The Guide #71: From Top Gun to Tár, the best picture Oscar nominees ranked

<span>Composite: Alamy</span>
Composite: Alamy

Awards season ratcheted up several notches on Tuesday with the announcement of this year’s Oscar nominations. There were snubs, shocks (particularly in the acting categories, where Andrea Riseborough’s bold A-lister-courting gambit paid off), and some pleasant surprises (congrats, best actor nominee Paul Mescal!).

The centrepiece of course is best picture. It’s a lineup that I think is one of the better ones in recent years, with a good balance of blockbuster heavyweights and indie darlings, traditional crowd-pleasers and genre-defying boundary-pushers. But, hey, you don’t really care about that: you just want to know who’s going to win the thing!

So here’s a power ranking of this year’s nominees, from least to most likely, plus – crucially – where you can watch them in the UK. (Australian readers: here is a guide to streaming pretty much every Oscar-nominated film; and here is one for US readers.)


10. Women Talking

Why it can win A heavyweight drama with a stonking cast (Claire Foy, Rooney Mara, Frances McDormand, Ben Whishaw) and a timely #MeToo-tinged premise. It claimed a best cast nomination at the Screen Actors Guild awards, the winner of which tends to be in the running for best picture (Coda won both last year).

Why it can’t win Its Oscar nominations are thin on the ground – just two, for best picture and adapted screenplay. Moreover, you wonder if a film this challenging and austere can win over the Academy. Director Sarah Polley’s expectations were low enough to book a doctor’s appointment on the morning the nominations came out.

Where you can watch it In cinemas from 10 Feb


9. Avatar: The Way of Water

Why it can win Well, it’s the biggest film of the year; might voters think that’s something worth celebrating when cinemas are still struggling? Plus James Cameron’s audaciously technical blockbuster will surely receive support from the craft portion of the Academy.

Why it can’t win Box office success doesn’t usually translate into guaranteed Oscar success. And there’s rarely much appetite for sequels either. (Quiz question: only two sequels have won best picture. What are they? Answer at the bottom of the newsletter). Plus, it likely won’t be helped by the success of Top Gun: Maverick, another multiplex-conquering nominee that seemed to win viewers’ hearts in a way that Avatar hasn’t.

Where you can watch it In cinemas now (and probably for the next six months)


8. Triangle of Sadness

Why it can win This satire of the super-rich has already won the top prize at Cannes, and its subject matter might appeal to voters in an era when popular culture has taken much pleasure in making the wealthy squirm.

Why it can’t win It is at times savagely satirical: how many Academy voters made it through that 15-minute vomiting scene? You fear it might struggle when set against the more sincere, big-hearted fare that Oscar voters often plump for.

Where you can watch it Available to rent or purchase on most major digital platforms


7. Elvis

Austin Butler in Elvis.
Austin Butler in Elvis. Photograph: Album/Alamy

Why it can win Biopics have historically been one of the hardy perennials of the best picture shortlist, and here’s one celebrating one of pop culture’s most indelible performers: catnip for Academy voters, in other words. What’s more, Elvis seems to have chimed with both older and younger viewers.

Why it can’t win As much as we might associate the genre with Oscar glory, not a single biopic has won best picture in the past decade. Maybe some voters are turned off by films so obviously courting their favour?

Where you can watch it Available to rent or purchase on most major digital platforms


6. All Quiet on the Western Front

Why it can win The Academy voting body has grown more international in recent years, which has been good news for non-English language films – as the win for Parasite in 2020 proved. This adaptation of the classic German novel has the added bonus of being a war movie at a time when the brutality of conflict will be fresh in many voters’ minds due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Why it can’t win Yes, the Oscars are growing more receptive to foreign-language films, but not that receptive: along with Parasite, the only other one to win the top gong is The Artist, and that’s sort-of cheating, given it is a silent film!

Where you can watch it Streaming now on Netflix


5. Tár

Cate Blanchett in Tár.
Cate Blanchett in Tár. Photograph: Landmark Media/Alamy

Why it can win A big, ambitious, of-the-moment movie with an attention-grabbingly brilliant central performance from Cate Blanchett, this drama about a composer embroiled in a cancel culture controversy feels Oscar-worthy, and has been among the best picture favourites since its premiere at Venice. It also won best film at the National Society of Film Critics awards, which has correctly predicted the Oscar best picture in two of the last three years (though its record is a little spottier before that!)

Why it can’t win This is not a consensus film: those who love it really love it, and those who don’t think it is overly cold and cruel. Such movies don’t tend to win the top prize in a contest where second or third preference ballots count for a lot.

Where you can watch it In cinemas now


4. Top Gun: Maverick

Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick.
Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick. Photograph: Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy

Why it can win The year’s most exhilarating cinema event, Maverick is a film that pretty much everyone who saw it seemed to enjoy. It feels like that may count for something with a voting body that tends to prioritise the big screen over streaming.

Why it can’t win Big, swaggering, mainstream movies have tended to struggle with the Academy over the last two decades. Plus, it’s a sequel. Plus, Tom Cruise doesn’t seem to be terribly popular with Oscar voters – he missed out on a best actor nomination here.

Where you can watch it Streaming on Paramount+; available to rent or purchase on most digital platforms


3. The Fabelmans

Why it can win Simple, really: it’s Spielberg, doing his ‘homage to the magic of cinema’ movie. Can Academy voters really resist that combo?

Why it can’t win Then again, the Academy’s membership has shifted over the past decade, and you suspect its newer members – younger, more diverse, more international – might opt for something less traditional. Plus vote-splitting might be an issue here: you can imagine voters opting for Spielberg for best director, thus giving themselves permission to vote for something else in best picture.

Where you can watch it In cinemas from today


2. The Banshees of Inisherin

Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell in The Banshees of Inisherin.
Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell in The Banshees of Inisherin. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy

Why it can win Martin McDonagh’s tale of two friends falling out in civil war-era Ireland has hung around in the best picture conversation all winter, at the expense of more obviously Oscar-baity nominees. You could imagine its simple but effective combination of a sharp, minimalist script and terrific performances from Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson might appeal in an age of endless green-screened mega-blockbusters.

Why it can’t win Very much not a feelgood film, its bleak and bloody nature might turn off some voters. And its relative smallness – essentially two blokes having a tiff on an island – might count against it when put alongside bigger, flashier nominees.

Where you can watch it Streaming on Disney+; available to purchase on most digital platforms


1. Everything Everywhere All at Once

Stephanie Hsu, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan in Everything Everywhere All at Once.
Stephanie Hsu, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan in Everything Everywhere All at Once. Photograph: Allyson Riggs/AP

Why it can win A consensus seems to be forming around this dazzling multi-dimensional comedy-drama, the best picture frontrunner for all of awards season, and the recipient of more Oscar nominations than any other film. It has something for everyone: technical ingenuity, strong performances and an affecting family drama at its heart.

Why it can’t win Its best picture favourite status has maybe disguised the fact that Everything Everywhere … is a pretty unconventional – and, at times, downright weird – film. Might all that multiversal oddness count against it with more trad Oscar voters? Plus, frontrunner status isn’t always a good thing – The Power of the Dog was practically crowned best picture winner the minute it was released, only to lose out to Coda on the night.

Where you can watch it Streaming on Amazon Prime Video; available to rent or purchase on most digital platforms

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