20 Best Picture contenders for the 2023 Oscars

·10 min read
AV Club's Oscar predictions for best picture: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Courtesy of Marvel Studios), RRR (DVV Entertainment), The Fabelmans (Universal Pictures screenshot), Avatar: The Way Of Water (screenshot), The Whale (Courtesy of A24)
AV Club's Oscar predictions for best picture: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Courtesy of Marvel Studios), RRR (DVV Entertainment), The Fabelmans (Universal Pictures screenshot), Avatar: The Way Of Water (screenshot), The Whale (Courtesy of A24)

(Clockwise from top left:) Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Courtesy of Marvel Studios), RRR (DVV Entertainment), The Fabelmans (Universal Pictures screenshot), Avatar: The Way Of Water (screenshot), The Whale (Courtesy of A24)

The 95th Academy Awards are upon us! Just kidding. But now that film festivals at Venice, Telluride and Toronto have wrapped up, we do find ourselves in the opening leg of the Oscar race. That means Hollywood’s annual back-patting and glad-handing season has arrived in earnest, so unlike the last time The A.V. Club made some Oscar predictions, we’re now able to make some properly educated guesses. Since there can be up to 10 nominees for the best picture Oscar, we’ve rounded up 20 contenders, from artsy indie fare (The Whale) to buzzy titles from overseas (Decision To Leave) to star-studded mainstream titles (Avatar: The Way Of Water and Wakanda Forever will be back soon, so buckle up).

All Quiet On The Western Front

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT Official Trailer (2022)

We’re presenting these contenders chronologically, but it’s fitting that topping the list is a title that was among the first films to ever win the best picture Oscar. Since its 1930 debut, the World War I tale All Quiet On The Western Front has been considered a high water mark for depicting war in cinema. Director and co-writer Edward Berger has adapted that anti-war classic into a modern epic with a twist: telling this story from the German perspective on the other side of the trenches. Watch Germany’s submission for this year’s international feature Oscar category on Netflix starting October 28.

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Avatar: The Way Of Water

Avatar: The Way of Water | Official Teaser Trailer

One of several 2022 blockbusters with inherent Oscar cred because of their previously Academy-anointed successors, Avatar: The Way Of Water will immerse audiences again in the fantastical planet Pandora. James Cameron’s 2009 original broke box office records and came oh-so-close to claiming best picture, while dominating Oscars’ technical prizes: best art direction, cinematography, and visual effects. You can practically guarantee the sequel will be in the mix for all the above.


BABYLON | Official Trailer (Uncensored) – Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Diego Calva

Damien Chazelle is back in the Oscar conversation, and maybe this time his film will be the true winner when best picture is announced, no psych outs. Babylon is a big-budget, star-studded period piece somewhat in the vein of La La Land—a love letter to Hollywood except with way more cocaine. Expect lead actors Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt to do what they did for Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood and hit the campaign trail hard.

The Banshees Of Inisherin

THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN | Official Trailer | Searchlight Pictures

Colin Farrell has become a prolific—and interesting enough—actor to have people wondering why he’s never been graced with Oscars’ presence. He’s at his best in the critically acclaimed The Banshees Of Inisherin, reuniting with In Bruges mastermind Martin McDonagh and co-star Brendan Gleeson (whose Saturday Night Live hosting gig may be part of a supporting actor publicity push). Expect stellar supporters Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan to appear in the mix too.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever | Official Teaser

If any follow-up that can make an even bigger Oscar splash than Avatar: The Way Of Water, it’s Wakanda Forever—and we mean a literal splash, as the underwater civilization Talocan will feature prominently in the film. With the late Chadwick Boseman no longer in the titular role, moviegoers and award voters alike will have all eyes on the sequel to Ryan Coogler’s Oscar-winning Black Panther come November 11.

Bones & All

Bones and All - Teaser Trailer - Warner Bros. UK

Director Luca Guadagnino and superstar Timothée Chalamet, both Academy darlings, are together again in Bones & All. Their highly anticipated follow-up to Call Me By Your Name looks to combine horror, coming-of-age drama, and romance—a tantalizing combination that enchanted audiences at this year’s Venice International Film Festival.

Decision To Leave

Decision to Leave TRAILER #1 ~ Park Chan-wook’s New Film|Tang Wei, Park Hae-il [eng sub]

The idea of a non-English language film taking home the Academy’s top prize isn’t as inconceivable as it once was thanks to Parasite. What’s to stop another masterpiece from an esteemed Korean auteur from doing the same? Decision To Leave, a romantic crime thriller that’s already taken South Korea by storm, is the eagerly anticipated latest effort from Park Chan-wook, who won the 2022 Cannes Film Festival prize for best director.

Empire Of Light

EMPIRE OF LIGHT | Official Teaser Trailer | Searchlight Pictures

You may have heard that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences enjoys nominating and rewarding movies about movies. Writer-director Sam Mendes and leading lady Olivia Colman, who have both basked in Oscar’s glow, may capitalize on that tendency with Empire Of Light, a love letter to cinema set in 1980s England.

Everything Everywhere All At Once

Everything Everywhere All At Once | Official Trailer HD | A24

One of Hollywood’s favorite success stories of 2022, Everything Everywhere All At Once may have had a chance at Oscars even without a big box office performance. But now that the Daniels’ highly original film is A24’s highest-grossing title, there’s extra incentive for Academy voters to put it in the running for the top prize. Full disclosure: it is difficult for movies released all the way back during the previous season’s Oscars to remain in the conversation. But the February-released The Silence Of The Lambs once pulled it off, Michelle Yeoh’s star power burns bright, and we have faith that billboards featuring Ke Huy Quan wielding a fanny pack will keep this contender afloat.

The Fabelmans

The Fabelmans | Official Trailer [HD]

Every year when film festival season rolls around, there’s always one title that has pundits and critics claiming the Oscar best picture race is officially decided. This year The Fabelmans, Steven Spielberg’s very Spielbergian movie inspired by the life of a young Steven Spielberg, received the most praise out of the Toronto International Film Festival. It also won the fest’s coveted People’s Choice Award, consistently one of the best bellwethers for Oscar success. A best picture nomination is very likely, and this could finally be the film that catapults Michelle Williams from nominee to winner.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery | Official Teaser Trailer | Netflix

Rian Johnson reinvented sexy, star-studded murder mysteries with 2019’s Knives Out, which wasn’t just a hit with audiences; the Academy (correctly) included it in their best original screenplay category. Johnson has assembled another star-studded ensemble, including Daniel Craig’s charmingly hilarious detective Benoit Blanc, as well as Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, and Leslie Odom Jr. Watch out for Glass Onion spoilers following its TIFF and BFI London Film Festival premieres!

The Menu

THE MENU | Official Trailer | Searchlight Pictures

The most obvious thing about The Menu is that it’s stacked with “should-be Oscar nominees”: Anya Taylor-Joy, Hong Chau, Nicholas Hoult, John Leguizamo, Judith Light, and director Mark Mylod. Leading man Ralph Fiennes, of course, should be an Oscar winner. Maybe he’ll have a shot after this buzz-generating TIFF debut, the tale of an exclusive and mysterious restaurant and its sinister celebrity chef.


NOPE | Final Trailer

After winning the screenplay Oscar for Get Out, Jordan Peele couldn’t break into the Academy’s ranks with follow-up Us. Could Nope, a critically admired summer box office smash, get him back in the mix? Academy voters could stand to take more risks with their nominations, and a shrewdly layered creature feature about cowboys and aliens should be on their shortlist. So should Daniel Kaluuya, already an Oscar favorite, and Keke Palmer, the future of Hollywood.


RRR #encoRRRe (Official Trailer)

The news that India has passed over Netflix hit RRR to instead push Last Film Show (Chhello Show) as its international feature Oscar submission may not, in fact, hurt RRR’s awards chances. Stateside distributors Variance Films and Sarigama Cinemas will submit S. S. Rajamouli’s historical epic for all of the Academy’s top prizes. Considering its sheer word-of-mouth reach, a best picture nomination is still on the table.


TÁR - Teaser - October 7

Todd Field only makes a film every dozen years or so, but when he does, cinephiles tend to take notice. They certainly are with Tár, a psychological portrait of a conductor-composer that received a glowing reception and a top acting prize for Cate Blanchett at Venice. Could the acting legend join the exclusive three-timers’ club at the 95th Academy Awards?

Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick | NEW Official Trailer (2022 Movie) - Tom Cruise

Anyone who denies Top Gun: Maverick’s Oscar chances likely isn’t aware how much the Academy values box office success. They also probably haven’t seen this high-flying wonder of a film. Producer-star Tom Cruise and director Joseph Kosinski made movie magic with this long-delayed sequel, and while the original only took home a trophy for original song (and Lady Gaga could do so again), expect a lot more attention from the Academy this time around.

Triangle Of Sadness

TRIANGLE OF SADNESS - Official Trailer - In Theaters October 7

Triangle Of Sadness (titled in French Sans Filtre, or “without filter”) is another 2022 satire, alongside The Menu and Glass Onion, that targets rich snobs. And hey, dramatizing the haves and have-nots and launching a U.S. awards campaign courtesy of distributor Neon certainly worked for best picture winner Parasite. This year’s Palme d’Or winner, Triangle Of Sadness, is helmed by darkly comic mastermind Ruben Östlund, who stunned audiences with Force Majeure and The Square.

The Whale

Brendan Fraser in The Whale
Brendan Fraser in The Whale

The next few months may become known as the great Brendan Fraser comeback. After a long hiatus from moviemaking, the beloved actor wowed the audience at Venice with his nuanced leading performance in Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation of Samuel D. Hunter’s play The Whale. It must be said that between this, After Yang, Everything Everywhere, Causeway, The Inspection, and even Marcel The Shell With Shoes On, A24 is having a stellar year. Can the studio crack the best picture code like they did with Moonlight?

The Woman King

THE WOMAN KING – Official Trailer (HD)

The Woman King director Gina Prince-Bythewood has cited Braveheart and Gladiator as inspirations for her historical epic about the all-female Agojie warriors of 19th century West Africa. Guess what those two films have in common? That’s right, they both won the Academy Award for best picture, a category that could surely include a period piece unlike any seen before. After all, it casts Viola Davis as a bona fide action star. Here’s hoping Oscar nominators give this blockbuster its flowers—and Davis her fifth acting nod.

Women Talking

Women Talking - Universal
Women Talking - Universal

Women Talking

Four-time Academy Award winner Frances McDormand joins Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, and Ben Whishaw in a drama about Mennonite women grappling with faith and abuse in their community. If that doesn’t scream shiny trophies, I don’t know what does. This year’s runner-up for the TIFF People’s Choice Award, Women Talking is led by actor-writer-director Sarah Polley, who, movie buffs everywhere agree, sure would look great holding an Oscar statuette.