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Box Office Pulls Like ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ Are Strong Best Picture Contenders

Add "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" to the growing list of blockbusters with a real shot at a Best Picture nomination at the 2023 Oscars.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”

Courtesy of Marvel Studios

This article contains IndieWire’s past 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.

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.

See our initial thoughts for what to expect at the 95th Academy Awards here.

The State of the Race

One prevailing narrative currently forming around the 2023 Oscars race for Best Picture is acknowledging the films that have been vital toward keeping the moviegoing experience alive.

Movie sequels in particular have never been more on the Academy’s radar, with “Top Gun: Maverick” both a critical and commercial hit. In its second wave of awards campaigning, the film is now able to position itself as the one project that saved the 2022 box office, at least until “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (Disney, November 11) arrives in theaters.

The sequel to Marvel Studios’ only Best Picture nominee is expected to once again be a global phenomenon, serving as a strong showcase for male and female characters that appeal to every demo. For example, the addition and reimagination of classic comic book character Namor (breakout Tenoch Huerta Mejía) as the powerful serpent god welcomes even more attention from Spanish speakers worldwide. The film seems likely to grab the same seven nominations as the original (which earned three craft wins) but could add Best Director Ryan Coogler, who is widely respected for pulling the film together after the 2020 death of Chadwick Boseman, with a script already in hand that had to be overhauled. And in the acting categories, Letitia Wright (Best Actress) and Angela Bassett (Supporting Actress) could join the fray as well.



Warner Bros.

Original screenplays like “Elvis,” “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” and “The Woman King” also benefit from their unexpected box office triumphs. And they also showcase their powerful leads, from Best Actor contender Austin Butler to Best Actress contenders Michelle Yeoh and Viola Davis.

To a lesser extent, the same could be said of “Till” and its star Danielle Deadwyler. The film has become one of the few success stories at the specialty box office. While it has been difficult overall to pull older moviegoers (the foundation of the Academy) back to theaters, “TÁR,” “Triangle of Sadness,” and “The Banshees of Inisherin” show hope for movies with legs at the box office, with festival favorites “She Said” and “Women Talking” seeking to find a wider audience that will fuel their Oscar ambitions.

However, it remains to be seen if the Academy (which despite inclusion efforts is still 66 percent male and 81 percent white) will support such female-oriented films, or the strong women in “TÁR,” Africa-set period actioner “The Woman King,” and seriously sober “She Said.” “Empire of Light,” a Sam Mendes film starring recent Best Actress winner Olivia Colman in one of her most complex roles yet, is already an example of a film fading from view since its festival premieres.

Guillermo del Toro's "Pinocchio"

“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”


Another awards front promoted by campaigners is category expansions for international films from the likes of Oscar regular Alejandro G. Iñárritu (“Bardo”), documentary contenders like Laura Poitras “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” and animation. Those films usually stay in their lane, unless they become hugely popular, like “Parasite” and “Drive My Car,” though with support from writers and composers, animated films occasionally do make it to Best Picture contention. The one that could land this year is from beloved Oscar perennial Guillermo del Toro, “Pinocchio.” The stop-motion retelling of author Carlo Collodi’s 1883 fairy tale has become Netflix’s greatest hope for a Best Picture nomination, winning raves out of its London Film Festival premiere, and continuing to generate buzz from its well-packed screening at the 2022 AFI Fest.

Though it was the closing night film, “The Fabelmans” won AFI FEST weekend, with audiences applauding throughout the film in much the same enthusiastic way they responded at its TIFF premiere, where it won the coveted Oscar-predictive People’s Choice Award. While there is still plenty of room for big upcoming Best Picture hopefuls like “Babylon” and “Avatar: The Way of Water” to become contenders, they will not take away the spot in the category reserved for the celebrated Steven Spielberg film.

Contenders are listed in alphabetical order, below. Only films we have seen will be deemed frontrunners.

“The Banshees of Inisherin”
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
“Everything Everywhere All at Once”
“The Fabelmans”
“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”
“Top Gun: Maverick”
“The Woman King”
“Women Talking”

“All Quiet on the Western Front”
“Avatar: The Way of Water”
“Empire of Light”
“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”
“She Said”
“Triangle of Sadness”

Long Shots:
“Armageddon Time”
“Bones & All”
“Decision to Leave”
“The Inspection”
“The Whale”
“White Noise”

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