1. The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight)
This inventive fairy tale from visionary director Guillermo del Toro should have no trouble shoring up votes from all branches within the Academy - enough that it will likely lead all movies in the nominations count. It also recently won the Producers Guild Award, which is the only other award that is voted on by preferential ballot like Oscar.
2. 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, winning the Golden Globe, and taking home the SAG Award for Best Ensemble, it's definitely in for a nomination.
3. 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.
4. 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. It will need to score director Greta Gerwig a Best Director nomination to look like a serious threat though.
5. 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 fifth, I actually think Get Out will WIN the Oscar for Best Picture. But it needs some key nominations first...
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 should therefore have enough votes to secure the nomination, though there may be hesitation to award an LGBT-themed film a second year in a row. Hopefully this isn't another Carol (acclaimed love story from an out director that narrowly missed a Best Picture nom)...
7. The Post (Fox)
Despite some bizarre misses throughout the season, 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 with Oscar. The shutout with SAG can be chalked up to its late release, though the same can't be said as definitively with BAFTA - so maybe the Brits were telling us something when they awarded The Post with zero nominations.
8. 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 and the film rebounded with key SAG nominations. 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.
9. 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 Best Picture, which looks to be its only other shot at a mention.
10. I, Tonya (Neon)
Were I, Tonya to crack this lineup, then there's an excellent chance that all five Best Actress nominees would come from films nominated for Best Picture - something that hasn't happened since the 1970's. I, Tonya isn't everyone's cuppa, but it might have enough votes in its corner to surprise here.