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‘Top Gun: Maverick,’ ‘Avatar 2’ and ‘Elvis’ Among 20 Visual Effects Finalists Heading Into Oscars Shortlist Voting (EXCLUSIVE)

Three Marvel Studios films -- 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,' 'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness' and 'Thor: Love and Thunder' -- are also in the running for the visual effects Oscar

Avatar 2 - Top Gun Maverick - All Quiet on the Western Front

UPDATE: Variety was able to identify the 20th unknown visual effects feature through two sources. It is Nick Hamm’s “Gigi & Nate,” a Roadside Attractions drama that tells the true story of a quadriplegic man and a capuchin monkey.

The Oscars shortlist voting opens on Monday, Dec. 12, in eight categories. One of them is the visual effects race, with big-budget spectacles like “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and “Top Gun: Maverick” in the awards conversation. Variety has learned exclusively, through multiple sources, 19 of the 20 films on the shortlist that the Visual Effects Branch will choose from next week. The Academy declined to confirm the final list to Variety.

Early last week, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences notified producers and select studio personnel that their films were among the 20 in contention for best visual effects. The studios are only told that its film is on the list, not any others accompanying it.

The Academy’s Visual Effects Branch will narrow the list further to 10 for the bakeoff stage, beginning on Monday. From there, five nominees will be chosen and announced on Jan. 24.

Two films about airplane pilots got members’ attention with JD Dillard’s “Devotion” with Jonathan Majors and Joseph Kosinski’s “Top Gun: Maverick” with Tom Cruise making the initial cut. The latter of which is one of the favorites to win the category.

Thirteen years after “Avatar” (2009) won this race, James Cameron’s anticipated sequel “Avatar: The Way of Water” was a no-brainer and is among the early frontrunners for the prize.

Superhero films are plentiful with three sequels from Marvel Studios landing in the field — “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and “Thor: Love and Thunder.” Also welcomed is DC’s Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” sliding into the fray.

International contenders such as Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s personal comedy “Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” and Edward Berger’s war drama “All Quiet on the Western Front,” both from Netflix, made an entry. The action epic “RRR” from S.S. Rajamouli and Variance Films, the U.S. distributor, is also among the notable entries adding to its momentum.

Also from Netflix, The Russo Brothers’ “The Gray Man” has a shot at a nom after doing very well on the streaming platform. “The Gray Man” is Netflix’s No. 3 most popular movie of all time. The streamer calculates its Most Popular list based on a title’s viewership in its first 28 days of availability, and “The Gray Man” reached 253.9 million hours viewed during that time. It’s outranked by “Red Notice” (364 million in 2021), “Don’t Look Up” (359.8 million in 2021) and “Bird Box” (282 million in 2018).

Independent cinema made a significant showing with The Daniels’ “Everything Everywhere All at Once” with Michelle Yeoh getting love for its multiverse travels and all-powerful everything bagels.

Two years after HBO’s documentary “Welcome to Chechnya” came up short of making history in the visual effects category, Amazon Studios’ examination of the Mars rovers in “Good Night Oppy” is in the final legs of the race. It wasn’t the only Amazon title in the “Oppy” as Ron Howard’s Thailand cave rescue film “Thirteen Lives” with Viggo Mortensen is also present.

The 20th feature on the shortlist is currently unknown but is believed to be either a non-English language or documentary title.

All official visual effects nominees will be determined by the Academy and announced with the other 22 categories on Jan. 24.

Note: this is not an official list released by the Academy and could change through further information.

  • “All Quiet on the Western Front” (Netflix)
  • “Avatar: The Way of Water” (20th Century Studios)
  • “Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” (Netflix)
  • “The Batman” (Warner Bros.)
  • “Black Adam” (Warner Bros.)
  • “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (Marvel Studios)
  • “Devotion” (Sony Pictures)
  • “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” (Marvel Studios)
  • “Elvis” (Warner Bros.)
  • “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (A24)
  • “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” (Warner Bros.)
  • “Good Night Oppy” (Amazon Studios)
  • “The Gray Man” (Netflix)
  • “Jurassic World: Dominion” (Universal Pictures)
  • “Gigi & Nate” (Roadside Attractions)
  • “Nope” (Universal Pictures)
  • “RRR” (Variance Films)
  • “Thirteen Lives” (Amazon Studios/MGM)
  • “Thor: Love and Thunder” (Marvel Studios)
  • “Top Gun: Maverick” (Paramount Pictures)

Read the updated predictions for visual effects here.

To see the current rankings for each individual category, visit Variety’s Oscars Hub. Make sure to bookmark the 2022-2023 Awards Season calendar for all key dates and timelines for the season.