Just to clarify, this isn't an early prediction piece on what will eventually go on to win the actual Best Picture Oscar at next year's Academy Awards. This is just step one towards that eventual process, as what follows is just a list of the films we think could end up in the whittled-down-to-ten that the Academy members must choose, and this year that decision seems like it's tougher than ever. But don't fret, Academy members, we're here to help. From all of the hundreds of films that were, are, and about to be released in the twelve months since the last Oscar ceremony, here are the movies we think deserve a spot on the coveted nominations list, although some are more worthy than others…
12 YEARS A SLAVE
Who? Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame) directs Chiwetel Ejifor, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, Paul Giamatti and Sarah Paulson.
Why? Racism and slavery taken "seriously" again after last year's Django Unchained, massively well received by the festivals it's been screened at so far, with a 96% score on Rotten Tomatoes at the moment.
Odds: Just about the most Oscar-y type of movie this year, it'd be a massive shock if it didn't get nominated. 4/3
ALL IS LOST
Who? J.C. Chandor (Margin Call) directs Robert Redford.
Why? Humanity against the elements, with a tour de force performance by a long absent Redford, this looks like a mix of The Grey, Cast Away and The Old Man & The Sea, with a current score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Odds: With the competition high this year, the film might miss out as all attention will be on Redford's performance. Although that didn't do Cast Away any injury. 5/1
Who? David O. Russell (The Fighter, The Silver Lining's Playbook) directs Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner.
Why? A fictional story set against an actual scandal, the tale of a crazy FBI agent forcing talented con men and women into working for them inside of the mafia, this looks quite the grown up affair.
Odds: Could be a little too soon after O. Russell swept the board at last year's awards, but the cast list here alone is enough to pique interest. 7/2
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY
Who? John Wells (some episodes of E.R. and, uhm, the US version of Shameless) directs Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, Chris Cooper and a good few more famous face.
Why? Have you seen that cast-list? It's INSANE! Plus it's based on a much-loved play written by Tracy Letts, who was last adapted to the big screen with Killer Joe.
Odds: It didn't get the critical reception many had expected during its festival run, so this looks set to get more acting nods than anything else. 15/1
Who? Richard Linklater (The School Of Rock, the previous Before… films) directs Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, who also co-wrote the screenplay themselves.
Why? One of the critical darlings of the year, with so much love for the previous two entries into the series, this makes a nice low-key alternative to most of the other possible nominess.
Odds: But is it TOO low-key? Plus, it was release MONTHS ago, so will the voters even remember that it exits? 12/1
Who? Woody Allen (Manhattan, Annie Hall) directs Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins and Peter Sarsgaard.
Why? Allen's films have won four Oscars for writing and directing, and a few more nominees, but none of his films have ever been nominated for Best Picture. Could this be his year of a cumulative win? At 78 years old, that's one heck of a long career.
Odds: Again, this could be a film that is overshadowed by its own performances held within. Blanchett is almost definitely a certainty for Best Actress, but the film itself might not be Best Picture worthy without her in it. 12/1
Who? Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum, United 93) directs Tom Hanks and Catherine Keener.
Why? Based on a true story of modern day pirates taking over a stock ship, and the captain and crew who rose up against them, this has enough "strength of the human spirit" stuff going on to make the voters want to punch the air in triumphant glee.
Odds: Tough one to call, this. Action-dramas aren't really the Academy's bag, but it does have some similar DNA to United 93, and the presence of Hanks is also an award magnet. 11/1
DALLAS BUYERS CLUB
Who? Jean-Marc Valle (C.R.A.Z.Y., The Young Victoria) directs Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner and Steve Zahn.
Why? McConaughey could be in for an insane year – this is just the first of three possible award worthy films – and with this film, a true story of a man diagnosed with AIDS and decides to take on the entire medical and pharmaceutical industry, this has Oscar written all over it.
Odds: Early word has it that this movie tackles a touchy subject with a deftly light touch, not a million miles away from Erin Brokovich. Although in such a strong year for Oscar contenders, will that be enough to make it stand out in the crowd? 10/1
Be sure to check back in for Parts 2 and 3 of this article to see our full list of what we think will be knocking on Uncle Oscar's door next January!