This year's best picture nominees include work from some of Hollywood's biggest names - Scott Rudin, the Coens, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, Paul Thomas Anderson - as well as relative newcomers such as Jason Reitman, Tony Gilroy and Joe Wright

Focus Features, Universal Pictures International
Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Paul Webster, producers
Focus Features left their best until last this year, opening Joe Wright's heartbreaking period drama in early December in the US to strong critical response and passionate word-of-mouth. Ian McEwan's story of doomed love and wartime hardship seems to have touched a nerve with audiences in the same way as romantic epics Doctor Zhivago, Out Of Africa and The English Patient. Awards bodies love a period epic, especially one as rich and tragic as Atonement and it has already won the Golden Globe for best picture (drama) and won best film at the BAFTAs.

US BOX OFFICE (AT JAN 27): $37.8m
WHAT SCREEN SAID 'Audiences accustomed to the fast-cutting frenzy of some modern film-making may find Atonement a little slow and measured, but the storytelling is immensely compact and the pacing merely assists in the construction of an increasingly tragic and moving story. The entire film in approach and execution is a triumph for Joe Wright.' Allan Hunter

Fox Searchlight Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox Int'l
Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich, Mason Novick and Russell Smith, producers
Jason Reitman's second film has been even more warmly received than his first, Thank You For Smoking. Shooting Diablo Cody's screenplay, one of the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood for several years now, Reitman's low-budget comedy follows a smart-talking teenage girl (the redoubtable Ellen Page) facing pregnancy head-on. Just like Fox Searchlight's Little Miss Sunshine last year, Juno is the little film that could of this year's awards season, principally because it is so likeable and unpretentious in the face of long, ambitious, male-dominated pictures.

US BOX OFFICE (AT JAN 27): $100m
WHAT SCREEN SAID 'Juno's endearing oddity and its protagonist's mordant world-view could be just the right equation to make it an event for the under-20s audience.' David D'Arcy

Warner Bros Pictures, Summit Int'l
Sydney Pollack, Steve Samuels, Jennifer Fox and Kerry Orent, producers

A smart thriller about corporate corruption starring George Clooney, who has come to represent a new breed of intelligent film with titles Good Night, And Good Luck; Syriana; and The Good German. And Clooney's not the only star of this show. Tony Gilroy, who wrote the script and made his directorial debut to strong reviews, has already signed Julia Roberts and Clive Owen for his next film, Duplicity. Though its performance at the box office was only mild, the thriller has not been forgotten in year-end awards, with Clooney named best actor by the National Board of Review.

US BOX OFFICE (AT JAN 27): $41.6m
WHAT SCREEN SAID 'This is not the cheering world of Erin Brokovich, or any kind of rabble-rousing tale which pays emotional dividends for its audience. This is a grim and murky world peopled by noiseless killers and ordered by unhinged boardroom decisions.' Roger Clarke

Miramax Films, Paramount Vantage
Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, producers
Ever since its world premiere in competition at Cannes, the Coen brothers' dark thriller was tipped for a best picture Oscar nomination. It has also picked up best picture citations from the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review. No Country For Old Men might still prove too bleak and violent in its execution and message for some older Academy members.

US BOX OFFICE (AT JAN 27): $51.9m
WHAT SCREEN SAID 'No Country For Old Men finds its soul in Roger Deakins' striking images of the desolate landscapes around the Tex-Mex border that are filled with blinding light, brooding skies and dark foreboding.' Allan Hunter

Paramount Vantage, Miramax Films
Paul Thomas Anderson, JoAnne Sellar and Daniel Lupi, producers

Paul Thomas Anderson's latest opus is an epic study of the foundations of corporate America, which features one of the year's great performances from Daniel Day-Lewis. It has been a critical darling and big winner at end-of-year critics' awards. But Anderson's style is not to everyone's taste and this long, challenging film, which ends with one of the most intense and shocking scenes on screen this year, might turn off older voters who like their movies upbeat and life-affirming. Still, a film this accomplished is hard to ignore.

US BOX OFFICE (AT JAN 27): $14.7m
WHAT SCREEN SAID 'Upton Sinclair's novel about the oil boom of the early 1900s was published in 1927, just two years before Wall Street would crumble under the weight of frenzied speculation. There Will Be Blood is another warning that greed and the arrogant use of power have their consequences.' David D'Arcy