These are our 2023 Oscar predictions for Best Picture, part of a series on this year’s awards. Check out full predictions in all Oscar categories.
This article will attempt to adjudicate the state of the Best Picture race for this year’s Academy Awards, as it stands on Feb 25, 2023. There is still plenty of time for things to change and for this race to become a completely different monster. So take this all with that grain of salt in mind.
10. Women Talking
Despite critical acclaim, Sarah Polley’s Women Talking did not show up on Oscar nomination morning. Given the film’s (very) early buzz, it could have picked up one or two acting nominations and a Best Director nod on top of the Screenplay and Picture nods it did get. Instead, it is left with just the two. This looks to me like your classic case of a film winning Best Screenplay and nothing else (see also: Kenneth Branagh and Belfast; Jordan Peele and Get Out; Spike Jonze and Her; etc. etc. etc.).
9. Triangle of Sadness
I was surprised to see Triangle of Sadness and director Ruben Ostlund receive nominations in Best Picture and Best Director, respectively. Not that it appeared an impossibility – the film did win the Palme d’Or – but there were a couple of more traditional Oscar fare titles which I would have been less surprised to see get in (not to mention less traditional titles which nevertheless had substantial buzz going into the nominations announcement, like The Woman King).
The film is an oddity (to its credit), and is not super likely to gain enough traction to actually pull out a win here. The only thing keeping me from slotting this last is that Ostlund nomination.
Tár is one of my favorite movies of 2022. It has no Oscar buzz. Beyond Cate Blanchett, its Oscar buzz tapered off weeks ago. I don’t see a real path for it to win Best Picture (or Best Director, for that matter, but more on that later).
7. Avatar: The Way of Water
Avatar 2 has been a massive success. Just as with its predecessor, it is a visual marvel and a crowd pleaser. That said, if the first Avatar could not win out in the Best Picture race of its year, Avatar: The Way of Water has no way of doing it this year. This was a good year for film, and there are some heavy favorites at the top of this list. I hold the (perhaps) unpopular opinion that Way of Water is better than the first Avatar. But that doesn’t matter for anything. James Cameron not getting into the Best Director race tanks the film’s chances, given what the film is in this race for to begin with. In a year where many people were talking about all of the big budget, blockbuster cinema that could make it into the Best Picture race, Avatar getting into the Picture but not the Director race speaks volumes to me.
That said, I agree with the omission, considering Cameron would have likely knocked out Todd Field.
6. Top Gun: Maverick
Speaking of big budget, blockbuster films, Top Gun: Maverick was the least surprising blockbuster addition to the race. And it is a campaign that has vocal supporters. Are those vocal supporters in the Academy? I don’t know; I’m somewhat skeptical. However, it received a few nominations that separate it from Avatar 2. Beyond the craft categories that many saw coming, Maverick also received a Screenplay nomination. Multiple branches of the Academy are positive on the film (though, the absence of Cruise on behalf of the acting branch is telling in its own way).
I wouldn’t personally put money on Top Gun: Maverick winning the big prize, but it would be a pretty cool bet to brag to your film nerd friends about if it ends up hitting (as of me writing this, Fanduel has it at +1100. Not bad, but I would be more willing to take The Fabelmans at +1400).
The Elvis stock has cooled off some since January. For a while, there was buzz about just how popular the film was when it came out and that people in Hollywood enjoyed it. Austin Butler’s rise and Golden Globe win did not hurt this narrative any. But now we sit in a position where, if Elvis wins a major award at all, it will be for Butler. This Best Picture race has quickly narrowed into a top tier, with one film clearly in the poll position.
4. All Quiet on the Western Front
Netflix’s WWI epic All Quiet on the Western Front surprised with nine Oscar nominations. It is a film that kind of bubbled up out of nowhere. It wasn’t initially clear what film Netflix was going to put its chips behind. Edward Berger’s adaptation won out, and it hit big. Most of it has to do with the technical categories, where the film does excel. As for the Best Picture conversation, I don’t see Western Front pulling it out. However, it will probably pick up two or three craft awards.
That said, All Quiet is picking up some noteworthy precursors, such as the BAFTA for Best Film. I remain skeptical of its Best Picture chances, but it has a shot.
3. The Banshees of Inisherin
Returning to Fanduel briefly, The Banshees of Inisherin has pulled into the second place slot (with higher odds than I would ever bet on). Part of this number might be the film’s fairly strong showing at the BAFTAs, where it won Outstanding British Film of the Year. Although, I would have expected All Quiet on the Western Front winning Best Film to shift things more radically. I guess even Vegas is skeptical about those nine All Quiet nominations.
Banshees also received nine nominations, and the film is very good. But it does not feel to me like a strong enough contender to be just on the outside looking in. In fact, there is a path where the film receives zero Oscars in March. Kerry Condon lost steam to Angela Bassett in January. Martin McDonagh is a loose Best Director choice considering his competition. The two Supporting Actor nominations are an empty gesture, considering the Best Supporting Actor race ended months ago. Its best path to an Oscar is in Best Original Screenplay, and that category is also very competitive.
2. The Fabelmans
+1400. If I wasn’t pretty confident in Everything Everywhere All at Once steam-rolling this awards season, I’d put some money on that number. Spielberg has a classic Oscar season narrative here. The Fabelmans is the type of movie that would be a no-brainer Best Picture winner a few years ago. It is a film that waxes poetic about cinema from multiple golden ages. Spielberg has a Best Picture win, but only one in his decades-long career. Given this storied career, The Fabelmans is that brand of film that would be easy to honor for its own merits and for Spielberg’s Hollywood legacy.
This said, the Academy doesn’t go for that as much anymore. Smaller films and non-conventional Oscar fare are getting honored more in the current iteration of the Academy. I am personally on board for this, and there is an obvious film that picks up this mantle of small and different and just unconventional enough to surprise Academy members without alienating them. We’ll get to that film in a second.
One final appeal I will give to The Fabelmans and its chances here. You can’t forget about the preferential balloting system. Older Academy members who don’t know what to do with Everything Everywhere are going to put Fabelmans much higher on their ballots. I think a similar argument could be made for Top Gun: Maverick, a film which very much appeals to the more old-school faction of the Academy while also having ardent fans across the board.
Don’t sleep on The Fabelmans (but also, don’t bet on any of these films by taking my advice alone. I think +1400 is a high value bet, but don’t blame me when Everything Everywhere wins).
1. Everything Everywhere All at Once
Everything Everywhere All at Once is a freight train that shows no signs of slowing down. The only thing leaving me wary is that the obvious favorite can sometimes be thrown off course by a late-comer who surges forward around this time (Coda, last year, was not the heavy favorite until very late in the season). There are solid options among these 10 which could land very high on many voters ballots. With the preferential ballot, it does not take much shifting in the race for a film to sneak up from behind. From the vantage of the present moment, I don’t see this happening. But much can change in a few weeks. Keep these other top contenders in mind as me move through the rest of the guild awards.
As always, thanks for reading!
—Alex Brannan (Twitter, Letterboxd, Facebook)