From ‘Barbenheimer’ to ‘Poor Things’, these are top 10 contenders for Oscars 2024 Best Picture

Emma Stone's multi-genre film took prestigious top prize at Venice last fall

AFP March 06, 2024


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 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 the top prize at the influential Toronto Film Festival and is the frontrunner for the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

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 favourite 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. Simply by nominating Barbie for best picture, the Oscars have already won. Greta Gerwig's feminist satire drew hordes of pink-clad fans to theatres, 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.

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 honours.

If any film can stop Oppenheimer from claiming the Best Picture, it may be The Holdovers. But that is still a long, long shot. 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.

Perennial nominee Bradley Cooper's latest bid to woo Oscars voters, Leonard Bernstein's 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.

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

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