Last Updated: December 11, 2018
Oscar season is now in full swing, so it's time to take a look at what films are the leading candidates for Best Picture. The awards circuit has been abuzz ever since the fall festivals (Venice, Telluride, Toronto, etc.) took place, where several hopefuls premiered and started their campaigns. Some of those movies firmly announced their status as ones to watch, while others fell by the wayside and came up short of their expectations.
In the build-up to the Academy Award nominations (which are announced in January), several precursors have already weighed in on what they feel are the best in film from 2018. While there's still a long way to go before the race is settled, the likes of the National Board of Review, the American Film Institute, and Golden Globes have offered a bit of clarity to the proceedings, so here's our latest rundown of the likeliest Best Picture nominees.
Related: Oscars 2019: Best Actor Predictions
A Star is Born
Bradley Cooper's romantic drama-musical was long seen as a possible Oscar player, and it's more than lived up to the hype in that regard. Premiering at Venice back in August, critics and audiences were quick to praise the remake, which is arguably the best rendition of this particular song. A Star is Born rode waves of excellent buzz to a stellar box office haul of $197 million domestically, which is the eleventh-highest total of the year so far. It's already received several accolades, including four wins at NBR (tying a record), a spot on the AFI's top 10 list, five Golden Globe nominations, and nine Critics' Choice Award nods.
If there's anything working against A Star is Born at this juncture, it's that it's rarely a good sign to be the massive frontrunner early on in the race. There's plenty of time for backlash to settle in or a late arrival to sneak in and steal the thunder. Right now, however, that seems unlikely to happen for Star is Born. It has the big A-listers behind it, it has the box office, and it has the critical acclaim. It seems like it'll do very well on a preferential ballot (where second and third place votes can decide the Best Picture winner), so it's certainly in the driver's seat unless upsets start happening.
Every Oscar season has its fair share of surprises, and Green Book certainly fits the bill for 2018. Directed by Peter Farrelly (one half of the Farrelly brothers directing duo behind comedies like Dumb and Dumber), few would have anticipated this would become one of the most-praised titles of the year. Premiering to an unsuspecting Toronto crowd, Green Book took home the festival's coveted People's Choice Award, which all but assures it's in the running for the Oscar. Green Book also won Best Film from NBR and has popped up elsewhere, including AFI, the Golden Globes, and the Critics' Choice Awards. By all accounts, it's Universal's top dog in the race - a twist nobody saw coming.
Green Book has a lot of support, but it'll be interesting to see if that's enough to get it a win. Ever since the film started screening (especially after it opened to the general public), many have expressed concern over its problematic and conventional handling of its story and themes. The focus on Viggo Mortensen's Tony "Lip" Vallelonga shortchanges Mahershala Ali's Dr. Donald Shirley, and some have accused Green Book of being a "white savior" film than a meaningful exploration of its time period. The controversy surrounding it might be too much to overcome, but it still feels like a lock for a nomination.
The track record of foreign language films cracking the Best Picture lineup isn't great, but Alfonso Cuarón's Roma could be an exception. Serving as his first movie since 2013's Gravity (which netted him Best Director and was a threat to win Best Picture), Roma is a 1970s period piece following a middle-class family in Mexico City over the course of the year. Netflix released a trailer ahead of the film's festival premieres, impressing many with its lush, beautiful black-and-white cinematography and personal narrative. This promises to be a unique experience.
Roma was a big winner at the New York Film Critics Circle, taking home Best Film and Best Director. Like A Star is Born and Green Book, it's also been frequently mentioned on several of the major precursors, and even won a special award from AFI. Roma certainly has Best Foreign Film locked up, and based on the sheer amount of love it's getting, it seems like it will be one of the movies up for the top prize this year as well. Whether it wins it all is another story, but this is still an impressive achievement.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Two years after the infamous Best Picture snafu of Moonlight vs. La La Land, director Barry Jenkins is back with this adaptation of James Baldwin's powerful novel. It tells the story of young woman Tish Rivers, who desperately attempts to prove her fiancé Alonzo Hunt's innocence of a crime and get him out of prison. Unsurprisingly, Jenkins proved to be the perfect fit for this material, and If Beale Street Could Talk has earned raves for its breathtaking visuals, captivating performances, and terrific writing that honors the book. After the mesmerizing Moonlight, Jenkins has only evolved his craft.
Nominated for three Golden Globes, Beale Street is picking up several other key notices that cements it status as one of the major Oscar contender this year. Like so many others on our list, the film was recognized on the NBR and AFI's top 10 lists and also scored five Critics' Choice nominations. Beale Street may not have frontrunner status, especially since Jenkins won not too long ago (the film would need to be heads and tails above its competition to pull that off), but it'll certainly be nominated and is a favorite in some main categories like Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay.
One of the last shoes to drop this awards season, Adam McKay's Dick Cheney biopic seems to live up to the on-paper potential many believed it had. Due to it premiering much later in the year than other Oscar hopefuls, Vice was noticeably absent from a few of the early lists, like NBR and AFI. However, it's recently enjoyed a nice surge and seems to be in line for the Academy Awards. Vice earned six Golden Globe nominations (the most of any film), including Best Picture - Comedy or Musical, Best Director, and Best Actor. It was also a favorite of the Critics' Choice Awards, scoring nine nods from that organization. Bale is a threat to win Best Actor thanks to his transformative performance as the former VP.
McKay's previous film, The Big Short, was one of the leading contenders for Best Picture back in 2015, so it isn't surprising his latest delivered the goods. Though full reviews are embargoed until its Christmas release date gets closer, Vice seems to have left a significant impression, with many praising McKay's writing, the direction, and the performances of the star-studded ensemble. In all likelihood, Vice should show up when the various guilds list their nominations - paving the way for several Oscar nods.
This Spike Lee joint has been generating buzz ever since its premiere at Cannes, where it received heavy praise for its deft handling of various tones, great performances, and poignant social commentary. It's based on the true story of African-American police officer Ron Stallworth, who successfully infiltrated a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. Given the current political climate in America, its period piece story was seen as highly relevant to what's happening in the country today, with its devastating final minutes illustrating how much further we have to go. For many, this was Lee's best work in years.
Even though he's a well-known auteur, none of Lee's films have been nominated for Best Picture before. BlacKkKlansman could be the one to change that. Despite its early release date (it really got drowned out during the festival craze), awards voters have demonstrated they remembered the hard-hitting film. BlacKkKlansman has been recognized by the AFI, Golden Globes, and Critics' Choice Awards, helping it build a convincing case for the Oscars. It might be too divisive to win it all on a preferential ballot, but it looks to have enough support to score a Best Picture nomination.
Fox Searchlight has long been a main player on the Oscar circuit, spearheading campaigns for last year's two frontrunners - The Shape of Water (the eventual winner) and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The studio is back at it again this year with The Favourite, the latest quirky offering from director Yorgos Lanthimos. While the filmmaker is certainly an acquired taste, he's already gained some fans within the Academy. He was previously nominated for Best Original Screenplay for The Lobster and now is all but assured to have a major breakthrough with this outing, which is fueled by a trio of excellent performance from Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz.
Lanthimos' oddball sensibilities may prevent The Favourite from being, well, the favorite, but the period drama is certainly going to be invited to the party. Leading the Critics' Choice Awards with a whopping 14 nominations, the film is expected to be a player across the board. Just about every noteworthy awards organization that's weighed in so far has mentioned it, so it would be quite a surprise if the Oscars ignored it entirely.