“American Hustle,” “Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave” lead a competitive 2014 field of Oscar nominees.

“American Hustle” scored 10 nominations, including nods in top categories best picture and best director (David O. Russell). Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper received nominations for acting work in the film, which follows a couple of scammers strong-armed into working undercover for the FBI.

Not far behind with nine nominations was the adaptation of Solomon Northup’s memoir, “12 Years a Slave,” which chronicles the free-born black man’s kidnapping in the 1840s and the horrors he witnessed during his subsequent dozen years of forced labor. Chiwetel Ejiofor, who was passed over for a best acting Golden Globe on Sunday night (Matthew McConaughey won for “Dallas Buyers Club”) was nominated for best actor, and Michael Fassbender and Lupita N’yongo were nominated for supporting roles. The film also was nominated for best picture, direction for Steve McQueen and adapted screenplay.

“Gravity,” which earned director Alfonso Cuarón a Golden Globe for best direction, also is up for 10 Oscars, although some of the categories are less high-profile. In addition to nominations for best picture, best direction and best actress (Sandra Bullock), the outer-space adventure was singled out for cinematography, film editing and score.

Beginning in 2011, the Academy began allowing a minimum of five and a maximum of 10 film nominees for the best picture category. Even with 2013 considered one of the strongest years for cinema in recent memory, there are just nine nominees. In addition to “12 Years a Slave” and “American Hustle,” the contenders are “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Nebraska,” “”Her,” “Captain Phillips,” “Philomena,” “Gravity” and “Dallas Buyers Club.”

Washington Post film critic Stephanie Merry breaks down the snubs and surprises in the nominations for the Academy Awards, which will air on ABC on March 2. (Jayne Orenstein/The Washington Post)

Among the most apparent snubs is the Coen brothers’ much-touted early-’60s folk singer drama “Inside Llewyn Davis,” which was nominated only for cinematography and sound mixing. Robert Redford, a Golden Globe acting contender for his nearly-wordless adrift-at-sea drama “All Is Lost,” didn’t receive a nod. And in the documentary field, the high-profile film “Blackfish,” about the dark side of SeaWorld, failed to secure a nomination.

The biggest surprise may be that Jonah Hill was nominated for his second Oscar, for “The Wolf of Wall Street.” The actor, who got his start as part of Judd Apatow’s coterie of characters, was nominated for “Moneyball” in 2012.

In addition to an uncommonly strong list of best picture nominees, the best actor category may be the most competitive. Besides Bale, McConaughey and Ejiofor, the other contenders are veteran Bruce Dern for “Nebraska” and Leonardo DiCaprio for “The Wolf of Wall Street,” a movie that received five nominations despite mixed reviews. In the best actress field, Globe winner Cate Blanchett is considered a strong favorite for her portrayal of a neurotic and tone-deaf recent divorcee in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine.”

Meanwhile, in the supporting acting categories, Golden Globe winner Jared Leto looks to add another trophy for his portrayal of a transgender AIDS patient, while “American Hustle’s” Jennifer Lawrence tries to win Oscars in back-to-back years. (She took home best actress last year for her performance in “Silver Linings Playbook.”)

The widely panned box office bomb “The Lone Ranger” was nominated for two awards — visual effects, and makeup and hairstyling, in which it’s going up against “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa.”


Full list of Oscar nominees

Ann Hornaday: ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ and more Oscar snubs

McConaughey or DiCaprio? After the Golden Globes, looking ahead to the Oscars

See the trailers for best picture nominees

The 3-D space thriller "Gravity" chronicles astronaut Ryan Stone's (Sandra Bullock) desperate attempt to survive in space after an accident separates her from the NASA space shuttle she was working to repair. The movie was nominated for an Oscar for best picture, and earned Sandra Bullock and director Alfonso Cuarón nominations for acting and directing. (Warner Bros. Pictures)