Last Updated: February 23, 2019
With the Oscars right around the corner, it's time to take a look at which films have the best shot of winning Best Picture. This is officially the most unpredictable awards race in recent memory. For the first time in history, no movie won multiple top prizes from the various industry guilds. Two of those victors, Eighth Grade and Can You Ever Forgive Me? (the Writers Guild winners), are not Best Picture nominees at the 91st Academy Awards, completely flummoxing even those who have been predicting the Oscars for years. It truly is anybody's ballgame, which adds an element of intrigue to the proceedings. In some ways, it's more fun this way than in a normal year when one or two frontrunners emerge way ahead of the pack.
At this point, it's probably easier to say what won't win, but we're going to try to make sense of the Best Picture field. Here are the eight films in the running ranked from most likely to least likely to take the golden statue home.
Related: Oscars 2019: Best Actor Predictions
Alfonso Cuarón's intimate, semi-autobiographical look at a middle class family's maid's life in Mexico City is rightfully one of the most acclaimed films of 2018. It scored the most Oscar nominations of any movie this year (10) and has had a lot of success in the precursors. Admittedly, most of its notable wins are for Cuarón's direction, but Roma was also received Best Picture at the Critics' Choice Awards and the BAFTAs. This is a film that just about everybody agrees is exceptionally crafted and well-acted, meaning it should do well on the preferential ballot. Academy members have tremendous respect for Cuarón, and Roma's pair of acting nominations mean it struck a chord with the actors branch - the largest Academy branch there is.
All that said, there are a few things working against Roma. For starters, no foreign language film has ever won Best Picture. With Roma all but assured to receive Best Foreign Language Film, voters may look elsewhere for Best Picture. There's a reason why there are separate categories. Additionally, it remains to be seen if the Academy is truly ready to embrace Netflix original films. Roma being nominated for Best Picture is an indication the game is changing, but a win would truly be a watershed moment and open the floodgates, letting other auteurs know the streaming giant is a reputable and serious distributor. Another thing to keep in mind is that in the age of the sliding scale, there tends to be more Picture/Director splits, and if Cuarón is winning Best Director, one of the other candidates may take home Picture.
Announcing its Best Picture candidacy by winning the People's Choice Award at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, Peter Farrelly's Green Book became one of the surprise titles this awards season and ended up being a major force. It won Best Picture - Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes and earned Best Picture honors at the 2019 Producers Guild Awards. Crucially, the PGA trophy is voted on by preferential ballot, just like the Oscars' Best Picture. In a wild and unpredictable season, Green Book is arguably the closest thing we have to a consensus pick. But it's certainly not an ironclad lock. Farrelly didn't receive a Best Director nomination at the Oscars, and the film's screenplay lost to Eighth Grade at WGA. Maybe it doesn't have as much widespread support as some would believe.
Green Book is also the most-targeted Best Picture nominee, with one controversy after another. Surviving members of Donald Shirley's family took issue with historical inaccuracies, Farrelly's approach was dismissed as conventional, safe, and akin to Driving Miss Daisy, and co-writer Nick Vallelonga had to delete his Twitter after an anti-Muslim post of his from 2015 resurfaced. Despite all that, Green Book keeps chugging along and has some impressive boasts on its résumé. If anything, a case can be made the vitriol lobbied against it has galvanized its fans into voting for it, so it wouldn't be a shock if this dramedy ended up as the big winner.
Finally, a comic book movie made its way into the Best Picture field. After the likes of The Dark Knight, Logan, and Wonder Woman were ignored, Ryan Coogler's groundbreaking entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe left an impression. The film was noteworthy for transcending its genre by telling a story that was grounded in relevant and serious social themes that obviously spoke to millions of people around the globe. Awards voters had no choice but to take notice, as Black Panther earned nominations from the Golden Globes, Producers Guild, and others. It even won Best Cast at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
That SAG victory illustrates actors enjoyed Black Panther, but that may not be enough to get it over the hump. In terms of Oscar nominations, the film was not recognized for directing, screenwriting, or acting, and it's very difficult for a movie to win Best Picture without at least nods in those major categories. Facing minimal backlash, Black Panther may thrive on a preferential ballot, but Marvel fans shouldn't place their bets on the movie taking home the top prize. If it took the Academy this long to make a superhero film a Best Picture nominee, they probably aren't ready to crown one as the best picture of the year just yet. Baby steps.
Premiering at Cannes in May 2018, Spike Lee's uncompromising look at race relations in America stuck in voters' minds and became his most acclaimed work to date. BlacKkKlansman is the first of Lee's joints to be nominated for Best Picture, and also scored nods for Best Director and Best Supporting Actor. The film popped up frequently on the precursors, earning love from the Golden Globes, Producers Guild, Directors Guild, Screen Actors Guild, Writers Guild, and others. It checks all the boxes one would look for in an Oscar frontrunner, so why isn't it higher on the list?
Unfortunately for Lee and his crew, they've spent most of awards season watching other people win in their respective categories. BlacKkKlansman's most prominent win to date is Best Adapted Screenplay at the BAFTAs, and with Can You Ever Forgive Me? surprising at WAG, it's no guarantee BlacKkKlansman can even win the Oscar there. This one still has dark horse potential because of the preferential ballot and Lee's overdue narrative. Many people were thrilled to see him finally score some nominations and will push for him. However, if BlacKkKlansman was a serious threat, it probably would have won a few other things by now. Being shut out by the guilds makes it hard for it to vault to the top.