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Why Isn’t ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Favored To Win Best Picture?

Year’s highest-grossing, best-reviewed film given fourth-best odds to prevail




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If there is one universal truth in America, it’s that we don’t always tell it.

The truth, that is. We don’t always tell the truth.

Remember your last visit to the doctor, when she asked you how many alcoholic beverages you consumed in a week and you told her 10 — and then proceeded to exceed that amount on a single Saturday? Or when a pollster asked if you intended to vote for Trump in 2016 and you went out and did exactly what you told the pollster you wouldn’t do?

In such instances, the truth can be embarrassing. This helps explain why, at odds of 16/1 (DraftKings), Top Gun: Maverick is a live longshot to upset the heavily favored (-1100) Everything Everywhere All at Once in the Academy Awards’ Best Picture category on Sunday. (And yes, it’s legal to bet on the Oscars in Michigan through some mobile sportsbooks.)

First, here are the many reasons why the long-awaited Top Gun sequel won’t win. It’s a sequel, and only two of those have ever won Best PictureThe Godfather: Part II and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Those sequels were, in large part, prestige pictures, whereas Top Gun: Maverick is a popcorn movie, and a fair amount of people are still pretty weirded out by Tom Cruise and the Scientology stuff.

Yet, within that popcorn lies a kernel of wisdom. Top Gun: Maverick arrived in theaters on May 27, 2022, the earliest release date of any of the Best Picture nominees. But whereas early release dates typically work against a film’s chances of winning cinema’s top prize, Top Gun: Maverick hit screens at a time when Hollywood wasn’t sure whether a pandemic-paralyzed populous would ever be willing to turn off Netflix, rise from the couch, and go to the movies again.

Nearly $1.5 billion in global box office receipts later, Top Gun: Maverick, essentially carrying water for the entire industry, has proven the answer to be a resounding yes.

Speaking of water, the Avatar sequel, a rival nominee which has thus far bested Top Gun’s international gross while trailing it domestically, has no prayer of winning (DraftKings’ odds of 100/1 reflect this unlikelihood). The superior original was already nominated (and lost), and if there’s anything creepier than Cruise jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch, it’s CGI-generated future-folk that look like Trevor Lawrence.

Top Gun: Maverick, which featured a crucial stunt-flying contribution from a graduate of Eastern Michigan University’s ROTC program, vastly improved upon the original. A near-perfect representation of what a movie of its action-packed ilk should be, the sequel was, in fact, the best-reviewed film of the year on Rotten Tomatoes — 96% fresh on the Tomatometer, with an even loftier 99% audience score.

‘Slim hope’ for victory

If you were told a movie that grossed the most money at the U.S. box office was also the best-reviewed film in the land, you’d make that flick your odds-on favorite to win Best Picture, would you not? While Top Gun: Maverick meets the criteria, it’s not even on DraftKings’ prospective podium, trailing Everything Everywhere All at Once, All Quiet on the Western Front (10/1), and The Banshees of Insherin (14/1).

Everything Everywhere All at Once checks a lot of boxes. It boasts a large, talented, international cast; has a mind-bending, unique premise; has been lauded by critics; has done extremely well in pre-Oscar award derbies; and has fared respectably at the box office ($104.6 million worldwide/$73 million domestically). It’s the sort of film that normally wins Best Picture, but 2022, during which the global movie industry emerged from a two-year, cryo-COVID siesta, was no normal year.

Would it be so surprising if Oscar voters who publicly proclaimed their support for EEAAO then quietly voted for Top Gun: Maverick? At least one industry observer wouldn’t be completely shocked. Chris Rosen of GoldDerby told US BetsGamble On podcast that he believed Top Gun: Maverick was the best movie of the year, and that he holds out “slim hope” that it will score an upset on Sunday.

So you’re telling me there’s a chance? Yeah!

Photo: Amanda Edwards/Getty Images