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Oscars 2023: Best Picture Predictions

Steven Spielberg's 'The Fabelmans' emerges as the favorite post-Venice, Telluride, and TIFF, but certain blockbusters are still top of mind.

The Fabelmans

“The Fabelmans”

Universal Pictures

We keep updating these predictions through the awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2023 Oscar picks. Nominations voting is from January 12 to January 17, 2023, with official Oscar nominations announced on January 24, 2023. The final voting is March 2 through 7, 2023.  And finally, the 95th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 12 and air live on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET/ 5:00 p.m. PT.

Our Awards Editor, TV & Film Marcus Jones is currently filling in for Anne Thompson on Oscars Predictions updates. See her preliminary thoughts for what to expect at the 95th Academy Awards here.

The State of the Race

We have finally reached the turning point where the majority of the films likely to get nominated for Best Picture have screened, but it’s still hard to say which 10 titles are guaranteed to make the cut for the category — with one major exception.

For the past decade, the Toronto International Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award has gone to a film that later became a Best Picture nominee. This year, that prize went to Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans,” which is now the frontrunner for the category. So far, Spielberg has directed 12 films that have gone on to be nominated for Best Picture. In fact, a nomination for “The Fabelmans,” his most personal film yet, would see Spielberg break his own record as the producer with the most nominations in the Academy’s top category (11 so far).

The first and second runner-ups for the TIFF 2022 People’s Choice Award were Sarah Polley’s female-focused ensemble drama “Women Talking” and Rian Johnson’s latest whodunnit “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.” Though the former already had a boost from its strong showing at the Telluride Film Festival, the latter’s well-received world premiere at TIFF seemingly certified it as Netflix’s best shot at a Best Picture nomination after films like “Bardo,” “Blonde,” and “White Noise” debuted at the Venice Film Festival to mixed reviews; that said, the crowdpleaser, similar to its predecessor, is a consumer-friendly movie first, and an Academy-friendly movie second. “Women Talking,” meanwhile, will get another boost from NYFF in the weeks ahead as its cast and screenplay lay the foundation for a Best Picture slot.

"Triangle of Sadness" is Ruben Ostlund's new comedy which sold to Neon at Cannes.

“Triangle of Sadness”

NEON

The 2022 Cannes Film Festival continues to have an increasing amount of influence on the awards race post-”Parasite,” with this year’s Palme d’Or winner “Triangle of Sadness” gaining more favor from its North American premiere at TIFF. Additional Cannes competition entries that won prizes at the festival include A24’s “Close,” which won viewers’ hearts at Telluride and is now the Belgian Oscar submission, as well as MUBI’s “Decision to Leave.” Korean auteur Park Chan-wook won a Best Director prize for his elegant noir, which played well at TIFF. Both movies need to screen more widely before their Best Picture prospects can be better evaluated, but the potential is there.

However, one Cannes premiere has been gunning for the category well in advance of the fall festivals: “Top Gun: Maverick” remains the top blockbuster with a shot of a Best Picture nomination as well (which would be Tom Cruise’s first nomination as a producer). Paramount’s long-awaited sequel has become a global phenomenon, grossing close to $1.5 billion worldwide, and injecting optimism about the future potential of movie theaters in a post-pandemic world.

Several other star vehicles have Best Picture momentum as a result of the buzz around their performances. Like “Top Gun: Maverick,” A24 hit “Everything Everywhere All at Once” has been a rare sign of optimism to the theatrical market, grossing over $100 million worldwide on a $25 million budget. Enthusiasm for the movie is rampant in the industry — but it’s Michelle Yeoh’s performance and awards campaigning that keep it top of mind in every Best Picture conversation, especially now that many of the other films that have now premiered do not have as broad an appeal. One that does though is “The Woman King,” a showcase for two-time Best Actress nominee Viola Davis, which premiered the first weekend of TIFF, and was already the number-one movie in America by the festival’s close with a $19 million gross.

Meanwhile, “The Fabelmans” has company in the films-about-filmmaking trend with “Empire of Light,” which is carried by perennial nominee Olivia Colman. Similarly, Todd Field’s first film in 15 years, “TÁR,” builds its psychological thriller around a powerhouse performance by two-time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett. And “The Banshees of Inisherin,” “Elvis,” “Living,” and “The Whale” are all boosted by performances from lead actors that seem bound to receive their first Best Actor nomination.

Jovan Adepo plays Sidney Palmer in Babylon from Paramount Pictures.

Jovan Adepo plays Sidney Palmer in ‘Babylon.’

Scott Garfield

Still, this being an assessment of Best Picture nominees specifically, it’s worth noting that there are major films on the horizon. The New York Film Festival premieres of “Till” and “She Said” may shake up the Best Actress race, while Damien Chazelle’s Hollywood epic “Babylon” is around the corner.

However, if the overall narrative about this year in cinema is how certain films are keeping the theatrical experience alive, then the two prospects to really look out for are “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” the highly-anticipated sequels to two Best Picture nominees. The lingering question with both titles is whether they manage to be as good as the films preceding them.

Contenders are listed in alphabetical order, below. Only films we have seen will be deemed frontrunners (TIFF contenders like “Fabelmans” were unavailable to screen for those of us unable to attend the festival at the tailend of Emmys season).

Frontrunners:
“Empire of Light”
“Everything Everywhere All at Once”
“Top Gun: Maverick”
“Triangle of Sadness”
“Women Talking”

Contenders:
“Armageddon Time”
“Avatar: The Way of Water”
“Babylon”
“The Banshees of Inisherin”
“Bardo”
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
“Decision to Leave”
“Elvis”
“The Fabelmans”
“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”
“Living”
“She Said”
“TÁR”
“Till”
“The Whale”
“The Woman King”

Long Shots:
“Amsterdam”
“Blonde”
“Bones & All”
“Cha Cha Real Smooth”
“Chevalier”
“Close”
“Don’t Worry Darling”
“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”
“The Inspection”
“I Wanna Dance with Somebody”
“Lady Chatterley’s Lover”
“My Policeman”
“Nanny”
“The Pale Blue Eye”
“RRR”
“Three Thousand Years of Longing”
“The Son”
“White Noise”
“The Wonder”

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