As one Oscar season ends, another begins. We’re three months into 2022, so it’s time for our way-too-early Oscar predictions for 2022. It’s never too soon to dive into the potential contenders for the year and analyze how they might factor into the race. Of course, being nearly a full year until the Oscars, think of this more as a guide of films to keep an eye on rather than legitimate predictions. Still, it’s always fun to see how close we could get this far out. Check out our early 2021 predictions here.
Before listing my official predictions, please take a look at the dozens of contenders we’re keeping an eye on as we journey toward the 95th Academy Awards. Remember that plenty of films are not yet on our radar this far out. For instance, I anticipate at least one non-English language film in the eventual Best Picture lineup, but it’s more challenging to know what those contenders are at this point. The same goes for smaller independent films from newer filmmakers that will hopefully break out at the fall festivals. Still, there are several films from established filmmakers competing for awards this year, and these are just some of the films we’ll anticipate along the way.
“Armageddon Time” made this list last year but was pushed to 2022. A year later and little more is known about the project. James Gray is the sort of director who seems like he would’ve received several Oscar nominations at this point. Instead, the critically acclaimed filmmaker’s movies have only garnered a single nomination, “Ad Astra” for Best Sound Mixing. “Armageddon Time” is a coming-of-age film based on Gray’s childhood experiences in Queens in the 1980s, and the cast is stacked with Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins & Jeremy Strong. There are lots of questions, but Gray is bound to break into the Oscar race at some point, so perhaps this will be the project to do it.
Though “The French Dispatch” was a no-show at this year’s Oscars, Wes Anderson is getting right back in the mix with “Asteroid City.” This romantic comedy-drama features the director’s largest ensemble yet, featuring, but not limited to, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Tom Hanks, Adrien Brody, Margot Robbie, Bryan Cranston, Scarlett Johansson, and more. Little is known about the plot, but it’s sure to be a top-tier contender in the craft categories at a minimum. Will it snag nominations or zero out as his last film did? It’s safer to bet on Anderson than against him.
Let’s be clear: you can carve a permanent spot for “Avatar 2” in most of the craft categories right now. They might as well start engraving the Best Visual Effects Oscar for the team next year. But techs aside, will “Avatar 2” compete in the above-the-line categories as its predecessor did? It’s a fascinating question at this time as the film is currently sight unseen with not even a trailer to show for all of the work Cameron and his crew are putting in. “Avatar” was a cultural phenomenon, so much so that it feels like people are trying to rewrite history for how people felt about the film when it was first released. But times certainly have changed, and the narrative about the first film has shifted so drastically that the sequel has a lot to prove thirteen years later. If anyone could live up to that pressure, it’s James Cameron. Doubt him at your peril, even if there are plenty of reasons to do so.
Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” brought the director into a rarified space, making him the youngest winner of the Best Director Oscar and a certified name brand in Hollywood. His last three films received numerous Oscar nominations, and each won at least a single Academy Award. His previous love letter to Los Angeles came close to a Best Picture win, and he’ll return there with “Babylon,” the wild and true story of 1920s Hollywood. Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt lead the enormous cast, including Samara Weaving, Li Jun Li, Tobey Maguire, Katherine Waterson, Max Minghella, Olivia Wilde, Jean Smart, Spike Jonze, Lukas Haas, and many more. On paper, this should easily garner double-digit nominations and can’t be ignored in predictions this far out.
Release Date: December 25th, 2022
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design & Best Production Design
THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN
Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson paired together with director Martin McDonagh for one of the best dark comedies of the century in the Oscar-nominated “In Bruges.” This year, the trio reunites with “The Banshees of Inisherin,” alongside Barry Keoghan and Kerry Condon. Only a vague plot description is known for the film: alarming consequences arise following a fallout between two friends. Regardless, it’s about time that Farrell received his first Oscar nomination, and this could be the year to do it, considering the acclaim he’s already received for “After Yang” and “The Batman.” It came close to happening for “In Bruges,” so re-teaming with McDonagh could get Farrell across that threshold now that McDonagh’s in the club following the success of his Oscar-winning film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”
Alejandro González Iñárritu has taken his time coming back to features after back-to-back Best Director wins for “Birdman” and “The Revenant.” While little is known about the Spanish-language movie, it could be Mexico’s Oscar submission this year. Ińárritu’s films always prioritize crafts, and cinematographer Darius Khondji could receive his long-overdue second Best Cinematography nomination for the film.
David O. Russell has endured waves of controversy over the last decade. While his previous four films were hits with the Academy, the director hasn’t made a film since the #MeToo movement and the fall of the Weinsteins. Still, Russell has assembled a remarkable cast for his latest project, rumored to be titled “Canterbury Glass.” Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Zoe Saldana, Rami Malek, Robert De Niro, Michael Shannon, John David Washington, and more will bring this mysterious project to life. Not much is known about the film, but we can’t deny Russell’s hot streak with the Academy in the 2010s. He had three consecutive Best Picture nominees and twelve acting nominations. His latest film is sure to attract awards attention unless it gets completely demolished by the press.
Ari Aster isn’t the most Academy-friendly filmmaker on this list, but perhaps his latest project could change that. After “Hereditary” and “Midsommar,” Aster’s “Disappointment Blvd.” could bring him his first recognition from the Academy. The only plot description we have describes “a decades-spanning portrait of one of the most successful entrepreneurs of all time.” While the genre is unknown, it doesn’t inherently sound like a horror film in the same vein as his first two films. With Joaquin Phoenix, Nathan Lane, Patti Lupone, Amy Ryan, and more, Aster’s third film has a lot working in its favor.
DON’T WORRY DARLING
After bursting onto the scene with “Booksmart,” Olivia Wilde made herself known as a force behind a camera. Her next directorial feature, “Don’t Worry Darling,” could find the attention of the Academy considering how close she came with her last film to a Best Original Screenplay nomination. This psychological thriller stars Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine, and Wilde herself. “Don’t Worry Darling” will be skipping the fall festivals, instead debuting on September 23rd. Does Warner Bros. not see this film as a contender? The genre isn’t inherently awards baity, so perhaps the studio sees more potential elsewhere. Alternatively, maybe they just want to get a head start on the season? September release dates haven’t found success at the Oscars in years, but “CODA” managed to do well with an August release date. We’ll have to keep an eye on this one.
EMPIRE OF LIGHT
Sam Mendes came within arms reach of his second Best Director, and Best Picture wins with “1917.” Now he’ll return with “Empire of Light,” a love story set in an English coastal cinema in the 1980s. The Academy is often a sucker for movies about movies, and Mendes has assembled a baity team for this one. Olivia Colman, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, and Michael Ward will star, and “1917’s” cinematographer Roger Deakins and composer Thomas Newman have re-teamed with Mendes. It’s about time Newman got his internet groundswell started for his first Oscar win, and this could be the perfect film to do it.
EVERYTHING EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE
Before the release of “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” I would never have believed it would be in contention for awards. Now, after experiencing it and seeing the massive critical acclaim, it’s possible that the film could contend in a few categories. This is far from the typical Oscars fare, but we’ve seen this new and ever-growing Academy open up their taste in recent years; Daniels’ film could win over voters. A24 will put up a strong Best Actress campaign for Michelle Yeoh, who has received raves for her performance. She has a solid overdue narrative that will generate lots of buzz. I fear that she’ll run a similar course to Lupita Nyong’o for “Us” a few years ago, where she’ll be the critics’ pick but fail to score a nomination in the end, but we’ll see. In the craft categories, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” features mind-blowing editing and cinematography, and critics could keep this in the conversation all year. Elsewhere, Ke Huay Quan is sure to find support across the season, as will the brilliant screenplay, visual effects, and even the production design. I’m not getting my hopes up too high, but seeing this magnificent piece of filmmaking recognized would be a fantastic choice.
Fresh off of his latest Oscar-winning endeavor, “West Side Story,” Steven Spielberg brings us one of his most personal projects to date. “The Fabelmans” is inspired by Spielberg’s upbringing in Arizona. Tony Kushner co-wrote this coming-of-age story alongside Spielberg in one of his rare screenplay credits. There’s plenty to look forward to with a cast that includes Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, and newcomer Gabriel LaBelle. I’m hoping that Dano finally gets the recognition he deserves and receives his first nomination. Regardless, any new Spielberg project is worth anticipating.
I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY
Kasi Lemmons found biopic success with “Harriet,” earning Cynthia Erivo nominations for Best Actress and Best Original Song. She returns for another film about a legendary woman with “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” starring Naomi Ackie as Whitney Houston. This is the definition of an awards-friendly role, as is Ashton Sanders’ part as Bobby Brown. Will this snag nominations like “Harriet” or zero out like “Respect” did this year? Audiences are growing skeptical of formulaic biopics while the Academy keeps nominating them. Where will Lemmons’ film fall?
David Fincher is one of the most overdue directors working today. His films aren’t often traditional Oscar fare, and his latest film is no different despite it being in a genre he excels in. “The Killer,” starring Michael Fassbender and Tilda Swinton, follows an assassin who begins to crack as he develops a conscience. Returning to Netflix along with his Oscar-winning cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt, there’s a chance this doesn’t drop in time for this year’s awards. While Fincher’s dark storytelling doesn’t always garner awards attention, it always demands a spot on this list, especially with the might of Netflix behind it.
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON
If Martin Scorsese has a film in the mix, Oscar buzz is guaranteed. “Killers of the Flower Moon” follows an F.B.I. investigation of a series of murders among the members of the Osage tribe in Oklahoma in the 1920s. Based on the best-selling non-fiction book of the same name, this promises a thrilling western from one of the all-time greats. Scorsese is reuniting with his two greatest collaborators, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, along with Lily Gladstone, Brendan Fraser, and more. After scoring his first Oscar nomination this year for “The Power of the Dog,” Jesse Plemmons has plenty of goodwill to return to the Oscars this year in the Best Actor category. The discourse around “Killers of the Flower Moon” will likely be rough, as it’s a story surrounding the Native American community directed by a white man, but Scorsese is no stranger to controversy. This year, Apple TV+ ran a phenomenal campaign with “CODA,” so the new studio could bring Scorsese another Best Picture win with a film like this on their slate.
Release Date: November 2022
Oscar Potential: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing & Best Production Design
NEXT GOAL WINS
Taika Waititi might be the busiest working director in Hollywood. While filming “Thor: Love and Thunder,” he’s also putting the finishing touches on “Next Goal Wins.” Starring Michael Fassbender as football (soccer) coach, Thomas Rongen must turn the American Samoa team into an elite squad. Fassbender stars alongside Elisabeth Moss and Will Arnett, who re-filmed Armie Hammer’s role. Waititi tackling a “Cool Runnings” sort of story sounds like it could be a total crowdpleaser, and I’m here for it.
While his sophomore effort “Us” didn’t bring Jordan Peele back to the Oscars, “Nope” could recapture the incredible success of “Get Out.” Starring Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, and Daniel Kaluuya in his first post-Oscar-winning role since “Judas And The Black Messiah,” “Nope” centers on a mysterious event in an isolated town in California. After his first film, Peele launched into the rarified air of directors whose films can be marketed solely on their name alone. That doesn’t always translate into awards success, which is rare for the horror genre regardless, but “Nope” is sure to light up the box office this summer.
“Poor Things” sounds like a perfect fit for Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster“), which is to say, it sounds off the wall crazy. Emma Stone stars as Belle Baxter, a woman who drowns herself to escape her abusive husband (Willem Dafoe). Her husband then replaces her brain with that of her unborn child. Also starring Ramy Youssef, Mark Ruffalo, and Margaret Qualley, this sounds like a wild and weird tale that only Lanthimos could bring to the screen. “The Favourite” was a perfect blend of his sensibilities with more high-brow elements that appealed to the Academy. Will “Poor Things” be able to do the same? Or will it be too dark and challenging for the Academy like “The Killing Of A Sacred Deer?”
George C. Wolfe (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom“) and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”) are teaming up to bring the life of gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin to the screen. Not much is known about what the film will cover, whether it’s a cradle-to-grave biopic or a specific time period. Regardless, Rustin is a legendary figure of the 20th century and organized the 1963 March on Washington. Colman Domingo will portray Rustin and is joined by Jeffrey Wright, Audra McDonald, Chris Rock, and more. Domingo’s profile has been rising rapidly, and if this film hits, he could easily find himself earning his first Oscar nomination.
The long-overdue takedown of Harvey Weinstein created a seismic impact in the industry. We’ve already had Oscar films made from the ripple effects of Weinstein’s downfall, such as “Promising Young Woman,” but “She Said” will tackle that story directly. Maria Schrader, fresh off of “Unorthodox” and Oscar-shortlisted “I’m Your Man,” directs the true story of journalists Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) and Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) as they work to expose Weinstein’s allegations of sexual assault. “Spotlight” and “Bombshell” have received awards attention for similarly themed stories, among others, but it’s a tricky balance to avoid cliches in movies about journalist investigations. For now, I think this can work.
After a last-minute surge, “The Father” was the likely runner-up for Best Picture in 2020, earning two Oscar wins in the process for Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. Florian Zeller returns this year with “The Son,” not a sequel but part of an anthology following the same themes as “The Father.” With Hugh Jackman leading the film, alongside Laura Dern, Vanessa Kirby, Anthony Hopkins, and newcomer Zen McGrath, there’s plenty of pedigree on the project worth getting excited about. I’m hesitant to predict “The Son” to repeat the same high-level success as “The Father,” but we need to keep an eye on it.
Few writer-directors have as excellent a track record as Todd Field. “In The Bedroom” snagged five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. “Little Children” also scored three nominations, two for acting and one for Adapted Screenplay. Now, Field returns after 16 years with his latest project, “TÁR.” Cate Blanchett plays a composer named Lydia Tár, who is days away from conducting the symphony that will change her life. This music-centric film will feature a score from Oscar-winner Hildur Guðnadóttir (“Joker“), which could pair nicely with Field’s expressive, dark style. Blanchett already has two Oscars on her shelf, but this movie seems destined for a leading actress nomination and a big comeback for Field.
THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING
Also returning from a recent Oscar success story is George Miller. Though Miller’s had a spotty track record with the Academy, his previous film, “Mad Max: Fury Road,” is one of the greatest unexpected successes at the Academy Awards. Expectations are high for his next movie, “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” which will have its world premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Described as an epic fantasy romance, “Three Thousand Years of Longing” stars Idris Elba as a Djinn (a genie) who encounters a woman (Tilda Swinton), offering her three wishes in exchange for his freedom. The Cannes premiere suggests a potential sign of confidence in the film; however, this is a high-concept and far from typical awards fare, but if anyone can make it work, it’s Miller. Elba’s long overdue for Oscar attention, so if nothing else, let’s hope this can get him his first nomination.
We are officially in the midst of the Brendan Fraser renaissance (hereby known as the “Brenaissance”). In addition to appearing in Scorsese’s latest, he’ll have a meaty lead role in “The Whale,” Darren Aronofsky’s next film following the divisive “mother!.” He’ll play a 600-pound man seeking to reconnect with his 17-year-old daughter (Sadie Sink) after he abandoned his family for his gay lover. There’s so much for Fraser to play with here, and it wouldn’t be shocking for him to snag a first Oscar nomination for the role. Will it be a lone acting play or an all-around contender? Only time will tell, but it’s one to watch.
THE WOMAN KING
Featuring one of the most badass stories of the year, “The Woman King” could be a hit with audiences and the awards circuit. The film follows Nanisca (Viola Davis), the general of the all-female military regiment of Dahomey Amazons, in their fight against enemies who seek to enslave their people. Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Love And Basketball,” “Beyond The Lights,” & “The Old Guard“) has found little awards success, but she’s a consistent filmmaker who could break through with the right material. And who doesn’t want to see Viola Davis as a warrior?
Based on Don DeLillo’s breakout novel, “White Noise” is Noah Baumbach’s first directorial effort to adapt a previous work. After the critical acclaim and awards success of “Marriage Story,” expectations are high for his follow-up, and he’ll be teaming up with Netflix yet again for this one. Adam Driver will return to star, alongside Baumbach’s partner Greta Gerwig. This is Gerwig’s first live-action acting role since becoming one of the most heralded filmmakers of her generation. If the Academy is as ready to nominate Gerwig for an acting performance as they have with her directorial efforts, she could be looking at her first acting nomination.
With Sarah Polley behind the camera and Frances McDormand leading the cast, there’s no way we can ignore “Women Talking.” The film follows a group of Mennonite women conducting a secret meeting amongst themselves after being repeatedly drugged and raped. McDormand is joined by Jessie Buckley, Ben Whishaw, Rooney Mara, and Claire Foy. The material fits Polley’s understated, thoughtful writing style and could easily bring her back to the Oscars since “Away From Her” in 2006.
Other Potential Contenders:
“APOLLO 10 ½” – Richard Linklater’s latest film, “Apollo 10½,” is unlikely to match the run of “Boyhood,” but it could still contend in Best Animated Feature.
“BARBIE” – I’m not entirely sure what to do with this wild anomaly of a film. Still, with Oscar nominee Greta Gerwig at the helm and the rest of the talent enlisted, led by Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, it’s absolutely got Oscar potential. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it will release this year, but if it does, Gerwig could continue her Oscar streak from “Lady Bird” and “Little Women.”
“THE BATMAN” – Recent Oscar winner Greig Fraser may be back in the Best Cinematography race for Matt Reeves’ acclaimed box-office hit, “The Batman.” The score, production design, makeup, and more are all on the table with this iconic franchise that the Academy loves.
“BONES & ALL” – Luca Guadagnino re-teams with Timothée Chalamet for a romantic horror film, co-starring Taylor Russell as a woman compelled to eat those who love her. This could be a blend of “Call Me By Your Name” and “Suspiria,” but might not be to the Academy’s taste.
“BROKER” – Hirokazu Kore-eda returns to Cannes this year with a film about a “baby box,” where people can drop off babies anonymously. After the success of “Shoplifters,” it’s feasible that Kore-eda would be the latest non-English language director to score significant nominations in categories such as Best Director and Screenplay.
“THE BRUTALIST” – After the wild ride of “Vox Lux,” Brady Corbet returns with a decades-spanning film about an architect. Starring Joel Egerton, Sebastian Stan, Vanessa Kirby, Mark Rylance, and more, this has an exciting amount of potential.
“CHA CHA REAL SMOOTH” – Breaking out at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Cooper Raiff’s brilliantly heartfelt and funny coming of age film, “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” may find a path to awards success like “CODA,” though a screenplay nomination is likely the best it could hope for.
“ELVIS” – Baz Luhrmann’s films are sure to land a few craft nominations, but the trailer doesn’t indicate it can break into acting categories, despite having Tom Hanks as a villain and a breakout role for Austin Butler. We’ll know more when the film premieres at Cannes in May.
“KNIVES OUT 2” – After scoring a Best Original Screenplay nomination for “Knives Out,” it’s possible, though unlikely, Rian Johnson’s sequel could repeat or excel with the Academy.
“MEN” – Alex Garland’s unique brand of elevated horror-sci-fi feels destined to break into the awards race at some point, considering his directorial debut “Ex Machina” won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects and was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. Perhaps this film, starring Jessie Buckley, could be the one to bring him back?
“RED, WHITE, AND WATER” – Lila Neugebauer’s feature debut has a stacked cast, including Jennifer Lawrence, and could be a significant player. This featured on our list last year, but much is still unknown about the project.
“SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE” – It’s all but guaranteed a Best Animated Feature nomination, but could this Spider-Man sequel compete in other categories? It’s worth keeping an eye on, considering how much love there is for “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.”
“SPACEMAN” – Adam Sandler is trying again for an Oscar nomination with this sci-fi drama after he was overlooked by the Academy for his career-best performance in “Uncut Gems,” alongside Paul Dano and Carey Mulligan. Directed by Johan Renck (“Downloading Nancy”), this project could work, but I need to see more before I actually believe it.
“TURNING RED” – “Turning Red” has stirred up a ridiculous amount of controversy, but Pixar rarely misses in the Best Animated Feature race. It certainly has the reviews and passion to back it up all year long, just as “Onward” and “Luca” did, but could it also contend for Best Original Song for the supremely catchy “Nobody Like U” from new Oscar winners Billie Eilish and FINNEAS? We’ll see
Without further adieu, take a look at my first official predictions for the 95th Academy Awards in the top six categories: Best Picture, Best Director, and all four acting categories. There are plenty of high-profile filmmakers and performers battling for just a few spots. Some of these films are bound to fall by the wayside, and there’s a perfect opportunity for smaller, lesser-known filmmakers or independent films to break in.
The predictions are listed in alphabetical order.
“The Banshees of Inisherin”
“Killers of the Flower Moon”
“Next Goal Wins”
“Three Thousand Years of Longing”
James Cameron – “Avatar 2”
Damien Chazelle – “Babylon”
Sarah Polley – “Women Talking”
Martin Scorsese – “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Steven Spielberg – “The Fabelmans”
Cate Blanchett – “TÁR”
Naomi Ackie – “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”
Greta Gerwig – “White Noise”
Zoe Kazan – “She Said”
Frances McDormand – “Women Talking”
Idris Elba – “Three Thousand Years of Longing”
Colin Farrell – “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Brendan Fraser – “The Whale”
Hugh Jackman – “The Son”
Jesse Plemmons – “Killers of the Flower Moon”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jessie Buckley – “Women Talking”
Lily Gladstone – “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Carey Mulligan – “She Said”
Anya Taylor-Joy – “Canterbury Glass”
Michelle Williams – “The Fabelmans”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Paul Dano – “The Fabelmans”
Willem Dafoe – “Poor Things”
Leonardo DiCaprio – “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Ashton Sanders – “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”
Ben Whishaw – “Women Talking”
Which Oscar contenders are on your radar for 2022? Are there any we missed? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or over on our Twitter account.
You can follow Daniel and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @howatdk