What Is It?: C-Pratt and J-Law alone in space. Two of the hottest actors around lead a sci-fi with a really strong hook alongside its flashy star power; the pair wakes up from cryosleep in the middle of a cross-galactic voyage and is stuck awake 90 years out from their destination. It’s like the perfect inverse of a claustrophobic thriller.
Why Could It Be A Contender?: Normally this is the sort of film you’d discredit from Oscar hype (for reasons we’ll look at in a minute), but coming from Morten Tyldum, who got (somewhat unfair) praise for The Imitation Game, Passengers has got a real leg-up and could easily sneak it. It’s also got a release date that places it as a run-in for consideration, which means Columbia certainly think they’ve got potential here.
What Might Stop It?: It’s sci-fi. Boom. Done. Not gonna happen. No sci-fi film has ever won Best Picture (and the only fantasy film was The Return Of The King, and that was only because The Lord Of The Rings was an achievement too big to ignore), and given the other options here for the Academy that’s unlikely to change in 2017. Especially as, at this point, it’s unclear just how cerebral the film will go.