Why do this year’s Oscar nominations feel so much harder to predict than usual? In part, that’s owed to a quirk of the calendar: Many of the influential guilds and industry groups held their nominations up until the very end of the awards calendar (and one, the WGA, hasn’t announced its at all yet). But it’s also because we simply don’t know which way the membership is leaning this year. As I like to say, the Oscars are the Academy Awards, not a machine that tabulates guild nominations, and each season brings its own flavor. In years like 2019, the Oscars skewed mainstream, nominating big blockbusters like Black Panther and Bohemian Rhapsody. At other times, like in 2018 and 2022, its taste leaned more auteurist.
That this year’s awards crop is stacked with box-office smashes like Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water has bolstered hopes we’ll see the most mainstream set of Oscar nominations in years. And yet at the same time the Academy has become much more global than in the past, allowing little films like last year’s Drive My Car to become big players in the awards race. Which of those dueling factors will come out on top this season? We’ll find out Tuesday morning. But in the meantime, here are Vulture’s official predictions for the eight biggest races.
All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
The Banshees of Inisherin
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Top Gun: Maverick
Thank God the Academy went back to a clean ten Best Picture nominees last year, sparing pundits like me our perennial anxiety over how many titles to predict. The first five each year are usually easy to pick: Only once in the era of the expanded Best Picture field has a movie nominated for the Directors Guild’s feature-film prize not gone on to compete for the Oscar. This year’s quintet are The Banshees of Inisherin, Everything Everywhere All at Once, The Fabelmans, Tár, and Top Gun: Maverick, so that’s your top tier right there.
The next two are sitting quite comfortably in the lineup. Avatar: The Way of Water and Elvis both made impressive amounts of money, and both earned top nominations from precursors like the Golden Globes and the Producers Guild of America. One of them features an Oscar-winning actor playing an unrecognizable alien, and the other takes place on Pandora! Hee-hee.
The last three spots are in flux. A film that misses DGA but gets both a PGA nomination and a Best Cast nomination at SAG is usually safe — but this year the producers’ and actors’ tastes diverged so much that zero movies fit that bill. Nevertheless, two contenders seem to have moved ahead of the field. All Quiet on the Western Front, Germany’s official submission, made the Oscar shortlist in every category it was eligible for, and last week became the most-nominated film at the BAFTA Awards, whose membership has a significant overlap with the Academy. That’s proof of wide-ranging support from the craft contingent, which should be enough to power the war drama to a nomination. Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale debuted to a few high-profile pans when it was released in December, but the Brendan Fraser comeback vehicle has a solid-gold Oscar narrative, and if you believe that Fraser is still the Oscar front-runner, well, not since Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart has the Best Actor winner not been nominated in Best Picture. That this small arthouse film was able to sneak into the lineup at the PGAs, which skew more middle-of-the-road than the Oscars, bodes well for its chances.
Which leaves us with one spot, and half-a-dozen films to fill it. While Oscar’s preferential ballot rewards consensus picks for the winner, during the nominations passion rules the day. This leads me to believe we won’t see SAG nominee Women Talking, which seems more respected than beloved, or PGA pick Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, a sympathetic contender nevertheless hampered by its unfortunate last-minute creative revamp. Nor The Woman King or Glass Onion, both of which have faded from the conversation after a series of notable snubs.
One possible passion pick is the international class satire Triangle of Sadness: The Palme d’Or winner goes over gangbusters with the global cinephiles who make up an ever-larger segment of the Academy. But I’d want to have seen it show up at more precursors before putting it in my ten. Same goes for RRR, the Tollywood blockbuster that plays like Fast & Furious by way of colonial India, whose devoted fan base might not be large enough to get it in.
In the end, I went with Damien Chazelle’s Babylon, a movie I’m weirdly rooting for while not particularly liking all that much. Despite flopping at the box office, the film has amassed a vocal cult following, and it performed slightly above expectations at the precursors, garnering a SAG nomination and some attention for its impressive crafts. Anyone crazy enough to like Babylon is crazy enough to rank it No. 1 on their ballot, and it’s that kind of passion I think will make the difference.
Edward Berger, All Quiet on the Western Front
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin
Todd Field, Tár
Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans
Just like Coco Chanel advised, the Academy’s directors branch takes off one DGA nominee before leaving the house. McDonagh bore that unfortunate honor in his Three Billboards year, but having returned with another Best Picture contender, I think voters will respect his fortitude. For much of this season, my hot take was that those kooky millennials the Daniels would be the surprise snub of nomination morning, though as the Everything Everywhere train keeps chugging along, I’ve lost my nerve to maintain that position. Safer to go with the consensus choice to miss out: Top Gun: Maverick’s Joseph Kosinski, whose aerial dogfights were an impressive technical accomplishment but who, unlike the others, is not the dominant creative force on his film.
Who will replace him? The Way of Water’s James Cameron has visual razzle-dazzle on his side, but he may be dinged for merely iterating on the process that earned him a nomination for the original Avatar. Elvis’s Baz Luhrmann has been working the trail hard on behalf of his rhinestone-covered biopic, but if this branch is going to nominate an overseas auteur, they’re liable to skewer a little more highbrow. After flirting with Palme d’Or winner Ruben Östlund of Triangle of Sadness and the venerable Park Chan-wook of Decision to Leave, I’ve finally found the international director I’m ready to settle down with: German braver Junge Edward Berger, whose visceral battle scenes have powered All Quiet’s surge.
Austin Butler, Elvis
Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin
Brendan Fraser, The Whale
Paul Mescal, Aftersun
Bill Nighy, Living
The core four of Farrell, Fraser, Butler, and Nighy have been locked for a while. Each is working a familiar Oscar angle: two former hunks reinventing themselves in prestige fare, one current hunk who transformed into a musical legend, and an elder statesman getting his moment in an acclaimed Sony Pictures Classics film. However, the last seat might as well be a hot potato. Hugh Jackman of The Son was the popular preseason pick, before overwhelmingly negative reviews caused that movie to drop off the face of the Earth. Tom Cruise of Top Gun: Maverick has his fans, but his easy charisma in that film is the opposite of the effortful acting the Academy typically rewards. The poor reception for Emancipation prevented voters from having to address the Will Smith question just yet.
As luck would have it, the most likely alternatives are the leading men from a pair of intimate A24 dramas: Jeremy Pope as a gay Marine recruit in The Inspection, and Paul Mescal as a single dad not really enjoying his vacation in Aftersun. The edge goes to Aftersun, which has been inspiring effusive reactions that seem to have even surprised its own team, and Mescal, who has quickly become one of the industry’s most in-demand leading men.
Cate Blanchett, Tár
Ana de Armas, Blonde
Danielle Deadwyler, Till
Viola Davis, The Woman King
Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Blanchett and Yeoh are our two locks, masters of jabs both verbal and physical. The rest of the category is so unsettled that I expect we’re in for some surprises. Davis made it into all the major precursors, but since voters otherwise haven’t been much taken with The Woman King, pundits are pegging her as the most likely dropout with the Academy. The civil-rights biopic Till also had a muted awards run — though in real life, it’s actually outgrossed Tár — and Deadwyler was not helped by being absent for her big win at the Gotham Awards. Fans who fear another round of #OscarsSoWhite sense they both could miss out at the last minute; I’m more optimistic, since rivals like Babylon’s Margot Robbie and Empire of Light’s Olivia Colman have each struggled for traction themselves.
In Blonde, Ana de Armas is repping one of the most polarizing films of the season, but despite that, she’s managed to get in at the Globes, SAG, and BAFTA. The Marilyn Monroe biopic reportedly plays far better overseas than it does at home, which leads me to believe she does indeed have a chance to score with Oscar, too.
What about The Fabelmans’ Michelle Williams? While she was snubbed by both SAG and BAFTA, I’m still predicting she gets nominated … just in the Supporting Actress category, where voters will slot her despite her campaign as a lead. A reverse Reader!
Paul Dano, The Fabelmans
Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin
Judd Hirsch, The Fabelmans
Barry Keoghan, The Banshees of Inisherin
Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once
In recent years, Oscar’s supporting categories have had more coattails than a Victorian dinner party. If you’re a Globe and SAG nominee whose movie isn’t in the Best Picture race, you’re at risk of losing your seat to a secondary player from a major contender. For this reason, I’m hesitant to include The Good Nurse’s Eddie Redmayne in my predictions, even though his cold-blooded turn as a serial killer has kept showing up in precursor lineups. In his place, we’ll slot Hirsch, a previously nominated veteran making a brief cameo in a director’s autobiographical drama — thereby giving him the power of two Judi Denches.
Since once-buzzy contenders like Babylon’s Brad Pitt have faltered, the rest of the field more or less picks itself. (Unless you’re of a mind that The Fabelmans will absolutely Fabel-faceplant, in which case we could get an unexpected surprise like Causeway’s Brian Tyree Henry.) Dano’s subdued performance got in at SAG even when Williams, his showier co-star, was snubbed. Concerns about vote-splitting haven’t kept both Banshees blokes from showing up everywhere, either. And of course, there’s no stopping Ke Huy Quan, the former child star who came to the Oscar race to kick ass and chew Chapstick … and he’s all out of Chapstick.
Angela Bassett, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Kerry Condon, The Banshees of Inisherin
Jamie Lee Curtis, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans
How unsettled is this category? I could see any of the five women named above winning the Oscar, and I could see any of them getting snubbed. Bassett’s televised triumphs at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice have made her the closest thing we have to a front-runner, but with Wakanda Forever on the edge of the Best Picture race, anything could happen. Voters may decide they only need one actress from Everything Everywhere, and in that case I’m not sure who has the edge: Curtis, a Hollywood lifer who’s been open about what a first career nomination would mean for her, but whose performance is plainly comedic? Or Hsu, the shape-shifting heart of the film but also a newcomer with a significantly smaller industry profile? Williams could easily end up back in lead or split her own vote so much she cracks neither category. And Condon, the counterbalance to the mixed-up masculinity that suffused Banshees … Okay, she’s probably safe.
Still, that means I’m leaving out Hong Chau, who gives new meaning to the word “supporting” opposite Brendan Fraser in The Whale; Dolly de Leon, who commits grand cinematic larceny by stealing the third act of Triangle of Sadness; Nina Hoss, whose Sphinx-like turn in Tár hasn’t shown up at the precursors but feels like a classic nomination-morning surprise; and the multiple female speakers from Women Talking. Only two of the SAG five made it into Oscar’s Supporting Actress category last season, and we could be in for more surprises this year.
Todd Field, Tár
Tony Kushner and Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin
Ruben Östlund, Triangle of Sadness
The screenplay categories are harder to figure out than usual, since this year the WGA doesn’t announce its nominations until the day after the Academy does. But it helps to know that this is probably the hippest branch; if Film Twitter’s buzzing about a title, you know it probably is, too. In other words, maybe don’t expect to see Elvis. Original is the more stacked of the two writing categories this season, and it seems likely that the lineup will be filled out with four Best Picture heavyweights. (On Oscar Night, this award, which is usually presented early, could be a key bellwether.) In the final spot, I would love to see a personal effort like Aftersun or a tasty surprise like The Menu. But I’ll follow BAFTA’s lead and pick Triangle of Sadness, a puke-filled comedy that might be a little out-there for the rest of the Academy but fits in perfectly here.
Guillermo del Toro and Patrick McHale, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Samuel D. Hunter, The Whale
Kazuo Ishiguro, Living
Rian Johnson, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Sarah Polley, Women Talking
For much of the season, Polley was considered the front-runner, but a snub at BAFTA took some wind out of her sails. Still, her dialectical drama is strong enough and this field is thin enough that she should have no trouble making it in. Another Best Picture hopeful the Brits snubbed, Glass Onion, is probably safe as well. (Remember, sequels are always slotted in Adapted.) Throw in The Whale and Living, two talky, philosophical films drafting off of Best Actor bids — though given Ishiguro’s legendary status, perhaps it’s equally accurate to say Bill Nighy is drafting off him. The remains of the fray include underwhelming titles like She Said, which got in at BAFTA, and Top Gun: Maverick, which nobody enjoyed for its screenplay. This is another place we could see All Quiet on the Western Front, which also got in at BAFTA, but since that film’s changes from the Remarque novel were among its more controversial elements, I’ll go instead with Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, which picked up a telling USC Scripter nod for its decision to move the classic children’s tale to Fascist Italy.