3. The Big Short
Cast: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt
Director: Adam McKay
Our take: McKay takes his investigation of the 2008 financial crisis a step beyond an econ lesson. The Big Short damns the bankers, damns their critics, damns the government, and damns us for being lost-in-the-dark fools who still don't know a thing about credit default swaps. A whirlwind of number-crunching and epiphany, McKay offsets his movie's rage with belly laughs. Read about how it all comes together in my review.
Will it win? With an Oscar-caliber cast, an urgent subject matter, and an underdog narrative -- McKay, best known for comedies like Anchorman and Step Brothers, takes a leap into "prestige" film -- it's got a helluva chance. If I were Bale's genius hedge fund, we'd have statistical evidence to back up my claim, but I'm not, so just trust me.