2018 Oscar Predictions: Best Picture (Updated January 14, 2018)

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: January 14, 2018

Leading Contenders
“All the Money in the World” (Tristar)
“The Big Sick” (Amazon Studios)
“Blade Runner 2049” (Warner Bros./Columbia Pictures/Alcon Entertainment)

“Call Me By Your Name” (Sony Pictures Classics)
“Darkest Hour” (Universal Studios/Focus Features)
“Dunkirk” (Warner Bros.)
“The Florida Project” (A24)
“Get Out” (Universal)
“Lady Bird” (A24)
“Last Flag Flying” (Amazon Studios)
“Mudbound” (Netflix)
“The Post” (20th Century Fox)
“Phantom Thread” (Annapurna Pictures/Focus Features)
“The Shape of Water” (Fox Searchlight Picture)
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
“Victoria and Abdul” (Focus Features)

Strong Contenders
“Baby Driver” (TriStar Pictures)
“Battle of the Sexes” (Fox Searchlight)
“Beauty and the Beast” (Walt Disney Pictures)

“Coco” (Pixar/Disney)
“The Disaster Artist” (Warner Bros.)
“Downsizing” (Paramount Pictures/Annapurna Pictures)

“The Greatest Showman” (20th Century Fox)
“The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (A24)
“Logan” (20th Century Fox)
“Marshall” (Open Road Films)
“The Meyerowitz Stories” (Netflix)
“Molly’s Game” (STX Entertainment)
“Murder on the Orient Express” (20th Century Fox)
“Roman Israel, Esq.” (Columbia)

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (Walt Disney Pictures)
“Stronger” (Lionsgate)
“Wonder” (Lionsgate)
“Wonder Wheel” (Amazon Studios)
“Wonder Woman” (Warner Bros.)

Possible Contenders
“The Beguiled” (Focus Features/Gramercy Pictures)
“Breathe” (Bleecker Street/Participant Media)
“Detroit” (Annapurna Pictures)
“First They Killed My Father” (Netflix)
“Goodbye Christopher Robin” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

“Happy End” (Sony Pictures Classics)
“Logan Lucky” (Bleecker Street/FilmNation Entertainment)
“The Lovers” (A24)
“The Man Who Invented Christmas” (Bleecker Street)
“The Mountain Between Us” (20th Century Fox/Chernin Entertainment)
“My Cousin Rachel” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
“Novitiate” (Sony Pictures Classics)
“Okja” (Netflix)
“Only the Brave” (Lionsgate/Di Bonaventura Pictures)
“Our Souls at Night” (Netflix)

“Redoubtable” (Studio Canal)
“Submergence” (Lionsgate)
“Thank You for Your Service” (Dreamworks)
“War for the Planet of the Apes” (20th Century Fox)

UPDATED: January 14, 2018

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 of Christopher Nolan‘s epic “Dunkirk,” which details the British retreat from France during the darkest days of World War II, combines the two genres.  Warner Bros. also has Patty Jenkins‘ “Wonder Woman,” which opened on June 2 to an impressive score of 92 at Rotten Tomatoes (and 75 at MetaCritic) and has worldwide box office totaling $800 million. The studio is planning an expansive campaign across all categories for this well-received blockbuster.

However, most of the major Academy Awards contenders screened at the late summer film festivals in anticipation of their fall releases.

Guillermo Del Toro‘s fantasy film “The Shape of Water” won the Golden Lion at Venice following strong reviews, especially for Sally Hawkins‘ star turn as a mute woman who communicates through sign language. She is a strong contender for Best Actress as is Frances McDormand who stars in Martin McDonagh‘s dark comedy “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which won the audience award at Toronto.

Joe Wright‘s well-received biopic “Darkest Hour” chronicles the first days of Winston Churchill as Britain’s wartime prime minister. Gary Oldman is the clear Best Actor frontrunner for his portrayal of this prickly politician.

Alexander Payne‘s biting social satire “Downsizing” opened Venice and earned raves and then played at Toronto where reaction was more muted. Matt Damon plays a man who decides his life would be better if he allows himself to be shrunk.

Luca Guadagnino‘s gay coming-of-age story “Call Me by Your Name” was a sensation at Sundance and played well at other festivals. Timothee Chalamet could become the youngest-ever winner of the Best Actor Oscar for his breakthrough performance.

We are 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

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