You can usually spot the likeliest Best Picture contenders from a pretty fair distance. Narrative, brand-name filmmakers, strong performances, woke-friendly theme, middle-class or family values, likely to be strongly promoted. By my count there are roughly 40 2021 films that could conceivably make the grade. But when you boil it all down and eliminate those are seemingly too popcorn, too genre, too weird or too indie-marginal…well, it cuts the list down.

Here’s a wild spitball roster based on intuitions, gut feelings, hairs on the back of the neck and little devils and angels sitting on either shoulder. By my count there are three films of color, and they’re all big musicals — Liesel Tommy‘s Respect, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Quiara Alegría Hudes and John Chu‘s In The Heights and, I suppose, Steven Spielberg‘s West Side Story, which is half Puerto Rican. The latter two could become contenders.

Other potential Best Pic nominees: (1) Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Soggy Bottom (9.10.21); (2)
Wes Anderson‘s The French Dispatch (Searchlight, fall ’21); (3) Andrew Dominik‘s Blonde (Netflix, fall); (4) Adam McKay‘s Don’t Look Up (Netflix, late ’21); (5) Taika Waititi‘s Next Goal Wins (Searchlight, fall ’21); (6) Paul Schrader‘s The Card Counter.

Plus the two Shakespeares — Joel Coen‘s The Tragedy of Macbeth (A24, presumably late ’24) and Robert EggersThe Northman (more or less based on the Hamlet saga, Focus, late ’21).

That’s a total of 8 plus the two musicals makes ten.

Other possibilities:

Guillermo del Toro‘s Nightmare Alley, (12.3.21); Denis Villeneuve‘s Dune (10.1.21); Sean Baker‘s Red Rocket, Edgar Wright‘s Last Night in Soho; Leos Carax‘s Annette, Apichatpong Weerasethaku‘s Memoria, James Gray‘s Armageddon Time; Jane Campion‘s The Power of the Dog; Ridley Scott‘s The Last Duel (10.15.21); Terrence Malick‘s The Way Of The Wind, Mission: Impossible 7 (11.19.21), No Time To Die (October 8)

Plus: Paul Verhoeven‘s Benedetta; Mike MillsC’mon C’mon; strong>Celine Sciamma’s Petite Maman; Mia Hansen-Løve‘s Bergman Island; Tom McCarthy‘s Stillwater; Adrien Lyne‘s Deep Water (8.13.21); Jeremy Saulnier‘s Rebel Ridge; Ruben Östlund‘s Triangle of Sadness; Steven Soderbergh‘s No Sudden; Doug Liman‘s Lockdown; Clint Eastwood‘s Cry Macho; Ridley Scott‘s House of Gucci (11.14.21).

Plus Top Gun: Maverick (July 2); The Beatles: Get Back (8.27); A Quiet Place Part II (5.28.21); Black Widow (5.7.21); The Many Saints of Newark (9.24.21); Michael Showalter‘s The Eyes of Tammy Faye (9.24.21).

What am I missing? Which of the top ten picks seems questionable?