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2017 Oscar Predictions: Best Director

Kenneth Lonergan, Damien Chazelle, Denis Villeneuve and Barry Jenkins scored their first Best Director nominations, while Mel Gibson has already won. Updated 2/22/17.

Denis Villeneuve, Ava DuVernay, Barry Jenkins, Kenneth Lonergan and Damien Chazelle



This year’s Best Director battle boasts frontrunners who emerged from the year’s film festivals.

Breaking out at Sundance was writer-director Kenneth Lonergan’s intense four-hankie family drama “Manchester by the Sea,” which is a frontrunner for Original Screenplay and Best Actor Casey Affleck (winning the New York Film Critics Circle for both). Lonergan landed Critics Choice, Globe and DGA nominations for his tragic portrait of a New England family dealing with death and loss, and won the Original Screenplay BAFTA.

"Manchester By the Sea"

“Manchester By the Sea”

READ MORE: 2017 Oscar Predictions

Breaking out at Telluride was audacious show business musical “La La Land,” starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as struggling creative artists (see “Birdman,” “The Artist,” and “All that Jazz”). For his follow-up to the Oscar-winning “Whiplash,” Damien Chazelle won the Critics Choice, Golden Globe, DGA and BAFTA awards. “La La Land” swept the Globes with a record seven wins and the Academy voters went with nominations in 14 categories. Chazelle is favored to win Best Director.

La La Land

“La La Land”


Also at Telluride, Critics Choice and DGA nominee Denis Villeneuve‘s gorgeously executed “Arrival” is a brainy sci-fi mind-twister in the mold of Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar,” ably carried by Amy Adams, and audiences were responsive.

Gotham, National Board of Review and New York Film Critics winner Barry Jenkins, who also nabbed Critics Choice, Globes and DGA nods and a WGA Original Screenplay win over Lonergan, delivers a strong second feature with “Moonlight,” which picked up raves at the fall festivals and gained ground by playing well on the specialty circuit, backed by the best reviews of the year. The drama earned eight Oscar nods and could give “La La Land” some competition.

Moonlight - Barry Jenkins

“Braveheart” Oscar-winner Mel Gibson earned strong reviews, good box office and an AFI Top Ten slot and Critics Choice and Golden Globes nominations for popular World War II movie “Hacksaw Ridge,” which scored six nominations, but he is still a question mark with the overall Academy.

Those hoping for women directors competing at the Oscars will have to look at the documentary (Ava DuVernay’s “13th”) and foreign language categories (Maren Ade’s “Toni Erdmann”).

1. Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”)
2. Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”)
3. Kenneth Lonergan (“Manchester by the Sea”)
4. Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”)
5. Mel Gibson (“Hacksaw Ridge”)

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Check Out More Oscar Races:
Best Picture
Best Director
Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best Animated Feature

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Someone must explain to
me why Jon Fabreau a front runner on your list, please.

Chris Nolan

Zemeckis should win.


Nocturnal Animals should not get overlooked- a stylish unique film with standout performances and excellent tech and design cinematography,music,make up


These are very strange predictions. Sound more like a personal best-of list than Oscar predictions.


I know it’s the “season” and lists like this are click-bait, but if you haven’t seen most of the films (including several widely seen films), doesn’t it seem a little premature and silly to make a list like this?


What about Pablo Larraín for Jackie? The film is an incredibly interesting take on Jackie Kennedy and is told in a non linear style that really works. Plus it just looks stunning.


    I am definitely seeing “Jackie” when it opens in my area. Natalie Portman is a very fine actress but the trailers gave me the impression that the movie will be a real-life version of “Forrest Gump.” The way “Jackie” was produced is indeed intriguing, so I’m looking forward to seeing it even more.


allied and zemeckis must win the Oscar…!

Marion S

It’s Maren Ade (not Maron Ade) :)

James M.

Time to drop FENCES off the list. The movie is starting to lose steam, as is Viola Davis’ Oscar front-runner status.


Denzel Washington? Is difficult to see the director’s branch to nominate him, as the film looks very staged. And please just drop Jungle Book, Visual Effects is the only true choice of it, maybe Sound. Nice inclusion of Villeneuve, though.


Don’t understand how Hell or High Water’s Mackenzie isn’t even a long shot when the film is showing up everywhere in picture and almost assured(with good reason) a best picture nomination. I don’t think either will get in but I think he’s has a better chance than favreau and eastwood.

Elliot Thomas

Mel Gibson is not such a long shot


I don’t understand why Denzel Washington would be nominated for director.. don’t get me wrong, he was amazing in Fences, but its a movie that relies solely on acting capabilities, not on audacious or innovative directing.

Michael K.

Not a very attractive list of contending films.


I’m interested as to why you don’t think Tom Ford is in contention at all, despite being nominated for the Golden Globe and the BAFTA.

Linden Frank

The Academy STILL doesn’t like Marty. Silence should have been nominated for best pic and director. What does he have to do?

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