Will Nicole Kidman or Lady Gaga win Best Actress? Does Belfast have what it takes to snatch Best Picture? See EW's 2022 Oscars predictions here.

It's difficult to follow up an Academy Awards cycle where Glenn Close's butt became a defining topic of the season, but the chaos, glory, and star-studded spectacle of the 2022 Oscars race is giving her derriere a run for its money. As contenders look to cash in on heavy precursor affection, EW looks to streamline the race ahead with our expert Oscar predictions in the big six categories — including the ever-evolving hunt for Best Picture and the high profile matchup between Nicole Kidman, Olivia Colman, and Lady Gaga in the heated Best Actress face-off.

Check out all of EW's 2022 Oscars predictions below, updating as often as the race changes in the coming weeks. Last update: Jan. 13

The Awardist oscar predictions
Tracking the top contenders for 2022 with EW's Oscar predictions.
| Credit: Niko Tavernise/20th Century Studios; Christopher Polk/Getty Images; Rob Youngson / Focus Features; Fabio Lovino/MGM; Chiabella James/Warner Bros. (2)

Best Picture

The Irish don't need much luck in the current Oscar race; Kenneth Branagh's semi-autobiographical historical drama Belfast has succeeded on passion, emotion, and genuine industry affection thus far. That's not to say the film isn't magical on its own — its tale of a tight-knit Irish family in the '60s weighing their future amid the Troubles has hit with audiences (it won the coveted TIFF People's Choice Award that has gone to nine Best Picture nominees or winners since 2011) and industry voters alike, indicating the kind of cross-demographic appeal necessary to score high on the Academy's ranked preferential ballot — a notion driven home by the film's performance among the SAG Awards nominations, where it scored individual notice for supporting star Caitríona Balfe and an ensemble nod from one of the largest unions in Hollywood with heavy crossover membership into the Academy's biggest branch.

Steven Spielberg's late-breaking musical West Side Story has also steadily risen in recent weeks, despite massively underperforming at the box office, grossing a mere $50 million globally on a reported $100 million budget. It has, however, soared with critics on the same lyrical, emotional highs Belfast conjures — though Hollywood history (the Stephen Sondheim stage version is a time-tested classic, as is the 1961 film adaptation) adds a powerful dose of nostalgic affection to the film's winning recipe, too. Still, it failed to register with SAG. Ariana DeBose notched a lone nod for her supporting turn, while the film's strong ensemble in a time-tested narrative failed to score ensemble recognition from the commercial-leaning precursor.

Outside of the usual suspects riding the trail thus far (Licorice Pizza, Power of the Dog, Dune, King Richard, etc.), the most powerful surge has quietly risen in the background: Apple TV+'s CODA — about a young, hearing woman coming into her own as the daughter of deaf parents — has consistently racked up notices since the start of the season. It's an emotional work that plays directly to the heart and, as a result, into the top of voters' minds as they rank their ballots, with SAG proving the film's might with an ensemble nod among its 2022 nominations.

  1. Belfast
  2. The Power of the Dog
  3. King Richard
  4. CODA
  5. West Side Story
  6. Licorice Pizza
  7. Don't Look Up
  8. Dune
  9. Tick, Tick… Boom! 
  10. The Lost Daughter

On the bubble: Tragedy of Macbeth; Nightmare Alley; Drive My Car; Being the Ricardos

The Power of the Dog
Jane Campion directs 'The Power of the Dog.'

Best Director

Jane Campion waited 12 years to return to filmmaking, and the absence of her mastery on the big screen has clearly made the industry's collective heart grow fonder. Her Netflix feature The Power of the Dog is one of the few surefire staples of the season, hitting every precursor (from journalist-backed organizations to groups with real industry ties) along the way. The film's performances (particularly those of Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, and Supporting Actor frontrunner Kodi Smit-McPhee) are an actor's dream, and have received individual praise enough to show up in three solo categories at the SAG Awards.

Hot on her tail, Kenneth Branagh moves up in the race thanks to Belfast's pure dominance of the precursor trail as well. But Steven Spielberg remains an interesting factor as the race intensifies. His commercial profile led many to question the necessity of a new West Side Story adaptation with him at the helm, but early reviews swiftly declared it as one of the standout entries in his entire filmography. Not only did reactions praise his astute take on the material, they heralded his focus on revolutionizing, regenerating, and pushing the narrative forward. All of this to say: praise for the film has largely ridden on the back of Spielberg's direction, including the ace performances he coached out of his cast. It's the kind of spectacular showcase Hollywood loves — a titanic director at the top of his craft, shaping a monumental entry that pools excellence from all reaches of the industry (actors, massive sets, daring cinematography) under one filmmaker's singular vision. Don't count him out.

The other players in this category will likely come from other strong Best Picture contenders, but the fifth directing slot has, in recent years, served as a wild card. The filmmaking branch is no stranger to rogue selections, often recognizing directors with one-off nominations for projects that have little traction in the Best Picture race. While it doesn't happen regularly enough to bet on it, the branch has — at least lately — reserved select slots for international directors with prestige projects hovering around the peripheral edges of the race. Since 2018, Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War) and Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round) have snatched surprise notices here, and with buzz building around renowned director Ryusuke Hamaguchi's Cannes-debuting epic Drive My Car, the Japanese icon could end up being the film's sole above-the-line nod on nominations morning — especially in the era of digital-focused campaigns, as voters are far more likely to watch the three-hour drama in the comfort of their own homes (with bountiful bathroom breaks at their disposal, of course).

  1. Jane Campion — The Power of the Dog
  2. Kenneth Branagh — Belfast
  3. Steven Spielberg — West Side Story
  4. Paul Thomas Anderson — Licorice Pizza
  5. Ryusuke Hamaguchi — Drive My Car

On the bubble: Denis Villeneuve — Dune; Guillermo del Toro — Nightmare Alley; Maggie Gyllenhaal — The Lost Daughter; Adam McKay — Don't Look Up; Sian Heder — CODA

Demi Singleton, Saniyya Sidney, and Will Smith in 'King Richard'
| Credit: Chiabella James/Warner Bros.

Best Actor

Will Smith's trajectory on the prestige circuit remains one of the most confounding awards season mysteries. His power as a bankable movie star never translated into an Oscar victory despite numerous tries in Academy-friendly parts playing real-life figures (Concussion, Pursuit of Happyness, Ali). His luck stands to change this year, as his latest biographical turn in King Richard — the story of how Venus and Serena Williams' father coached his daughters to greatness — continues to show up on precursor lists, including at the all-important SAG Awards. The difference working in Smith's favor this time, however, is that he isn't the sole force driving the film's success. King Richard has legitimate Best Picture traction as a crowd-pleasing (and expertly crafted) biopic with a supremely inspiring message, and will likely appeal across Academy branches, from directing to acting thanks to a healthy ensemble cast.

On report card alone, Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog) is neck-and-neck with Smith, and Andrew Garfield (Tick, Tick... Boom!) received a healthy boost out of AFI Fest (and the SAG Awards) as beloved theater master Jonathan Larson. It's the final two spots in the category that seem less assured. Despite raves for Denzel Washington's performance in Joel Coen's The Tragedy of Macbeth, it's concerning that the film itself hasn't registered more in the hunt so far (outside of the project's placements on both the AFI and National Board of Review year-end lists, Washington seems to be the only one sticking with voters), while Peter Dinklage's musical Cyrano still feels a tad under the radar to be a safe bet at this point (especially when SAG left him out of the conversation despite his multiple individual nominations in the past), allowing a later-breaking contender like Javier Bardem to capture some of the momentum he's losing as Being the Ricardos begins its ascent with nods from SAG and the Golden Globes.

Depending on how important voters will feel the streaming success of Netflix's Adam McKay apocalyptic satire Don't Look Up is, perennial Oscar favorite Leonardo DiCaprio could sneak in, given the Academy's proven affection for McKay's works — particularly the (routinely Oscar-nominated) performances he gets out of his casts despite overall reactions to the films they're in.

  1. Will Smith — King Richard
  2. Benedict Cumberbatch — The Power of the Dog
  3. Andrew Garfield — Tick, Tick... Boom!
  4. Denzel Washington — The Tragedy of Macbeth
  5. Javier Bardem — Being the Ricardos

On the bubble: Peter Dinklage — Cyrano; Leonardo DiCaprio — Don't Look Up; Joaquin Phoenix — C'mon, C'mon; Mahershala Ali — Swan Song; Cooper Hoffman — Licorice Pizza

Being The Ricardos
Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball in 'Being the Ricardos.'
| Credit: Glen Wilson/Amazon Studios

Best Actress

The Academy will always show up for a star-on-star matchup, and there's no gilded recipe more primed for Oscar attention than Nicole Kidman transforming into Hollywood icon Lucille Ball for Aaron Sorkin's Being the Ricardos, Amazon's slow-building contender that has risen the ranks to become a far bigger contender in recent weeks than most pundits forecasted at the start of the race. In a normal, scandal-less year for the HFPA, a Golden Globe victory might add fuel to Kidman's fire, but the 2022 Globe winners barely registered on the awards radar; Kidman flexed her true might by following it up with a SAG nomination. Actors playing beloved actors is a fierce combination when, well, actors are the ones voting, so she feels like a safe bet to actually win SAG's trophy when voting opens up to the entire membership, beyond the group's smaller nominating committees.

Musicians-turned-actors have long faced critical daggers when making the jump from stage to screen, but Lady Gaga has seemingly emerged unscathed, proving to her new Hollywood peers that her Oscar-nominated performance in Bradley Cooper's A Star Is Born was no fluke. Yes, she drew from personal inspiration to play a budding pop star in the Best Picture-nominated drama, but no one can accuse her of mining personal experience for her role as convicted murder-for-hire criminal Patrizia Gucci in Ridley Scott's juicy caviar camp spectacle House of Gucci. Though the film itself has received polarized reactions, Gaga escaped the onslaught, receiving nominations from high-profile precursor groups (Critics Choice, Golden Globes, SAG, and a surprise New York Film Critics Circle Victory) as well as numerous regional critics collectives.

On report card alone, Gaga, Kidman, and Colman are out front — a statistical report card Kristen Stewart's impassioned take on Princess Diana in Pablo Larraín's surreal, heavily embellished royal fantasy Spencer was on track to match before a SAG snub dealt her campaign a royally painful blow. No actress has won Best Actress at the Oscars after missing out on a SAG nomination in the same category (save for Kate Winslet, who won the Best Actress Oscar for The Reader despite SAG nominating that performance as a supporting work). The thing hurting Stewart is, where Gaga and Kidman's respective appeal registered with critics and audiences alike, casual moviegoers turned a cold shoulder to Spencer, perhaps because its impressionistic, inventive, heavily symbolic portrait starkly contrasts the traditional biopic genre's usually rigid, stuffy structure — a sentiment many had assumed was exclusive to audiences at home, but might've crept into industry hearts as well. Hollywood's voters are far more inclined to look past misgivings about a film's structure to recognize the strength of Stewart's performance at the center, though, but Gaga and Kidman's work seemingly remains a tad more accessible, giving them the edge for now.

Formerly thought to be a peripheral contender, Jessica Chastain bounded back into the conversation with key precursor nominations at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards following The Eyes of Tammy Faye's underwhelming performance at the box office. And industry darling Olivia Colman seems poised for another nomination as The Lost Daughter picks up steam.

Who will take the fifth space remains unclear. West Side Story was picking up significant heat, especially for Rachel Zegler's ability to carry her big-screen debut, but the film hit a snag when supporting actress Ariana DeBose landed the film's only nomination at the SAG Awards — proving that they saw the film, but simply didn't vote for it. Yes, a Stewart victory is a statistical impossibility at this point, but her SAG snub might actually help rally support from fellow actors before final Oscar voting, enough to give her a strong late-game push back into the final five.

  1. Nicole Kidman — Being the Ricardos
  2. Lady Gaga — House of Gucci
  3. Jessica Chastain — The Eyes of Tammy Faye
  4. Olivia Colman — The Lost Daughter
  5. Kristen Stewart — Spencer

On the bubble: Rachel Zegler — West Side Story; Alana Haim — Licorice Pizza; Penélope Cruz — Parallel Mothers; Frances McDormand — The Tragedy of Macbeth

The Power of the Dog
Kodi Smit-McPhee and Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Power of the Dog.'

Best Supporting Actor

Perhaps the most wide-open category in the game, Supporting Actor sees vets competing with rising stars, but nearly all of the likely nominees will draw significant power from their parent films' traction in the Best Picture race to land nominations here. Though not the poster performance in Jane Campion's The Power of the Dog (that title belongs to Benedict Cumberbatch), Kodi Smit-McPhee is undoubtedly the biggest surprise of the main cast. His subtle, quietly arresting work is arguably the most dynamic turn in the film from start to finish — something actors in the Academy's largest branch will appreciate when they assuredly honor him following his strong showing among the SAG Awards nominees.

A potential spoiler, CODA's Troy Kotsur has also notched consistent placement on precursor ballots so far, with his emotionally charged performance as a deaf father to a hearing girl serving as the heart and soul of the deeply moving Apple TV+ drama. Belfast's two-man force (Ciarán Hinds, Jamie Dornan) will likely also overcome individual SAG snubs (they both appeared among the ensemble nominees, though) to ride emotional highs toward likely Oscar nominations, but the fifth slot is a toss-up. For as many polarized reviews he's received from critics and viewers alike, there's no denying that the industry loves House of Gucci's Jared Leto in a transformative role. After all, he scored SAG, Critics Choice, and Golden Globe nods for a negatively reviewed film just last year (The Little Things, anyone?), so it's not out of the question for the Academy to laud the Dallas Buyers Club winner's dedication for again disappearing into another physically altering character — his 2022 SAG nod is an indication that they're watching.

Bradley Cooper earned a surprise nod as Licorice Pizza's sole acting representative among the SAG nominees, for a performance many presumed was too small to appear on voter radar. Perhaps he's getting a boost from his standout leading turn in Guillermo del Toro's Nightmare Alley as well, but, statistically, he — and surprise SAG nominee Ben Affleck (The Tender Bar) — haven't stacked their report cards enough to warrant a locked prediction at this point.

  1. Kodi Smit-McPhee — The Power of the Dog
  2. Troy Kotsur — CODA
  3. Ciarán Hinds — Belfast
  4. Jamie Dornan — Belfast
  5. Jared Leto — House of Gucci

On the bubble: Bradley Cooper — Licorice Pizza; J.K. Simmons — Being the Ricardos; Ben Affleck — The Tender Bar

West Side Story
Credit: Niko Tavernise/20th Century Studios

Best Supporting Actress

Behind Will Smith's King Richard stands Aunjanue Ellis, an almighty queen who gives the Reinaldo Marcus Green-directed biopic spark and soul. The acting vet moves from stirring emotional fireworks to unflappable strength as the maternal glue holding the film's central family together. But, you never once feel that she's doing the most with a backseat role as just "the mother" or "the wife;" she's the muscle working in conjunction with Smith's heart, and nearly every industry precursor has recognized her accordingly — but SAG didn't lift her up with a solo nod, and instead folded her into the film's ensemble nomination. A cause for concern? Perhaps, but she's built up too strong of a profile to be counted out entirely, especially for a film that has transcended expectations to show up beyond the acting categories. She'll go along for the ride, even if her statistical profile took a hit after the SAG snub.

Out front, then, is West Side Story's Ariana DeBose, who emerged from the rubble of West Side Story's disappointing box office returns and underperformance at the SAG Awards as the film's sole nominee, proving that passion for her work here is enough to endure.

Outlander and Belfast star Caitríona Balfe also stands atop sturdy support, but it will take a victory (not just a nomination) from SAG for her to interrupt DeBose's rise. Kirsten Dunst has slowly but steadily built up a profile for her subtle work in Jane Campion's western-set thriller, as has Ruth Negga's slow-burning turn in Passing. Keep an eye on Nightmare Alley's Cate Blanchett (her SAG nomination could either be one of those lone early SAG nominations that don't go anywhere, or an indicator of vacuum-sealed buzz building around a contender that pundits have yet to latch on to) and Marlee Matlin (CODA), a past winner who could pull off a Marina de Tavira-style Oscar nomination, given her lack of precursor attention despite CODA's clear muscle in the race at large.

  1. Ariana DeBose — West Side Story
  2. Caitríona Balfe — Belfast
  3. Kirsten Dunst — The Power of the Dog
  4. Aunjanue Ellis — King Richard
  5. Ruth Negga — Passing

On the bubble: Cate Blanchett — Nightmare Alley; Judi Dench — Belfast; Marlee Matlin — CODA

Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, Feb. 8. See our updated 2022 awards season calendar for more key dates.

Check out more from EW's The Awardist, featuring Oscars analysis, exclusive interviews, and our podcast diving into all the highlights from the year's movies and performances.

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Belfast (2021 movie)

CaitrĂ­ona Balfe and Jamie Dornan star in coming-of-age comedy-drama loosely based on Kenneth Branagh's early life.

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • Kenneth Branagh