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Past Best Director Winners Currently Lead the Category

Best Director hopefuls include multiple filmmakers looking for their next Oscar rather than their first.

TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 10: Steven Spielberg attends "The Fabelmans" Premiere during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival at Princess of Wales Theatre on September 10, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Steven Spielberg attends “The Fabelmans” Premiere during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.

Getty Images

This article contains IndieWire’s past Best Director 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.

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 filled 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

This year brings a high chance of the Best Director category being full of familiar faces. The 1997, 1998, and 1999 winners James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, and Sam Mendes are all serious contenders this year. So are the winners from 2014 to 2017 (Damien Chazelle, Guillermo del Toro, and two-time winner Alejandro González Iñárritu). With five nomination slots open for Best Director, as opposed to the 10 nomination slots open for Best Picture, more eyes may be on which filmmaker will win their next Oscar rather than who could receive their first.

However, the growing international component of the category has injected some new variables into the equation. Almost every year since 2018 has seen a surprise nomination for the director of a non-English language film, from “Drive My Car” to “Another Round.” This year not only has the chance to continue that streak for revered filmmakers who have been ignored by the Academy in the past. That potential primarily lies with Cannes winners Ruben Östlund and Park Chan-wook.

Though “Triangle of Sadness” is actually in English, the Palme d’Or winner builds on the momentum Swedish filmmaker Östlund has developed in recent years, even as the Oscars have eluded him: His 2015 breakout “Force Majeure” wasn’t nominated, while his other Palme d’Or winner “The Square” lost the 2018 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film to “A Fantastic Woman” (which was directed by Sebastián Lelio, another contender this year with “The Wonder,” who also recently started making films in English). Given the modern-day currency of class satire, plus the boost from Cannes, and his appeal to international voters, it may finally be Östlund’s time. Expect distributor Neon, which pulled off that narrative for “Parasite,” to lean on it hard once again.

The same appeal applies to Park Chan-wook, who won the directing award at Cannes for his detective noir “Decision to Leave.” Park has been a respected filmmaker for decades, though the “Oldboy” director’s best-known work has been too violent for the awards conversation; “Decision to Leave” is a better access point in that regard, and the movie’s reliance on a classic Hollywood genre should give it a boost as well.

Women Talking

“Women Talking”

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The Best Director category has awarded female filmmakers for two years in a row, making them only the second and third women to win the Oscar for Best Director. It will be an uphill battle for a third woman to take the prize this season, as the only viable contenders so far are “Women Talking” director Sarah Polley and “The Woman King” director Gina Prince-Bythewood, where the performances have the most momentum. However, Chinonye Chukwu and Maria Schrader could gain enough recognition for the premieres of “Till” and “She Said” to put them in contention.

The last set of contenders have all made films that have received Best Picture nominations even as Best Director nominations have eluded them: Ryan Coogler, Todd Field, and Martin McDonagh. “TÁR,” “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” and “The Banshees of Inisherin” could change that for them.

Contenders are listed in alphabetical order, below. No director will be deemed a frontrunner until we have seen the film (TIFF contenders like “Fabelmans” were unavailable to screen for those of us unable to attend the festival at the tail-end of Emmys season).

Frontrunners:
Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Bardo”)
Sam Mendes (“Empire of Light”)
Ruben Östlund (“Triangle of Sadness”)
Park Chan-wook (“Decision to Leave”)
Sarah Polley (“Women Talking”)

Contenders:
Darren Aronofsky (“The Whale”)
James Cameron (“Avatar: The Way of Water”)
Damien Chazelle (“Babylon”)
Chinonye Chukwu (“Till”)
Ryan Coogler (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”)
Todd Field (“TÁR”)
James Gray (“Armageddon Time”)
Oliver Hermanus (“Living”)
Rian Johnson (“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”)
Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)
Baz Luhrmann (“Elvis”)
Martin McDonagh (“The Banshees of Inisherin”)
Gina Prince-Bythewood (“The Woman King”)
Maria Schrader (“She Said”)
Steven Spielberg (“The Fabelmans”)

Long Shots:
Noah Baumbach (“White Noise”)
Guillermo del Toro (“Pinocchio”)
Claire Denis (“Both Sides of the Blade”)
Lukas Dhont (“Close”)
Audrey Diwan (“Happening”)
Jordan Peele (“Nope”)
Luca Guadagnino (“Bones & All”)
Mia Hansen-Love (“One Fine Morning”)
Joseph Kosinski (“Top Gun: Maverick”)
Marie Kreutzer (“Corsage”)
David O. Russell (“Amsterdam”)
Florian Zeller (“The Son”)

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