The 10 contenders for the best picture Oscar

From dramas about the atomic bomb and Auschwitz, to comedies about dolls and sex-mad reanimated corpses, the lineup of best picture contenders at Sunday’s Oscars is the most varied in years.

Here are the 10 movies from 2023 that will go head-to-head for Hollywood’s most prestigious prize:

– ‘American Fiction’ –

“American Fiction” achieves a remarkable feat. It highlights systemic racism and bigoted hypocrisy — while being flat-out hilarious.

Jeffrey Wright stars as a Black author who becomes disillusioned with a publishing industry that only wants books from him about deadbeat dads and crack cocaine. When he delivers exactly that, as a joke, the novel becomes a sensation.

The sharp satire won top prize at the influential Toronto film festival, and is frontrunner for the Oscar for best adapted screenplay.

– ‘Anatomy of a Fall’ –

Cannes film festival winner “Anatomy of a Fall” — an intricate French legal drama about a woman suspected in her husband’s death — has taken Hollywood by storm.

It is the favorite for best original screenplay. Thanks to an inventive awards campaign that heavily featured the movie’s lovable canine star, it could be in line for more.

Can it become just the third Palme d’Or winner to claim the award for best picture, following in the recent footsteps of South Korea’s “Parasite”? It is a potential dark horse.

– ‘Barbie’ –

Simply by nominating “Barbie” for best picture, the Oscars have already won.

Greta Gerwig’s feminist satire drew hordes of pink-clad fans to theaters, sparked countless memes, and was the year’s highest-grossing movie, netting $1.4 billion.

No film — even its unlikely release twin “Oppenheimer” — dominated the global conversation more than “Barbie,” and the movie has featured prominently in the Oscars telecast’s promotional push.

But can it win? High-profile snubs for its director, and its star Margot Robbie, suggest it could struggle to score prizes beyond costume design and best song.

– ‘The Holdovers’ –

A charming, witty, old-fashioned drama, “The Holdovers” follows an unlikely trio stranded together over the winter holidays at a 1970s New England boarding school.

The film reunites star Paul Giamatti with director Alexander Payne. Their previous collaboration, 2004’s wine-country road trip movie “Sideways,” is an all-time classic.

Snubbed by Oscar voters for “Sideways,” Giamatti has a strong claim for best actor this time, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph is a shoo-in for supporting actress honors.

If any film can stop “Oppenheimer” from claiming best picture, it may be “The Holdovers.” But that is still a long, long shot...

– ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ –

Yes, it is three-and-a-half hours long.

But Martin Scorsese’s sumptuous drama about the murders of Native Americans in 1920s Oklahoma was just too beautiful — and important — for Academy voters to ignore.

Aside from its A-list leading men Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, “Killers of the Flower Moon” perfectly cast Indigenous star Lily Gladstone in a vital, tragic role.

Her performance as a wealthy, naive wife could be the first by a Native American to earn an acting Oscar, even if the meandering film itself left many voters cold.

– ‘Maestro’ –

Perennial nominee Bradley Cooper’s latest bid to woo Oscars voters, Leonard Bernstein biopic “Maestro” — which he writes, directs and stars in — racked up an impressive seven nominations.

Yet the film seems likeliest to win just the Oscar for best make-up.

That would be a bittersweet, if fitting, legacy for a film that made unwanted, early headlines for Cooper’s giant prosthetic nose. “Maestro” never truly escaped the so-called “Jewface” controversy, despite warm reviews.

– ‘Oppenheimer’ –

It is hard to recall an Oscars with a more dominant frontrunner than “Oppenheimer.”

Christopher Nolan’s drama about the father of the atomic bomb drew critical acclaim, grossed nearly $1 billion, and has won just about every top prize Hollywood has to offer.

A grand, old-fashioned blockbuster for grown-ups, shot on a $100 million budget, “Oppenheimer” is overwhelmingly expected to buck the recent trend of smaller, indie movies winning best picture.

It would be the biggest upset since a loss for “La La Land” — which was mistakenly announced as best picture in 2017 — if it did not take the night’s final prize.

– ‘Past Lives’ –

No film had a longer journey to the Oscars than “Past Lives,” which reduced hardened festivalgoers to sobbing wrecks when it debuted at Sundance back in January 2023.

Hopping between continents, Celine Song’s tearjerker follows the intense reunion of two childhood sweethearts, whose lives have diverged in dramatic fashion.

It is perhaps the unlikeliest to win best picture — but has had a remarkable journey all the same.

– ‘Poor Things’ –

Another major festival winner, “Poor Things” took the prestigious top prize at Venice last fall.

The rest of the world had to wait months to see Emma Stone as a sexually voracious reanimated corpse, roaming a steampunk vision of 19th century Europe, breaking the hearts of misogynistic men.

Hilarious, absurdist and strongly feminist, “Poor Things” has shades of director Yorgos Lanthimos’ earlier film “The Favourite,” which also starred Stone.

That film earned an Oscar for its star Olivia Colman, and the latest could well do the same for Stone — even if best picture likely remains out of reach.

– ‘The Zone of Interest’ –

“The Zone of Interest” is a Holocaust film like no other.

Jonathan Glazer’s harrowing drama keeps the horrors of Auschwitz strictly at the periphery, both visually and audibly.

It is more interested in examining the selfishness and willful obliviousness of the camp’s commanders and their families.

The result is unorthodox and unforgettable, and expected to win best international film.


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