Predicting the winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture is work of art in and of itself. You’d think it to be the easiest of the 24 competitive categories to predict because it gets the most coverage. However, there are a slew of factors at play, including the quirky preferential ballot, the pedigree of the filmmakers, the critical reception to the films, the the box office tally and the track record of the studios. We take all of this into consideration as we look at the 2018 Oscar race.
Contenders began to emerge at the Sundance Film Festival in January. That was where “Manchester by the Sea” broke out last year; it went on to win both Best Actor (Casey Affleck) and Best Original Screenplay. Others will be seen for the first time at the Cannes Film Festival in May, as was “Loving” last year, which reaped a Best Actress bid for Ruth Negga. But most of the top tier of Best Picture hopefuls won’t screen until September at four film festivals: Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York. And a few will be held back till the last weeks of eligibility, getting limited releases in December.
Last year, we predicted that “La La Land” would be a strong contender for Best Picture based on its pedigree: previously Oscar-nominated writer/director Damien Chazelle (“Whiplash”) and stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. It reaped a record-tying 14 nominations and won six Oscars, including Best Actress (Stone). And Chazelle, at age 32, became the youngest-ever Best Director champ.
The (eventual) Best Picture winner “Moonlight” from writer/director Barry Jenkins (who shared in the Best Adapated Screenplay Oscar with Tarell Alvin McCraney) only took off after socko screenings at these fall film festivals. And Denzel Washington‘s “Fences,” which won an Oscar for supporting actress Viola Davis, got a limited released until just before Christmas.
Among this year’s possibilities, several stand out already. We know that Oscar voters love war films. Remember, “The Hurt Locker” won Best Picture in 2010 over the blockbuster “Avatar.” So “Dunkirk,” which details the British retreat from France during the darkest days of World War II could well prevail, especially as it is helmed by overdue director Christopher Nolan.
George Clooney was nominated for directing “Good Night, and Good Luck” (2006) and now could return to that category with “Suburbicon,” written by Oscar darlings Joel and Ethan Coen (“No Country for Old Men,” “Fargo”). It’s a quirky crime drama starring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Josh Brolin, and Oscar Isaac.
Producer Harvey Weinstein always has a formidable pony in the derby and this year it looks to be “The Current War,” which dramatizes the historic clash between Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) to wire America with electricity at the end of the 19th century.
And Sundance gave us “Mudbound,” starring Mary J. Blige and Carey Mulligan in a gritty drama about two clans living in the Mississippi Delta in the 1940s.
Only those films with confirmed release dates are listed below. Check back often as new contenders are scheduled while other are dropped due to delays or critical reaction.
UPDATED: June 14, 2017
“Battle of the Sexes” (Fox Searchlight)
“The Current War” (The Weinstein Company)
“Darkest Hour” (Universal Studios/Focus Features)
“Detroit” (Annapurna Pictures)
“Downsizing”(Paramount Pictures/Annapurna Pictures)
“Dunkirk” (Warner Bros.)
“Get Out” (Universal)
“Goodbye, Christopher Robin” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
“The Greatest Showman” (20th Century Fox)
“Last Flag Flying” (Amazon Studios)
“mother!” (Paramount Pictures)
“The Mountain Between Us” (20th Century Fox/Chernin Entertainment)
“Murder on the Orient Express” (20th Century Fox)
“The Papers” (20th Century Fox)
“Phantom Thread” (Annapurna Pictures/Focus Features)
“The Shape of Water” (Fox Searchlight Picture)
“Suburbicon” (Paramount Pictures)
“Victoria and Abdul” (Focus Features)
“Annihilation” (Paramount Pictures)
“Beauty and the Beast” (Walt Disney Pictures)
“Blade Runner 2049” (Warner Bros./Columbia Pictures/Alcon Entertainment)
“The Florida Project” (A24)
“The Glass Castle” (Lionsgate)
“Logan” (20th Century Fox)
“Logan Lucky” (Bleecker Street/FilmNation Entertainment)
“Marshall” (Open Road Films)
“Molly’s Game” (STX Entertainment)
“My Cousin Rachel” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
“Roma” (Participant Media)
“The Silent Man” (Sony Pictures Classics)
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouriv (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
“Tully” (Bron Studios)
“Wonderstruck” (Amazon Studios)
“You Were Never Really Here” (Amazon Studios)
“Based on a True Story” (Sony Pictures Classics)
“The Beguiled” (Focus Features/Gramercy Pictures)
“The Death and Life of John F. Donovan”
“Granite Mountain” (Lionsgate/Di Bonaventura Pictures)
“Happy End” (Sony Pictures Classics)
“Hostiles” (Waypoint Entertainment)
“The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (A24)
“Lean on Pete” (A24)
“Mary Magdalene” (Universal)
“Redoubtable” (Studio Canal)
“The Snowman” (Universal Studio/Working Title Films)
“Thank You for Your Service” (Dreamworks)
“Under the Silver Lake” (A24)
“Wind River” (The Weinstein Company)
In the coming weeks and months, we will be predicting all 24 of the competitive categories at the Oscars.
Best Director | Best Original Screenplay | Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Actor | Best Actress | Best Supporting Actor | Best Supporting Actress
Best Cinematography | Best Costume Design | Best Film Editing | Best Production Design
Best Makeup & Hairstyling | Best Sound Editing | Best Sound Mixing | Best Visual Effects
Best Score | Best Original Song
Best Animated Feature | Best Documentary Feature | Best Foreign Language Film
Best Animated Short | Best Documentary Short | Best Live-Action Short