20th Century Studios
It’s time to start talking about the 2022 Oscars. The major fall film festivals—Venice, Telluride, Toronto, New York—have had their starry red carpets and introduced us to some of this year’s contenders. The discussions (and fights) among film critics have started. Some major players are on the horizon. The likes of Steven Spielberg and Paul Thomas Anderson are warming up to show us what they’ve got.
After a fairly awkward ceremony last year shaped by COVID, this year the Academy Awards promise to be back in full swing, despite that pesky pandemic still lingering around. While the March 27 ceremony is still months away, the conversation has already begun. Though everybody has their own opinions on the matter, here are the films that we think will be in the running for Best Picture.
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe, Judi Dench
What’s it about? Lauded actor and director Kenneth Branagh has made a bildungsroman about his own childhood in black and white. If that sounds a little bit like Oscar nominee Roma, well, yeah.
What’s the buzz? Belfast‘s reviews out of the Telluride and Toronto film festivals weren’t as unanimously euphoric as some of its counterparts, but it certainly has its supporters.
What are its chances? Right now, very good. It won the TIFF audience award which has been a bellwether of Oscar success in past years. (Watch the trailer.)
Director: Mike Mills
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Woody Norman, Gaby Hoffmann
What’s it about? Joaquin Phoenix plays a radio journalist—think Ira Glass, but Joaquin Phoenix—who cares for his nephew when his sister has to go help her struggling ex. It’s a sweet road movie about the future, family, and childhood.
What’s the buzz? Early reviews have praised Mills’ empathy and a softer Phoenix performance.
What are its chances? Mills’ excellent 20th Century Women only got an original screenplay nod, and a similar fate could befall this one. (Watch the trailer.)
Don’t Look Up
Director: Adam McKay
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill
What’s it about? A meteor is coming to Earth and no one seems to care in this incredibly star-studded comedy from The Big Short and Step Brothers director, Adam McKay.
What’s the buzz? No one has seen this one yet so… we don’t know! It looks like McKay is returning to pure comedy, but adding in a prestige sheen and a social message.
What are its chances? Even McKay’s poorly received Vice got a Best Picture nomination, so we’re going to say it’s got a pretty good shot. (Watch the trailer.)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Oscar Isaac
What’s it about? A galactic war for control of spice.
What’s the buzz? Mixed! The initial trade reviews were down on Villeneuve’s grand take on the sci-fi classic—which, by the way, only tells half the story of the first book in the series. Still, as more people have seen it, more have liked it.
What are its chances? Sci-fi is a hard sell for the Academy, especially dense ones like this. It’s a long shot. (Watch the trailer.)
House of Gucci
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Al Pacino
What’s it about? Patrizia Reggiani, who married into the Gucci family and then had her husband murdered.
What’s the buzz? No one has seen it yet, but everyone’s loving the very quotable trailer. Say it with me now: “Father, son, and House of Gucci.”
What are its chances? Hard to say before anyone’s seen it, but we’re craving another Gaga campaign. Did you know she’s actually Italian? (Watch the trailer.)
Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green
Cast: Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Jon Bernthal
What’s it about? Serena and Venus Williams’ ascension to tennis stardom through the prism of their demanding father, Richard.
What’s the buzz: Much of the talk following King Richard‘s debut at Telluride was centered on Will Smith’s reportedly excellent performance.
What are its chances: Seems like a shoo-in for Best Actor. We’ll see about Picture. (Watch the trailer.)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Bradley Cooper, Benny Safdie
What’s it about? PTA is heading back to his beloved San Fernando Valley with the story of two teenagers falling in love as the entertainment industry swirls around them.
What’s the buzz? No one has seen this one yet, but it’s a PTA, so everyone is excited.
What are its chances? This looks on the more personal and less grand side of PTA’s work, which tends not to get as much Academy love as his epics like There Will Be Blood and Phantom Thread. (Watch the trailer.)
The Lost Daughter
Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Cast: Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley, Paul Mescal
What’s it about? A woman (Olivia Colman) is flooded with memories of her own children while watching a young mother (Dakota Johnson) during a beach vacation.
What’s the buzz? Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut is the surprise of the fall season with nearly unanimously good reviews.
What are its chances? I’d say very good for at least a nomination. The Lost Daughter is an intense, stressful experience, though, which may turn some voters off.
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Toni Collette
What’s it about? It’s a noir based on the 1946 novel (later turned into the 1947 film) about a carny up to some tricks.
What’s the buzz? Del Toro has wrangled a starry cast for his follow up to The Shape of Water which has no supernatural elements but still looks pretty damn creepy.
What are its chances? Well, The Shape of Water won Best Picture. (Watch the trailer.)
Director: Rebecca Hall
Cast: Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, André Holland, Bill Camp
What’s it about? An adaptation of a 1929 novel about two childhood friends who reunite as adults when one of them is passing as a white woman.
What’s the buzz? The film received positive reviews at Sundance, but when the trailer debuted online there were some whisperings of concern with Hall’s choices.
What are its chances? We’ll see. It depends on how much attention Netflix gives it and how people respond upon release. (Watch the trailer.)
Director: Jane Campion
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jesse Plemons
What’s it about? Toxic masculinity in 1920s Montana, perpetuated by a cowboy with secrets of his own.
What’s the buzz? Euphoric. This has been the number one hit of the fall festival season.
What are its chances? Very good. (Watch the trailer.)
Director: Sean Baker
Cast: Simon Rex, Suzanna Son, Bree Elrod
What’s it about? A washed up porn star returns to his tiny Texas town to cause havoc.
What’s the buzz? Like Sean Baker’s The Florida Project, Red Rocket has been hailed as another excellent look into America’s underbelly.
What are its chances? It depends. Red Rocket doesn’t have the sweetness of The Florida Project, which propelled it to multiple nominations. Audiences are going to have to get on board with this story about an egomaniac who tries to groom a 17-year-old girl to go into porn. (Watch the trailer.)
Director: Pablo Larraín
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Sally Hawkins, Sean Harris, Timothy Spall
What’s it about? Princess Diana’s nightmare of a Christmas at Sandringham.
What’s the buzz? Kristen Stewart is the new queen of the awards season thanks to raves for her performance here. Meanwhile, Larraín is once again being hailed for finding ways to innovate the biopic.
What are its chances? Great for Stewart; very good for the movie at large. (Watch the trailer.)
Director: Julia Ducournau
Cast: Agathe Rousselle, Vincent Lindon
What’s it about? A serial killer with a metal plate in her head has sex with a car and it only gets wilder from there.
What’s the buzz? Titane won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and has critics awestruck.
What are its chances? Look, we’re keeping it in the conversation because of the Palme, but Academy members might just think it’s too weird. (Watch the trailer.)
Director: Joel Coen
Cast: Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Corey Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson
What’s it about? It’s The Scottish Play. Power hungry Thane goes on a killing spree, encouraged by his wife.
What’s the buzz? This opening night selection of the New York Film Festival won itself a lot of fans with its bold take on a classic.
What are its chances? Solid. (Watch the trailer.)
West Side Story
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Rachel Zegler, Ansel Elgort, Rita Moreno, Ariana de Bose
What’s it about? Uh, it’s West Side Story, but with a new book from Tony Kushner and new choreography from Justin Peck.
What’s the buzz? It’s one of the most highly anticipated movies of the year, but also one with the biggest hurdle to overcome since fans will inevitably be comparing it to the original. (Also, star Ansel Elgort has had sexual assault allegations lodged against him.)
What are its chances? It’s a Steven Spielberg movie. It’s got a good shot. (Watch the trailer.)