By Norah Bradford

While we head into the early stages of awards season—following May’s Festival de Cannes, and more
recently TIFF in Toronto—it’s time to start the initial awards watch. It seems the underlying theme of the
pictures entering contention this year is clear: Films based on true-life stories and documentaries are
all the rage. Here are five that are sure to take awards season by storm.

Film: Spotlight

Director: Tom McCarthy

Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams

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Why it’s a contender: It’s the true story of how a group of Boston Globe reporters broke the story of child molestation in the local Catholic Church.  Straight from winning an Oscar this past year for Birdman, Michael Keaton is a player in a star cast of actors aiming to bring this drama to life.

Film: Freeheld

Director: Peter Sollett

Cast: Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Steve Carell

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Why it’s a contender: Highlighting the struggle faced by many gay and lesbian couples to have their partnership recognized by the law, Freeheld tells the true story of a female police officer diagnosed with terminal cancer, and her partner’s battle to secure her right to a pension.

Film: The Danish Girl

Director: Tom Hooper

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Amber Heard, Alicia Viklander

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Why it’s a contender: Amidst the current social interest in transgender issues, The Danish Girl tells the story of Einar Wegener (Redmayne), the first person to undergo gender reassignment surgery. It’s historically and socially important and relevant.

Film: Where to Invade Next

Director: Michael Moore

Cast: Krista Kiuru, Michael Moore

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Why it’s a contender: Contrary to first impressions, this documentary is a thinking person’s film, addressing issues of conflict in the modern world.  Michael Moore tours the globe to identify countries to invade, and what they would have to offer.

Film: Trumbo

Director: Jay Roach

Cast: Bryan Cranston, Helen Mirren, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning

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Why it’s a contender: It’s the true life tale about the consequences of being blacklisted, as told through the experiences of Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was blacklisted for being a communist in the 1940s.

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