Top 15 Oscar Movies

From the locks (The Social Network, The King's Speech) to the long shots (Blue Valentine, Rabbit Hole), Academy voters tell Jacob Bernstein which movies they'll be nominating for Best Picture.

Columbia Pictures

Columbia Pictures

The Social Network

Chances of nomination: 99.9%

With just a few weeks left in the year, the Scott Rudin-produced, David Fincher-directed film about the founding of the Facebook empire is not only a lock for a Best Picture nomination, it also stands about a 50 percent chance of winning. Its most significant competition is The King's Speech, and chances are The Social Network screenwriter Aaron Sorkin will collect a little gold man for Best Adapted Screenplay.

It's an ambitious piece of work, filled with great performances and great dialogue—it even had a strong showing at the box office ($90 million and counting), which gives the academy the chance to have its cake and eat it too. One thing working against it? There isn't a leading character the audience can root for. As one Tinseltown player puts it, "The Social Network has at its core a big black hole, and that can be a problem for academy members, who almost always vote with their hearts instead of their heads."

The Weinstein Company

The King's Speech

Chances of nomination: 99.9%

Neck and neck with The Social Network in the Oscar Derby is The King's Speech, starring Colin Firth as a would-be monarch attempting to overcome a major stutter. Like Shakespeare in Love, the film has got a great historical backdrop that gives it weight, but it's also light, and ends on an up note. As it stands, Firth is also the frontrunner in the Best Actor category, and his co-stars Geoffrey Rush (who plays his speech therapist) and Helena Bonham Carter (who plays his wife) in all likelihood will get nominations in the supporting categories, too.

Focus Features

The Kids Are All Right

Chances of nomination: 91%

Lisa Cholodenko's comedy about a lesbian couple whose two teenage children go searching for their biological father has turned into this year's Little Miss Sunshine. The likelihood of its winning Best Picture is well below 50 percent, but it's fairly certain to be nominated. Moreover, the race for Best Actress looks right now like little more than a face-off between between Natalie Portman (in Black Swan) and Annette Bening (in this).

Paramount Pictures

True Grit

Chances of nomination: 90%

So far, almost no one has seen the Coen Brothers' remake of this old John Wayne Western. Still, the whispers among the academy set are pretty good. Maybe not quite as great as No Country for Old Men, they say, but of course, what is? And in a seriously lackluster year, it would be pretty surprising if this film didn't at least get a nomination in the biggest category of them all. As one academy voter put it to us, "Maybe I'll fall in love with it. I hope I do. I'm prepared to like it. And I like that it's coming out with relatively little fanfare. I like that I'm not annoyed by it already."

Warner Bros

Inception

Chances of nomination: 90%

Almost two years ago, the academy announced that it was upping the number of Best Picture nominees from five to 10. At the time, the increase was seen as an attempt to boost ratings and help add commercial films to the mix.

No example of an overlooked potential nominee was cited quite so much as The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan's well-reviewed box-office behemoth from the Batman franchise. Now Nolan is back with Inception, and that too received plaudits from critics and did huge business. Still, the movie has two major stumbling blocks with academy voters. First, it's insanely long, and second, did enough academy voters understand it to actually vote for it? Right now, we expect the movie to be nominated for Best Picture, though we'd be pretty surprised if it pulled out a win.

Disney

Toy Story 3

Chances of nomination: 89%

Before the academy increased the number of nominees from five to 10, getting a Best Picture nomination for an animated film was nearly impossible. Now, not so much. Last year, Up made the cut, and multiple people we've spoken to in the academy say Toy Story 3 will be among their 10 nominated films this year.

20th Century Fox

Black Swan

Chances of nomination: 86%

Darren Aranofsky's psychological thriller about a ballerina whose life is spinning out of control opened last weekend to terrific reviews and excellent box office. Right now, Natalie Portman looks somewhat more likely to take home an Oscar than Aronofsky or the film's producers, but most of our voters surveyed are either planning on nominating the film or believe most of their colleagues will.

Paramount Pictures / Everett

The Fighter

Chances of nomination: 74%

There's lots of good advance buzz on The Fighter. Moreover—and we are not kidding about this—the academy loves movies about boxers and pianists.

Still, with more attention coming the way of Mark Wahlberg and co-star Christian Bale than the film itself, a nomination for Best Picture is by no means a sure thing. "I liked the performances a lot, but I'm not sure I'd give it Best Picture," says one voter.

20th Century Fox

127 Hours

Chances of nomination: 60%

Every Oscar voter we've spoken to says Danny Boyle's film about a hiker who gets trapped underneath a boulder will get nominated for Best Picture, yet almost none have actually seen it. Which makes some sense, given that much-publicized scene in which star James Franco cuts off his own arm to free himself from the rock.

As one voter puts it: "I spend enough time covering my eyes at movies. I don't need to watch that."

Says another: "Just thinking about it makes me sick."

Where does that leave its hopes of being nominated for Best Picture? A toss-up. The film may well be nominated, but its chances are dicey, and it doesn't have a prayer of winning, come February. Still, do expect Franco to get a nomination for Best Actor.

Warner Bros.

The Town

Chances of nomination: 60%

Hollywood loves a second act, and there have been few quite so dramatic as Ben Affleck's. Six years ago, he was engaged to J.Lo, mired in tabloid hell. Then, after their breakup, he went and directed Gone Baby Gone, a terrific drama about a child who goes missing and the attempt to find her. It became a favorite on the awards circuit and helped cement Affleck's reputation as one of Hollywood's brightest young directors. Now, he's hit again with The Town, a film that has the appearance of a big popcorn movie but also asks probing questions about class and opportunity for ordinary Americans. In a slow academy year, this movie stands a strong chance of being nominated. Moreover, don't be surprised to see Jeremy Renner in the Best Supporting Actor category.

Roadside Attractions

Winter's Bone

Chances of nomination: 55%

Winter's Bone would be the 11th nominee, but should any of the others bounce out, we think this one has the best odds of sneaking in there. The story of a girl searching for her crystal meth-dealing father won the grand prize at Sundance, and did nearly $8 million at the box office. It also tackled big issues, like the country's biggest drug epidemic and poverty. Jennifer Lawrence, the film's young star, also stands a decent shot at an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, though competition is fierce in this category. Several of the voters we spoke to said it would be on their list of 10 films to nominate next month, although we remain skeptical about the film's appeal among some older members of the academy.

Sony Picture Classics

Another Year

Chances of nomination: 40%

Another Year, Mike Leigh's film about getting older, has been garnering a fair amount of praise in recent weeks, but we're also hearing from voters that it's "slow." And of course, the movie's campaign doesn't have a lot of money behind it.

Lionsgate

Rabbit Hole

Chances of nomination: 20%

The Nicole Kidman/Aaron Eckhart tearjerker about a couple mourning the loss of a young child has many of the hallmarks of an Oscar hopeful. Moreover, nearly everyone who's seen it says "the performances are great." Still, we're encountering far more enthusiasm about the actors in the film than we are about the film itself.

The Weinstein Company

Blue Valentine

Chances of nomination: 20%

Ryan Gosling is clearly on the verge of becoming a big star, a "Sean Penn in waiting," as one voter calls him. His drama about the end of a marriage could earn a nod this year, but it still seems unlikely.

The Weinstein Company

The Company Men / Fair Game / Animal Kingdom

Chances of nomination: 15%

Any one of these three films could wind up sneaking onto the list, but don't bet money on it.

First up is the The Company Men. "It's this year's Up in the Air," jokes one academy member, when asked about the Ben Affleck starrer. Maybe, maybe not. Though the film does grapple with similar issues, it's not really a comedy, and we're not sensing voters are going to be rushing to see it. But should it get great reviews, that could change.

Fair Game, meanwhile, the movie about the Valerie Plame affair, pairs a talented director (Doug Liman of Swingers, The Bourne Identity) with an amazing cast (Naomi Watts, Sean Penn), and speaks to Hollywood's political impulses. Still, interest in the movie hasn't exactly reached a groundswell, making a nomination seem like a very remote possibility. Of almost 10 voters we spoke to, not one said they were planning on nominating it.

We're hearing a fair amount from voting friends about Animal Kingdom, the Australian crime drama. Right now, this film's pulling out an Oscar nomination in the biggest category of them all seems like a major long shot, but the odds for actress Jacki Weaver, who plays the matriarch of a gang of robbers, are pretty high, and there exists an outside possibility the film could score a nod, too.