best picture nominees
The nominations for Best Picture are looking pretty good this year (Image via BBC)

Predicting the Best Picture Nominees for the 90th Academy Awards

The awards are just around the corner, so let's get into which films will make the Best Picture Nominees for the Academy Awards.
January 17, 2018
12 mins read

The Academy Awards, colloquially known as “the Oscars,” are considered the most prestigious prizes in the American — if not world — film industry. Established by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1929, the awards have been given out every year since to much anticipation, fervor and a great deal of speculation.

This list will take a stab at guessing which ten films are going to be nominated for Best Picture, the most sought-after award of the night, both for the recognition of a film’s artistic accomplishment and the prestige that comes with plastering “winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture” across every one of its promotional items.

It’s worth noting this list is not interested in what should be nominated, but rather what will be nominated based on the films that are chosen to compete in other awards ceremonies preceding the Oscars, such as the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs.

1. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

This pointedly dark crime comedy-drama film starring France McDormand has posted a great year thus far, dominating nominations at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and SAG Awards, not to mention the accolades from various international film festivals it has already received.

The film follows the story of a bereaved, bitter mother who, enraged by the police’s inability to find her daughter’s killer, sets up a series of billboards outside her town calling into question the efficacy of the Ebbing, Missouri, police force.

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“Three Billboards” is a shoo-in for a Best Picture nomination (and a serious contender for the win). The Academy is sure to love the film’s Coen brothers-esque amalgamation of drama, comedy and crime cinema and its presentation of morally ambiguous characters — it has honored such a film once before: “Fargo,” which, coincidentally, featured McDormand in her first Oscar-winning role.

Find tickets and showtimes on Fandango.

The film’s chances may also be bolstered by its attention to issues of police misconduct and inefficiency the nation is continuing to deal with today; either way, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is going to have a good time at this year’s Oscars ceremony. 

2. “Lady Bird”

“Lady Bird,” starring Saorise Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, is actress Greta Gerwig’s wonderfully tender and hearteningly humorous directorial debut about a daughter trying to find herself and her loving, but firm mother who does her best to help her along the way. The film is a deeply felt portrait of the lives of young women and their oft-fraught relationship with their mothers during that period of adolescent insecurity; it would have been common fare, were it not for Gerwig’s light touch and commitment to authenticity.

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“Lady Bird,” too, is going through a good year, picking up a great deal of nominations at various awards shows, winning a good portion of them as well (it picked up Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy — at last week’s Golden Globes). Though “Lady Bird” certainly stands on its own merit as a work of great cinema, the conversations engendered by the #MeToo movement spotlighting sexual harassment and the general marginalization of women in Hollywood will no doubt lend the film extra weight.

It would be highly unusual for a film as funny and uplifting as “Lady Bird” to win Best Picture, let alone be nominated (the Academy loves its dramas and despair), so the film’s fantastic showing this awards season speaks volumes about its power and grace.

3. “The Shape of Water”

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water” is another powerhouse contender this year. The film, set in a secret government facility in 1960s Baltimore, takes a whimsical, yet grave look at the ways in which humans seek to cruelly subjugate what they do not understand.

“The Shape of Water” boasts powerful, textured performances by Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer and Michael Shannon in addition to a top-notch special effects team that brought to life the strange but lovely water-monster at the film’s center. Aesthetic aspects aside, the “Shape of Water” has all the makings of a characteristic “Oscar film”: period costumes, a cast of Academy Award-winning and nominated actors and impeccable cinematography and art direction.

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The film has been sweeping up awards left and right this year and will have as much of a chance to win Best Picture as “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (which is to say it has a pretty good chance). The film’s commentaries about fearing the “Other” and Del Toro’s outspoken criticism of Donald Trump’s repeated excoriations of Mexicans will probably also end up factoring in to the Academy’s decision to deem it the best film of the year.

4. “Call Me By Your Name”

“Call Me By Your Name” has been making waves for its austere gay love story (and an infamous scene involving a peach). Its breakout star, Timothée Chalamet, has been garnering high praise for his performance as the son of a professor of archaeology who explores his burgeoning sexuality with one his father’s graduate students.

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While “Call Me By Your Name” has been repeatedly beat out by “Three Billboards” and “The Shape of Water” in the awards circuit, it will most definitely be nominated in the category, especially considering it follows on the heels of last year’s Best Picture-winner, “Moonlight,” another queer coming-of-age tale. 

5. “I, Tonya”

The film is a rather quirky one, choosing to focus on the life of the much-beleaguered Olympic figure skater, Tonya Harding, portrayed by Margot Robbie. Like “Call Me By Your Name,” “I, Tonya” has been playing second fiddle to “The Shape of Water,” “Lady Bird” and “Three Billboards” and has little chance of actually winning Best Picture.

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Nevertheless, the film has been nominated at a number of awards shows and will most likely show up on the list of films selected by the Academy in the next two weeks.

6. “The Disaster Artist”

It’s interesting that so many comedies are in contention for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars — perhaps it speaks to a collective need to laugh a little more in light of the dark uncertainty with which the country has been living for just over a year now. James Franco’s “The Disaster Artist” provides a space for audiences to revel simply in the bizarre dream of a man who appears to have come straight from outer space and, to put it crudely, knows jack shit about making movies.

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Again, “The Disaster Artist” has only the slimmest chance of winning Best Picture (a chance that will suffer even more following the recent sexual assault allegations made against James Franco), but the fact that it is yet another comedy in serious consideration for a Best Picture nomination marks a significant turn away from the Academy’s tendency to primarily honor dramas.

7. “Get Out”

I did not think that Jordan Peele’s first film would make it this far into awards season, not because it was a bad film — on the contrary, I thought it was a fantastic film — but because it was a horror movie. The Academy has, in recent history, shied away from celebrating “genre” films (though, if one looks far enough back, they will find films such as “The Exorcist” and “Carrie” in the annals of Academy Award nominees and winners).

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However, “Get Out” has fortunately managed to keep its head above the water and will, I believe, earn its place at the Best Picture nominee table. Its dissection of race politics and adherence to classic horror forms make “Get Out” a film that prompts thought and a certain level of nostalgia, which will only work in its favor.

8. “The Darkest Hour” 

“The Darkest Hour” begins this list’s unofficial “Oscar bait” portion. The British war drama chronicles Winston Churchill’s tenure as Prime Minister during the Second World War, featuring Gary Oldman in an immersive and universally acclaimed portrayal of the titan of twentieth century history.

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The film has it all: sumptuous sets, inspiring dialogue, a near-perfect rendering of a real-life figure and a patriotic spirit, making it one of the most “Oscar-y” films competing this year. The film’s depiction of a strong and stable leader in the face of crisis (as opposed to our own “very stable genius”) might also resonate with many in the Academy’s voting body and up its chances of winning, though it would still be a long shot.

9. “Dunkirk” 

The world seems to have been a Second World War kind of mood this year, a mood that probably finds its roots in Christopher Nolan’s epic war drama “Dunkirk,” which was released earlier last summer. Like “The Darkest Hour,” “Dunkirk” satisfies many of the Academy’s unwritten requirements for what a good Oscar film should look like: a big budget, even bigger effects and an inspiring story.

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Because the film was released much earlier than when awards season starts, it might have lost a little bit of its sheen; however, “Dunkirk”’s chances could potentially improve if it makes a strong enough case that it works out of a “Saving Private Ryan” tradition, another World War II drama that was famously snubbed at the Oscars in 1999.

10. “The Post”

“The Post” affords audiences the chance to see Steven Spielberg direct the illustrious performers, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, in this other period drama that tells the story of the Washington Post’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers. “The Post” will benefit from the general mistrust of news media on the rise today, presenting a story in which a newspaper reaffirms its commitment to the American people.

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Though “The Post” is not a favorite to win, it would be incredibly misguided to believe it won’t get a nomination: the Streep-Hanks-Spielberg combination makes the film a locomotive in terms of sheer star power and may be enough to mark it as this year’s dark horse

Nominations will be announced Jan. 23 and the ceremony, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel (once again), will be held March 4. Tune in to see what this list got right or just plain wrong!

Shashank Rao, University of Michigan

Writer Profile

Shashank Rao

University of Michigan
English and Creative Writing

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