2023 Academy Awards Shortlists: Snubs and Surprises

Ahead of final nomination voting for the 2023 Academy Awards, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released the shortlists for nine categories at the upcoming ceremony: documentary feature (featuring 15 films), documentary short subject (featuring 10), international feature (featuring 15), makeup and hairstyling (featuring 10), sound (featuring 10), original score (featuring 15), original song (featuring 15), animated short film (featuring 10), live action short film (featuring 10), and visual effects (featuring 10). Voting for these shortlists concluded on Dec. 16, while final nomination voting will take place from Jan. 12-17.

As with every year, there are some shocking snubs and surprises to sift through, but I’d caution making any sweeping statements about the state of the overall awards race just because a film missed a shortlist mention in a certain category (or conversely, received multiple). The shortlists are just that: shortlists. What matters at the end of the day will be the actual number of nominations – across multiple branches – a film receives, and a film missing a shortlist mention could just mean one certain branch wasn’t as big a fan of the craft work in question in said film, and nothing more (while a film overperforming with shortlist mentions isn’t always necessarily indicative of widespread support for the film itself across the entire Academy).

Last year, No Time to Die made every shortlist it needed to (Makeup and Hairstyling, Original Song, Sound, and Visual Effects, only receiving nominations for the latter three, and a win for Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell’s “No Time to Die”) and made some believe it was in stronger contention for a Best Picture nomination than it actually was, while in 2017, The Shape of Water “shockingly” missed a mention for Makeup and Hairstyling (despite featuring a costumed “fish-man” as its secondary lead), and that didn’t mean a thing for its ultimate Best Picture victory. Shortlist mentions are about the craft in question, not a voter’s feeling for a film overall, and it’s also important to remember that below-the-line branches aren’t as big in membership as above-the-line branches (producers, directors, writers, and especially, actors). With that being said, let’s just dive right into these lists and see what films made it, which are missing, and what it all means.


Documentary Feature Film

All That Breathes
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
Bad Axe
Children of the Mist
Fire of Love
Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song
Hidden Letters
A House Made of Splinters
The Janes
Last Flight Home
Moonage Daydream
The Territory

What’s Here: Navalny, Fire of Love, and Golden Lion winner All the Beauty and the Bloodshed – widely seen as a “top three” of sorts in this category – all made the cut, while All That Breathes, Descendant, and Moonage Daydream have been getting many mentions as well, and remained in the race.

What Isn’t: Amazon Studios’ two biggest contenders here – Good Night Oppy and Wildcat – were surprisingly left off the list, while Netflix and Robert Downey Jr.’s Sr. was similarly snubbed, and Hulu’s Aftershock also won’t be advancing to the next round of voting.

All Quiet on the Western Front

International Feature Film

Argentina, Argentina, 1985
Austria, Corsage
Belgium, Close
Cambodia, Return to Seoul
Denmark, Holy Spider
France, Saint Omer
Germany, All Quiet on the Western Front
India, Last Film Show
Ireland, The Quiet Girl
Mexico, Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
Morocco, The Blue Caftan
Pakistan, Joyland
Poland, EO
South Korea, Decision to Leave
Sweden, Cairo Conspiracy

What’s Here: Pretty much every main contender you can think of. The broad consensus is that there’s a top three of Germany’s All Quiet on the Western Front (which is backed by Netflix and had a GREAT day overall), South Korea’s Decision to Leave, and Belgium’s Close, though it is nice to see the divisive Bardo still get a mention here (also backed by Netflix), as did Golden Globe/Critics Choice nominee Argentina, 1985.

What Isn’t: Say goodbye to Ukraine’s timely Klondike, a film about a Ukranian family living on the border of Russia and Ukraine during the start of the war, as well as Brazil’s Mars One and Spain’s Alcarràs.

Austin Butler in Elvis

Makeup and Hairstyling

All Quiet on the Western Front
The Batman
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Crimes of the Future
The Whale

What’s Here: Hell yes to the makeup branch recognizing the wonderfully wicked work in David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future (nominate more horror movies, please!), while Amsterdam and Blonde proved that their critical pans meant nothing for their awards prospects in the crafts categories. The consensus top three, ElvisThe Whale, and The Batman are all safe as well.

What Isn’t: Everything Everywhere All at Once is the most shocking snub on this list (though it should be stated that this group usually strays away from contemporary work, no matter how imaginative, and again, The Shape of Water also missed this shortlist mention five years ago), but the snubs for X (what, could we only honor one horror film?) and The Woman King are perhaps the most egregious.

Music (Original Score)

All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
The Banshees of Inisherin
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Don’t Worry Darling
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Fabelmans
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
She Said
The Woman King
Women Talking

What’s Here: A consensus five is quickly forming around Carter Burwell (The Banshees of Inisherin), Alexandre Desplat (Guillermo del Toro‘s Pinocchio), Hildur Guðnadóttir (Women Talking), Justin Hurwitz (Babylon), and John Williams (The Fabelmans) – all of whom made it in – but I’d watch out for former nominee Volker Bertelmann (All Quiet on the Western Front) as well as Avatar: The Way of Water‘s Simon Franglen (scoring for a film which also had a great day and will be a big contender overall).

What Isn’t: What does this branch have against The Batman? Michael Giacchino’s mind-melting score for that film should have been a shoo-in for a shortlist mention at the very least, but now, it’s not in contention for a nomination whatsoever. Almost equally as shocking was The Academy turning their noses up at both of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ offerings this year (for Empire of Light and Bones and All), while Thomas Newman (A Man Called Otto), Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch (Living), and M.M. Keeravani (RRR) also missed.

Music (Original Song)

“Time” from Amsterdam
“Nothing Is Lost (You Give Me Strength)” from Avatar: The Way of Water
“Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
“This Is A Life” from Everything Everywhere All at Once
“Ciao Papa” from Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
“Til You’re Home” from A Man Called Otto
“Naatu Naatu” from RRR
“My Mind & Me” from Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me
“Good Afternoon” from Spirited
“Applause” from Tell It like a Woman
“Stand Up” from Till
“Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick
“Dust & Ash” from The Voice of Dust and Ash
“Carolina” from Where the Crawdads Sing
“New Body Rhumba” from White Noise

What’s Here: “NAATU NAATU”! One of the main songs in contention that was actually used in the movie it’s from made the cut, and I think it’s a strong contender for the win, too. None of the big names were left off either, as Lady Gaga, Selena Gomez, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, and The Weeknd were all represented, while perennial branch favorite Diane Warren is naturally back in the running with Tell It like a Woman‘s “Applause.” Also of note: Everything Everywhere All at Once‘s inclusion, despite snubs others have focused on elsewhere (and after this and its score shortlist mention, it seems the music branch really took to the film).

What Isn’t: Pour one out for reigning winners Billie Eilish and Finneas, who won’t be returning to the Dolby Theatre this year with Turning Red‘s “Nobody Like U (and I’m personally mourning the deceased Oscar chances for Bones and All‘s “(You Made it Feel Like) Home”).

Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick


All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
The Batman
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Moonage Daydream
Top Gun: Maverick

What’s Here: Really, nobody you wouldn’t expect – presumed frontrunner Top Gun: Maverick, war film All Quiet on the Western Front, blockbusters Avatar: The Way of Water and The Batman, the bombastic musical biopic Elvis, and even Everything Everywhere All at Once, which some had counted out – though Moonage Daydream‘s inclusion is a very welcome surprise, especially for how inventively edited that film is.

What Isn’t: Did this branch watch – and listen to – Nope?! It’s flabbergasting that voters couldn’t find a place for a film that features some of the most exceptional sound editing not just from this year but in years, but c’est la vie. Thirteen Lives also campaigned hard for a nomination here, but came up short, while RRR also couldn’t get on the shortlist, though I don’t think that means much for its larger ambitions in The Academy. And even though The Fabelmans doesn’t feature the showiest sound work, it was still widely predicted for a mention given its place as “The Best Picture Frontrunner™” and its sound team’s pedigree.

avatar the way of water

Visual Effects

All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
The Batman
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
Jurassic World Dominion
Thirteen Lives
Top Gun: Maverick

What’s Here: Avatar: The Way of Water – duh – along with other Best Picture contender Top Gun: Maverick – and a slewww of other blockbusters. The BatmanBlack Panther: Wakanda Forever, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness seem to be the next best poised for nominations, though I wouldn’t count out Nope either, which has quite the spectacle to show off in the form of its story’s central alien.

What Isn’t: Everything Everywhere All at Once – which pulled off a multiversal action extravaganza with a team of just seven visual effects artists – was egregiously left off this shortlist, though again, we don’t know by how much, and perhaps its lack of an extensive VFX team (full of the branch’s “big names”) might have worked against it. After missing out on a Documentary mention, Good Night Oppy was similarly snubbed here, and RRR also couldn’t manage a mention, despite considerable hype surrounding that film’s special effects (though this branch is much pickier about the work than other awards bodies).

And here are the shortlists for the short film categories, which I’ll reserve judgment on for the time being since I haven’t seen enough of these features to properly comment on them, though the main shocking omission many have already noted is the omission of Taylor Swift’s All Too Well: The Short Film in Live-Action Short Film.

Animated Short Film

Black Slide
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
The Debutante
The Flying Sailor
The Garbage Man
Ice Merchants
It’s Nice in Here
More than I Want to Remember
My Year of Dicks
New Moon
An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It
Save Ralph

Documentary Short Film

American Justice on Trial: People v. Newton
Angola Do You Hear Us? Voices from a Plantation Prison
As Far as They Can Run
The Elephant Whisperers
The Flagmakers
Happiness Is £4 Million
Holding Moses
How Do You Measure a Year?
The Martha Mitchell Effect
Nuisance Bear
Shut Up and Paint
Stranger at the Gate
38 at the Garden

Live-Action Short Film

All in Favor
Almost Home
An Irish Goodbye
Le Pupille
The Lone Wolf
Night Ride
Plastic Killer
The Red Suitcase
The Right Words
The Treatment

Additional Notes:

  • All Quiet on the Western Front and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever made every shortlist they possibly could’ve, with five mentions a piece.
  • Avatar: The Way of Water received four mentions.
  • BabylonThe BatmanEverything Everywhere All at OnceGuillermo del Toro‘s Pinocchio, and Top Gun: Maverick earned three mentions a piece.
Written by
Though Zoë Rose Bryant has only worked in film criticism for a little under three years - turning a collegiate passion into a full-time career by writing for outlets such as Next Best Picture and Awards Watch - her captivation with cinema has been a lifelong fascination, appreciating film in all its varying forms, from horror movies to heartfelt romantic comedies and everything in between. Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, she made the move to Los Angeles in 2021 after graduating college and now spends her days keeping tabs on all things pop culture and attempting to attend every screening under the sun. As a trans critic, she also seeks to champion underrepresented voices in the LGBTQ+ community in film criticism and offer original insight on how gender and sexuality are explored in modern entertainment. You can find Zoë on Twitter, Instagram, and Letterboxd at @ZoeRoseBryant.

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