This article contains IndieWire’s preliminary Best Picture predictions for the 2023 Oscars. We regularly update our predictions throughout awards season, and republish previous versions (like this one) for readers to track changes in how the Oscar race has changed. For the latest update on the frontrunners for the 95th Academy Awards, see our 2023 Oscars predictions hub.
Nominations voting is from January 12-17, 2023, with official Oscar nominations announced January 24, 2023. Final voting is March 2-7, 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. We update predictions through awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2023 Oscar picks.
The State of the Race
As usual, festivals supply the early list of Oscar hopefuls. In 2020 and 2021, Sundance yielded a slew of Oscar winners, from “Minari,” “The Father,” and “Promising Young Woman” to this year’s Best Picture winner “CODA.” But that feat is unlikely to repeat in 2023, as many of the most popular Sundance 2022 entries, including Searchlight/Hulu pickups “Fresh” and Emma Thompson drama “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande,” went straight to streaming.
The world has changed. The 2022 Sundance breakout most likely to succeed at the Oscars is South African filmmaker Oliver Hermanus’ tearjerker “Living” (Sony Pictures Classics), elegantly adapted by novelist-screenwriter Kazuo Ishiguro from Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 classic “Ikiru.” The film stars master thespian Bill Nighy as a proper Englishman who wakes up and sees the people around him in a new way when he learns he has months to live. Nighy’s delicate performance could nab him his first Oscar nomination, and Sony Pictures Classics will push the film in multiple categories, including Director and Adapted Screenplay.
Writer-director-actor Cooper Raiff’s charming Audience Award winner “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” starring Dakota Johnson, was scooped up by AppleTV+ for $15 million, $10-million less than last year’s big Sundance buy “CODA,” which won the Best Picture Oscar after landing key nominations from the Critics Choice Awards, SAG, PGA, and WGA. While it’s unlikely that the scruffily endearing summer release “Cha Cha Real Smooth” will follow the hard-to-replicate “CODA” path, the Apple awards team will give it a go.
Another festival breakout, Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s SXSW premiere “Everything Everywhere All At Once” (March 22, A24) is a crowd-pleasing box-office smash, the first A24 release to pass $100-million worldwide. The question is whether year-end Academy Best Picture voters will reward a low-budget, scruffy, hybrid genre comedy with focus on action and VFX. On the other hand, the actors branch will likely support popular veterans Michelle Yeoh and supporting actress Jamie Lee Curtis for their bravura turns. A24 is assembling a team of brilliant Oscar campaigners, whose job will be to elevate the movie, get older members to see it, and persuade them that while it doesn’t look like an obvious Best Picture contender, it should be.
Among the mainstream Cannes premieres, Joseph Kosinski’s slick actioner “Top Gun: Maverick” (Paramount) has dominated the global box office, passing $1 billion worldwide, a welcome boost for struggling movie theaters. Movie star producer Tom Cruise is more likely to land a nomination for Best Picture than Best Actor, but the film will likely compete in the same Oscar tech categories as most studio sequels; a screenplay nomination for writers Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie would also be well-deserved. One Oscar it could win: Lady Gaga’s earworm song “Hold My Hand.”
“Maverick” will have to outlast serious blockbuster competition from, among other things, eagerly anticipated Disney juggernauts from James Cameron — “Avatar: The Way of Water” (December 16, Twentieth Century) — and Ryan Coogler — “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (November 11, Marvel), whose epic trailer, tinged with the loss of Chadwick Boseman, went viral out of Comic-Con. Hitting theaters ahead of “Wakanda Forever” is another African-set movie centered on mighty women warriors: Gina Prince-Bythewood’s TIFF gala “The Woman King” (Sony, September 16), starring Oscar-winner Viola Davis (“Fences”) and John Boyega.
Also heading for Oscar consideration is Baz Luhrmann’s dazzling musical biopic “Elvis” (Warner Bros.), which launched at Cannes and fared well at the summer box office (more than $210 million worldwide). While that’s not as robust as Queen musical “Bohemian Rhapsody” ($910 million), “Elvis” could not only vault Austin Butler into the Best Actor race, but Luhrmann for director and wife Catherine Martin for another Costume Oscar, not to mention Sound, Editing, and Hair and Make-up. As for Cannes debut “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” George Miller’s gorgeously mounted fantasy-romance starring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton, the August 31 release will need special handling from Amazon’s MGM/UA to make it into the Oscar conversation. Hollywood is waiting for Miller’s next, “Furiosa” (2024).
Neon scored its third Palme D’Or winner in a row (after “Titane” and “Parasite”) for Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund’s entertaining and provocative “Triangle of Sadness,” which the distributor won in a bidding war for north of $8 million. (Östlund also won the Palme in 2017 for “The Square.”) Östlund’s hilarious satire of the super-rich, his first English-language feature, should play well with smart moviegoers including the Academy; Woody Harrelson’s juicy supporting role and a director or original screenplay nod for Östlund would be good Oscar bets.
The fall film festivals will reprise more Cannes specialty films, as well as screening a raft of high-profile auteur movies vying for attention at Venice, Telluride, Toronto, New York, and AFI Fest, depending on when they lock their final cuts. Several films are expected to book the trifecta of Venice, Telluride, and Toronto, as the international festival circuit returns to its usual size and scope after two slim pandemic years.
Writer-director Sam Mendes’ original romance “Empire of Light” (December 9, Searchlight) centers on an 80s movie palace on the South coast of England, and stars Oscar-winners Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”) and Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”). Luca Guadagnino reconnects with “Call Me by Your Name” stars Timothée Chalamet and Michael Stuhlbarg with cannibal road trip movie “Bones & All” (November 23, Amazon/MGM/UA), which may play better for Indie Spirit voters. Another film welcome at multiple fall festivals is “Little Children” director Todd Field’s return to filmmaking after 16 years, “TÁR” (Focus Features), starring Cate Blanchett in the title role as renowned musician Lydia Tár.
Several filmmakers’ personal stories are also expected at fall festivals, including James Gray’s autofiction “Armageddon Time” (October 28, Focus Features), starring Oscar-winner Anne Hathaway (“Les Miserables”) as his mother and “The Father” Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins as his grandfather. Gray’s film is joined by others from Oscar-winning filmmakers Steven Spielberg and A.G. Inarritu. Spielberg’s look back at the roots of his filmmaking themes, “The Fabelmans” (November 11, Universal), starring Michelle Williams as his mother and Seth Rogen as his uncle, launches at TIFF, while comedy “Bardo (or False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths)” (Netflix) tells of an celebrated artist’s return to Mexico and starts the festival circuit in Venice. All will get big Oscar pushes. (See: “Roma,” “Belfast.”)
True stories are always a staple of award season. In New York Film Festival premiere “Till” (October 14, UA Releasing), writer-director Chinonye Chukwu (“Clemency”) tells the heart-rending story of how educator-activist Mamie Till-Mobley (HBO Max’s “Station Eleven” star Danielle Deadwyler) pursued justice after the 1955 lynching of her 14-year-old son, Emmett Louis Till (Jalyn Hall), and seems poised to leave an emotional mark on the season.
Another film expected to drive buzz at the NYFF is “She Said” (November 18, Universal), the true journalistic saga behind two New York Times reporters’ quest to nail sexual predator Harvey Weinstein, which launched the #MeToo movement and propelled the movie mogul into prison. Directed by Emmy-winning German filmmaker Maria Schrader (“Unorthodox,” “I’m Your Man”), the movie stars two-time Oscar-nominee Carey Mulligan (“An Education,” “Promising Young Woman”) and Emmy nominee Zoe Kazan (“Olive Kitteridge”). “She Said” could resonate with voters who voted for Best Picture winner “Spotlight.”
Among adaptations, Darren Aronofsky’s film of playwright Samuel D. Hunter’s stage play “The Whale” (Venice, A24) stars Brendan Fraser as an obese man trying to connect with his daughter. Adapted Screenplay Oscar-winner Florian Zeller (“The Father”) returns to award season contention with the movie of his lauded play “The Son” (Sony Pictures Classics) starring Hugh Jackman as a father enjoying family life with his second wife (Vanessa Kirby) when his ex-wife (Laura Dern) brings him his brutally depressed son (Zen McGrath). “The Father” Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins plays a supporting role as Jackman’s father. And Noah Baumbach reunites with wife Greta Gerwig and “Marriage Story” star Adam Driver on “White Noise” (Netflix), adapted from the Don DeLillo novel, which launches at Venice.
Two films set during Hollywood’s Golden Age reportedly push the meter on sexuality: Venice debut “Blonde” (Netflix) from Andrew Dominik stars Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe, and year-end limited release “Babylon” (December 25, Paramount) from Oscar-winner Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”), starring Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie. Festival, box office, and critical reaction will determine whether they follow the “Wolf of Wall Street” route (commercial hit, five nominations, no wins) or chart another course.
The same is true for several comedies, including playwright-filmmaker Martin McDonagh’s “The Banshees of Inisherin” (October 21, Searchlight), which brings back “In Bruges” stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson; and David O. Russell’s latest ensemble, “Amsterdam,” starring Russell regular and Oscar-winner Christian Bale (“The Fighter”), Margot Robbie, and John David Washington, with a host of colorful supporting characters. Both filmmakers have proved alluring to Oscar voters in the past.
While Robert Zemeckis’s live-action “Pinocchio” starring Tom Hanks as Geppetto and Cynthia Errivo as the Blue Fairy is going straight to Disney+ on September 8, Oscar-winner Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”) is expected to finish up his animated “Pinocchio” (December, Netflix) starring Ewan McGregor as narrator Sebastian J. Cricket either in time to play the New York Film Festival in October or LA’s AFI Fest in November. The film will likely wind up in the Best Animated Feature race, but broader Academy respect for del Toro remains as high as ever.
Oscar contenders are listed in alphabetical order. Only films I have seen will be deemed frontrunners.
“Top Gun: Maverick”
“Triangle of Sadness”
“Avatar: The Way of Water”
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
“Empire of Light”
“The Woman King”
“The Banshees of Inisherin”
“Bones & All”
“Cha Cha Real Smooth”
“Don’t Worry Darling”
“Everything Everywhere All at Once”
“I Wanna Dance with Somebody”
“Lady Chatterley’s Lover”
“The Pale Blue Eye”
“Three Thousand Years of Longing”