The wait is over: There are eight movies that will be competing for the top prize at the Academy Awards Feb. 28. USA TODAY's Brian Truitt breaks down the strengths and weaknesses of each nominee:
Bridge of Spies
Strength: Steven Spielberg. If his name's on the movie poster, people pay attention, and the Cold War drama finds a master still at the top of his game.
Weakness: Momentum. Initial buzz for the Tom Hanks vehicle has died down except to laud Mark Rylance.
Strength: Heart. The romance of an Irish girl (Saoirse Ronan) and New York City boy (Emory Cohen) is a multi-hankie affair about the immigrant experience.
Weakness: Getting overwhelmed. It's also a one-woman show that's so far been overshadowed by bigger, meatier flicks.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Strength: Game-changer. George Miller's post-apocalyptic reboot deftly melds insane action and incomparable artistry.
Weakness: Franchise status. Unless you're the last Lord of the Rings, sequels and prequels don't do much for voters.
Strength: Ambition. Ridley Scott's stranded-astronaut tale will remind voters of a time when the world was all about exploring space.
Weakness: Populism. Its feel-good nature could be seen as a detriment to its dramatic subject matter.
Strength: Filmmaking. Alejandro González Iñárritu's Golden Globe-winning epic combines excellent technical skill with Leonardo DiCaprio's tour de force performance.
Weakness: Intensity. DiCaprio's Hugh Glass goes through hell traversing the American frontier, so much so that it's often hard to watch.
Strength: Brie Larson. The best actress frontrunner wowed everybody as an embattled single mom devoted to her son.
Weakness: Lack of audience. Critics and film geeks loved the movie but no one else saw it — its $5.2 million box office is the lowest of any best picture contender.
Strength: Acting. The journalism drama has arguably the deepest cast of the bunch, with Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber and Rachel McAdams.
Weakness: Frontrunner status. It's been the favorite among many to win for a while — is it peaking too soon, a la last year's Boyhood?
The Big Short
Strength: Timing. The bank-fail dramedy has caught fire recently with its A-list cast and entertaining handling of the mortgage crisis.
Weakness: Humor. While not a pure comedy by any means, one could see it spawning more laughs than Oscar votes.