Analyzing the SAG Awards' Best Ensemble Contenders

9:30 AM 11/17/2017

by Scott Feinberg

The awards' top prize highlights a group acting effort. Here are 17 films hoping to take the team trophy — and the pros and cons for each.

'Molly's Game' and 'The Florida Project'
'Molly's Game' and 'The Florida Project'
Michael Gibson/STX; Courtesy of A24

This story first appeared in a November stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

  • The Big Sick

    Amazon/Lionsgate

    Courtesy of Lionsgate

    PROS A feel-good movie in a dark year, it pairs exciting rising talent (Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan) with beloved pros (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter). Another Judd Apatow-produced pic, Bridesmaids, scored a nom six years ago.

    CONS It began its rollout way back on June 23 and could be overshadowed by newer options.

  • Call Me by Your Name

    Sony Pictures Classics

    Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

    PROS By the end of this moving drama about young love, audiences have fallen for Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg.

    CONS The principal cast is all male. Only four such casts — Saving Private Ryan, The Social Network, Beasts of No Nation and Straight Outta Compton — have been nominated.

  • Darkest Hour

    Focus Features

    Courtesy of Telluride Film Festival

    PROS Centering on a towering performance by a virtually unrecognizable Gary Oldman as Churchill, this British period piece boasts a large cast of actors, most from the U.K.

    CONS Ben Mendelsohn, Kristin Scott Thomas and Lily James have little to do. Oldman could be hurt by comparisons to John Lithgow's Emmy-winning turn in The Crown.

  • Detroit

    Annapurna

    Courtesy of Annapurna

    PROS Algee Smith, John Boyega, Will Poulter, Kaitlyn Dever and Jason Mitchell are just a few of the talented, diverse young actors who shine in this film directed by Kathryn Bigelow.

    CONS It wasn't widely seen in theaters, and the story is so dark that it remains unclear how many people will choose to check out its screener.

  • Downsizing

    Paramount

    Courtesy of Telluride Film Festival

    PROS Its worldly cast includes Americans Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig, Austrian-German Christoph Waltz and Vietnamese-American newcomer Hong Chau.

    CONS The film has evoked mixed responses, and Alexander Payne-directed movies have a spotty history in this category (only Sideways and The Descendants have been nominated).

  • Dunkirk

    Warner Bros.

    Melinda Sue Gordon/Warner Bros. Pictures

    PROS Like the war effort it depicts, this blockbuster was a true ensemble effort. The cast includes stage legends Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh, screen stud Tom Hardy and even singer Harry Styles.

    CONS Its July release date could come back to haunt it.

  • The Florida Project

    A24

    Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

    PROS Few movies have charmed audiences as much as this modern-day Little Rascals, which counts Willem Dafoe among its stars.

    CONS Dafoe is surrounded by an ensemble of people who never acted before, including kids and an Instagram discovery, and that could provoke some resentment from veteran actors.

  • Get Out

    Universal

    Courtesy of Universal Studios

    PROS Movies about race have a great track record in this category. This one includes such actors as Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford, was a box-office smash and remains the year's best-reviewed film.

    CONS The movie came out in February and lacks A-listers.

  • I, Tonya

    Neon

    Courtesy of TIFF

    PROS There's an actor for every taste, from SAG Awards favorite Allison Janney to A-lister Margot Robbie and character actress Julianne Nicholson. Plus, biopics tend to do well here.

    CONS Like figure skating, this movie is sorely lacking in diversity. And it's being pushed by a novice distributor.

  • Lady Bird

    A24

    Courtesy of Merie Wallace/A24

    PROS Actors love movies directed by actors — as two of last year's five nominees were — and Greta Gerwig's solo directorial debut is jam-packed with New York theater standouts.

    CONS The female-centric nom is rare (last year's winner, Hidden Figures, being a key exception).

  • The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

    Netflix

    Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

    PROS There's something for every generation in this impressive gathering of talent, including Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller and Grace Van Patten.

    CONS A dry movie about rich white people's problems isn't for everyone, to say the least.

  • Molly's Game

    STX

    STXfilms

    PROS Jessica Chastain leads a cast that also includes Idris Elba and Kevin Costner and character actors extraordinaire Chris O'Dowd and Michael Cera.

    CONS Sorkin film material is hit (The Social Network) or miss (The American President, Moneyball, Steve Jobs) with this group.

  • Mudbound

    Netflix

    Courtesy of Sundance

    PROS Like past winners The Help and Hidden Figures, this movie deals with America and race and boasts an impressive, diverse cast (Carey Mulligan, Mitchell, Mary J. Blige, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke).

    CONS The absence of A-list actors and a dark story might make it a tough sell.

  • Phantom Thread

    Focus

    Focus/Screenshot

    PROS Nobody's seen it yet, but if you're ever going to bet blindly on a movie, make it one starring Daniel Day-Lewis, who was part of the nominated casts of Nine and Lincoln.

    CONS La La Land was snubbed last year for being a two-hander. If this is The Day-Lewis Show, it could miss here.

  • The Post

    Fox

    Courtesy of Niko Tavernise/Twentieth Century Fox

    PROS Another journalism movie, Spotlight, prevailed in 2016. This one stars actor-gods Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep — and a dozen-plus respected character actors including Bob Odenkirk and Sarah Paulson.

    CONS It's the middle of November and nobody has seen it.

  • The Shape of Water

    Fox Searchlight

    Courtesy of Telluride Film Festival

    PROS Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer and Stuhlbarg — talk about a veritable all-star team of character actors. And fantasy/sci-fi pics do well in this category.

    CONS No performance in a Guillermo del Toro film has ever been nominated for a SAG Award.

  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    Fox Searchlight

    Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

    PROS Good luck finding a better assemblage of actors' actors than Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson. It's already won the Toronto festival's audience award.

    CONS No Martin McDonagh film has received a SAG Award nom in any category.