Oscars 2024: best picture nominees – reviews, awards and where to watch

<span>Clockwise from top left: Killer of the Flower Moon, Barbie, Poor Things, Oppenheimer.</span><span>Composite: Apple/ Warner Bros / Searchlight Pictures/ Universal</span>
Clockwise from top left: Killer of the Flower Moon, Barbie, Poor Things, Oppenheimer.Composite: Apple/ Warner Bros / Searchlight Pictures/ Universal
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The Globes and Baftas are done and dusted, the Critics Choices packed up for another year. But the big one, the Academy Awards, is yet to come, and with it the ultimate prizes the film industry can bestow on its peers.

So how are the big contenders shaping up in the race for glory? We sort through the nominees for the best picture Oscar, assessing each one’s chances and – God forbid you haven’t seen them all yet – how you can track down any gaps in your knowledge.

American Fiction

Nominated for

Best picture, best actor (Jeffrey Wright), best supporting actor (Sterling K Brown), best adapted screenplay and best original score.

How it’s doing

American Fiction burst out of the traps at the Toronto film festival in September, where it won the influential People’s Choice award, but failed to convert Golden Globe noms into wins. Writer-director Cord Jefferson picked up best adapted screenplay wins at the Critics Choice and Baftas, so looks most likely to score an Oscar for its writing.

What we said

“Highly entertaining new literary comedy from film-maker Cord Jefferson, a TV writer making his feature directing debut with his own emollient adaptation of the metafictional masterpiece Erasure by Percival Everett … Jeffrey Wright is an excellent Monk: sensitive, morose, prickly and idealistic in a gloomily self-harming way.”

Why American Fiction should win best picture

“Perhaps not as explosive as Oppenheimer or leaving as distinct a pink mark on our culture as Barbie, American Fiction is my best picture choice not just for “speaking to our present moment,” which makes it sound like homework, but for proving its own point. Without hitting you over the head, Monk’s struggles reveal themselves to be everyone’s struggles – whether as an individual in a family or at sea in the tribalism of wider culture.”

Further reading

• Jeffrey Wright on finally being up for the best actor Oscar: ‘I was frustrated, but I’m not frustrated now’
• How Cord Jefferson turned a novel about race into the year’s buzziest comedy

How to watch American Fiction

• Aus: on Prime on 27 February
• UK: in cinemas
• US: in cinemas; buy on digital platforms

Anatomy of a Fall

Nominated for

Best picture, best director (Justine Triet), best actress (Sandra Hüller), best original screenplay, and best film editing.

How it’s doing

On its first outing, Anatomy of a Fall carried off the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival, one of the most prestigious prizes in world cinema. (Messi the dog also won the Palme Dog, but that’s another story.) Success at Cannes doesn’t necessarily translate to headline awards at the Oscars, but the film won six prizes at the European film awards and picked up best original screenplay at the Globes and Baftas. Hüller’s prominence in awards rival The Zone of Interest seems to have slightly cancelled out acting awards possibilities in either; like American Fiction, a writing Oscar seems to be the best bet – especially after France, bizarrely, picked The Taste of Things as its international Oscar entry instead.

What we said:

Hüller’s calm directness as an actor is what gives the film its texture, substance and emotional force. She anchors it in a kind of accessible reality: we naturally sympathise with her, and yet Triet shows us that she is capable of transparent lies, lies which are almost credible because Hüller is such a plausible personality.”

Why Anatomy of a Fall should win best picture

“Tucked into the larger legal procedural is a more intimate, but no less important, story of the slow disintegration of a marriage, a subtle yet piercing examination of the small resentments that topple once loving relationships.”

Further reading

• Director Justine Triet: ‘I didn’t feel that French cinema wanted me around’
• He broke your heart in Anatomy of a Fall. Now Messi the dog is a Hollywood A-lister

How to watch

• Aus: in cinemas
• UK: in cinemas; rent or buy on digital platforms
• US: in cinemas; rent or buy on digital platforms

Barbie

Nominated for

Best picture, best supporting actor (Ryan Gosling), best supporting actress (America Ferrera), best adapted screenplay, best costume design, best production design, and best original song (I’m Just Ken and What Was I Made For)

How it’s doing

Barbie is the popular smash of the Oscar lineup, and the standard bearer for Hollywood feminism, but it looks like it’s flagging in the home straight. Despite scoring high numbers of total nominations, Greta Gerwig wasn’t even nominated for best director at the Baftas or the Oscars. Most of its awards success so far has been for its music (though its double Oscar nom for best song may let another film through) and it’s hard to see past it for craft awards for design and costumes. But momentum is sapping for its push for the big Oscars.

What we said

“A good-natured but self-conscious movie, whose comedy is rooted in that very self-consciousness, often funny, occasionally very funny, but sometimes also somehow demure and inhibited, as if the urge to be funny can only be mean and satirical.”

Why Barbie should win best picture

“Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, an effervescent comedy about the world’s most famous doll that wraps up a zingy dissection of the patriarchy, women’s lack of power and mortality in a bright bow, is not your standard blockbuster. And that’s exactly why it deserves that best picture Oscar.”

Further reading

• ‘It had to be totally bananas’: Greta Gerwig on bringing Barbie to life
Ryan Gosling will perform I’m Just Ken live at the Oscars
• ‘Ryan Gosling asked me if he could have Ken underpants’: Barbie costume designer Jacqueline Durran spills her secrets
• ‘There was no way that I wasn’t going to do whatever was asked of me’: Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt on making the Barbie soundtrack

How to watch

• Aus: in cinemas; rent or buy on digital platforms
• UK: rent or buy on digital platforms
• US: in cinemas; stream on Max; rent or buy on digital platforms

The Holdovers

Nominated for

Best picture, best actor (Paul Giamatti), best supporting actress (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), best original screenplay, and best film editing

How it’s doing

The Holdovers is the quiet one of this year’s race, gradually building momentum and credibility largely through acclaim for its excellent cast. In any other year Paul Giamatti would be the frontrunner for best actor (and he still may see off the other big beasts, Cillian Murphy and Bradley Cooper), while Da’Vine Joy Randolph is about as sure a thing as you can get for best supporting actress, having already won 35 critics and awards body prizes for her role. Dominic Sessa, who is not Oscar nominated, has been garnering plenty of attention too. But winning best picture looks a step too far.

What we said

“A genial, gentle, redemptive dramedy from Alexander Payne which hits the happy/sad sweet spot with Payne’s sure aim. It is taken from TV writer David Hemingson’s impeccably crafted screenplay, a masterclass in incremental, indirect character revelations and plot transitions.”

Why The Holdovers should win the best picture Oscar

“The Holdovers is weighty and serious when it wants to be. There’s a pulse of melancholy quietly throbbing away throughout, in a film that in its gentle, unhurried way wrestles with knotty themes – class, race, grief and the inertia it causes. That it manages to do this while doubling up as the most cheering of Christmas movies is all the more impressive.”

Further reading

• Dominic Sessa: ‘Everyone’s like, don’t become a celebrity – stay who you are’
• ‘If no one flies, they won’t give you the money’: Alexander Payne on Marvel, misfits and making movies

How to watch

• Aus: in cinemas; rent or buy on digital platforms
• UK: in cinemas; rent or buy on digital platforms
• US: in cinemas; stream on Peacock, rent or buy on digital platforms

Killers of the Flower Moon

Nominated for

Best picture, best director (Martin Scorsese), best actress (Lily Gladstone), best supporting actor (Robert De Niro), best costume design, best cinematography, best production design, best film editing, best original score, and best original song (Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People))

How it’s doing

With a big-money studio behind it, heavyweight talent and impeccable representation credentials, Scorsese’s three-hour true-crime epic looked a shoo-in for major awards action. But, in a competitive year, its performance has been respectable rather than stellar, with lots of nominations and only a scattering of actual wins; and nothing at all from the Baftas. The only real biggie so far was a Golden Globe for Lily Gladstone as best actress in a drama; as the first US-born Native American woman up for the best actress Oscar she’s drawing plenty of accolades, but she’s an outside bet to actually win it.

What we said

Scorsese crafts an epic of creeping, existential horror about the birth of the American century, a macabre tale of quasi-genocidal serial killings which mimic the larger erasure of Native Americans from the US … in the end, this film is about what all westerns are about, and perhaps all history: the brutal grab for land, resources and power.”

Why Killers of the Flower Moon should win the best picture Oscar

“Scorsese is such a consummate film-maker it’s easy to take the movie’s craftsmanship for granted: the flawlessly grimy period detail, the roving camerawork, the painterly compositions, the flourishes of violence, the striking faces of even minor characters, the ominous, throbbing score – courtesy of the late Robbie Robertson. And at the heart of it all, DiCaprio and Gladstone commit to portraying the contradictions and self-deceptions of their bad romance. Gladstone, especially, gives us a performance the likes of which we’ve never really seen – beguilingly cool and composed, but palpably vulnerable under the surface.”

Further reading

Lily Gladstone: ‘It’s paramount Native stories are told by indigenous film-makers’
• ‘Who wasn’t complicit?’ How Martin Scorsese won the trust of the Osage Nation
Indigenous viewers on Killers of the Flower Moon
• ‘Sin is fun!’ Martin Scorsese on brutality, love – and his rebirth on TikTok

How to watch

• Aus: in cinemas, stream on Apple TV+, buy on digital platforms
• UK: stream on Apple TV+, rent or buy on digital platforms
• US: in cinemas, stream on Apple TV+, buy on digital platforms

Maestro

Nominated for

Best picture, best actor (Bradley Cooper), best actress (Carey Mulligan), best original screenplay, best makeup and hairstyling, best cinematography, and best sound

How it’s doing

With high-profile festival screening platforms at Venice, New York and London, Maestro got off to a solid start and hopes were high. It’s gone back in the betting since then, however; rubbing shoulders with the big boys in terms of nomination count but hardly any wins – it came away empty-handed from both Globes and Baftas. Cooper is much-liked in Hollywood, though, and could pull off a surprise in the acting categories for himself and co-star Carey Mulligan, but it looks like an uphill battle.

What we said

“Cooper’s Maestro succeeds because it is candid about the sacrifices which art demands of its practitioners, and the sacrifices these practitioners demand of their families and partners. Bernstein was never going to compromise who he was, no matter how much he loved his wife. There is a sad, wintry acceptance of that.”

Why Maestro should win the best picture Oscar

“Maestro is an extraordinary achievement by any standards. Not only is Cooper totally convincing as Bernstein over a four-decade period (much credit here to the extraordinary makeup work of Kazu Hiro, also Oscar-nominated) but he also co-wrote and directed the film. He studied conducting for six years and learned to play the piano; such is his mastery of the maestro that members of today’s London Symphony Orchestra (who recreated the Ely Cathedral scene), who had also played under the real Bernstein in the 1980s, admitted to doing a double take when Cooper-as-Bernstein walked on set.”

Further reading

Wigs, kisses and the pope’s jumpsuit: can Maestro reveal the real Bernstein?

How to watch

• Aus: in cinemas, stream on Netflix
• UK: stream on Netflix
• US: in cinemas, stream on Netflix

Oppenheimer

Nominated for

Best picture, best director (Christopher Nolan), best actor (Cillian Murphy), best supporting actor (Robert Downey Jr), best supporting actress (Emily Blunt), best adapted screenplay, best costume design, best makeup and hairstyling, best cinematography, best production design, best sound, best film editing and best original score

How it’s doing

Oppenheimer had the benefit of linkage with Barbie in the summer blockbuster season, even though it was overshadowed a little at the box office by Barbie’s amazing results. However, it’s slowly gathered speed, like the movie supertanker it is, and has ploughed ahead of the pack, racking up most nominations at the Baftas and the Oscars. And it’s racking up the wins too, emerging at the head of the pack after the Globes (five) and the Baftas (seven), and looks in pole position to repeat the trick at the Academy Awards. Christopher Nolan is a near-certainty for best director, Cillian Murphy well positioned for best actor (in a tough field) and Oppenheimer is the one to beat for best picture.

What we said

“[Oppenheimer is] a gigantic, post-detonation study, a PTSD narrative procedure filling the giant screen with a million agonised fragments that are the shattered dreams and memories of the project’s haunted, complex driving force, J Robert Oppenheimer, a brilliant physicist with the temperament of an artist who gave humanity the means of its own destruction.”

Why Oppenheimer should win best picture

“But the feeling of Oppenheimer being a precision-tooled construction that blends the fascinations of Hollywood’s last commercially successful auteur with the interests of the Academy remains. Serious themes, serious people, an unflinching dedication to both the craft and the medium of cinema, Oppenheimer ticks the boxes.”

Further reading

• Cillian Murphy on Oppenheimer, sex scenes and self-doubt: ‘I’m stubborn and lacking in confidence – a terrible combination’
• Emily Blunt: ‘Women are still pressured to be warm and likable. Men are not’

How to watch

• Aus: in cinemas; rent or buy on digital platforms
• UK: in cinemas; rent or buy on digital platforms
• US: in cinemas; stream on Peacock, rent or buy on digital platforms

Past Lives

Nominated for

Best picture and best original screenplay

How its doing

Past Lives is this year’s indie darling (and winner of the Guardian’s film critics poll) but unlike Nomadland and Moonlight it’s not looking like turning critical acclaim into major awards. Director Celine Song has won quite a few best first film prizes, but the Oscars don’t have one; the film’s best chance is best original screenplay, but the competition is tough.

What we said

“This heart-meltingly romantic and sad movie from Korean-Canadian dramatist and film-maker Celine Song left me wrung out and empty and weirdly euphoric, as if I’d lived through an 18-month affair in the course of an hour and three-quarters. How extraordinary to think that this is Song’s feature debut.”

Further reading

• Greta Lee: ‘Seeing an Asian woman 15ft high felt so radical and really dangerous’
• Many unhappy returns: why Asian immigrant cinema is challenging the meaning of home

How to watch

• Aus: in cinemas; buy or rent on digital platforms
• UK: stream on Netflix; buy or rent on digital platforms
• US: in cinemas; stream on Paramount+, Fubo or Showtime; buy or rent on digital platforms

Poor Things

Nominated for

Best picture, best director (Yorgos Lanthimos), best actress (Emma Stone), best supporting actor (Mark Ruffalo), best adapted screenplay, best costume design, best makeup and hairstyling, best cinematography, best production design, best film editing and best original score

How it’s doing

Like Anatomy of a Fall, Poor Things made a splashy festival debut (winning the Golden Lion at Venice), but initially looked a bit of a dark horse in the American awards race. Lead Emma Stone has dominated best actress prizes this year, taking a Globe and a Bafta, and looks likely to add a second Oscar to her collection. Its heavily processed visuals could lead to recognition in the craft Oscars, and it looks like a strong proposition in the best picture race – though it may not have enough to get past the Oppenheimer behemoth.

Why Poor Things should win the best picture Oscar

Emma Stone’s delivery of the many outrageous laugh lines in Yorgos Lanthimos’s brilliant and scabrous Poor Things is cause enough to hand over the best picture Oscar right away.”

What we said

Poor Things is a steampunk-retrofuturist Victorian freakout and macabre black-comic horror … [Director Yorgos] Lanthimos shows us an extraordinary, artificial, contorted world, partly shot in monochrome, sometimes bulging out at us through a fish-eye lens, elsewhere lit from within in richly saturated tones, like an engraved colour plate.”

Further reading

• Yorgos Lanthimos: ‘My films are all problematic children’
• ‘She’s bound and gagged for laughs’: is Poor Things a feminist masterpiece – or an offensive male sex fantasy?
• ‘With orgasm people strive for oblivion’: Poor Things’ intimacy coordinator on consent, orgies and Emma Stone

How to watch

• Aus: in cinemas
• UK: in cinemas; rent or buy on digital platforms on 26 February
• US: in cinemas

The Zone of Interest

Nominated for

Best picture, best director (Jonathan Glazer), best adapted screenplay, best sound, and best international feature film

How it’s doing

The Zone of Interest had a good start, finishing runner-up to Anatomy of a Fall at Cannes and with its auteur credentials and heavy-duty subject-matter has been a weighty contender, though without much prospect of scoring the topline wins. However, with its largely German and Polish dialogue, it’s dominating the foreign-language categories, and with Anatomy of a Fall not put forward by France for the international film Oscar, it’s got to be the favourite for this one. Anything else would be a bonus.

What we said

“The film imagines the pure bucolic bliss experienced by Auschwitz camp commandant Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel) who with his family lives in a handsomely appointed family home with servants just outside the barbed-wire-topped wall. His wife, Hedwig (Sandra Hüller) is thrilled with the Edenic “paradise garden” she has been allowed to supervise at the rear, complete with greenhouse: she revels smugly in her unofficial title “Queen of Auschwitz” – and with just that line alone, The Zone of Interest has probably delivered enough nausea for a thousand films.”

Why The Zone of Interest should win the best picture Oscar

“The Oscars, in theory, are supposed to reward an achievement of craft and on that front The Zone of Interest is impeccable. It deserves recognition for its rigorous, precise execution of style, its feat of immersion, and for its impressive gambit of perspective.”

Further reading

• Jonathan Glazer: ‘This is not about the past, it’s about now’
• ‘This is a film to make us unsafe in the cinema. As we should be’: Sandra Hüller and Christian Friedel on The Zone of Interest
• ‘It will always be less hellish than the reality’: why cinema keeps returning to the Holocaust

How to watch

• Aus: in cinemas
• UK: in cinemas
• US: in cinemas; buy on digital platforms