Predicting the Academy Award for Best Picture

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Predicting the Academy Award for Best Picture

Adam Winchenbach

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On March 4, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will host the 90th Academy Awards, likely hoping to redeem themselves from last year’s snafu when the wrong film was announced as winner of Best Picture. This year, Best Picture is widely considered the most unpredictable and competitive category out of all 25. In a mark of its competitiveness, nine films are nominated for Best Picture this year: Call Me by Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

There is no way to predict if the award announcement will go smoothly this year, but one can still try to take an educated guess as to which film will take home the big prize. Here, in descending order, are what critics consider the five films most likely to win Best Picture.


  1. Dunkirk | Directed by Christopher Nolan | Starring Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Fionn Whitehead7 additional nominations

A scene from Dunkirk. Courtesy of IMDb.

“Dunkirk” comes from the mind of critically acclaimed director Christopher Nolan, known for “Inception” and the Dark Knight Trilogy. Based on true events, this historical war epic surrounds the beaches of Dunkirk at the start of World War II, where thousands of British troops were stranded. It follows three stories set in different blocks of time, which is a running theme in the movie as a ticking clock serves as the backing for Hans Zimmer’s musical theme. Among the most artistic of the Best Picture nominees, Dunkirk is considered a frontrunner in large part for its technical merit.


  1. The Post | Directed by Steven Spielberg | Starring Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks1 additional nomination

Tom Hanks (L) and Meryl Streep (R) in The Post. Courtesy of IMDb.

This historical piece stars Oscar winners Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep as executives of the Washington Post. Streep, also nominated for best actress, plays Katharine Graham, the new president of the Post. From the beginning, we are thrust into 1970s culture and politics of by means of the Pentagon Papers. The movie manages to tackle issues and themes relevant both then and now, such as women’s rights and media rights, providing the gritty political thriller that audiences want. The star power and talent attached to The Post will undoubtedly sway the decisions of Academy voters, guaranteeing the film a high position in the race.


  1. The Shape of Water | Directed by Guillermo del Toro| Starring Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones, Octavia Spencer12 additional nominations

Doug Jones (L) and Sally Hawkins (R) in The Shape of Water. Courtesy of IMDb.

The Amphibian Man is a monster found deep in the jungle and placed into government storage; Eliza is a lowly, mute janitor at a big corporation. The Shape of Water tells their love story in ways that question all filmmaking norms. From homosexuality to racism, this film manages to address almost every issue currently  gripping society, while still telling a fantastical Bride of Frankenstein-esque tale. The film’s visuals appear painted onto the screen, enhancing the surreal mood. Even though this film is third on this list, this race is so unpredictable that it would be no surprise if it won.


  1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriDirected by Martin McDonagh | Starring Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell 5 additional nominations

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Courtesy of IMDb.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is the simple yet heartbreaking story of a grieving mother who has put up billboards in her town to challenge the police for not doing enough to discover who murdered her daughter. With three of its cast nominated for acting awards, this film is nothing short of astounding. Other nominations on this list cannot come close to the amount of heart that this movie contains. Many agree, including the BAFTA (British equivalent of Oscars) and Screen Actors Guild award voters, who gave this film their top prizes. Sophomore Andrew Dalton says, “Its message is to challenge authority, which is new and refreshing.”


  1. Lady Bird | Directed by Greta Gerwig| Starring Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf 4 additional nominations

Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird. Courtesy of IMDb.

Greta Gerwig blew the world away with this film that also served as her writer and directorial debut––so much that she is also nominated for Best Director. Lady Bird is the whimsical story of a teenage girl who desperately wants to break free of her drab life. A classic plot, but one which Gerwig perfects. The screenplay, visuals and acting are all incredible. At the Golden Globes, Lady Bird took home the award for Best Musical or Comedy. The love for this movie is widespread: sophomore Todd Gersten said, “[Lady Bird is] a cinematic masterpiece and possibly the best film of the decade.”


Featured photo courtesy of Prayitno Photography on Flickr.