For those of us with an extreme and unhealthy obsession with the Oscars, predicting is a year-round game. So, with the Oscars mostly in the rearview mirror, let’s examine some films I think could be strong contenders for next year. Obviously, release dates can and will change. Not all of these movies will end up delivering on their promises, but given the knowledge we have right now, these are the movies most likely to make serious noise at the Academy Awards next year.
I’ve selected fifteen movies with a few honorable mentions, but I can and will change my predictions throughout the year as more information becomes available. As of right now, though, here are my picks…
1. Babylon (Paramount)
There’s nothing the Oscars love more than movies about movies. Babylon follows an aspiring actor (played by Diego Calva) who enters the film industry during the transition between silent films to talkies. Early word is that it has the manic energy of Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt have big, juicy roles here that could easily put them back in the awards conversation. Damien Chazelle’s previous three films, Whiplash, La La Land, and First Man, are all Oscar winners. There’s no reason to believe this one won’t follow.
2. Killers of the Flower Moon (Apple TV+)
Scorsese and DiCaprio have a near-flawless record with their collaborations being nominated for Best Picture (Shutter Island is the only exception). The highly anticipated 200 million dollar budget western crime drama will arrive in November on Apple TV+, a distributor not to be underestimated. The film also stars Jesse Plemmons, Lily Gladstone, Robert De Niro, and Brendan Fraser, and surrounds a series of murders in Oklahoma committed against members of the Osage tribe in the 1920s.
3. The Fabelmans (Universal)
Steven Spielberg is directing a film about his childhood. Need I say more? Michelle Williams and Paul Dano are playing Sammy’s parents, and Seth Rogen is playing his uncle. Since 2011 the director has had five films nominated for Best Picture, including West Side Story from this year. This is sure to be another charming and inspirational film from the legendary director, and likely his most personal yet.
4. Empire of Light (Searchlight)
Olivia Colman is easily one of the greatest working actresses, and her run since 2018’s The Favourite has been nearly flawless. Empire of Light is likely another meaty role for the actress, considering its director is Sam Mendes, the director of 1917 and American Beauty. There are few plot details at this time, but this is yet another movie about the love for movies, revolving around an old cinema in England in the 80s.
5. Everything Everywhere All At Once (A24)
Yes, this was released in March. Yes, it’s a multiverse action film, it’s a comedy, and it’s weird as hell. But nobody could have predicted how good the reception to this thing would be. It has a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and is currently the highest rated film of all time on Letterboxd. The box office numbers are looking solid so far, and buzz for this one is through the roof, including for stars Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan. I don’t see how the excitement could die down by the end of the year.
6. Thirteen Lives (MGM)
It was only a matter of time before this story got the Hollywood treatment. It surrounds the 2018 Tham Luang cave rescue in Thailand, a weeks-long effort in which a group of professional divers miraculously rescued a group of boys from a flooded cave. You might recognize this story if you’d seen one of last year’s best documentaries The Rescue. Ron Howard is helming the project with Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, and Joel Edgerton in key roles. It’s easy to imagine this one playing well to an enthusiastic Toronto Film Festival audience.
7. The Son (Sony Pictures Classics)
Florian Zeller’s debut feature film The Father was one of 2019’s best films and a huge Academy hit, winning Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor for Anthony Hopkins. The filmmaker is back with his second feature adaptation of a play of his own. The cast is incredible, with Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, and Vanessa Kirby in roles that could earn them nominations. Will Zeller find similar success to The Father, or will this be a sophomore slump?
8. Women Talking (MGM)
It’s certainly not every year that we get a new film from Sarah Polley, the director of Away From Her, Take This Waltz, and Stories We Tell. Her latest project is a buzzy adaptation of the novel of the same title, involving a group of Mennonite women who discuss how to respond to a series of sexual assaults committed by the colony’s men. The cast includes Frances McDormand, Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jesse Buckley, and Ben Whishaw. It has all the makings of a critically acclaimed fall festival film like The Power of the Dog or The Lost Daughter.
9. Rustin (Netflix)
One of Netflix’s heavy-hitters this year, Rustin follows gay civil rights activist Baynard Rustin in the 60s. He’s being played by Colman Domingo, who could see some overdue recognition from the Academy for this one. The film is stacked all around, with Ma Rainey helmer George C. Wolfe directing, and Milk writer Dustin Lance Black penning the script. It’ll also feature supporting turns from Chris Rock, Glynn Turman, Jeffrey Wright and Audra McDonald.
10. Next Goal Wins (Searchlight)
Next Goal Wins is a sports comedy that tells the story of the American Samoa soccer team who suffered the worst loss in World Cup history. With Michael Fassbender in the lead role and Taika Waititi directing, this has potential to be a hilarious crowd pleaser. It could be the third sports film in a row nominated for Best Picture after Ford v Ferrari and King Richard.
11. Bardo (or False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths)
Alejandro González Iñárritu has never directed a film that wasn’t nominated for at least one Academy Award, and his most recent two won him back-to-back directing Oscars. For his latest, he’ll be returning to Mexico with an all Mexican cast and crew, similar to what Cuáron did with Roma. There are few details about this one except that it’s a comedy about a journalist returning to his country. Sounds like it has some big ideas on its mind as well.
12. She Said (Universal)
She Said will tell the story of the two New York Times journalists who broke the Harvey Weinstein story. The film sounds like it’s somewhere between Bombshell and Spotlight, and could see nominations for lead actresses Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan. The film is also in good hands with Maria Schrader directing, who helmed last year’s critically acclaimed I’m Your Man.
13. Canterbury Glass (20th Century)
After the trio of successes that was The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle, David O’Russell seemed unstoppable. However, his 2015 film Joy was a bit of a critical flop, and he’s since faced allegations of abuse. His latest film is yet another contender that takes place in the 1920s and features the director’s most stacked cast yet. It’s being led by Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, and John David Washington, with a supporting cast that includes Taylor Swift, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rami Malek, Mike Myers, Robert De Niro, Chris Rock, Zoe Saldaña, and Michael Shannon. It’s also being shot by 3 time Oscar winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki.
14. The Whale (A24)
Darren Aronofsky’s latest is an adaptation of a play about an English teacher living with severe obesity, attempting to connect with his daughter. This may be a new career high for Brandan Fraser, who could easily find himself in the Best Actor conversation. He has the entire internet rooting for his comeback. Hong Chau, Sadie Sink, and Samantha Morton have meaty roles as well. The project will probably be more akin to the tender drama of The Wrestler than the cinematic freak-out of Mother!.
15. Armageddon Time (Focus Features)
James Gray is yet another director telling a semi-autobiographical story about his childhood. Gray is one of the most acclaimed working directors, but has never found a way into the Oscar conversation. Perhaps Armageddon Time could change that, especially with the talent of Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong and Anthony Hopkins in supporting roles.
Those aren’t the only strong possibilities, however. David Fincher’s The Killer and Noah Baumbach’s White Noise could be some of Netflix’s top contenders. The long-awaited Avatar 2 arrives in December (or so it seems). The Woman King is a historical epic starring Viola Davis, and Till follows the mother of Emmett Till and her fight for justice.
Check back here at CinemaBlend for more 2023 awards updates.