1. Dunkirk (Warner Bros.)
In the absence of a true frontrunner for Best Picture, it's best to bet on a World War II picture from a respected and bankable filmmaker. It also helps when that director has the momentum of being under-rewarded (Christopher Nolan has never been nominated for Best Director). While it's too soon to know if Dunkirk can get all the way to the podium, it's a mortal lock for a nomination.
2. The Post (Fox)
Again, without a clear cut frontrunner, it's wise to think a timely, important film from Steven Spielberg starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks stands a very, very good shot at a Best Picture nomination. The shutout with the SAG nominations is troubling (no film has won Best Picture without a SAG nomination for Best Ensemble since 1995), but The Post is still very much in the hunt.
3. Lady Bird (A24)
Coming-of-age and female-focused films are (unfortunately) not your typical Oscar fare, but Lady Bird has connected strongly enough with critics, audiences, and awards voters that it's in the conversation to take the whole thing. Key nominations with SAG and the Golden Globes have added to its ascendance - the next test will be to see if director Greta Gerwig can score a DGA nomination.
4. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (Fox Searchlight)
This dark comedy has proven divisive enough that it may be too prickly (or problematic, depending on who you ask) to seriously threaten for the prize, but after stellar reviews, six Golden Globe noms, and four with SAG, it has the passionate support needed to crack this lineup no matter how many nominees this field ultimately consists of.
5. The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight)
Leading both the Critics Choice Award and Golden Globe nominations (with 14 and 7 bids, respectively), this inventive fairy tale from visionary director Guillermo del Toro should have no trouble shoring up votes from all branches within the Academy.
6. Call Me by Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics)
One of the most acclaimed releases of the year, Call Me by Your Name will no doubt be #1 with a bullet on many AMPAS members' ballots. It could also be a real force in round two when it comes to determining the winner, but it will likely need to secure a few key nominations first - and there may be hesitation to award an LGBT-themed film a second year in a row.
7. Get Out (Universal)
There seem to be just as many factors working in its favor (exceptional reviews, fantastic box office, captured the zeitgeist) as there are working against it (early release, genre bias - both as a horror and as a comedy). Though I have it listed seventh, I actually think Get Out will WIN the Oscar for Best Picture. But it needs some key nominations first...
8. The Florida Project (A24)
Sean Baker's last film (Tangerine) was shot on an iPhone and, though it was certainly critically championed, he's moved to the big leagues with The Florida Project. Willem Dafoe is locked and loaded for a Supporting Actor nomination, but the film is right on the bubble in other key categorie - including here.
9. The Big Sick (Lionsgate)
This crowd-pleaser was strangely blanked when it came to the Golden Globe nominations (when they have a whole Comedy field to reward films such as this!), but thankfully for The Big Sick, Globes voters are not Oscar voters. Its best shot at Oscar love is in Original Screenplay, Holly Hunter in Supporting Actress, and here in Best Picture - though none are a sure thing.
10. Darkest Hour (Focus)
While star Gary Oldman is the Best Actor frontrunner, the film containing his performance has failed to take off in earnest. Early word was, and continues to be, strong...but it's not connecting outside Oldman's commanding turn as Winston Churchill. Oscar voters might warm to it though.