Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” invented the summer blockbuster back in 1975. “Jaws”won three Oscars (Best Sound, Best Editing and Best Original Score) and was also nominated for Best Picture, losing to “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Since then, Oscar voters usually save a space in the Best Picture line-up for a blockbuster. Indeed, after Christopher Nolan‘s “The Dark Knight” was snubbed in the top race in 2008, the academy expanded the roster from five to 10 nominees (since dialed back to a sliding scale in 2011).
Among the blockbusters to contend since then are:
2009: “Avatar,” “The Blind Side,” “Up”
2010: “Inception,” “Toy Story 3”
2011: “The Help”
2012: “Django Unchained,” “Les Miserables”
2014: “American Sniper”
2015: “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian”
With that in mind, let’s look at the five most likely blockbusters to break into this year’s top race.
1) “Captain America: Civil War”
Those who read my ‘campaign plan’ for Robert Downey Jr. (for his excellent turn in this film) will already know how highly I rate this, with critics calling it the best Marvel film to date, At a critical turning point in the MCU’s story, it would be a very good time to reward a franchise as significant, popular and critically acclaimed. It’s not just the action that has been praised in this film, but the character arcs, performances and heart-felt story. It’s a superhero family drama, in essence – Marvel’s very own “Kramer vs Kramer.”
Another comic book movie, but one which also stands out from the others. The film is essentially two or three long scenes integrated into one another, peppered with plenty of wit and meta, fourth- wall breaking moments and a pitch-perfect Ryan Reynolds performance as the title character. It’s, mostly, everything Deadpool fans wanted, so why not give some love to a film as brave and popular as this?
3) “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
On one hand, it’s hard to believe that if the academy wasn’t willing to nominate the seventh film in the “Star Wars” franchise, “The Force Awakens,” last year, why would they do so with this stand-alone one. But “The Force Awakens” had A lot of pressure on it and had to play it safe, which is why so many compared it to “A New Hope.” “Rogue One” is not part of the main storyline and will have much more artistic license. That may tempt Oscar voters to reward a “Star Wars” movie with a Best Picture nomination for the first time since the original, “A New Hope,” back in 1977.
This recently surpassed the billion dollar mark worldwide and has the backing of critics. And its got the power of Disney behind it to give it the fuel to go all the way if voters are inclined to do so.
5) “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
Five years after the final “Harry Potter” instalment and we are all still in love with the boy who lived and his epic journeys. “The Cursed Child” play recently opened to rave reviews (though if you read the play’s published script as I did, you will have noticed a slew of frustratingly poor mistakes by playwright Jack Thorne – it needed a bloody good edit) and that’s only increased excitement for “Fantastic Beasts.” It is being released at the right time to be considered for Oscars. What really helps is the quite unbelievable fact that the “Harry Potter” franchise failed to win a single Oscar. The series, spanning eight films, was nominated for a total of 12 Academy Awards but never prevailed despite world-class costumes, production design, hair and make-up, and music.
Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. How do you think “La La Land” will do with academy voters? Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how this film is faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before nominations are announced on January 24 at 5:00 am PT/8:00 am ET. Be sure to read our contest rules. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.