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What will win the Best Picture Oscar in 2023?

The Golden Globe nominations have changed the shape of the race

The 2023 Oscar race is well underway, and just a few months remain until the big night. In the wake of the Golden Globe nominations, one contender looks to be gaining steam, and for the first time, the frontrunner we've been betting on all along appears vulnerable. Let's take a look at the field as it stands in December 2022: 

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Could it be the year of the blockbuster in the 2023 Best Picture race?

Since our previous predictions update, the two films likely to be the highest-grossing of 2022 have been gaining momentum: Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water. Might one of them actually take the top prize? It's not inconceivable, and we've now added Avatar as a predicted nominee for the first time. It's been receiving a critical reception comparable to the original Avatar, which was nominated for Best Picture. 

Numerous precursor awards shows have also recently announced winners or nominees, and the upshot is that The Banshees of Inisherin is stronger than ever, while She Said and Women Talking are floundering. The former received just one acting nomination at the Golden Globes and one screenplay nomination at the Critics' Choice Awards. Granted, neither ceremony's voting body overlaps with the Oscars, but a movie being that absent from the general awards conversation is never a good sign. So She Said has been removed from the list entirely. Women Talking, which was almost totally blanked at the Golden Globes, is still a predicted nominee, but possibly not for long.  

10. Women Talking

Our first three contenders are all at serious risk of missing a nomination, especially Women Talking

Based on Miriam Toews' 2018 novel, this drama from Sarah Polley follows women in a religious colony who "struggle to reconcile their faith with a series of sexual assaults committed by the colony's men," per Deadline. It stars a cast of awards favorites, including Frances McDormand, Jessie Buckley, Rooney Mara, and Claire Foy. 

Toews' novel, which was inspired by real events in Bolivia, was one of the most well-received books of that year. As Vox's Constance Grady explained at the time, the novel offered a "kind of allegory for the position in which women find themselves in the wake of #MeToo: Something awful has happened. The perpetrators have been brought to light. So now what?" So on paper, it sounds like the kind of #MeToo-era story that could make a big splash with the Academy.

But Women Talking recently took a massive hit with several brutal snubs at the Golden Globe Awards. It wasn't nominated for Best Picture, nor was Sarah Polley nominated for Best Director, both of which were expected. Plus, neither Claire Foy nor Jessie Buckley was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, even though pundits thought one or even both would get in. Yet the film did get nominated for Best Screenplay and Best Original Score, indicating Golden Globe voters watched it and just didn't think it was deserving of the top prizes. 

The Golden Globes' voting body is completely different from the Academy's. But it's still not a good sign for the film's chances considering every Best Picture Oscar winner has at least been nominated for one of the Golden Globes' top two Best Picture awards since 2006 (except for Parasite, which wasn't eligible due to not being in English). 

That's still not quite enough to take Women Talking out of the field entirely just yet, and it did also make both the National Board of Review and American Film Institute's top ten list, in addition to earning an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Feature. Still, it's no longer nearly as strong of a competitor as we once thought, and don't be surprised if we're not talking about it for long.  

9. Babylon

Damien Chazelle's La La Land won the Best Picture Oscar in 2017 ... for about two minutes before the right winner, Moonlight, was revealed. But could Babylon give Chazelle the prize for real this time? Starring Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie, the film is set in 1920s Hollywood amid the industry's transition to talkies from silent films. Movies about Hollywood and the magic of movies tend to do well at the Oscars, and the Academy even previously gave a Best Picture statuette to a movie about the silent-film-to-talkies transition with The Artist.

But based on the early reactions to Babylon, this doesn't sound like the film that will bring Chazelle the top prize, as he's really leaned into depicting the debauchery of 1920s Hollywood in a way that could turn off Academy voters. The trailer teases plenty of drug-fuelled party sequences and even opens with Robbie snorting the Paramount logo. According to critics, the film itself includes everything from "a coked-up Margot Robbie projectile vomiting all over the face of a stuffy old man" to an elephant that "s--ts directly into the camera lens" — two phrases that don't exactly scream Best Picture winner.

Plus, early social media reviews were all over the place, with some critics calling the film "wildly entertaining" and others declaring it's a "flaming hot mess," and it's only a few points above rotten on Rotten TomatoesBabylon was also left off both the National Board of Review's and the American Film Institute's lists of the top 10 films of the year.

On other hand, Babylon did earn Best Picture nominations at both the Golden Globes and Critics' Choice Awards. It also earned a solid five Golden Globe nominations overall, including an acting nod for Diego Calva. And we just learned at the 2022 Oscars that a film with a mixed critical reception can still get into Best Picture, as Don't Look Up was nominated. 

Let's also not forget Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street was nominated for Best Picture despite similarly featuring tons of hard R depravity. That movie wasn't really one of the top contenders to win, though, and that's probably the position Babylon finds itself in. Chazelle has described the film as a "hate letter to Hollywood," so we'll have to see if Hollywood ends up hating him right back. 

8. Glass Onion

Netflix thought it was on its way to winning Best Picture all season long last year with The Power of the Dog, only to lose in the end to Apple's CODA. This year, it looks safe to say the streamer once again won't be winning Best Picture, and it may only have one real shot at even being nominated: Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.

Netflix's Bardo and White Noise both underperformed during their film festival debuts, and Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio faces an uphill battle considering animated movies are rarely nominated for Best Picture. But Rian Johnson's Knives Out follow-up earned absolute raves out of the Toronto International Film Festival, where it was the second runner-up to win the People's Choice Award. This award often helps forecast what will be nominated for Best Picture: In 2019, for example, the TIFF audience award winner was Jojo Rabbit and the runners-up were Marriage Story and Parasite, all three of which became Best Picture nominees, and the latter of which won. 

Glass Onion has also already earned Best Picture nominations at the Golden Globes and Critics' Choice Awards, even though Knives Out wasn't nominated at the latter ceremony. The National Board of Review also listed it as one of the 10 best films of the year, putting it in the company of this year's main frontrunners; the organization even gave Janelle Monáe a Best Supporting Actress award. The movie oddly wasn't included on the American Film Institute's list of best movies, though, even though the original Knives Out was. 

But many critics have dubbed Glass Onion superior to the original Knives Out, and because it's an all-new mystery, Academy voters won't even have to have seen the original to enjoy it. Knives Out wasn't nominated for Best Picture, but it was a nominee for Best Original Screenplay, indicating it wasn't so far outside the field. It was one of only two movies nominated for a screenplay Oscar that year without a Best Picture nomination, in fact. 

The primary question is whether Glass Onion might be a bit too light for the Academy to back as a Best Picture nominee, as it's arguably even more of a straight comedy than the original. But the fact that it's the most up-to-the-minute relevant movie of this year's contenders, featuring prescient commentary about billionaires like Elon Musk that accidentally arrived right during his Twitter debacle, certainly can't hurt. 

Now, if only there was an Oscar for best accent, because Daniel Craig would have that in the bag...

7. Elvis

The Academy can't help falling in love with biopics, which is part of why we're predicting Austin Butler will win Best Actor for his performance in Elvis. But will the movie itself also compete for Best Picture? It's very much in play, especially when you consider that it's rare for someone to win Best Actor without their film being nominated for Best Picture. It hasn't happened since 2010, when Jeff Bridges won for Crazy Heart

Elvis has its detractors, particularly those who were turned off by director Baz Luhrmann's very Luhrmann-esque stylistic flourishes — the visual flair, frenetic editing, and relentlessly fast pace. But it was mostly well received, and the fact that Butler is so stunning in the lead role should be enough to carry Elvis to a nomination. It doesn't hurt that the film was a surprise box office hit over the summer; it helps for a Best Picture contender to be viewed as a success story. 

Besides, we've already seen the film performing well this season outside of just Butler's performance. At the Golden Globes, it was nominated for Best Picture (submitted as a drama rather than a musical or comedy, meaning it had even tougher competition), and Baz Luhrmann was also somewhat unexpectedly nominated for Best Director. Elvis was also nominated at the Critics' Choice Awards, and the American Film Institute included it on its top 10 list, though the National Board of Review left it off. 

Besides, the Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody was nominated for Best Picture in 2019 despite receiving significantly worse reviews than Elvis, and given the Best Picture competition this year is arguably weaker, things are looking good for Luhrmann's film. 

6. Tár

One of the most well-reviewed films out of the Venice Film Festival and Telluride Film Festival this year was Tár. Initially, it sounded like the film might only serve as a Best Actress contender for Cate Blanchett, but a Best Picture nomination is also now likely. Blanchett stars as famous classical music conductor Lydia Tár, and critics have described this as one of the finest performances of her career, putting her in the conversation for a third Oscar win. 

In terms of precursors, Tár has put up a solid performance so far, especially with critics. The New York Film Critics Circle awarded it Best Film, and since 2010, all but two of their picks have netted a Best Picture nomination; this group also helped boost Drive My Car into the Best Picture race last year by giving it their top prize. Tár was also nominated for Best Picture at the Critics' Choice Awards, the Golden Globes, the Gotham Independent Film Awards, and the Independent Spirit Awards, and it made the American Film Institute's top 10 list (it was left off the National Board of Review's top 10, though).

That being said, if we're talking about winning Best Picture, it's an uphill battle for Tár. For one, the film could be accused of being emotionally distant and even cryptic and strange at times; heck, it opens in a rather unconventional fashion with its entire closing credits being presented at the beginning of the movie for several minutes. It's also the kind of film where some viewers may need a second viewing in order to fully understand everything, which doesn't tend to be the case for most Best Picture winners, as the Academy tends to lean toward crowd-pleasers that are easy to digest. 

Plus, Best Picture winners tend to take home at least a few other awards on Oscar night, and aside from Cate Blanchett in Best Actress, Tár doesn't appear to be a frontrunner in any other category. Still, don't expect Field to be left out of the Best Picture field entirely. 

5. Avatar: The Way of Water

But Tár isn't even this year's strongest Best Picture contender with "tar" in its name. 

James Cameron's original Avatar was nominated for Best Picture in 2010, and it even seemed to come close to winning the prize instead of The Hurt Locker; both films tied for most nominations that year. So it stood to reason that the sequel would also be nominated unless it was considered a major disappointment. Yet Avatar: The Way of Water has drawn reviews roughly in line with the original, and it once again boasts absolutely jaw-dropping visual effects. 

It's safe to say The Way of Water will, at the very least, rack up plenty of below-the-line nominations for its technical achievements and it's surely a lock to win for its visual effects. That suggests the movie will have support throughout all branches of the Academy; think of it as this year's Dune, which won the most Oscars in 2022 and was also a Best Picture nominee. Plus, The Way of Water was already nominated for Best Picture at the Golden Globes and Critics' Choice Awards, and it made both the National Board of Review and American Film Institute's top 10 lists. 

So could The Way of Water actually win the top prize? That will be tough, in part because the next film on our list is another dazzling blockbuster spectacle that received even better reviews. But there's also the fact that The Way of Water doesn't completely feel like a standalone story, as it leaves several major plot threads to be resolved in the three planned sequels.

Either way, The Way of Water is such a powerful and jaw-dropping accomplishment that making it into the Best Picture race is probably a done deal. But we'll have to see if Cameron himself can become king of the world once again.  

4. Top Gun: Maverick

Does the Academy feel the need for speed? When Top Gun: Maverick came out over the summer, the idea that it could be nominated for Best Picture seemed like a long shot. Months later, though, it's no longer really a question: It almost certainly will be. Now the intrigue is around whether it could actually win — and the answer isn't a definitive no. 

Maverick received some of the most ecstatic reviews of any summer blockbuster in recent memory, with nearly every critic agreeing it's better than the original. It's not totally unprecedented for a flashy action film to be nominated, either: Just in the past few years, we've had blockbusters like Dune, Black Panther, and Mad Max: Fury Road earn nominations, so why can't Top Gun? Like Avatar, Maverick is certain to pick up plenty of nominations in the below-the-line categories given its stunning visuals and sound, and it was so widely beloved, it should have support throughout all branches of the Academy. 

Plus, Maverick comes with the narrative that it helped reinvigorate moviegoing by being an unprecedented box office phenomenon at a time when theaters needed one. The film has also performed well in early awards season contests, earning Best Picture nominations at the Golden Globe Awards and Critics' Choice Awards. It also made the American Film Institute's list of best films, and the National Board of Review actually gave it the win for Best Film, not just a nomination. Granted, their pick has lined up with Best Picture just once since 2010 and three times since 2000. But Top Gun receiving the same award that's gone to movies like The Irishman and The Social Network at least strengthens the narrative that it deserves to be firmly in this Oscar conversation and it wasn't simply an entertaining spectacle. 

One wrinkle, though, is the fact that Avatar: The Way of Water is also expected to be nominated for Best Picture. That could create a situation where there are two similar blockbuster choices in the category, and they effectively cancel each other out in the Oscar's ranked choice voting system. The other issue is that a Best Picture winner traditionally also needs to be nominated for acting, directing, writing, and editing, and it's not actually clear that Top Gun will receive any of those nominations aside from editing. 

If it does, though, it could be a real threat to win it all. As box office analysts learned this summer, underestimate Tom Cruise at your own peril

3. The Banshees of Inisherin

At the moment, it's looking like we have a firm top three Best Picture contenders, any of which could realistically win, including Martin McDonagh's The Banshees of Inisherin

McDonagh competed for Best Picture in 2018 with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which was probably the runner-up to the eventual winner, The Shape of Water. His next film stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as two friends, one of whom, played by Gleeson, suddenly decides to end the friendship for no apparent reason. 

The Banshees of Inisherin received some of the best reviews of any film at the Venice and Toronto festivals this year, earning a nearly perfect Rotten Tomatoes score. Many critics, in fact, liked Banshees better than ​​Three Billboards, and Farrell and Gleeson both look headed for nominations. Like Tár, it's another contender that some voters may find a bit too unconventional or strange, especially with one particular plot point that involves surprising violence. However, the film also doesn't have any controversy associated with Three Billboards, which faced some backlash for its storyline involving a racist police officer. 

Banshees has also been performing quite well in nominations at some of the precursor awards ceremonies. It earned the most nominations of any movie at the Golden Globe Awards with eight nods, the highest total for one film since 2003. It also earned nine nods at the Critics' Choice Awards, including Best Picture, and the Chicago Film Critics Awards gave Banshees their top prize of Best Film. That award has previously gone to past Best Picture winners like Nomadland, Parasite, and Moonlight. Banshees also made the National Board of Review's list of best films, and while it wasn't present on the American Film Institute list, it received its own "AFI Special Award." 

When discussing whether a film can win Best Picture, it's also worth considering if there are any other Oscars it's favored to win. After all, movies almost never win just the Best Picture Oscar. Banshees is arguably already the frontrunner to win Best Original Screenplay. From there, it's very much possible that Colin Farrell could pull ahead of Austin Butler and Brendan Fraser to win Best Actor, especially since he already won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival. 

So Banshees' path to Best Picture could be similar to CODA's this year: It wins one acting award (for Farrell), a screenplay award, and the top prize. As goes Taylor Swift, so goes the Academy? 

2. Everything Everywhere All At Once

There was a time when it wasn't clear that Everything Everywhere All At Once would even be nominated for Best Picture. Sure, the imaginative multiverse adventure starring Michelle Yeoh was a critical darling and a major crowd-pleaser, having become studio A24's highest-grossing movie ever. But would the film — which, among other things, includes a sequence heavily involving butt plugs — be too "out there" and chaotic for the Academy?

As the awards season has progressed, though, Everything Everywhere has continued to gain strength, in part because some of its competition has turned out weaker than expected. But it also seems to be the contender with the most passion behind it, as those who love the film really, really love it. 

We've seen numerous examples in recent years of the presumed Best Picture frontrunner being toppled by an underdog film with more passionate fans, from CODA beating The Power of the Dog to Parasite beating 1917. Everything Everywhere All At Once is certainly an underdog, as a film released by a smaller studio that hardly has "Best Picture contender" written all over it with scenes of people with hot dog fingers and more. There's also an argument to be made that its third act packs more of an emotional punch than the presumed frontrunner does — and as we just learned with CODA, an underdog film with a powerfully emotional ending can be quite dangerous. 

Everything Everywhere has been nominated for Best Picture at the Golden Globes, the Critics' Choice Awards, and the Independent Spirit Awards, and it made the top 10 lists of the American Film Institute and the National Board of Review. Plus, it won the top prize at the Gotham Awards. Admittedly, that ceremony specifically honors independent films, so the competition wasn't as tough. But snagging the first big Best Picture award of the season helped it kick off its campaign with some serious momentum. 

The danger with Everything Everywhere continues to be that its frantic pacing and oddball humor seems to, in general, appeal to a younger demographic and could turn off older Academy voters, leading some to rank it low on their preferential ballot. But the Academy is certainly changing, and it wasn't that long ago that this group gave Best Picture to a film about a woman who has sex with a fish, so maybe we shouldn't underestimate them. 

1. The Fabelmans

Steven Spielberg's The Fabelmans was this year's presumed Best Picture frontrunner before anyone had even seen it. But can it maintain that momentum up to the big night? 

Spielberg's movies have had mixed success at the Oscars in recent years, and none have won Best Picture since Schindler's List in 1994. But The Fabelmans may have what it takes to get over the finish line, especially considering it's the most personal work of the director's career. The movie is based on Spielberg's childhood, telling the story of his parents' divorce and the formation of his love of filmmaking. 

That's right: It's a contender about the Magic of the Movies, which the Academy tends to love. But more importantly, it's likely to benefit from voters' desire to honor one of the greatest directors who has ever lived; voting for The Fabelmans could be seen as a way to honor 75-year-old Spielberg's entire lifetime of contributions to cinema, not just one movie. 

The Fabelmans premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, where reviews were as glowing as expected. Crucially, the film also won the TIFF People's Choice Award, which has previously gone to eventual Best Picture winners like Nomadland, Green Book, and 12 Years a Slave

At the Golden Globes, The Fabelmans earned five nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director for Steven Spielberg, and Best Actress for Michelle Williams. It was also nominated for Best Picture at the Critics' Choice Awards and made the National Board of Review and American Film Institute's top 10 films lists. 

On the other hand, the movie also didn't perform especially well in theaters. That's not hugely surprising considering how many non-blockbuster movies are struggling these days. But contenders like Everything Everywhere and Top Gun come with the benefit of seeming more like successes considering their strong box office numbers. 

Still — for now — we think this is Spielberg's Oscar to lose. Though after what happened with CODA, we'd never claim the race is a done deal until the envelope is opened.

Update Dec. 19: This piece has been updated throughout to cover the latest Oscar developments. 

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