2018 Oscars: ‘Dunkirk’ aiming to be 12th Best Picture champ without an acting nomination

Dunkirk” received the second highest number of Oscar nominations — eight — behind 13 for “The Shape of Water,” but it was AWOL from the shortlists from one important branch: acting. Should “Dunkirk” claim Best Picture, the Christopher Nolan drama would join 11 other films in Oscar history to do so without a single acting nomination.

The last Best Picture champ to accomplish this was “Slumdog Millionaire” nine years ago, when the youth-heavy film steamrolled to eight wins. The 11 films are:

1. “Wings” (1927/28)
2. “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1929/30)
3. “Grand Hotel” (1931/32)
4. “An American in Paris” (1951)
5. “The Greatest Show on Earth” (1952)
6. “Around the World in 80 Days” (1956)
7. “Gigi” (1958)
8. “The Last Emperor” (1987)
9. “Braveheart” (1995)
10. “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003)
11. “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008)

Most of these films are large-scale epics and spectacles — just like “Dunkirk” — that put a premium on technical wizardry than acting prowess and weren’t expected to pull acting nominations (in “Grand Hotel”’s case, Best Picture was the only nomination it got). “Dunkirk”’s best acting hopeful was Mark Rylance, the Best Supporting Actor champ two years ago (“Bridge of Spies”), but it soon became clear that he was a longshot after missing precursors.

SEE 2018 Oscar nominations: Full list of Academy Awards nominees in all 24 categories

Obviously you can win Best Picture without an acting nomination, but what might hurt “Dunkirk,” which sits in fifth place in our combined odds, is the fact that it’s the only Best Picture nominee without an acting nomination. The acting branch is the largest in the academy and it can pay to have the support of performers. “Braveheart” remains the only film to win Best Picture without a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for ensemble — “Dunkirk” didn’t make the SAG lineup either — and “Spotlight” triumphed two years ago on the strength of a SAG ensemble win over PGA winner “The Big Short” and DGA winner “The Revenant.”

Here’s the Best Picture field grouped by the number of acting nominations:

Three
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Best Actress for Frances McDormand, Best Supporting Actor for Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell)
“The Shape of Water” (Best Actress for Sally Hawkins, Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer, Best Supporting Actor for Richard Jenkins)

Two
“Lady Bird” (Best Actress for Saoirse Ronan, Best Supporting Actress for Laurie Metcalf)
“Phantom Thread” (Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis, Best Supporting Actress for Lesley Manville)

One
“Get Out” (Best Actor for Daniel Kaluuya)
“Call Me by Your Name” (Best Actor for Timothee Chalamet)
“Darkest Hour” (Best Actor for Gary Oldman)
“The Post” (Best Actress for Meryl Streep)

Zero
“Dunkirk”

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