Oscars: 45 Top Contenders, From 'Battle of the Sexes' to 'Three Billboards'

9:00 AM 11/3/2017

by Gregg Kilday

Yep, the calendar has turned a page and awards season has begun. Whether you're rooting for big movies — 'Dunkirk'? 'Apes'? — or low-budget indies like 'The? Florida ?Project' ($2 million), it's a wide-open field, as THR sets the stage for suspense and surprises.

The Potential Awards Contenders of 2017 - Graphic -H 2017
Illustration by Kelsey Stefanson; Courtesy Photos

Is it awards season already? Why, it seems it was just a few weeks ago that the Oscars reached their chaotic conclusion as La La Land was mistakenly proclaimed the best picture winner before the error was corrected and Moonlight 

But the movies are restless at the starting gate. Some, like the gay romance Call Me by Your Name and the generational saga Mudbound, were introduced at Sundance. The fantastical tale The Shape of Water made an impressive debut in Venice before heading to Telluride and Toronto, where such films as the Winston Churchill biopic Darkest Hour, the feminist celebration Battle of the Sexes, the high school-set Lady Bird and the singular Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri jumped into the race. Now the questions are: Which will develop momentum? Will there be room for summer hits like Wonder Woman and Dunkirk? And will late arrivals like Steven Spielberg's The Post and Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread pull to the fore in the last moment? THR's early look at the top contenders:

Ashley Lee, Rebecca Ford, Mia Galuppo and Andy Lewis contributed. 

Grosses are worldwide as of Oct. 29.

  • All the Money in the World

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 22

    As if helming May's Alien: Covenant weren't enough, Ridley Scott caps the year by directing this thriller about the 1973 kidnapping of industrialist J.P. Getty's grandson. But the film now faces a marketing challenge, since Kevin Spacey, who has been accused of a sexual assault, plays Getty.

  • Baby Driver

    RELEASE DATE June 28

    BOX OFFICE $227 million

    After exiting Marvel's Ant-Man in 2014, Edgar Wright's got his mojo back by directing this musically amped-up crime pic starring Ansel Elgort as the titular getaway driver.

  • Battle of the Sexes

    RELEASE DATE Sept. 22

    BOX OFFICE $12 million

    Tennis great Billie Jean King, played onscreen by newly minted Oscar winner Emma Stone, has endorsed Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' account of her historic match against Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell).

  • Beauty and the Beast

    RELEASE DATE March 17

    BOX OFFICE $1.3 billion

    The 1991 animated classic on which it's based earned a best picture nom. Bill Condon's live-action retelling upped the ante with three new tunes, lavish sets and expressive performance capture/CG sidekicks.

  • The Big Sick

    RELEASE DATE June 23

    BOX OFFICE $53.1 million

    Kumail Nanjiani's profile has skyrocketed — he recently hosted Saturday Night Live — since the Sundance debut of this romantic dramedy about his real-life courtship with co-writer Emily V. Gordon and how they weathered a mysterious illness together.

  • Blade Runner 2049


    BOX OFFICE $223.4 million

    Roger Deakins could score his 14th cinematography nomination with this visually extravagant sci-fi sequel helmed by Denis Villeneuve, in which Harrison Ford passes the baton to new blade runner Ryan Gosling.

  • Breathe

    RELEASE DATE Oct. 13

    BOX OFFICE $378,931

    In this triumph-over-debilitating-illness tale, Andy Serkis makes his feature directorial debut with the true love story of Robin and Diana Cavendish (Andrew Garfield and The Crown's Claire Foy), who refuse to give up when Robin is terminally diagnosed with polio at the age of 28.

  • Call Me by Your Name

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 24

    Critics have been championing Luca Guadagnino's idyllic drama, another Sundance breakout, that stars Armie Hammer as a 24-year-old American student who has a summer romance with a 17-year-old boy, played by Timothee Chalamet, in the Italian countryside in 1983.

  • Chappaquiddick


    Byron Allen's distributor picked up John Curran's film in Toronto and is planning to promote Jason Clarke's performance as the young Ted Kennedy, who abandoned a woman to drown off a Martha's Vineyard isle one fateful night in 1969.

  • Darkest Hour

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 22

    Playing Winston Churchill in The Crown brought John Lithgow an Emmy, and so Gary Oldman, nearly unrecognizable as the British prime minister, could be Oscar-bound for his work in Joe Wright's biopic, set amid the outbreak of World War II.

  • Detroit

    RELEASE DATE July 28

    BOX OFFICE $16.8 million

    A no-holds-barred account of the police murder of three black teens during the '67 riots in Detroit, the film, from Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow, polarized critics and didn't have much commercial life but still could stake a claim as socially engaged filmmaking.

  • The Disaster Artist


    Making a really terrible movie is entertainment in and of itself, it's suggested by the prolific James Franco, who both stars in and directed this film about The Room, ostensibly the worst movie ever made, in which his brother Dave and buddy Seth Rogen also appear.

  • Downsizing

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 22

    Matt Damon shrinks to 5 inches to enjoy the good life in this sci-fi-meets-suburbia parable from Alexander Payne, a seven-time Oscar nominee and two-time screenplay winner. The Venice Film Festival opener also features a breakout performance from Thailand-born Vietnamese-American actress Hong Chau.

  • Dunkirk

    RELEASE DATE July 21

    BOX OFFICE $523.8 million

    Christopher Nolan has yet to earn a best director Oscar nom, but that could change with this epic look at the British boat lift that rescued troops from the beaches of Dunkirk during WWII, since it challenges the conventions of typical war movies.

  • Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 29

    Despite four nominations, Annette Bening has yet to win an Oscar, but she could make another bid for her performance as actress Gloria Grahame, who, in director Paul McGuigan's retelling, came to romance a younger man, played by Jamie Bell.

  • First They Killed My Father

    RELEASE DATE Sept. 15

    In the fourth feature film she's directed — an adaptation of Loung Ung's memoir — Angelina Jolie turns her sympathetic eye to the struggles of one Cambodian family living under the 1970s rule of the murderous Khmer Rouge.

  • The Florida Project


    BOX OFFICE $2.1 million

    This ultra-low-budget slice-of-life story, from Tangerine director Sean Baker, is set in the cheap motels in the shadow of Disney World and features scene-stealing performances from the child actors Brooklynn Kimberly Prince and Valeria Cotto, who play 6-year-old friends.

  • Get Out

    RELEASE DATE Feb. 24

    BOX OFFICE $253.5 million

    It may have masqueraded as a horror movie, but Jordan Peele's directorial debut, which he also wrote, was hailed as a sly and powerful commentary on race. Not only was it a commercial hit but critical acclaim earned it a 99 percent positive score on Rotten Tomatoes.

  • Good Time

    RELEASE DATE Aug. 11

    BOX OFFICE $2 million

    In the Safdie brothers' latest film, which played in the Cannes competition, where critics gave it a big thumbs-up, Robert Pattinson goes full indie when, hidden behind a scruffy goatee, he spends one frantic night in New York City trying to save his brother from a bank heist gone bad.

  • Hostiles

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 22

    Byron Allen's company completed its Toronto buying spree by picking up Scott Cooper's latest, a $50 million period piece in which Christian Bale plays a 19th century Army captain reluctantly escorting a Native American chief and his family from Arizona to Montana.

  • I, Tonya


    Two newbie distributors make their first big awards push with this dark comedy (the first runner-up for the audience award at TIFF) based on the rise and fall of infamous figure skating champion Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie). Allison Janney gives an astounding performance as her diabolical mother.

  • In the Fade

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 27

    Diane Kruger was crowned best actress at Cannes for her turn in Fatih Akin's courtroom drama (which is also Germany's foreign-language film submission), in which she plays a wife and mother seeking revenge against neo-Nazis.

  • The Killing of a Sacred Deer

    RELEASE DATE Oct. 20

    BOX OFFICE $369,092

    For his follow-up to The Lobster, director Yorgos Lanthimos cast Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman as a husband and wife whose family is under attack from an ominous, mysterious force.

  • Lady Bird


    Indie darling Greta Gerwig is winning kudos for writing and directing this autobiographical piece about a mildly rebellious high school senior (Saoirse Ronan) looking to break free of her controlling mother (Laurie Metcalf) as well as life in Sacramento, California.

  • Last Flag Flying


    In Richard Linklater's semi-sequel to 1973's The Last Detail, which opened the New York Film Festival, Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne play Vietnam-era Navy buddies who reunite to accompany the remains of Carell's son, killed in Iraq, from Washington, D.C., to New Hampshire to be buried next to his mother.

  • Marshall

    RELEASE DATE Oct. 13

    BOX OFFICE $7 million

    After playing Jackie Robinson and James Brown, Chadwick Boseman takes on Thurgood Marshall in this courtroom drama, directed by Reginald Hudlin, that looks at the first African-American Supreme Court Justice's early career.

  • The Meyerowitz Stories

    RELEASE DATE Oct. 13

    In writer-director Noah Baumbach's most recent look at neurotic New Yorkers, two-time Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman's performance, as an artist whose competitive clan (Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Elizabeth Marvel) gather round him, could earn him yet more recognition from his peers.

  • Molly's Game

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 25

    Master wordsmith Aaron Sorkin makes his directorial debut with this typically fast-talking, true-life story of poker princess Molly Bloom. Jessica Chastain takes on the title role, but the famous Hollywood actors whom Bloom once hosted are merged into a composite character played by Michael Cera.

  • mother!

    RELEASE DATE Sept. 15

    BOX OFFICE $43 million

    So what if Darren Aronofsky's love-it-or-hate-it parable got an F CinemaScore, it's also got Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence and lots of critical acclaim. Martin Scorsese even spoke out in its defense.

  • Mudbound

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 17

    The streaming giant is putting its considerable weight (and money) behind this Sundance standout, the Dee Rees-directed rural drama that stars Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell and Mary J. Blige.

  • Murder on the Orient Express

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 10

    The 1974 version of Agatha Christie's classic earned six Oscar noms and a win for Ingrid Bergman. Can Kenneth Branagh's version do anything similar? That's the mystery.

  • Phantom Thread

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 25

    There Will Be Blood director Paul Thomas Anderson reteams with three-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis, who's vowed this will be his last role, for this drama about a London fashion designer that, if nothing else, looks quite luxurious.

  • The Post

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 22

    Oscar magnets Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks join forces for this feature that chronicles The Washington Post's publishing of the Pentagon Papers, which revealed America's true role in the Vietnam War.

  • Roman J. Israel, Esq.

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 17

    In Dan Gilroy's legal drama, awards season regular Denzel Washington plays an introverted attorney who takes charge of his large practice, only to unearth upsetting realities about the firm.

  • The Shape of Water


    Director Guillermo del Toro's romantic fantasy about a mute janitor (Sally Hawkins) who falls in love with an amphibious creature first screened at Venice, where it won the Golden Lion. 

  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 15

    Rian Johnson's take on that galaxy far, far away sees the return of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and features the late Carrie Fisher's final performance as General Organa. Plus lots of VFX.

  • Stronger

    RELEASE DATE Sept. 22

    BOX OFFICE $5.3 million

    In David Gordon Green's drama, Jake Gyllenhaal plays Boston Marathon bombing victim Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs in the terrorist attack, as he fights his way back physically and emotionally.

  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 10

    In Martin McDonagh's black comedy, which won Toronto's audience award, Frances McDormand plays a fierce mother demanding the local authorities solve her daughter's rape and murder.

  • Victoria & Abdul

    RELEASE DATE Sept. 22

    BOX OFFICE $51.8 million

    Judi Dench, who got her first Oscar nom for playing Queen Victoria in 1997's Mrs. Brown, plays the monarch again in the Stephen Frears film.

  • War for the Planet of the Apes

    RELEASE DATE July 14

    BOX OFFICE $488.5 million

    Andy Serkis returns as Caesar for the third installment in the current Apes saga, directed by Matt Reeves.

  • Wind River


    BOX OFFICE $33.6 million

    The tainted Weinstein name is being scrubbed from Taylor Sheridan's film in which Jeremy Renner investigates the rape and murder of a Native American woman.

  • Wonderstruck

    RELEASE DATE Oct. 20

    BOX OFFICE $65,882

    Todd Haynes' adaptation of Brian Selznick's novel, which bowed in Cannes, centers on two children in different eras traversing New York City to find their missing loved ones.

  • Wonder Wheel


    Woody Allen's second outing with Amazon Studios follows a onetime aspiring actress turned Coney Island waitress, played by Kate Winslet as she navigates relationships with her abusive husband, younger lover, estranged stepdaughter and deranged son.

  • Wonder Woman


    BOX OFFICE $821.6 million

    The Patty Jenkins-directed tale of the fabled Amazonian princess, played by Gal Gadot, broke new ground as it became the highest grossing live-action feature directed by a woman.