It’s (Finally) Oscar Season! Meet the 30 Major Players Aiming for Best Picture

It’s (Finally) Oscar Season! Meet the 30 Major Players Aiming for Best Picture

Air

Amazon

Ben Affleck directs this corporate tale that goes behind the scenes of Nike’s partnership with Michael Jordan, in which the shoe company placed a massive bet on the then-rookie basketball player to create the now-ubiquitous Air Jordan shoe line. Matt Damon plays Sonny Vaccaro, the Nike exec who attempts to woo the up-and-coming athlete into signing a major deal, while Viola Davis delivers a meaty supporting performance as Jordan’s mother, Deloris Jordan. 

All of Us Strangers

Searchlight

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Andrew Haigh’s metaphysical drama, adapted from Taichi Yamada’s 1987 novel Strangers, stars Andrew Scott as a London screenwriter who begins a relationship with a mysterious neighbor played by Paul Mescal. Struggling to write a film inspired by his deceased parents, he is drawn back to his childhood home — only to discover his mother and father (Claire Foy and Jamie Bell) living as if they had not died in a car accident 30 years earlier.

American Fiction

Orion

Emmy-winning writer Cord Jefferson (Watchmen) makes his feature directorial debut with this adaptation of Percival Everett’s Erasure. Jeffrey Wright leads an impressive ensemble (including Erika Alexander, Sterling K. Brown, Issa Rae and Tracee Ellis Ross) as a novelist who struggles with his stalled writing career and professional jealousy while also navigating his dysfunctional family. The dark comedy earned the audience award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. 

Anatomy of a Fall 

Neon

Sandra Hüller stars in this legal thriller as a woman accused of pushing her husband out of their attic window. Director Justine Triet’s Palme d’Or-winning film embraces ambiguity as the couple’s marriage takes center stage in the wife’s murder trial, while their young son struggles with his own moral questions as his father’s death and his mother’s possible guilt weigh heavily on him. 

Asteroid City

Focus Features

Wes Anderson’s latest is another stylistic feast for the eyes, with an impressive ensemble of his usual players (including Jason Schwartzman, Liev Schreiber, Tilda Swinton and Jeffrey Wright) and joined by a few newcomers to the director’s acting stable (Scarlett Johansson and Tom Hanks) for this comedy about a small desert town that is visited by an extraterrestrial presence during the mid-1950s. 

Barbie

Warner Bros.

Three-time Oscar nominee Greta Gerwig helmed this box office bonanza — which earned more than $1 billion globally — starring producer Margot Robbie as the eponymous doll who is thrown into an existential crisis when the boundaries between Barbie Land and the real world break down. The film’s scene-stealing turn from Ryan Gosling as Ken could earn the actor a third career nom. 

The Bikeriders

20th Century Studios

Jodie Comer and Austin Butler headline this period drama from writer-director Jeff Nichols, inspired by photographer Danny Lyon’s 1967 book about a motorcycle club based in Chicago. Tom Hardy co-stars as the fictionalized club’s leader who struggles to maintain control over its members as the group grows in popularity and embraces a violent, outlaw style during the rise of ’60s American counterculture. 

The Color Purple

Phylicia Pearl Mpasi (left) and Halle Bailey in Warner Bros.’ The Color Purple.

Phylicia Pearl Mpasi (left) and Halle Bailey in Warner Bros.’ The Color Purple.

Warner Bros.

Oprah Winfrey — who earned an Oscar nomination for her supporting role in Steven Spielberg’s 1985 adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel — serves as a producer of this musical adaptation that stars Fantasia Barrino (who made her Broadway debut in The Color Purple) in the lead role as Celie, a young Black woman coming of age in the rural South. 

Dream Scenario

A24

Nicolas Cage stars in writer-director Kristoffer Borgli’s inventive fantasy film as a hapless college professor whose life erupts into chaos when a global phenomenon sees him appearing in other people’s dreams. What begins as an idiosyncratic comedy turns into a dark social satire when the professor’s dream presence becomes violent and terrifying. 

Dumb Money

Sony

I, Tonya director Craig Gillespie helms this ensemble-driven look at the everyday people who threatened the power of Wall Street during the GameStop short squeeze that took place in January 2021. Paul Dano leads the film as the YouTuber who ignites a stock market revolution, while America Ferrera, Shailene Woodley, Pete Davidson, Nick Offerman, Seth Rogen, Anthony Ramos and Sebastian Stan fill out the star-studded cast. 

Fair Play

Netflix

Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich star in writer-director Chloe Domont’s psychological thriller and Sundance breakout as a young couple who keep their relationship secret from colleagues at their hedge fund. But when Dynevor’s Emily is granted a promotion over Ehrenreich’s Luke, their dynamic devolves precipitously, threatening both their work and personal lives. 

Ferrari

Neon

Two-time Oscar nominee Adam Driver leads this stirring biopic as Enzo Ferrari, the founder of the Italian sports car manufacturer who balances both personal and professional struggles as he enters his team in the 1957 Mille Miglia race. Oscar winner Penélope Cruz co-stars in Michael Mann’s drama, playing Laura, Ferrari’s estranged wife and business partner whose fears over the company’s succession — with a mistress (Shailene Woodley) and child on the scene — rock it to its core. 

The Holdovers

Focus Features

Director Alexander Payne reunites with Sideways star Paul Giamatti for this 1970-set comedy about a curmudgeonly teacher at a posh New England prep school tasked with watching over the students who are unable to go home to their families over Christmas break. Newcomer Dominic Sessa and Da’Vine Joy Randolph co-star in this nostalgic crowd-pleaser. 

The Iron Claw

A24

Writer-director Sean Durkin helms this drama about the Von Erich brothers, a family of professional wrestlers seeking fame and fortune — and experiencing both tragedy and triumph — during the 1980s while living under the shadow of their father and coach. Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White and Harris Dickinson star as the young Von Erichs, while Holt McCallany plays the domineering family patriarch.

Killers of the Flower Moon

From left JaNae Collins, Lily Gladstone, Cara Jade Myers and Jillian Dion in Apple/Paramount’s Killers of the Flower Moon.

From left: JaNae Collins, Lily Gladstone, Cara Jade Myers and Jillian Dion in Apple/Paramount’s Killers of the Flower Moon.

Apple/Paramount

Martin Scorsese’s latest three-hour-plus epic, based on the acclaimed nonfiction book by David Grann, is part Western, part romance and part gangster film as it examines the “Reign of Terror” in which members of the affluent Osage tribe were systematically murdered so that their white neighbors could take control of their oil rights. Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro reteam with the auteur, sharing the screen with breakout Lily Gladstone, who serves as the emotional center of the film. 

Maestro

Netflix

Bradley Cooper stars as composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein in his latest directorial effort, which examines Bernstein’s career through the eyes of his actress wife, Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan). While Cooper may be playing the titular role, it’s Mulligan who gets top billing — and the juiciest material to work with — as the film focuses on the at-times rocky marriage between the pair of artists, one queer and the other knowing but discontented. 

May December

Netflix

Director Todd Haynes and star Julianne Moore mark their fifth collaboration with this unsettling melodrama about an actress (Natalie Portman) who embarks on a research trip to prepare to play an infamous woman (Moore) who shocked her close-knit community when she was revealed to have sexually abused a seventh-grade boy. Charles Melton delivers an impressive supporting turn as the victim — now in his late 30s and father to three of the perpetrator’s children.

Memory

Ketchup Entertainment

Peter Sarsgaard won the Volpi Cup at the Venice Film Festival for best actor for portraying Saul, a man stricken with dementia, in Michel Franco’s drama. Oscar winner Jessica Chastain co-stars as Sylvia, a woman dealing with her own demons, which are exacerbated when Saul enters her life.

Napoleon

Apple/Sony

Ridley Scott reteams with his Gladiator star (and Oscar winner) Joaquin Phoenix for this epic biographical film about the rise of French military leader and Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, framed by the volatile relationship with his wife, Empress Joséphine (played by Oscar nominee Vanessa Kirby).

Nyad

Netflix

Four-time Oscar nominee Annette Bening may add a fifth nom to her tally — and could finally win a best actress prize — for her portrayal of marathon swimmer Diana Nyad as she makes several attempts at the near impossible mission to cross from Cuba to Florida in open, shark-infested waters. Two-time Oscar winner Jodie Foster also delivers a stirring performance as Nyad’s coach and best friend in documentarians Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s narrative feature debut.

Oppenheimer

Cillian Murphy in Universal’s Oppenheimer.

Cillian Murphy in Universal’s Oppenheimer.

Universal

Cillian Murphy leads an all-star cast (which includes Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh and Benny Safdie) as J. Robert Oppenheimer in writer-director Christopher Nolan’s epic history of the creation of the Manhattan Project and the atomic bomb. Unraveling through multiple timelines, Nolan’s film depicts Oppenheimer’s efforts to harness atomic power, his complex relationships with two women and his ultimate downfall as an activist in the decades after the bombing of Hiroshima. 

Origin

Neon

Oscar nominee Ava DuVernay wrote and directed this biopic of journalist Isabel Wilkerson (Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor) as she embarks on an intellectual mission to understand racial and class inequality across the globe and history — connecting the grim realities of the Indian caste system, the global slave trade and the Jim Crow-era South, and the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany — for her acclaimed book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.

Past Lives

A24

Playwright Celine Song makes her directorial debut with this heartstring-tugging drama about two childhood sweethearts in South Korea who reunite decades later in New York City. Greta Lee and Teo Yoo play the pair, who navigate their complex emotions for each other in this touching film about cultural identity and fate. 

Poor Things

Emma Stone in Searchlight’s Poor Things

Emma Stone in Searchlight’s Poor Things.

Searchlight

Yorgos Lanthimos reunites with The Favourite’s Emma Stone for this twisted take on the Frankenstein tale. Stone plays a woman who is reanimated by a boundary-pushing scientist-slash-father figure (Willem Dafoe), only to be usurped by a debauched suitor (Mark Ruffalo) who takes the impressionable young woman on a tour of Europe. There she learns that the puritanical and patriarchal societies don’t square with her naive ideas of the world. 

Priscilla

A24

Fresh off the heels of last season’s best picture nominee Elvis comes Sofia Coppola’s adaptation of Elvis and Me, the memoir by the King of Rock ’n’ Roll’s wife, Priscilla Presley. Cailee Spaeny earned the Volpi Cup at Venice for her portrayal of the eponymous young woman whose life is turned upside down by the meteoric rise of her famous husband, played by Jacob Elordi. 

Rustin

Netflix

Colman Domingo stars as Civil Rights activist Bayard Rustin in George C. Wolfe’s emotional biopic of the social justice leader who helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, still one of the largest peaceful rallies to this day. Co-starring Chris Rock, Jeffrey Wright and Audra McDonald, the film depicts the often untold story of Rustin’s efforts alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and his hidden personal life as a gay man. 

Saltburn

MGM

Oscar-winning Promising Young Woman scribe Emerald Fennell returns with another explosive and provocative satire starring Oscar nominee Barry Keoghan as a young man who is invited by an Oxford schoolmate (Jacob Elordi) to spend a summer at his family’s posh English estate. But nothing is what it seems in this twisty thriller that takes inspiration from Gothic literature and is, as Fennell has described it, “Barry Lyndon meets indie sleaze.”

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse 

Sony

Four years after its predecessor took home the Oscar for best animated feature in 2019, this sequel to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse sees Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) embark on another metaverse-spanning adventure that introduces 280 variations of the Marvel superhero. Hailee Steinfeld, Jake Johnson, Mahershala Ali and Brian Tyree Henry also return, while Jason Schwartzman, Greta Lee, Issa Rae and Oscar Isaac join the cast with their voice talents.

The Taste of Things 

IFC Films

Tran Anh Hùng’s romantic drama — the French submission for international feature — stars Benoît Magimel as a French gourmand who shares a passion for French food with his dedicated chef Eugénie (Oscar winner Juliette Binoche), who has crafted dishes for her employer for years. As they enter middle age and reflect on their many years of kitchen collaborations, the pair’s romantic connection only grows stronger.

The Zone of Interest

A24

Writer-director Jonathan Glazer stripped away the fictional elements in Martin Amis’ 2014 novel set within the administration at Auschwitz, instead devoting screentime to the actual commandant at Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel), and his family as they attempt to live a blissful, carefree life just across the wall from where the worst atrocities of the Holocaust actually took place. 

This story first appeared in the Nov. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.