Josh Brolin co-star.

11. "Into the Woods"
Release Date: Dec. 25
The Scoop: Following an off year, the musical is back, with Meryl Streep playing the Witch in Stephen Sondheim's Tony-winning Grimm's fairy-tale musical. Rob Marshall ("Chicago") directs and the crazy-good cast also includes Johnny Depp as The Wolf (he's big, he's bad), Emily Blunt as The Baker's Wife and Anna Kendrick as Cinderella. At the very least, you're likely looking at your Golden Globe winner for Best Musical or Comedy.

12. "Unbroken"
Release Date: Dec. 25
The Early Buzz: Angelina Jolie ("In the Land of Blood and Honey") makes her sophomore directorial effort with this fact-based period drama about Olympic runner Louis Zamperini (Jack O'Connell), who was taken prisoner by the Japanese during WWII. The pedigree continues with a screenplay by Joel and Ethan Coen and based on Laura Hillenbrand's international bestseller.

13. "Boyhood"
Release Date: TBD
The Early Buzz: Award-winning writer-director Richard Linklater ("Before Midnight") delivered the first Oscar contender of 2014 when he debuted "Boyhood" at January's Sundance Film Festival (and then "officially" premiered it in Berlin). This simple and profound movie, filmed over a dozen years, follows a child's journey from boy to man in contemporary Texas. Along the way a star is born, as newcomer Ellar Coltrane blossoms under the camera – he grows from 5 to 17 on camera.

[Related: Why 'Boyhood' Is 2014's First Oscar Contender]

14. "Miss Julie"
Release Date: TBD
The Early Buzz: After consecutive nominations for "The Help" and "Zero Dark Thirty," Jessica Chastain makes another attempt at Best Actress playing the classic August Strindberg heroine with actress-turned-director Liv Ullmann behind the camera. Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton also star in this adaptation of the 19th century play.