Every year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hands out a bunch of awards to reward the best and brightest in film over the past twelve months. This year many films that were considered to be shoo-ins for Oscar glory have been disappointing. Meanwhile a number of big budget blockbusters have a serious chance of taking home the gold.
Last year, Moonlight deservedly won Best Picture, making it the only movie with an all-black cast to win the award in history. Here is a list of 15 movies that deserve to win Oscars next March. Let’s just hope there isn’t a mix-up with the Best Picture envelope again!
The solo Wolverine trilogy just kept going from strength to strength. The third one, Logan, isn’t just the best superhero movie of the year; it may be the best movie of the year, period. It was a tragic and emotional send-off for the character. It was Hugh Jackman’s final appearance in the role after almost two decades of playing him.
The action is superb, but it’s the drama that you really invest in. We see a Wolverine who is getting old and weak, and even though he’s a superpowered individual, that doesn’t stop us from relating to his struggles.
The story is set in the near future, so director James Mangold makes a statement about where we’re headed, albeit in the background of the main story. It serves as a finale for Jackman’s Wolverine as he hands the reins over to his badass daughter, X-23.
14. Wonder Woman
It took them long enough to make a movie about Wonder Woman – 76 years, to be exact – but they’ve finally gone and done it, and what’s more is that it turned out to be one of the finest movies of the year.
The Academy likes movies that make a strong social and political statement to reflect the current climate, and Wonder Woman does just that with a pro-feminist message and an anti-war message all rolled into one.
Patty Jenkins is a shoo-in for Best Director nominee – she was even on the shortlist for Time magazine’s Person of the Year. A Best Picture nomination might also be in order, as the genre picture was praised just as much as fellow strong women-riddled big budget sci-fi flick Mad Max: Fury Road. Who knows?
13. Get Out
Nothing about Get Out suggests it should’ve been any good. It was the directorial debut of a guy who cut his teeth on madTV and then had his own sketch show on Comedy Central and it was a horror movie, which the critics usually hate.
Everything about that suggests it should’ve failed horribly. However, writer-director Jordan Peele knew exactly what he was doing. He used the horror genre right for the first time since George A. Romero was making his earliest zombie movies.
Horror can be used to make a satirical statement, or to tackle the very real fears in our world. Poltergeists and demons are scary, sure, but there’s so much in the real world to be scared about that we don’t need them. In Peele’s case, that fear is racism. So, he made a film that held a mirror up to the white moviegoing population and said, “This is how you make us feel.”
It recently got a raft of Golden Globe nominations, albeit in the ‘Musical or Comedy’ categories, leading Peele and everyone else to wonder what exactly the Hollywood foreign press found so funny.
12. Wind River
Taylor Sheridan, who wrote the highly acclaimed thrillers Sicario and Hell or High Water in the last couple of years, made his directorial debut recently with Wind River, a murder mystery that brings tropes and themes of the western genre into the modern day.
It stars Jeremy Renner as a wildlife officer who stumbles across the dead body of an 18-year-old girl and teams up with an FBI agent to find the killer when the autopsy shows that she was raped. Vulture’s David Edelstein wrote of the haunting nature of the film, “Long after the gunshots of Wind River fade, you might think you hear the cries of the dead.”
Sheridan was previously nominated for Best Original Screenplay last year for his screenplay for Hell or High Water, and Wind River already won Un Certain Regard for Best Director at Cannes – could Oscar wins be in its future?
11. Darkest Hour
It’s about time Gary Oldman won an Oscar. The only nomination he’s ever gotten was for playing George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but he’s never won.
That’s a shameful amount of snubs from the man who’s played so many diverse roles masterfully throughout his career – from Lee Harvey Oswald to Count Dracula to Sid Vicious to Beethoven to Sirius Black to Commissioner Gordon.
He’s an absurdly diverse and talented performer, and he may finally see that recognized this year for his turn as Winston Churchill in the tense drama Darkest Hour from director Joe Wright. The critics are saying that the whole movie is “held together” by Oldman’s performance, with a lot of them declaring his performance as Churchill the best of his career.
10. The Shape of Water
Guillermo del Toro’s beautiful science fiction romance The Shape of Water may be his first true chance at Oscar glory. Del Toro always gives his movies his all.
If you watch anything he’s directed – Pacific Rim, Hellboy, Mimic – you can see that he’s poured his heart and soul and mind into every single frame and lovingly crafted a movie based on all of his influences growing up.
However, he’s never made a movie that fit the bill for an Academy Award (except maybe Pan’s Labyrinth) until this year’s Cold War-set love story about a mute janitor (played by an Oscar-worthy Sally Hawkins) at a top secret laboratory in Baltimore who falls for a sea creature that’s been captured by the government.
Del Toro said of the project, “This movie is a healing movie for me. For nine movies, I rephrased the fears of my childhood, the dreams of my childhood, and this is the first time I speak as an adult – about something that worries me as an adult. I speak about trust, otherness, sex, love, where we’re going. These are not concerns that I had when I was nine or seven.”
9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Martin McDonagh is one of the greatest directors working today. He combines slick crime drama with his own dark and twisted sense of humor to make movies that are masterfully crafted and devilishly entertaining.
He directed In Bruges and left us with Seven Psychopaths in 2012, and since then, his fans have been eagerly awaiting his new movie, and this year, their dream came true.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is, in typical McDonagh fashion, a hysterical comedy that tackles controversial topics (in this case, the murder of a young girl) and shocks the hell out of the audience.
Rotten Tomatoes says the movie “deftly balances black comedy against searing drama – and draws unforgettable performances from its veteran cast along the way.” Frances McDormand is almost definitely guaranteed a nomination, while Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell deserve one each, too.
A shoe-in for Best Animated Feature (or maybe even Best Picture, if the Academy is feeling saucy) is the new Pixar film Coco, which depicts the iconography and culture of the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertos.
Critics have highly praised the film for, among other things, respecting the culture of Mexico, which in an era where a man who believes that everyone who comes from the country is a rapist, is a culture that desperately requires respect. It’s the first ever movie with a nine-figure budget to feature an all-Latino cast.
The Hollywood Reporter’s review called the movie “a richly woven tapestry of comprehensively researched storytelling, fully dimensional characters, clever touches both tender and amusingly macabre, and vivid, beautifully textured visuals.” Sounds worthy of an Oscar, right?
7. The Big Sick
In theory, the romantic comedy shouldn’t have a reputation as one of the worst genres in film. It’s just a love story with jokes – they should all be great. But for some reason, it seemed as though Woody Allen was the only person in the world capable of making a good romantic comedy – that is until The Big Sick came along.
The Big Sick might not have as catchy a title as How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days or Love Actually, or even a catchy title at all (seriously, why did no one do anything about that title? Who wants to watch a movie called The Big Sick?).
But it does have one thing going for it: it’s amazing. It wasn’t some trite, clichéd Hollywood love story about a beautiful white man bumping into a beautiful white girl.
It was a deeply personal story, drawn from the true experiences of its writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon. To think it began life as a pitch to Judd Apatow about a ghost witch, and then blossomed into a brilliant work of cinema with a personal and affecting story.
6. Blade Runner 2049
It’s not easy pulling off the sequel to a cherished classic, especially when that classic has a look and feel and style and genre of its own. What made this one even trickier was the fact that this style was cultivated by a visionary director – Sir Ridley Scott – who decided not to direct the sequel.
That meant it was up to the new director – Denis Villeneuve – to live up to the original, replicate its sense of neo noir wonder, and stand alongside what is considered by many to be one of the greatest films ever made.
It was a tall order, and no one had any faith in Blade Runner 2049, which made it all the more difficult to pull off, but quite simply, the film is a visually stunning work of cinematic genius. The critics adored it, praising everything: the direction, the actors, the cinematography by the great Roger Deakins, the musical score, and its faithfulness to the original movie.
Perhaps the Academy can see their way to awarding the sequel the way they failed to with the original back in 1982.
5. Call Me By Your Name
Call Me By Your Name is quickly becoming one of the hottest movies of the year, and not just because of its LGBTQ themes. What makes it special is the fact that it’s gone to the next level of gay movies.
All the landmark LGBTQ movies like Philadelphia and Milk broke new ground by being these big issues movie that tackled a hot button issue (except maybe Brokeback Mountain, which was terrific as a same sex love story).
The way that Call Me By Your Name takes this to the next stage is by normalizing gay romances and presenting the story of two men falling in love as just that: the story of two men falling in love.
The story is told in the same way that a love story between a man and a woman would be told, and it’s this simple yet effective tool that makes Call Me By Your Name so powerful and special – and head and shoulders above many other Oscar contenders.
4. The Meyerowitz Stories
Noah Baumbach is responsible for many quietly beautiful and contemplative comedy-dramas about deeply flawed individuals in mundane everyday situations, like The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg, While We’re Young, and Margot at the Wedding. This year, he gave us The Meyerowitz Stories, which may be his greatest film to date.
As you might expect, it tells various stories about the Meyerowitz family, headed by sculptor Harold Meyerowitz (played hilariously by Dustin Hoffman), who has overpraised his son Matthew (Ben Stiller) and neglected his other son Danny (a standout Adam Sandler) and allowed his friend to sexually assault his daughter Jean (Elizabeth Marvel).
Netflix acquired the rights to the film, because they refuse to share Adam Sandler, and a lot of critics are saying it’s the streaming service’s first serious chance at Oscar success. Sandler will almost definitely get a nomination.
A critic wrote, “It’s time to admit that Adam Sandler is actually a good actor.”
3. The Disaster Artist
In 2003, Tommy Wiseau made a movie called The Room that’s generally considered to be the worst movie ever made. The acting is terrible, none of the shots line up with their audio tracks, and the story doesn’t make a lick of sense.
But now, James Franco has taken the story of how The Room was made and turned it into one of the best movies of 2017. Franco plays Wiseau and directed the script from The Fault in Our Stars writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber.
He’s supported by a terrific cast — his brother Dave Franco, his frequent collaborator Seth Rogen (who is also on board as a producer), Alison Brie, Josh Hutcherson, Zac Efron, Sharon Stone, Hannibal Buress, and many more.
Rogen tweeted, “We made a movie about the worst movie and it might be our best movie.” And the Academy loves a good satire of their own industry, so that puts The Disaster Artist in good stead.
There’s no director like Chistopher Nolan (Batman). Striking the perfect balance of critical acclaim and commercial success every time, he did it again with Dunkirk. Critics are calling it Nolan’s best film to date and the best World War II movie ever made (double whammy!).
The array of terrific performances, particularly those of Mark Rylance and Cillian Murphy, warrant awards recognition, but this is Nolan’s movie, through and through. Originally, Nolan didn’t want to shoot with a script. He wanted to improvise the whole thing, like Curb Your Enthusiasm.
But his wife convinced him to throw together something, even if he wasn’t going to follow it that closely. So, he hashed together 70 pages of script to work from (half his usual length). If Nolan wins Best Original Screenplay for a 70-page script he didn’t even want to write (or even gets nominated), then he’ll solidify his position as the very best.
But it’s Best Director that he truly deserves, for a mathematically structured masterpiece that captures the horrors of war and slowly builds up the tension from start to finish.
1. Lady Bird
This directorial debut of actress Greta Gerwig (who also provided the screenplay) is the new holder of the record for the movie with the most reviews to still maintain the rare score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, which puts her in good stead for Oscar victories.
According to cinematographer Sam Levy, Gerwig’s aim with the movie was “to offer a female counterpart to tales like The 400 Blows and Boyhood,” and that’s exactly what she’s done.
The New York Times’ reviewer A.O. Scott praised the movie for being “exceptionally well-written, full of wordplay and lively argument. Every line sounds like something a person might actually say.” So, Greta Gerwig is a great writer in addition to being a great actress. Wonder what else she’s great at.