2022 has been a tumultuous year for the film industry—a rollercoaster of box office successes and crushing disappointments, where some long-awaited releases failed to make an impression while several sleeper hits came completely out of the blue. Fittingly, the 2023 Oscars race is equally mixed, with rousing blockbusters jostling for position alongside tender tearjerkers, oddball comedies and unbearably tense thrillers, some by previous Academy Award winners (Steven Spielberg, Martin McDonagh, Damien Chazelle) and others from less established voices (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Chinonye Chukwu).
Ahead of the ceremony on 12 March, here are the 10 films you need to look out for.
Steven Spielberg’s profoundly moving, deeply personal account of a family breaking apart—which scooped Toronto Film Festival’s Audience Award, a crucial precursor—has all the makings of an old-school Best Picture winner. It could also see the thrice Oscar-winning auteur return to the podium, alongside John Williams for his gentle, ruminative score, and Michelle Williams, Paul Dano and Judd Hirsch for their barnstorming performances.
The Banshees of Inisherin
This unhinged fable about a fractured friendship set on a windswept Irish isle could earn Martin McDonagh his first Oscar for a feature-length film (he previously won for the short Six Shooter in 2006). Nods for the deft direction and raucous script seem inevitable, as does recognition for Brendan Gleeson and Kerry Condon’s measured supporting roles and Colin Farrell’s hilarious and heartbreaking central turn, for which he received Venice Film Festival’s Volpi Cup.
As the charismatic, manipulative and wildly talented composer Lydia Tár, Cate Blanchett blows her fellow Best Actress contenders out of the water in Todd Field’s fascinating study of abuses of power in the rarefied world of classical music. It’s masterfully written and constructed, too, with scene-stealing appearances from Noémie Merlant and Nina Hoss, but its icy precision may prove too alienating for the Academy to secure a Best Picture win.
If Sarah Polley, the dark horse in the Best Director race, lands a statuette for her harrowing tale of a Mennonite colony whose women were brutally abused, she would become the third woman in three years to do so, after Nomadland’s Chloé Zhao and The Power of the Dog’s Jane Campion. It’s also firmly in the Best Picture conversation, as is the ethereal Rooney Mara for Best Actress, and both Claire Foy and Jessie Buckley in the supporting category.
Everything Everywhere All At Once
Despite having premiered in March, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s exuberant, mind-bending action epic following a beleaguered laundromat owner-turned-verse jumper tasked with saving the universe (Best Actress hopeful Michelle Yeoh) has managed to maintain its momentum thanks to its sheer originality and boldness. It’s poised to be the wild card in the Best Picture race, with Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu and Jamie Lee Curtis in the mix, too, for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.
Top Gun: Maverick
By grossing over $1 billion globally, the sweeping, Tom Cruise-fronted, Joseph Kosinski-helmed sequel to the ’80 classic acted as a defibrillator for a film industry still reeling from the impact of the pandemic—and the Academy could very well reward it for that. There’s no denying the power of its flight sequences, with their zippy editing, roaring sound and hair-raising visual effects, all of which could result in technical nods and even carve a path to Best Picture.
Currently the frontrunner for Best Actor, Brendan Fraser transforms into a middle-aged absent father who resorts to binge eating following the death of his lover in Darren Aronofsky’s haunting family drama. Keep an eye out for Supporting Actress contender Hong Chau, too, who brings a remarkable humanity to the part of his only friend, a nurse who reluctantly enables him, even while fighting to save his life.
Could Danielle Deadwyler be the first Black woman to take home the Best Actress prize in more than two decades? (Shockingly, the only one ever to do so in the Academy’s 93-year history is Halle Berry for Monster’s Ball in 2002.) It’s certainly possible, given the buzz around her turn in Chinonye Chukwu’s touching rendering of the life of civil rights pioneer Mamie Till, who campaigned for justice following the murder of her 14-year-old son in ’50s Mississippi.
It would be unwise to count out Damien Chazelle, whose last film about the wonders and pitfalls of Hollywood, 2016’s La La Land, won six Oscars. His latest, a heart-pumping, mile-a-minute romp, transports us to the hedonistic ’20s as the industry transitions from silent pictures to sound. It features elaborate sets, a jaunty score from Justin Hurwitz, jaw-dropping costumes by Mary Zophres, and Brad Pitt, Diego Calva and Margot Robbie as three lost souls determined to make it big.
Baz Luhrmann’s high-octane, hallucinatory biopic of the troubled king of rock ’n’ roll is divisive to say the least, but there’s one thing critics and audiences agree on: Austin Butler’s brooding take on the hip-shaking superstar is a triumph. Expect to see him in the Best Actor category, and nods for the film’s make-up and hair, production design and costuming, too (the latter two courtesy of Luhrmann’s wife and frequent collaborator, the four-time Oscar winner Catherine Martin).
This article was originally published on British Vogue.