All Quiet on the Western Front, Edward Berger’s devastating Netflix drama about an idealistic German soldier sent to the trenches, has been named frontrunner at this year’s British Academy of Film and Television Awards.
The film is shortlisted for 14 prizes, including best film, director, supporting actor and adapted screenplay. This means it ties with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) as the film with the most nominations not in the English language; Ang Lee’s martial arts epic went on to win four.
Both films come second only to Gandhi in the overall chart; Richard Attenborough’s biopic starring Ben Kingsley got 16 nominations in 1981, winning five.
The acclaim for Berger’s film, as well as the remainder of a shortlist exhibiting considerable diversions from other mainstream awards bodies, can be credited to the institution’s sweeping shakeup following the #BaftasSoWhite controversy in 2020, when their failure to nominate a single acting nominee of colour led to considerable fallout.
Some 120 rule changes were introduced, including gender parity at the long-listing stage and a mandate that Bafta voters must watch a considerable number of specially assigned titles, therefore introducing them to a broader range of work.
Forty-five films received nominations on Thursday, when the shortlists were announced by actors Hayley Atwell and Toheeb Jimoh. Speaking to the Guardian, Chair of Bafta Krishnendu Majumdar said that he was heartened that as well as “shining a light on British film, the Baftas really celebrate global film. The best film list is one of real range, depth and a broad spectrum of styles”.
Joining All Quiet on the Western Front on that list are Martin McDonagh’s black comedy The Banshees of Inisherin, Baz Luhrmann’s dazzling biopic Elvis, the Daniels’ wacky multiverse epic Everything Everywhere All at Once and Todd Field’s uncompromising cancel culture drama, Tár.
Only one of these – The Banshees of Inisherin – also features on the Outstanding British Film shortlist, alongside Aftersun, Brian and Charles, Empire of Light, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, Living, Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical, See How They Run, The Swimmers and The Wonder.
Everything Everywhere All at Once has been both a commercial smash and – largely – a critical hit. It won best actress in a comedy or musical for Michelle Yeoh at the Golden Globes last week, as well as best supporting actor for Ke Huy Quan.
Both that film and The Banshees of Inisherin, which won the Globe for best comedy or musical, have picked up 10 Bafta nominations; the winner of the Globe for best drama, however – Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans – received only one Bafta nomination, for original screenplay.
All three films have been vying for the Oscar frontrunner spot; voting on the first round of nominations has now closed and the shortlist is announced next Tuesday.
Six men feature on the best director list: Berger, McDonagh, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Field and Park Chan-Wook for Decision to Leave. Gina Prince-Bythewood, who made The Woman King, is the only woman shortlisted this year; this marks a three-year low for gender parity in the category.
Anna Higgs, chair of Bafta’s film committee, told the Guardian that female directors had told her “loud and clear they didn’t want quotas as it would be tokenistic”. She also reported that more than twice the films submitted in that category this year had been directed by men.
“One terrifying but brilliant stat is that before our review in 2020, there had only be six female directors nominated in 54 years and one win, for Kathryn Bigelow,” said Higgs. “Since the review there have been eight nominations and two wins.”
Last year Jane Campion took the directing award for The Power of the Dog; the previous year, it was Chloé Zhao for Nomadland. Both films also won best picture, with Nomadland going on to sweep the Oscars, while Campion triumphed as director at last year’s Academy Awards, but was pipped to best picture by Coda.
Charlotte Wells, the young Scottish director whose debut, Aftersun, topped many critics’ lists last year, has been recognised for outstanding debut while the film is also up for British film, casting and leading actor for Paul Mescal.
Mescal joins two other Irishmen in his category: Colin Farrell (for The Banshees of Inisherin) and Daryl McCormack (for Good Luck to You, Leo Grande), as well as the Briton Bill Nighy (for Living) and Americans Brendan Fraser (for The Whale) and Austin Butler (for Elvis).
Both Fraser and Butler was honoured in the drama and comedy or musical categories at the Globes; Elvis also picked up nominations in eight other categories; Baz Lurhmann’s biopic has outperformed expectations both at the box office (where it has made $284m) and during awards season.
It was among a number of commercial hits shown love by Bafta voters, with both Top Gun: Maverick and The Batman picking up four craft nominations, while Avatar: The Way of Water took two.
The frontrunner in the best actress category remains Cate Blanchett, who has taken almost all awards so far for her performance as an imperious conductor in Tár, which is up for four Baftas.
In contention against her are Yeoh, Viola Davis for The Woman King, Danielle Deadwyler for Till, Ana de Armas for Blonde and Emma Thompson for Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. Surprise omissions include Olivia Colman for Empire of Light and Michelle Williams for The Fabelmans.
Colman’s Empire of Light co-star Micheal Ward is up for best supporting actor on an eclectic shortlist, while Angela Bassett was a less expected name on the supporting actress list for her part in the Black Panther sequel.
Jamie Lee Curtis and Dolly de Leon are frontrunners for that prize; De Leon plays a formidable yacht worker in the Palme d’Or winning Triangle of Sadness, which came away with three nominations.
This year’s Baftas will take place on 19 February, almost a month before the Oscars, which are on 12 March. As well as a new venue – they have traditionally been held in the Royal Albert Hall – the Baftas also have a new host: the actor Richard E Grant.
Higgs said they were delighted with the choice, and that after years in which Stephen Fry and Graham Norton had hosted, the awards were following the lead of other ceremonies in seeking to regularly refresh their emcee. Last year, the awards were hosted by Rebel Wilson; Joanna Lumley also did the honours for two years running.
• This article was amended on 19 January 2023. A previous version incorrectly gave Paul Mescal’s nationality as British, rather than Irish. Also, the 14 nominations for All Quiet on the Western Front are record-equalling, but not record-breaking as an earlier headline said.