The 2022 Oscars will mark two years since the entertainment industry was plunged into chaos following the start of the pandemic. In that time, many projects have been shot under strict COVID-19 protocols and numerous long-delayed blockbusters have finally been released—in theatres, on streaming platforms, or both—but, the crisis is far from over. As a result, the films competing for glory this awards season are a mixed bag, ranging from big-budget hits to indie hopefuls. There are also beloved actors seeking their first Oscar wins (Kristen Stewart, Will Smith, Kirsten Dunst) and talented women (Jane Campion, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Siân Heder) keen to break into the best-director category after Chloé Zhao’s success with Nomadland.
Ahead of the ceremony on March 27, 2022, here are the films tipped to win big.
The Power of the Dog
Jane Campion’s brooding, brutal western following a rancher (Benedict Cumberbatch) who terrorises his brother’s new wife (Kirsten Dunst) is a best-picture frontrunner, buoyed by its hypnotic cinematography, unsettling score, and heart-wrenching performances. It could also make the respected auteur only the third woman in history to receive a best-director Oscar.
Having landed Toronto Film Festival’s highly coveted Audience Award, Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical rendering of his childhood during the Troubles in Belfast is poised to dominate. Jude Hill is extraordinary as the boy at its center, as are the actors playing his parents and grandparents: Caitríona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Ciarán Hinds, and Judi Dench.
A sci-fi behemoth that’s given cinemas the world over a much needed boost by already grossing over $350 million, Denis Villeneuve’s atmospheric epic is likely to be rewarded with nods across the board. Its production design is masterful, the visual effects awe-inspiring, the costumes fantastical, and Oscar-winning legend Hans Zimmer’s score truly hair-raising.
Fifteen years on from his last Oscar nomination for The Pursuit of Happyness, Will Smith might just secure a statuette for his impassioned portrayal of Richard Williams, the father and tennis coach of Venus and Serena, in Reinaldo Marcus Green’s rousing biopic. Also in the mix? Beyoncé, who could be taking on Billie Eilish in the original-song category with Be Alive.
If anyone’s owed an Oscar, it’s surely eight-time nominee Paul Thomas Anderson. Critics have heaped praise on his latest swooning romance—the story of a teenager (Cooper Hoffman, son of Philip Seymour Hoffman) who pursues an older woman (Alana Haim). A best-original-screenplay nod seems almost guaranteed, but this hit could easily go further.
While Pablo Larraín’s hallucinatory take on Princess Diana’s fateful trip to Sandringham for Christmas in 1991 may divide Academy voters, there’s no denying the power, scope, and eerie accuracy of Kristen Stewart’s interpretation of the ‘people’s princess’. Credit should also go to Jonny Greenwood’s mournful score and Jacqueline Durran’s exquisite costumes.
Guillermo del Toro’s last film, the tender monster movie The Shape of Water, won four statuettes including best picture. This noir thriller is even more star-studded, casting Bradley Cooper as a carnival worker and Cate Blanchett as a sinister psychiatrist alongside past Oscar nominees Rooney Mara, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, and Richard Jenkins.
The Tragedy of Macbeth
Between them, Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, and Joel Coen have 10 Oscars, so it would be safe to assume that the trio’s compelling new collaboration will be an awards favourite. It’s a haunting, stylised retelling of the Shakespearean saga about murderous ambition and all-consuming guilt, bathed in mist and shot in shimmering black and white.
The Lost Daughter
In her bold feature directorial debut, Maggie Gyllenhaal turns Elena Ferrante’s fascinating novel of the same name into a rich and profoundly cinematic meditation on the joys and agonies of motherhood. A best-adapted-screenplay nomination would be well deserved, as would recognition for the never-better Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, and Dakota Johnson.
Despite not being selected as Spain’s best-international-feature submission, Pedro Almodóvar’s sweeping melodrama tracking two women who meet in a maternity ward may show up in other categories, from original score to best cinematography. Its biggest asset? Venice Film Festival’s Volpi Cup recipient Penélope Cruz, who’s in contention for best actress.
At the start of 2021, Siân Heder’s charming coming-of-age comedy focused on a child of deaf adults swept Sundance, becoming the first film ever to win all of the festival’s top prizes in the U.S. dramatic category. As an exuberant crowd pleaser it could very well sneak into the best-picture race or score nods for newcomer Emilia Jones and Oscar-winner Marlee Matlin.
This story was originally published on Vogue.com.