Breaking Down Best Picture Nominees by Theme – The Hollywood Reporter

Over the past five years, 43 features have earned Academy Award nominations for best picture, and with dozens of those films, thematic throughlines have emerged, giving a sense of which types of films voters favor for the top prize.

Historical films have garnered the most nominations, as an example The Green Book Won the award in 2018. While crowd-pleasing blockbusters have won Best Picture accolades in recent years (contrary to the Oscars’ perennial criticism of what the average moviegoer is consuming), none have won the category.

And while biopics often earn acting trophies for the stars of those films, they’re not the type of films that Oscar voters pick as their favorites of the year.

In recent years, semi-autobiographical films by acclaimed directors have led to Oscar nominations – and this year is no exception, with features from auteurs such as Steven Spielberg and James Gray and newcomers Elegance Bratton and Charlotte Wells.

International Movies RRR, The decision to leave And Bardo, A False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths (The latter was directed by four-time Oscar winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu) to follow in the footsteps of the Best Foreign Language Film winner. Parasite and nominee drive my car.

Of course, there are always wild cards in the race that defy classification. here, THR Here’s a look at how this year’s contenders stack up against recent Academy Awards history.

19% are historical films


Lynsey Weatherspoon/Orion Pictures

Previous nominees Dunkirk (2017), The Green Book (Winner in 2018, 2019) mail (2017), BlackKlansman (2018), Ford vs. Ferrari (2019), Jojo the rabbit (2019), 1917 (2019), The Experiment 7 of Chicago (2020)

This year’s contestants emancipation, until, The Woman King

Cinema is often a tool to expand on what history textbooks forget to mention. This season, there are three historical films focusing on black lives: Starring Will Smith emancipation, which sees the recent Oscar winner as a slave who escapes and is hunted by his captors; Led by Daniel Deadweiler until, which follows the aftermath of the 1955 assassination of Emmett Till; And The Woman KingA spirited war epic set in 19th-century Africa and starring producer-star Viola Davis as a predominantly black female lead.

7% are costume plays

Lady Chatterley's lover

Lady Chatterley’s lover

Courtesy of Netflix

Previous nominees Phantom thread (2017), favorite (2018), little women (2019)

This year’s contestants Lady Chatterley’s lover, The Wonder

There is a surprising lack of Stoic period dramas among this year’s top contenders, though Netflix has a pair in Laure de Clermont-Tonner’s adaptation of DH Lawrence’s literary romance, starring Emma Corinne and Jack O’Connell as star-crossed lovers, and a 19th-century Irish drama starring Sebastien Florence Pugh.

1% #MeToo themes

she said

she said

Jojo Wilden/Universal Pictures

Previous nominees A promising young woman (2020)

This year’s contestants she said, Tar, Women are talking

she said And Women are talking They may have similar titles, but they take different approaches to the themes of the #MeToo movement. Todd Field’s TarIn it Cate Blanchett’s maestro falls from grace after her questionable behavior and hubris, also touching on the culture of cancellation in the wake of a collective reckoning with sexual harassment and abuse.

14% America

Bones and all

Bones and all

Courtesy of Yannis Drakoulidis/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

Previous nominees Three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), The Irishman (2019), nomad land (Winner in 2020, 2021) Nightmare Alley (2021), The power of the dog (2021), A West Side Story (2021)

This year’s contestants Bones and all

Luca Guadagnino’s 1980s-set road movie sees two young cannibals fall in love while traversing the Midwest — bringing a dark sensibility to Reagan-era America.

12% personal narratives

Armageddon time

Armageddon time

Courtesy of Focus Features

Previous nominees Lady Bird (2017), A wedding story (2019), Minaret (2020), Belfast (2021), Licorice Pizza (2021)

This year’s contestants Afterson, Armageddon Time, The Fablemans, The Inspection

This year’s autobiographical films see their directors taking a nostalgic approach to their cinematic storytelling, often reassessing their relationships with their parents.

12% popcorn flicks

Avatar: The Way of Water

Avatar: The Way of Water

Courtesy of 20th Century Studios

Previous nominees Curry Leopard (2017), get rid of (2017), A star is born (2018), Joker (2019), mound (2021)

This year’s contestants Avatar: The Way of Water, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Everything Everywhere All at Ohms, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Nope, Top Gun: Maverick

Both Top Gun: Maverick And Black Panther: Wakanda Forever James Cameron’s sequel is one of the highest-grossing films of the year Avatar (still the highest grossing film of all time) topped the box office upon its theatrical release on December 16. With those three features and Glass onion In this year’s mix, we could see four sequels snag a Best Picture nomination — something only seven movie sequels have received in the entire history of the Oscars.

9% are biopics



Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Previous nominees Darkest hour (2017), Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), Sub (2018), King Richard (2021)

This year’s contestants Devotion, Elvis

Out of the last four biopics to earn the Best Picture nom, three – Darkest hour, Bohemian Rhapsody And King Richard – have earned their stars an Oscar for Best Actor. (Christian Bale also received acclaim as Dick Cheney Sub.) This is good news Elvis Star Austin Butler exceeds all expectations for his performance as a rock ‘n’ roll icon. But it also marks a potential first Oscar nomination BhaktiJonathan Majors portrays Jesse Brown, the US Navy’s first black pilot, in Sony’s Korean War-set drama.

7% international films



Raftar Creations/Everett Collection

Previous nominees Roma (2018), Parasite (Winner in 2019, 2020) drive my car (2021)

This year’s contestants Bardo, Close, Decision to Leave, RRR

Only 13 non-English language films have earned Bong Joon Ho a Best Picture nomination Parasite Be the first to win the prize. With an increasingly international voting body, the Academy may continue to show that it’s not wary of subtitled films — and acclaimed ones. RRR Became the first Indian film to win the Best Picture award.

5% cinema stories



Scott Garfield/Paramount

Previous nominees Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019), Manc (2020)

This year’s contestants Babylon, the kingdom of light

This year includes Hollywood’s love letters Babylon, Damien Chazelle’s three-hour ode to cinema’s transition from silent films to talkies. Sam Mendes’ on the sadder side Kingdom of Light, which takes place mostly in a movie house in an English seaside town and is beautifully lensed by Oscar-winning DP Roger Deakins. (Editor selected position The Fablemans(could arguably be considered in the personal-narrative group here.)

14% are wild cards

The Triad of Sorrow

The Triad of Sorrow

Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

Previous nominees Call me by your name (2017), shape of water (Winner in 2017, 2018), Dad (2020), The sound of metal (2020), CODA (Winner in 2021, 2022) Do not look up (2021)

This year’s contestants Inisherin, Pinocchio, Banshees of the Triad of Sorrows

Sometimes a Best Picture nominee has the X-factor to grab voters’ attention and a compelling, darkly comic fable. The Banshees of Inishery remains a major competitor. Stop-motion by Guillermo del Toro Pinocchio Becomes the fourth animated film to be nominated for Best Picture. The Triad of SorrowA scatological comedy may face an uphill battle with lower voters, but it captures the anti-capitalist zeitgeist — consider this white lotus on a boat

Final judgment

This year’s leading contenders for the Best Picture nomination are historical films and popcorn flicks that have dominated the still-recovering box office. But don’t discount the “everybody loves a past winner” effect, with past Best Picture winners and nominees Todd Field, Baz Luhrmann, Martin McDonagh, Jordan Peele and Steven Spielberg gaining new recognition in late January.

This story first appeared in the Dec. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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