Leonard Cohen and David Bowie documentaries make the 2023 Oscars shortlist

The Oscars’ Best Documentary shortlist features starry names in David Bowie and Leonard Cohen, who were both the subject of music films this year. 

The films about the lives and music careers of Leonard Cohen and David Bowie have made the Best Documentary shortlist for next year’s Oscars. The Academy Awards body announced the list of potential nominees for a slew of categories yesterday (December 2), ahead of the ceremony’s 95th edition in March of next year. Cohen and Bowie — who were each the subject of a respective documentary released this year — featured on the shortlist, beating out 144 candidates to comprise the 15-strong pool. 

The Bowie-focussed doc Moonage Daydream premiered in September, and traced the legendary singer’s creative and spiritual journey alongside the origins of his music career. Meanwhile, the Dan Geller-directed film Hallelujah, released in June, explored the life of Cohen through the prism of the internationally renowned titular song. Both artists joined a cohort that was otherwise non-musical, with HBO’s India-focussed All That Breathes and National Geographic’s Brazilian-set The Territory also making the shortlist, among others.

David Bowie documentary still
Credit: Universal Pictures

Members of the awards body will soon decide which shortlist entrants become Oscar candidates, with the 2023 nominees to be announced on January 24. Fellow music docs submitted to the Academy but absent from the shortlist include Selena Gomez’s My Mind and Me, Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares, and Charles Fox’s Killing Me Softly With His Songs. Elsewhere, frontrunners in the as-yet-unannounced Best Picture category include Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmanns, James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water and Baz Lurhmann’s music biopic, Elvis

Bowie and Cohen’s appearance on the shortlist coincides with that of Rihanna, Taylor Swift and The Weeknd, each of whom are contenders in 2023’s Best Original Song category. Rhianna’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever track Lift Me Up, Swift’s Carolina (for the film Where The Crawdads Sing) and The Weeknd’s Avatar contribution Nothing Is Lost (You Give Me Strength) will all vie for the music award during the ceremony.