Oscars: 44 Movies Vying for Best Picture, From Clint Eastwood's 'American Sniper' to Reese Witherspoon's 'Wild'

Illustration by: Masa

From a 6-year-old's daydreams (where 'Boyhood' starts) to the farthest reaches of outer space (which is where 'Interstellar' goes), no clear front-runner has materialized among the season's movies, with plenty of nail-biting to come as some of the biggest competitors hit at the holidays

This story first appeared in the Nov. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Everybody, on your marks, get set, go! The nearly four-months award marathon, which will culminate on Feb. 22 at the 87th Academy Awards, is just beginning. Of course, there will be plenty of important stops along the way, from the Golden Globes to the various guild celebrations. And the calendar keeps getting more crowded. This year, for example, the Casting Society of America will hold its annual Artios Awards in January for the first time — on Jan. 22 — so that casting directors, too, can weigh in as part of the conversation.

At the end of the day, who are the big winners likely to be? That's a wide-open question. The general consensus, post-Venice-Telluride-Toronto, is that this year is offering plenty of interesting performances, but no single movie has been hailed as the season's dominant frontrunner. And several of the most eagerly awaited movies — Unbroken, Angelina Jolie's World War II survival tale; Into the Woods, Rob Marshall's adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's fairy-tale fantasia; Big Eyes, Tim Burton's amused look at painters Margaret and Walter Keane; and American Sniper, Clint Eastwood's portrait of an American SEAL and his postwar struggles — have yet to be unveiled. In addition, there's a handful of dazzling animated movies, 134 fascinating documentaries and a record 83 foreign-language films that also will be entering the fray (all of which THR will be surveying in future issues). But now, it's time to head to the multiplex or pop in a screener and start considering all the contenders.

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AMERICAN SNIPER

Warner Bros.
RELEASE DATE Dec. 25
ITS CLAIM Four-time Oscar winner Clint Eastwood, who turned out the toe-tapping Jersey Boys (a possible Golden Globes musical contender) earlier this year, should find himself right in his wheelhouse, exploring violence and its aftermath (remember his 1992 Oscar-winning Unforgiven?) in his new drama starring Bradley Cooper.

BEGIN AGAIN

The Weinstein Co.
RELEASE DATE June 27
BOX OFFICE $62.9 million*
ITS CLAIM John Carney's last musical, 2006's Once, won a best song Oscar, and his new one, starring Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo, serves up several new tunes, including former New Radicals frontman Gregg Alexander's "Lost Stars."

BELLE

Fox Searchlight
RELEASE DATE May 2
BOX OFFICE $10.7 million domestic
ITS CLAIM If Jane Austen had confronted questions of race, the results might have looked like Amma Asante's charming period piece, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

BIG EYES

The Weinstein Co.
RELEASE DATE Dec. 25
ITS CLAIM Director Tim Burton knows how to capture eccentrics onscreen, and his current film focuses on the eccentric painter Margaret Keane (played by five-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams), the artist behind those 1960s wide-eyed waif portraits, and her husband, Walter (two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz).

BIRDMAN

Fox Searchlight
RELEASE DATE Oct. 17
BOX OFFICE $2.5 million domestic
ITS CLAIM Michael Keaton's comeback vehicle, directed by two-time Oscar nominee Alejandro G.Inarritu, about an aging actor's comeback attempt, should find a receptive audience among all the actors in town.

BLACK AND WHITE

Relativity
RELEASE DATE TBD
ITS CLAIM Kevin Costner stars in (and also produced) this domestic drama, which tackles the issue of race head-on as he and fellow Oscar winner Octavia Spencer find themselves on opposite sides of a custody battle.

BOYHOOD

IFC Films
RELEASE DATE July 11
BOX OFFICE $42.9 million
ITS CLAIM There has never been another film quite like it. Director RichardLinklater, his frequent collaborator Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette and newcomer Ellar Coltrane spent 12 years capturing the process by which a resilient young boy grows up to become a man. Talk about commitment.

CALVARY

Fox Searchlight
RELEASE DATE Aug. 1
BOX OFFICE $11 million
ITS CLAIM Veteran Irish actor Brendan Gleeson has earned praise for his portrayal in John Michael McDonagh's film of what it truly means to be a priest.

CHEF

Open Road
RELEASE DATE May 9
BOX OFFICE $46 million
ITS CLAIM Star-director Jon Favreau, taking a break from such big-budget fare as the Iron Man movies, dished up this feel-good comedy set in the world of food trucks, which was a surprise hit this summer. Plus, the food onscreen looked so good, it made you forget your popcorn.

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DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

Fox
RELEASE DATE July 11
BOX OFFICE $707.4 million
ITS CLAIM Its fans insisted that the film's CG-created apes were more expressive than the humans who appeared onscreen in Matt Reeves' sequel to the 2011 film — and Andy Serkis gets lots of credit for bringing Caesar the ape to life.

ESCOBAR: PARADISE LOST

Radius-TWC
RELEASE DATE Nov. 22
ITS CLAIM Benicio del Toro could make a bid for best supporting actor for his performance as the Colombian drug lord of the film's title.

EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS

Fox
RELEASE DATE Dec. 12
ITS CLAIM Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 version of Moses' story, starring Charlton Heston, got seven Oscar noms and one win (for special effects). Let's see if Ridley Scott and Christian Bale can up the ante.

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

Fox
RELEASE DATE June 6
BOX OFFICE $303.3 million
ITS CLAIM Shailene Woodley (a Golden Globe nominee for 2011's The Descendants) plays a cancer-stricken teen confronting both love and death in Josh Boone's weepie.

FOXCATCHER

Sony Pictures Classics
RELEASE DATE Nov. 14
ITS CLAIM Ever since its debut at Cannes, Bennett Miller's strange-but-true tale of a U.S. Olympic wrestler and his sponsor has been earning kudos for its writers, director and actors Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo.

FURY

Sony
RELEASE DATE Oct. 17
BOX OFFICE $66.5 million
ITS CLAIM David Ayer's World War II pic, which stars Brad Pitt as a tank commander facing one last battle, has opened to appreciative reviews.

THE GAMBLER

Paramount
RELEASE DATE Dec. 19
ITS CLAIM Mark Wahlberg got lots of screen time in Transformers: Age of Extinction (sure to figure in the visual effects race), but he'll be showing off his acting chops in this Rupert Wyatt-directed drama about a professor with a gambling problem.

GET ON UP

Universal
RELEASE DATE Aug. 1
BOX OFFICE $31.8 million
ITS CLAIM Chadwick Boseman convincingly embodied James Brown in Tate Taylor's musical drama — and now has been tapped to star in Marvel's Black Panther.

GONE GIRL

Fox
RELEASE DATE Oct. 3
BOX OFFICE $254.9 million
ITS CLAIM David Fincher (who has two directing Oscar noms) gives new meaning to the battle of the sexes in his latest film, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike and based on Gillian Flynn's best-seller.

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

Fox Searchlight
RELEASE DATE March 7
BOX OFFICE $172.7 million
ITS CLAIM Director Wes Anderson, who has earned a couple of screenplay Oscar noms, is enjoying his biggest hit to date with this Mittel-European confection, presided over by Ralph Fiennes.

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THE HOBBIT: BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES

Warner Bros.
RELEASE DATE Dec. 17
ITS CLAIM Peter Jackson's second trilogy based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkein hasn't enjoyed the same Oscar love as his The Lord of the Rings saga, though last year's second Hobbit installment pulled in three crafts noms. With the story coming to an end, now's the time for awards groups to take another look.

THE HOMESMAN

Roadside Attractions
RELEASE DATE Nov. 14
ITS CLAIM Tommy Lee Jones, working both in front of and behind the camera, has turned out something of a feminist Western; Hilary Swank, as a pioneer woman, displays real true grit.

THE IMITATION GAME

The Weinstein Co.
RELEASE DATE Nov. 28
ITS CLAIM It has all the markings of an awards darling (see page 92): An impeccably-produced British period piece, starring red-hot leading man Benedict Cumberbatch and helmed by rising director MortenTyldum, who is just getting his due.

INHERENT VICE

Warner Bros.
RELEASE DATE Dec. 12
ITS CLAIM A Paul Thomas Anderson movies is always an event, and this one, starring Joaquin Phoenix, is the first screen adaptation of a novel by the reclusive Thomas Pynchon. So what if you can't follow the plot?

INTERSTELLAR

Paramount
RELEASE DATE Nov. 5
ITS CLAIM Christopher Nolan's highly anticipated space epic featuring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain and state-of-the-art visuals already is being hotly debated — and it never hurts to be talked about.

INTO THE WOODS

Disney
RELEASE DATE Dec. 25
ITS CLAIM The star-studded cast of this Stephen Sondheim musical adaptation from Chicago director Rob Marshall includes Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Anna Kendrick and Emily Blunt, as well as relative newcomer James Corden (who'll take over for Craig Ferguson on CBS' Late Late Show in 2015). Let's see if they all get their wish in this fractured fairy tale.

THE JUDGE

Warner Bros.
RELEASE DATE Oct. 10
BOX OFFICE $55.1 million
ITS CLAIM Voters could find Robert Duvall hard to resist as the movie's titular character — he's got six Oscar noms and one win for Tender Mercies — as he presides over this courtroom family drama starring Robert Downey Jr. and directed by David Dobkin.

LOCKE

A24
RELEASE DATE April 25
BOX OFFICE $1.4 million
ITS CLAIM Tom Hardy's performance in Steven Knight's film — the actor spends virtually all of the movie's 85 minutes alone behind the wheel of a BMW — was hailed as a tour de force as it traveled from Venice to Sundance.

LOVE IS STRANGE

Sony Pictures Classics
RELEASE DATE Aug. 22
BOX OFFICE $2.2 million domestic
ITS CLAIM As same-sex marriage laws take root across the country, Ira Sachs' film couldn't be more timely, while John Lithgow and Alfred Molina's poignant portrait of a longtime couple couldn't be more timeless.

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MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT

Sony Pictures Classics
RELEASE DATE July 25 BOX OFFICE $26.7 million
ITS CLAIM Set in the South of France, this Colin Firth-Emma Stone starrer is one of Woody Allen's lighter escapades, but with 24 Oscar noms and four wins, Allen is a perennial player.

MALEFICENT

Disney
RELEASE DATE May 30
BOX OFFICE $757.5 million
ITS CLAIM One of the year's top-grossers, this reimagined fairy tale, directed by Robert Stromberg from Linda Woolverton's script, is sure to figure in the crafts categories. It also provides Angelina Jolie the opportunity to deliver a true star turn. Hey, if Johnny Depp can be nominated for playing Captain Jack, why not Angelina for Maleficent?

A MOST VIOLENT YEAR

A24
RELEASE DATE Dec. 31
ITS CLAIM Writer-director J.C. Chandor, who established himself as a director to watch with Margin Call and All Is Lost, ponders the corruption of the American dream in his new drama, starring JessicaChastain and Oscar Isaac.

MR. TURNER

Sony Pictures Classics
RELEASE DATE Dec. 19
ITS CLAIM Mike Leigh's biopic of the British painter screened in competition in May at Cannes, where it earned Timothy Spall, who plays the ornery artist, the best actor prize. Cinematographer Dick Pope also was recognized. Leigh has been an Academy favorite in the past, and here he unfurls one of his largest canvases.

NIGHTCRAWLER

Open Road
RELEASE DATE Oct. 31
ITS CLAIM Dan Gilroy's gritty look at Los Angeles' underbelly is proving a real acting showcase for Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays a freelance video shooter.

NOAH

Paramount
RELEASE DATE March 28
BOX OFFICE $359.2 million
ITS CLAIM Darren Aronofsky, in his first movie since 2010's Black Swan, brought a vision all his own to this retelling of the Bible story, with a very prophetic Russell Crowe in the lead role.

SELMA

Paramount
RELEASE DATE Dec. 25
ITS CLAIM Ava DuVernay's look at Martin Luther King Jr., played by David Oyelowo, is still under wraps, but the subject matter and a high-profile cast that includes Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth and Dylan Baker guarantee year-end attention.

THE SKELETON TWINS

Roadside Attractions
RELEASE DATE Sept. 12
BOX OFFICE $5 million domestic
ITS CLAIM This is no Saturday Night Live skit. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig instead impressed with their portrayal of two emotionally unstable siblings in Craig Johnson's warmhearted film.

ST. VINCENT

The Weinstein Co.
RELEASE DATE Oct. 10
BOX OFFICE $11.6 million
ITS CLAIM Bill Murray, who was Oscar nominated for 2003's Lost in Translation, is enjoyably irascible in Theodore Melfi's movie.

STILL ALICE

Sony Pictures Classics
RELEASE DATE Dec. 31
ITS CLAIM Julianne Moore won best actress in Cannes for her end-of-her-ropes actress in Maps to the Stars and has been earning praise for her role as an academic diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's in Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland's drama, which premiered in Toronto.

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING

Focus Features
RELEASE DATE Nov. 7
ITS CLAIM Like Imitation Game, it has all the markings of an awards darling: An impeccably produced British period piece, starring hot young star Eddie Redmayne and helmed by Oscar-winning documentary director James Marsh, who is moving into features. Bonus points: Stephen Hawking likes it.

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TOP FIVE

Paramount
RELEASE DATE Dec. 12
ITS CLAIM Writing, directing and starring, Chris Rock (who sat down for "The Writer Roundtable") proves to be a triple threat in this uproarious comedy about a comic trying to tread the straight and narrow.

TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT

IFC Films
RELEASE DATE Dec. 24
ITS CLAIM Marion Cotillard proved she can charm the Academy, even with a foreign-language performance, winning best actress for 2007's La Vie en Rose. Here she plays a worker trying to save her job in the latest from Belgium's Dardenne brothers.

UNBROKEN

Universal Pictures
RELEASE DATE Dec. 25
ITS CLAIM For her second narrative feature as director, Angelina Jolie is adapting Seabiscuit author Laura Hillebrand's inspirational biography of Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini , who survived a plane crash in the Pacific during World War II (and died July 2 at age 97).

WHIPLASH

Sony Pictures Classics
RELEASE
DATE Oct. 10
BOX OFFICE $1.1 million
ITS CLAIM The Sundance Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize winner from Damien Chazelle stars Miles Teller as a music student and J.K. Simmons as his mentor in a gripping battle of talent and will.

WILD

Fox Searchlight
RELEASE DATE Dec. 5
ITS CLAIM Jean-Marc Vallee takes Reese Witherspoon outside of her comfort zone in Nick Hornby's adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's best-seller about a woman facing down the elements as well as her own demons.

*Worldwide grosses as of Oct. 30 unless otherwise noted.

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