‘Gone Girl’ is a smash hit — Are we underestimating it for Oscars?

What does “Gone Girl” have to do to be an Oscars frontrunner? It has big stars, strong reviews (79 on Metacritic, 88% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes), and it’s a clear smash hit. It’s already David Fincher‘s highest grossing film domestically and, with $300 million worldwide so far, it’s close to becoming his biggest money-maker ever (not accounting for inflation). In its sixth week of release, it finished third at the box office, behind only the big new openings of “Big Hero 6” and “Interstellar,” which means it has clear staying power too. So why aren’t we calling the Best Picture race for “Gone Girl”?

Photo Gallery: Get Naked, Win Oscar

Currently, our Experts rank “Gone Girl” in sixth place. Ditto for our Users. Our Top 24 Users rank it seventh. It’s very possible that everybody is underestimating it. Why? Because it’s a pulpy crime thriller?

Perhaps academy members don’t believe that crime dramas feel “important” enough to warrant their top prize, but they’ve made exceptions in the past. “The Silence of the Lambs” was even darker and bloodier, telling the story of a serial killer who skins his victims, but in 1991 it became only the third film in Oscar history to win the big five: Picture, Director (Jonathan Demme), Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Actress (Jodie Foster), and Screenplay (Ted Tally). And just like “Gone Girl,” it was adapted from a bestselling novel.

“The Departed” also won Best Picture, despite being a thriller about an undercover cop infiltrating the Irish mob. That was partly because it was directed by Martin Scorsese, whom the academy had slapped so many times – for everything from “Raging Bull” to “The Aviator” – that they simply couldn’t deny him any longer. Fincher’s Oscar IOU isn’t as urgent, but after losing for “The Social Network,” which everyone but his industry peers declared the best film of 2010, plenty are eager for the academy to make it up to him, though voters themselves may not feel the same way yet.

But the year after “The Departed” won, the academy chose another grim crime drama: “No Country for Old Men,” about a string of murders surrounding a bag of stolen drug money. It had serious literary cachet, coming from a novel by Cormac McCarthy, but while its directors, Joel and Ethan Coen weren’t overdue per se – they won a screenwriting Oscar for “Fargo” in 1996 – the academy still wanted to give them first-time hugs for Best Picture and Best Director. Fincher has never won in any category, so his candidacy might be even more urgent than the Coens’ was.

Our Experts are currently predicting “Gone Girl” to be nominated in all the usual categories needed to signify a top Best Picture contender: Best Director, where Fincher ranks fifth; Best Adapted Screenplay (Gillian Flynn), which our Oscarologists actually favor it to win; and a nod from the academy’s massive acting branch for Rosamund Pike, whom experts rank third for Best Actress.

David Fincher & ‘Gone Girl’ cast at NYFF: ‘We’re trusting you not to quote us’

And we mustn’t forget Best Editing. Since 1981, every Best Picture winner has at least been nominated for its editing, and Fincher’s films have been popular in that category of late. His “Social Network” won in 2010, which wasn’t a big surprise given the film’s Best Picture nomination and its complex flashback structure, but then his next film, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” pulled off a shocking upset in that race in 2011. It was a rare Best Editing champ without a corresponding Picture or Directing nod – the only other such instances in the past 30 years were “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” “The Matrix,” and “The Bourne Ultimatum.”

Kirk Baxter edited both “Social Network” and “Dragon Tattoo,” and he also edited “Gone Girl.” Our experts rank him fourth in that race, but given his recent track record, even that might be underestimating him.

“Gone Girl” is also tipped for nominations in less essential categories like Best Score (ranking second behind “Interstellar“) and Best Cinematography (ranking fourth). If our experts are right, that would give the film an Oscar haul of seven nominations. That’s more than “The Departed,” the same as “Silence of the Lambs,” and just one shy of “No Country for Old Men.”

ALSO READ: Oscar news: ‘Selma,’ ‘American Sniper’ wow in AFI debuts

Click here to make your own predictions or use our drag-and-drop menu below to make or edit your picks. Your predix help to generate our racetrack odds, which combine the predictions of our users, experts, and editors. Contest prize for best predictions: $1,000; click here to meet Tim Kressman, who won our competition last year. And if you’re one of our best predictors, next year you’ll be featured among our elite Top 24 Users, who have even greater influence over our odds.

More News from GoldDerby