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. (Scroll down for the most up-to-date predictions for this year’s Best Picture 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.
UPDATED: August 14, 2017
Since the Oscars moved to late February in 2004 (and early March in Winter Olympic years), only eight of the 102 Best Picture nominees have been released in the first seven months of the year. We could see several contenders from the first part of 2017 number among this year’s slate, which will be determined by members of the academy in the eight days of nominations voting that begins on Jan. 5, 2018.
Leading the charge is the July 21 Warner Bros. release “Dunkirk,” which details the British retreat from France during the darkest days of World War II, combines the two genres. Christopher Nolan, who is long overdue for an Oscar, captured the chaos of that evacuation with IMAX cameras. The rave reviews translated into an impressive 93 at Rotten Tomatoes, which classifies reviews on a pass/fail system and 94 at MetaCritic, which uses a sliding scale. It has made $153 million in the US and Canada and another $210 million worldwide (as of Aug. 13).
Warner Bros. also has “Wonder Woman,” which opened on June 2 to an impressive score of 92 at Rotten Tomatoes (and 75 at MetaCritic). This sophomore film by Patty Jenkins, who directed Charlize Theron to an Oscar in “Monster,” ranks as the highest-grossing live-action film directed by a woman, with worldwide box office totaling $797 million (as of Aug. 13). The studio is planning an expansive campaign across all categories for this well-received blockbuster.
Jenkins could well reap a bid from the directors branch. And joining her there could be Kathryn Bigelow, who made Oscar history as the first woman to win Best Director when she prevailed in 2010 for helming the Best Picture champ “The Hurt Locker.” She is back in contention with “Detroit,” a docudrama which recounts the 1967 police raid that lead to one of the largest citizen uprisings in US history. This Annapurna release opened in 10 markets on July 28 and scored 88 at Rotten Tomatoes and 78 at MetaCritic. It went wide on Aug. 4 and has made $13 million as of Aug. 13.
Amazon picked up the Sundance sensation “The Big Sick” and released this romantic comedy with a twist in limited release on June 23 to some of the best reviews of the year (98 at Rotten Tomatoes, 86 at MetaCritic). To date, this charmer has made $34 million. It stars “Silicon Valley” scene-stealer Kumail Nanjiani who, with his wife Emily V. Gordon, penned the script based on their interracial relationship that was further complicated by her serious illness. She is played by Emmy nominee Zoe Kazan (“Olive Kitteridge”), while Oscar winner Holly Hunter (“The Piano”) and Emmy champ Ray Romano (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) steal scenes as her less-than-understanding parents. It’s directed by Michael Showalter, a comedian in his own right who also helmed last year’s “Hello, My Name is Doris” starring two-time Oscar winner Sally Field.
After a well-received sneak peek at Sundance, Universal released the sleeper hit “Get Out” on Feb. 24. This low-budget first film by multi-hyphenate Jordan Peele is ostensibly a horror flick but delves deftly into racial issues and had critics crowing. Indeed, it merited a near perfect Rotten Tomatoes score 0f 99, of which not even the likes of last year’s top Oscar contenders, including Best Picture champ “Moonlight,” could boast. Audiences flocked to the film, and it took in an impressive $175 million domestically and another $75 million worldwide. Peele is definitely in contention for both his original script and helming while Gregory Plotkin could reap a film editing bid for his expert cutting of this suspenseful film.
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: August 14, 2017
“All the Money in the World” (Tristar)
“Battle of the Sexes” (Fox Searchlight)
“Call Me By Your Name” (Sony Pictures Classics)
“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)
“Roman Israel, Esq.” (Columbia)
“The Shape of Water” (Fox Searchlight Picture)
“Suburbicon” (Paramount Pictures)
“Victoria and Abdul” (Focus Features)
“Wonder Woman” (Warner Bros.)
“American Made” (Universal)
“Beauty and the Beast” (Walt Disney Pictures)
“The Big Sick” (Amazon Studios)
“Blade Runner 2049” (Warner Bros./Columbia Pictures/Alcon Entertainment)
“Breathe” (Bleecker Street/Participant Media)
“The Disaster Artist” (Warner Bros.)
“The Florida Project” (A24)
“Lady Bird” (A24)
“Logan” (20th Century Fox)
“Logan Lucky” (Bleecker Street/FilmNation Entertainment)
“Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House” (Sony Pictures Classics)
“Marshall” (Open Road Films)
“The Meyerowitz Stories” (Netflix)
“Molly’s Game” (STX Entertainment)
“My Cousin Rachel” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
“Our Souls at Night” (Netflix)
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (Walt Disney Pictures)
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
“Wonder Wheel” (Amazon Studios)
“Wonderstruck” (Amazon Studios)
“Baby Driver” (TriStar Pictures)
“The Beguiled” (Focus Features/Gramercy Pictures)
“First They Killed My Father” (Netflix)
“Happy End” (Sony Pictures Classics)
“The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (A24)
“Lean on Pete” (A24)
“The Lovers” (A24)
“The Man Who Invented Christmas” (Bleecker Street)
“Mary Magdalene” (Universal)
“Novitiate” (Sony Pictures Classics)
“Only the Brave” (Lionsgate/Di Bonaventura Pictures)
“Rebel in the Rye” (IFC)
“Redoubtable” (Studio Canal)
“The Snowman” (Universal Studio/Working Title Films)
“Thank You for Your Service” (Dreamworks)
“Under the Silver Lake” (A24)
“War for the Planet of the Apes” (20th Century Fox)
“Wind River” (The Weinstein Company)
We will be predicting all 24 of the competitive categories at the Oscars. Click on the linked categories below to read our previews of each of these races.
Best Picture | 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 Original Score | Best Original Song
Best Animated Feature | Best Documentary Feature | Best Foreign Language Film
Best Animated Short | Best Documentary Short | Best Live-Action Short