Oscars 2017: the 10 biggest contenders for Academy Award nominations this year

The official Oscar nominations will be announced on January 24, ahead of February’s Academy Awards. In the run-up to the announcement of the Academy’s nominees, film festivals throughout the year have been building up buzz for films, and a handful have emerged as frontrunners in the race for Oscars glory. It may all look like part of a self-mythologising process, but if a film gets a good reception in Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Berlin or London, that can’t be a bad thing for its awards chances. Since Venice Film Festival at the end of August, a lot of buzz has built up for these films…

1. La La Land

From the director of musical drama Whiplash, which won three Oscars, comes this musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Damien Chazelle’s sweeping love story of an aspiring actress and a grafting jazz musician received widespread acclaim from critics following its screening in Venice, and went on to sweep the board at the Golden Globes in early January, winning in all seven categories for which it was nominated, including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.

2. Moonlight

Moonlight is currently Metacritic’s fourth highest-rated film ever, holding a score of 99 on the review-aggregation site, while on Rotten Tomatoes it has a 98% ‘fresh’ rating. Upon its screening at Venice last year, Moonlight received universal acclaim, and it picked up the award for Best Motion Picture – Drama at the Golden Globes this year. Its cast, which includes Trevante Rhodes, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monáe and Mahershala Ali, has been widely praised, with both Ali and Harris receiving Globes nominations, and its screenplay (by Barry Jenkins, and adapted from Tarell McCraney’s semi-autobiographical work In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue) also received a nod. Expect multiple nominations for this one.

3. Nocturnal Animals

Designer Tom Ford first turned his hand to directing for 2009’s Colin Firth-starring A Single Man, based on Christopher Isherwood’s memoir of the same name. His second feature is Nocturnal Animals, also based on a book – this time Austin Wright’s 1993 novel Tony And Susan, in which both characters are affected by different types of tragedy but never actually meet. ‘Nocturnal Animals’ is the title of a manuscript that Amy Adams’ character Susan receives in the mail – and Jake Gyllenhaal plays Tony, the lead character of the story told by the manuscript. Under Tom Ford’s direction, the film drips with style – but the director also brings an almost unbearable tension to the screen, especially with the introduction of Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s supporting character, Ray Marcus. Taylor-Johnson won the film’s only Golden Globe, for Best Supporting Actor – Drama, but Ford also received nominations for both his screenplay and his direction, and the film is likely to pick up nominations in these categories. It wouldn’t be surprising to see nominations for Adams and Gyllenhaal either – or, for that matter, Michael Shannon, for his stand-out performance as the grizzled, chain-smoking sheriff Bobby Andes.

4. Jackie

Natalie Portman stars in this biopic of Jackie Kennedy, the wife of the assassinated US President John F. Kennedy, which focuses on her life before and after her husband’s death. The film is scored by Mica Levi, aka Micachu, whose creepy score for 2013’s Under The Skin was nominated for numerous awards. Following Portman’s 2011 Oscar win for Best Actress (Black Swan), this film could be a good shot for her to win a second. The film’s lone nomination at the Golden Globes was hers: Best Actress – Drama.

5. Arrival

Amy Adams is the star of this wonderfully expansive sci-fi about the sudden arrival of alien objects on the Earth. Alongside a task force including Forest Whitaker’s US colonel and Jeremy Renner’s mathematician, Adams plays Dr Louise Banks, a linguist who has to decode the aliens’ language and open a channel of communication with them before the fractious peace between human countries breaks and warfare ensues. Adams’ performance earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress – Drama.

6. Fences

Based on the 1983 play by August Wilson, Fences is a drama about a struggling family in ’50s Pittsburgh. It’s directed by and stars Denzel Washington as baseball star-turned-garbage collector Troy Maxson; Viola Davis plays his wife, Rose, and won the Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe for her performance.

7. Lion

This drama starring Dev Patel, Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman is from a true story, which was the basis of the memoir A Long Way Home – in it, the young Saroo loses his family in India, and is adopted by an Australian family. Years later, he decides to try and find his original family. Dev Patel’s Aussie accent is spot-on. Both he and Nicole Kidman were nominated for their supporting roles at the Golden Globes, and the film as a whole got a Best Drama nod.

8. Hacksaw Ridge

Andrew Garfield is the pacifist hero in this Mel Gibson-directed war flick. The Golden Globes gave it three nominations – drama, director, and actor – and the Critics’ Choice Awards gave it the gongs for Best Action Movie’ and Best Actor in and Action Movie.

9. Manchester By The Sea

Kenneth Lonergan’s drama about bereavement stars Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams. It’s critically acclaimed, Affleck won a Globe for Best Actor, and it received four other nominations at the awards.

10. Elle

Currently the foreign-language favourite, Elle is a psychological thriller. Its star, Isabelle Huppert, was a surprise winner in the Best Actress category at the Golden Globes, while the film itself picked up Best Foreign-Language Film.