2025 Best Picture Preview | Awards Insights
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2025 Best Picture Preview

2025 Best Picture Preview

Last year, the Cannes Film Festival brought with it Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall and Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest, both of which became major Best Picture contenders and Oscar winners. This year’s Cannes is now finished and films like Jacques Audiard’s Emilia Perez and Sean Baker’s Anora have made a splash. Baker’s Anora won the Palme D’or and in my eyes it’s the type of film that will likely end up a top five Best Picture contender by the end of the year especially with a studio like Neon backing it. Netflix’s biggest contender this year is Emilia Perez, and with a long-acclaimed director overdue for Oscar recognition in Jacques Audiard and a Cannes-winning cast featuring Karla Sofia Gascon, Zoe Saldana, and Selena Gomez, this Spanish-language musical should be able to get in if campaigned well.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga played well at Cannes, its opening weekend box office in the United States was lackluster. There are four sequels/prequels that are major contenders this year and Warner Bros. is distributing three of them: Furiosa, Dune: Part Two, and Joker: Folie a Deux. Paramount is producing the fourth, Gladiator 2. There have only ever been two sequels/prequels nominated for Best Picture in the same year. The last time that happened is when Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of the Water were nominated two years ago. This year, Dune: Part Two is a sure thing for a nod and with Furiosa’s box office flounders, Gladiator 2 seems like the best bet to me even though Ridley Scott hasn’t delivered a Best Picture nominee since The Martian in 2016.

With the start of the Cannes Film Festival, the 2025 Oscar season begins almost 10 months before the actual ceremony in early March. This year, as always, looks to be an interesting one. Unlike last year, where I was able to predict just over half of the eventual Best Picture nominees in May, I expect the fall festivals to premiere some major contenders that aren’t currently on my radar.



(Films are ordered in terms of likelihood of getting a nomination)

Anora (NEON)

With a Metascore in the high 80s, a socially conscious message that deals with class, and Palme D’Or pedigree, Anora seems like a possible Best Picture winner for the wonderful Sean Baker. Distributor NEON has played the Palme-to-Best Picture game before with Parasite and while Sean Baker’s newest may not have the nearly the hype that film had, it’s still early in the year and as of right now Anora should pat itself on the back for being probably the (tied) safest lock for a nomination among this year’s slate. Expect big campaigns for Baker in Director and Screenplay and for Mikey Madison’s wonderful work in the titular role in Best Actress. Like NEON did with Parasite, this is going to play the fall festivals as well and don’t be surprised if this gets a top three slot at Toronto.


Dune Part Two (Warner Bros.)

The other locked Best Picture nominee of this year’s slate, Dune: Part Two is this year’s critically-acclaimed blockbuster pick. Like its precursor which won six Oscars back in 2022, expect this film to be an absolute juggernaut below-the-line. Visual Effects, Sound, Production Design, Cinematography, Makeup and Hairstyling, and Editing are all possibilities but fellow desert-set blockbuster Furiosa may likely take one or two of those. If there’s any year where we could see a Denis Villeneuve Director Oscar, this would be the year.


Blitz (Apple TV+)

Steve McQueen and Saoirse Ronan in a WW2-set drama? Sounds like a match made in Academy heaven. The Oscar winning director and four-time nominated actress are joined on this film by Stephen Graham and Harris Dickinson, both wonderful performers in their own right who could see their respective first nominations this year. Since it’s a 1940s set war film expect possible nominations in Editing, Production Design, Costume Design and Sound as well. This is the type of film that I could see premiering at Telluride or Venice and getting a top three slot at Toronto if it plays there.


Sing Sing (A24)

After Colman Domingo’s first nomination last year, does he have what it takes to win? Many think his work in Greg Kwedar’s Sing Sing is deserving. Him and Queer’s Daniel Craig seem to be the strongest contenders in the Actor category this year, yet sight-unseen, I think the Academy will be drawn to Domingo’s feel-good resilience as opposed to Craig’s complex and possibly unlikeable protagonist. Expect love for the film in Picture and Screenplay as well.


A Real Pain (Searchlight_

Searchlight is one of the most consistently successful distributors in the game and this year the centerpiece of their campaign is Jesse Eisenberg’s Sundance smash A Real Pain. Eisenberg won the Sundance screenplay award for his work on the film’s script so expect love for the screenplay as well as for Kieran Culkin’s knockout performance in a supporting role. I could see a world where this gets no other nominations outside of Original Screenplay and Culkin but I don’t see Searchlight not getting a film into the nominee slate.


Emilia Perez (Netflix)

A Spanish musical with a trans protagonist might seem too cool for the Academy on paper, but with an all-star cast of Zoe Saldana, Selena Gomez, Edgar Ramirez, and newcomer Karla Sofia Gascon, and “A Prophet”’s Jacques Audiard in the director’s chair, this film has the pedigree to make a big run this year. It’s also by far Netflix’s biggest Oscar contender this year and they usually have the ability to slide in 1 or 2 of their films into the Best Picture slate each year. Expect possible nominations for Gascon, Saldana, and maybe even Gomez. Adapted Screenplay, Director, Sound, and Editing are possibilities as well. 


Queer (N/A)

With Challengers, Luca Guadganino is hot off his most critically-acclaimed film since his Oscar-winning 2017 effort Call Me By Your Name. With Queer, Guadagnino hopes to continue that streak and could possibly even best the acclaim Challengers received. The film is based on a book by Beat Generation writer William S. Borroughs and stars Daniel Craig in a role that could very well see him earn his first Oscar nod. Justin Kuritzkes, who wrote the screenplay on Guadagnino’s Challengers as well, could be a screenplay contender for both films. Expect this film to premiere at Venice and make a splash when it does.


Nickel Boys (Amazon MGM)

Based on one of the most acclaimed novels of the last 10 years, Hale Country This Morning, This Evening filmmaker RaMell Ross will bring his realist humanist sensibilities to the Pulitzer prize-winning story of an abusive school and its students. Aunjanue Ellis, Daveed Diggs, Jimmie Fails, and Hamish Linklater form the supporting cast. Ellis seems poised for a Supporting Actress nod if she’s given a substantial enough role. Additionally, this seems like a no-brainer contender in Adapted Screenplay if it’s well-received, expect to see this at the fall festivals


Conclave (Focus)

On paper, a Robert Harris thriller doesn’t seem like a film tailor-made to get the Academy’s attention. I see this film most likely going the way of fellow Robert Harris adaptation The Ghost Writer (which was shut out at the Oscars) or fellow Peter Straughan screenplay Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (which received nominations in Actor, Adapted Screenplay, and Score). With Focus Features giving the Edward Berger-directed film a prime early November release date, I think this is more likely to go the way of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy than The Ghost Writer. ‘Soldier Spy’ was a top 12 Best Picture contender back in 2012 and I think there’s a pretty good chance Conclave will be as well. Ralph Fiennes should be an Actor contender like Oldman was in 2012 and don’t be surprised if Stanley Tucci or John Lithgow make it in as well. 


Gladiator 2 (Paramount)

This could be good. The cast is absolutely loaded, Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Paul Mescal are joining a cast that features Connie Nielsen, Joseph Quinn, and Derek Jacobi from the original Best Picture winning Gladiator. However, Ridley Scott hasn’t made a Best Picture-nominated film since The Martian in 2016 and it seems like he tries every other year. The Last Duel, Napoleon, House of Gucci, and All The Money in the World all seemed like attempts for Oscar attention but every one of them came up short and didn’t earn Best Picture nods. Gladiator 2 seems like the kind of big event picture that could change that. The film’s ceiling to me is Top Gun: Maverick (funnily enough, the original Top Gun was directed by Ridley’s brother, the late great Tony Scott), a popular blockbuster decades in the making that appeals to both the Academy’s old guard and younger cohort. Even if the film isn’t that popular, expect it to get nods in Costume Design and Production Design at the very least. Acting nominations are also a possibility here, with Mescal, Washington, and Pascal all being possible contenders. 


Could Jump In:

Didi (Focus)

The winner of the Audience Award at Sundance, Didi could follow in the footsteps of Minari and CODA and turn that Sundance win into a Best Picture nod. Focus is giving it a July 26 release date so either they don’t see it going past the Gothams and Spirits or they are playing the strategy Apple attempted with CODA back in 2022 when it won Best Picture as that film hit theaters August 13th. If the latter is the case and Focus is going to give Didi a proper campaign, expect nominations in Picture, Original Screenplay, and Supporting Actress for the legendary Joan Chen. 


Hard Truths (Bleecker Street)

Legendary English filmmaker Mike Leigh has been nominated for seven Oscars over two decades and yet has never won the coveted prize. His newest film reunites him with Marianne Jean-Baptiste, who starred in Leigh’s five-time Oscar nominated Secrets and Lies. If Hard Truths is amazing it can get nominated but amazing reviews are essential for this film’s nomination chances. If it gets great reviews, expect nominations in Picture, Actress for Jean-Baptiste, and Screenplay. Bleecker Street as the distributor gives me pause since they haven’t had a Picture nominee in years but if Hard Truths is amazingly received, the film will sell itself. Expect this film at Venice this year. 


Joker 2 (Warner Bros.)

Joker was the surprise Oscar smash of the 2020 season. After stunningly winning the Golden Lion at the 2019 Venice Film Festival, Joker went on to become a top 5 Picture contender, receiving 11 nominations and 2 wins. Will Joker 2 have the same kind of success? Star Joaquin Phoenix and director Todd Phillips are returning with Lady Gaga joining the film as Harley Quinn. The film is apparently a musical and with Emilia Perez seemingly more likely to get a Picture nod, I doubt two crime drama musicals will make the Best Picture slate. I also admittedly am not too confident lightning will strike twice with this franchise’s Oscar chances and am hesitant about predicting it for anything other than Makeup, Sound, and Costume Design.  


Furiosa (Warner Bros.)

The third of the Warner Bros. blockbusters that are follow-ups to films that were incredibly successful at the Oscars, Furiosa was initially one of my Best Picture predictions back in early May. However, after the film flopped at the box office, I think Warner Bros. will pivot all their intention to their other desert-based franchise film, Dune: Part Two. However, that doesn’t mean Furiosa will be shut out. Expect this film to be nominated in Sound, Visual Effects, Makeup and Hairstyling, Cinematography, Costume Design, Production Design, and maybe even Editing. 


The Seed of the Sacred Fig (NEON)

Neon clearly knows how to campaign Cannes films. Parasite, Triangle of Sadness, and Anatomy of a Fall were all Palme D’Or winners that were guided on their path to Best Picture nominations by the indie distributor. However, the distributor has not managed to deliver two nominees in the same year and with Anora being a possible Best Picture winner, that means that The Seed of the Sacred Fig could very easily be lost in the shuffle. Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof was arrested for criticizing the Iranian government for its crackdown on protestors. His film is a gripping crime thriller that tackles systemic gender discrimination in Iran and could receive a major campaign since there is absolutely no way Iran will be submitting it for International Feature. If the film receives as much attention as it should, I can see it getting a sole screenplay nod like fellow Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation did in 2012.


The Piano Lesson (Netflix)

The last two Denzel Washington-produced August Wilson adaptations Fences and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom received four and five Oscar nods respectively and three Oscar wins between them. Will The Piano Lesson have the same success? It doesn’t look like Netflix thinks so. They’ve opted for a July release with the film, indicating to me that they don’t see it as an awards player. It’s the debut feature of Malcolm Washington, Denzel’s 33 year old son. If it’s amazing, I could see this becoming Netflix’s top priority but for now I am not too optimistic about its chances, though acting (especially Danielle Deadwyler in her supporting role), screenplay, costume design, production design, and makeup and hairstyling are all possible nominations.


Challengers (Amazon MGM)

A contender for the best film of the first half of 2024, Challengers is a sexy sports thriller featuring electrifying performances from its central threesome of Zendaya, Josh O’Connor, and Mike Faist. While the film is loved by many, I don’t see it getting anything past a possible Screenplay nod or a nomination for one of its three stars. If anything, it’ll function best as a vehicle to show how amazing Luca Guadagnino has had when he’s on the campaign circuit for Queer.


The End (NEON)

The Act of Killing is one of the most acclaimed films of the past 15 years. It cemented Joshua Oppenheimer as someone to watch no matter what he comes out with next. His next film The End is being described as a Golden Age-style musical about the last human family. That logline sounds absolutely fascinating and from a filmmaker as ambitiously visionary as Oppenheimer, great things can be expected. However, little is known about the project and it may not even be released this year. With a cast including Tilda Swinton, Michael Shannon, Moses Ingram, and George MacKay, expect major things from this film when it eventually sees the light of day.


We Live in Time (A24)

Director John Crowley has had a career of ups and downs. While 2015’s Brooklyn was one of the most critically acclaimed films of its year and received three Oscar nominations including Best Picture, his 2019 follow up feature The Goldfinch starring Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman, and Jeffrey Wright was a bust and panned by critics and audiences alike. With his romance drama We Live In Time, Crowley hopes to bounce back and with a pair of phenomenal performers in Florence Pugh and Andrew Garfield, he may be able to do just that.


The Room Next Door (Sony Classics)

While his 2002 masterpiece Talk to Her won Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for Best Director, none of Pedro Almodovar’s films have been nominated for Best Picture. Almodovar’s films still remain popular with the Academy, his last two features Pain and Glory and Parallel Mothers both received acting nominations for their leading stars (Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz respectively). While The Room Next Door hasn’t been confirmed this year, it would be Almodovar’s first English-language film of his career. Starring Tilda Swinton, Julianne Moore, and John Turturro, this drama seems poised for acting and screenplay nominations once it comes out.


Maria (TBA)

Pablo Larrain’s last two English language films Jackie and Spencer earned Best Actress nominations for their respective leading ladies Natalie Portman and Kristen Stewart. With her performance as Maria Callas in Larrain’s newest, Angelina Jolie hopes to follow in Portman and Stewart’s footsteps. A nomination for her is pretty likely especially if the film and her performance are received well at Venice.


The Fire Inside (Amazon MGM)

While a sports drama directed by Black Panther cinematographer and written by Barry Jenkins sounds enticing on paper, I don’t see this film as being much more than a vehicle for a Brian Tyree Henry supporting nod. But who knows, maybe this film will play as well as King Richard did and become the inspirational true story sports drama that takes multiple above-the-line nods including Picture, acting, and screenplay.


All We Imagine as Light (Janus)

Payal Kapadia is one of my favorite filmmakers working today just from her debut The Night of Knowing Nothing about anti-caste protests in India. All We Imagine is Light is the highest-rated feature film on Metacritic of the year so far and while Kapadia’s film is likely too quiet for the Academy’s tastes, a Drive My Car-style groundswell campaign from the critics isn’t out of the realm of possibility.


Hand of Dante (TBA)

Julian Schnabel earned a surprise nomination for At Eternity’s Gate star Willem Dafoe back in 2019, can he do the same for Hand of Dante lead Oscar Isaac? While it is possible, Dafoe was also playing a known commodity in Vincent Van Gogh which undoubtedly helped him towards that nomination. However, Hand of Dante looks to be an especially ambitious film featuring names like Al Pacino, Gerard Butler, Martin Scorsese, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, and John Malkovich. Don’t count this film out and I’m excited to see how it’s received once it inevitably hits festivals.


His Three Daughters (Netflix)

Azazel Jacobs’ last feature French Exit was supposed to be an Oscar nod comeback vehicle for star Michelle Pfeiffer. That did not pan out and while Jacobs’ newest has much better reviews, I am still skeptical on Natasha Lyonne and Elisabeth Olsen’s chances for their work in film. While I think it’s possible that Lyonne specifically gets a Supporting Actress nod for her work in the film, I think it’s unlikely since the film seems too small. But if either of these actresses get big enough of a critics push, they can make it in come nominations morning.


Juror #2 (Warner Bros.)

Clint Eastwood has not been successful with the Academy with the last couple films he directed. However, Juror #2 is rumored to be the last film of his career and the Academy could choose to send off one of the most iconic figures in Hollywood history, for better or worse, with some sort of nomination. If the film is just OK, expect the film to get shut out completely, but if it’s good, we could see possible acting nominations for Eastwood in Lead Actor and Toni Collete in Supporting Actress.


Kinds of Kindness (Searchlight)

After the success of Poor Things last year, Yorgos Lanthimos is one of the hottest commodities in Hollywood. While Kinds of Kindness anthology format and good not great reviews will keep it from a Best Picture nomination, it could go the Ballad of Buster Scruggs route and surprise with a Screenplay nomination.


Mufasa: The Lion King

This movie wouldn’t be on anyone’s radar if it wasn’t for the participation of the one and only Barry Jenkins. The first live-action Lion King was limited to a Visual Effects nomination and Jenkins’ version is a contender in Animated Feature and Visual Effects. If acclaimed enough, the film may even be a possible winner in either of those categories and a possible nominee in a category like Sound.



Steve McQueen – Blitz

Denis Villenueve – Dune: Part Two

Luca Guadagnino – Queer

Sean Baker – Anora

Jacques Audiard – Emilia Perez

Could Jump In: Ridley Scott – Gladiator 2, Mike Leigh – Hard Truths, Joshua Oppenheimer – The End, RaMell Ross – Nickel Boys, Greg Kwedar – Sing Sing, Jesse Eisenberg – A Real Pain, Sean Wang – Didi, Yorgos Lanthimos – Kinds of Kindness, George Miller – Furiosa, Francis Ford Coppola – Megalopolis



Colman Domingo – Sing Sing

Daniel Craig – Queer

Ralph Fiennes – Conclave

Paul Mescal – Gladiator 2

Andrew Garfield – We Live in Time

Could Jump In: Jesse Eisenberg – A Real Pain, Joaquin Phoenix – Joker: Folie a Deux, Jesse Plemmons – Kinds of Kindness, Timothee Chalamet – Dune: Part Two, Oscar Isaac – Hand of Dante, Clint Eastwood – Juror#2



Saoirse Ronan – Blitz

Angelina Jolie – Maria

Mikey Madison – Anora

Marianne Jean-Baptiste – Hard Truths

Karla Sofia Gascon – Emilia Perez

Could Jump In: Tilda Swinton or Julianne Moore – The Room Next Door, Lady Gaga – Jolie: Folie a Deux



Kieran Culkin – A Real Pain

Clarence Maclin – Sing Sing

Denzel Washington – Gladiator 2

Stephen Graham – Blitz

Samuel L. Jackson – The Piano Lesson

Could Jump In: Pedro Pascal – Gladiator 2, Jeremy Strong – The Apprentice, Harris Dickinson – Blitz, Daveed Diggs – Nickel Boys, Brian Tyree Henry – The Fire Inside, Stanley Tucci – Conclave, John Lithgow – Conclave, Mike Faist – Challengers, Austin Butler – Dune: Part Two, John Turturro – The Room Next Door, Al Pacino – Hand of Dante



Aunjanue Ellis – Nickel Boys

Saoirse Ronan – Blitz (if supporting)

Zoe Saldana – Emilia Perez

Lesley Manville – Queer

Joan Chen – Didi

Could Jump In: Danielle Deadwyler – The Piano Lesson, Toni Colette – Juror #2, Selena Gomez – Emilia Perez, Maria Bakalova – The Apprentice, Emily Blunt – The Smashing Machine, Isabella Rossellini – Conclave, Natasha Lyonne – His Three Daughters





A Real Pain

Kinds of Kindness

Hard Truths

Could Jump In: Didi, The Seed of the Sacred Fig, The Room Next Door, The Fire Inside




Sing Sing

The Nickel Boys


The Piano Lesson

Could Jump In: Dune: Part Two, Emilia Perez, Gladiator 2



Inside Out 2

The Wild Robot

Mufasa: The Lion King

Wallace and Gromit: Vengeance Most Fowl


Could Jump In: Moana 2, Ultraman: Rising



Dune: Part Two

Gladiator 2



Nickel Boys

Could Jump In: Joker 2. Maria, Conclave, Emilia Perez



Dune: Part Two



Gladiator 2


Could Jump In: Maria, Emilia Perez, Nickel Boys



Dune: Part Two


Gladiator 2



Could Jump In: Wicked, Nosferatu, Joker 2, Nickel Boys



Dune: Part Two



Gladiator 2

Emilia Perez

Could Jump In: Conclave, Joker 2, The Fire Inside



Dune: Part Two



Joker 2


Could Jump In: Maria, Gladiator 2, Nickel Boys



Dune: Part Two



Gladiator 2

Joker 2

Could Jump In: Emilia Perez, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, Wicked



Dune: Part Two

Mufasa: The Lion King


Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes




Dune: Part Two

Gladiator 2


Mufasa: The Lion King


Could Jump In: Maria, Joker: Folie a Deux, Sing Sing, The Room Next Door, Challengers