See our final predictions in all the major categories.
Advertisement

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 categories — including the ever-evolving hunt for Best Picture, the chaotic race for Best Director (that stands to make Jane Campion the category's first woman with two career nods), and the high profile matchup between Nicole Kidman, Olivia Colman, and Lady Gaga in the heated Best Actress face-off.

With the 2022 Oscars nominations set to be announced Tuesday, Feb. 8, see our final predictions for nominees (and winners) in the biggest categories below.

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 started its gilded run 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. It's a notion driven home by the film's appearance among the BAFTA nominees as well as: 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); the Directors Guild of America nominations (Branagh squeezed into a crowded category), and the Producers Guild of America, which uses a preferential voting system similar to the Academy's.

Though passion for Belfast hit early and hasn't subsided, other contenders — save for Best Picture mainstays like The Power of the Dog, Licorice Pizza, Dune, and King Richard — continue to traverse unsteady paths. Once thought to be a lock, Steven Spielberg's late-breaking musical West Side Story remains the most curious case, after steadily rising in favor among critics around its December release date, despite massively underperforming at the box office, grossing a mere $63 million globally on a reported $100 million budget on top of underperforming among the guilds. It barely squeaked in at SAG, with one solo nod for Supporting Actress frontrunner Ariana DeBose, while the film's strong ensemble in a time-tested narrative failed to score ensemble recognition from the commercial-leaning precursor. It stumbled with BAFTA as well, where, outside of DeBose and a surprise nod for supporting actor Mike Faist (likely due to the British group's convoluted voting system that mixes two popular votes with a remainder of nominees chosen by a very small jury), it showed up in only a handful of technical categories, missing key nods for Best Picture and Best Director en route to the Oscars.  

Outside of the usual suspects riding the trail thus far , 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 and the PGA proving the film's might with nods among their 2022 nominations. 

The number of Best Picture will be set at a hard 10, meaning the sliding scale between five and 10 is no longer in play. That means peripheral contenders driven by celebrities like House of Gucci, Nightmare Alley, and The Tragedy of Macbeth could wind up in that extra guaranteed slot, as films 1-9 in our ranking below have the scorecards to back up a nomination. Chances are it will go to Maggie Gyllenhaal's The Lost Daughter or Ryûsuke Hamaguchi's Drive My Car, however, as those films have heat in mightier categories (Screenplay, Director, but more on that later) than their competitors.

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

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

The Power of the Dog
Jane Campion directs 'The Power of the Dog.'
| Credit: KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX

Best Director

The most chaotic race of the season is undoubtedly Best Director. The Directors Guild of America seemingly narrowed the field when it anointed Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog), Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza), Denis Villeneuve (Dune), Kenneth Branagh (Belfast), and Steven Spielberg (West Side Story) as the best filmmakers of the year, but history tells us that Oscar shares roughly 4 of 5 total nominees with the guild, meaning anyone but Campion — whose shown up at nearly every precursor so far — could be vulnerable. We know the directors' branch determines the Academy's nominees, but is this the year to assume Belfast fever has taken over the entire Academy — including the usually stuffy directors — enough to put Branagh on their ballots, or will they opt for the more technically impressive feat Spielberg accomplished on West Side Story

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.

Between the assumed vulnerable parties like Branagh and Spielberg, perhaps neither one has to sit out, as the branch's penchant for rogue international nominees (see Pawel Pawlikowski, Thomas Vinterberg, etc.) might not be strong enough to boost Ryûsuke Hamaguchi and his critical favorite Drive My Car — hot off scoring a BAFTA nod — into the Academy's category amid a year with such strong entries from more mainstream auteurs. The other players (Villeneuve, Anderson, etc.) will come from strong Best Picture contenders, but that fifth potential wild card slot makes this category altogether difficult to predict using statistics and history alone. While a nomination like the one Hamaguchi stands to land doesn't happen regularly enough to bet on it, the branch has reserved select slots for international directors with prestige projects hovering around the peripheral edges of the race, and with buzz building around Drive My Car, the Japanese icon stands to succeed, 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).

Back to Campion, the category's strongest contender who 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 like BAFTA and the DGA) 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 — indicating support from those in front of the camera as much as those who sit behind it.

  1. Jane Campion — The Power of the Dog
  2. Denis Villeneuve — Dune
  3. Kenneth Branagh — Belfast
  4. Paul Thomas Anderson — Licorice Pizza
  5. Ryûsuke Hamaguchi — Drive My Car

On the bubble: Steven Spielberg — West Side Story; Reinaldo Marcus Green — King Richard; Maggie Gyllenhaal — The Lost Daughter; Adam McKay — Don't Look Up; Sian Heder — CODA

KING RICHARD
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 and at the BAFTA awards, where he likely scored one of the category's two slots reserved for group-wide popular votes (with the other outlying spaces filled by a small-jury selection). 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 (Aunjanue Ellis seems to be a major threat in Supporting Actress as well). 

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, though he skipped a nomination from his homeland's BAFTA nods (again, likely not a ding to his merits, but a result of the odd voting structure the group employed this year). 

It's the final two spots in the category that remain 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), and BAFTA again barred the legendary actor from its nominations list. Peter Dinklage's musical Cyrano hasn't  felt like a safe bet at any point during the race (especially when SAG left him out of the conversation despite his multiple individual nominations in the past, as did BAFTA despite nominating the film in many other categories), 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. While BAFTA and its muddled voting system can't be treated as a steadfast indicator this year, we can look to its nomination for Don't Look Up's Leonardo DiCaprio, a  perennial Oscar favorite, as an indicator of the film's staying power in the industry. 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 — DiCaprio feels a lot safer as a performance driving a film versus someone like Bardem, whose work seems to only be on the radar thanks to stronger work from his leading actress (see: Nicole Kidman in the next category) driving the overall conversation for their containing film.

  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. Leonardo DiCaprio — Don't Look Up

On the bubble: Javier Bardem — Being the Ricardos; Peter Dinklage — Cyrano; Mahershala Ali — Swan Song; Cooper Hoffman — Licorice Pizza

House of Gucci
Lady Gaga in 'House of Gucci.'
| Credit: MGM/Universal

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, but lost a little steam after sitting BAFTA nominations out (again, likely due to the strange mix of two popular-vote-getters with other nominees chosen by a tiny committee). 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.

But Kidman's respect doesn't change the fact that Lady Gaga has, against all odds, become the frontrunner. With her BAFTA nomination last week, she became the only acting contender of the season to show up at every major precursor so far — including SAG, Golden Globes, Critics Chioce, and BAFTA, on top of winning at the NYFCC. Musicians-turned-actors have long faced critical daggers when making the jump from stage to screen, but 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, and her report card exceeded all expectations to create the kind of narrative that doesn't just score nominations, but wins Oscars.

On report card alone, Gaga, Kidman, and Colman are out front — a statistical obstacle Kristen Stewart's impassioned take on Princess Diana in Pablo Larraín's surreal, heavily embellished royal fantasy Spencer was on track to match before SAG and BAFTA snubs 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 — though both sat BAFTA out (I can't stress this enough — likely due to the odd voting methods the group used this year), their films showed up in other categories, meaning the film is clearly on the voting body's minds, whereas Spencer and Jennifer Hudson's Aretha Franklin biopic Respect didn't show up anywhere else on the British Academy's list. 

The fifth slot, then, is a curious one. I'm going with Licorice Pizza's Alana Haim solely because no other film in this category has legitimate Best Picture traction, and if we're expecting Anderson's period romance to rack up support in multiple above-the-line brackets (Picture, Director, Screenplay, and now also in Supporting Actor Bradley Cooper, as of late) it's safe to assume that a performer from a weightier contender across the board stands a better shot than a statistical uncertainty (Stewart, Hudson, Parallel Mothers' Penélope Cruz).  

  1. Lady Gaga — House of Gucci
  2. Nicole Kidman — Being the Ricardos
  3. Jessica Chastain — The Eyes of Tammy Faye
  4. Olivia Colman — The Lost Daughter
  5. Alana Haim — Licorice Pizza

On the bubble: Penélope Cruz — Parallel Mothers; Jennifer Hudson — Respect; Rachel Zegler — West Side Story; Frances McDormand — The Tragedy of Macbeth

The Power of the Dog
Kodi Smit-McPhee and Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Power of the Dog'
| Credit: KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX

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 as well as at the BAFTAs.

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, though Dornan seems more vulnerable than his co-star. 

As it is in other categories, the fifth slot could be 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 altered 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. Bradley Cooper — Licorice Pizza
  5. Jared Leto — House of Gucci

On the bubble: Jamie Dornan — Belfast; J.K. Simmons — Being the Ricardos; Ben Affleck — The Tender Bar

West Side Story
'West Side Story' star Ariana DeBose is a top contender for Best Supporting Actress at the 2022 Academy Awards.
| 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 (which she quickly regained after bounding back at the BAFTAs). 

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 through to a BAFTA nod days before the Oscar nominations.

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

The Power of the Dog
Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Power of the Dog.'
| Credit: KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. Jane Campion — The Power of the Dog
  2. Sian Heder — CODA
  3. Maggie Gyllenhaal — The Lost Daughter
  4. Tony Kushner — West Side Story
  5. Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Oe — Drive My Car 

On the bubble: Rebecca Hall — Passing; Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth — Dune; Joel Coen — The Tragedy of Macbeth; Guillermo del Toro, Kim Morgan — Nightmare Alley

BELFAST
'Belfast' written and directed by Kenneth Branagh.
| Credit: Rob Youngson/Focus Features

Best Original Screenplay

  1. Kenneth Branagh — Belfast
  2. Adam McKay — Don't Look Up
  3. Paul Thomas Anderson — Licorice Pizza
  4. Aaron Sorkin — Being the Ricardos
  5. Zach Baylin — King Richard

On the bubble: Pedro Almodóvar Parallel Mothers; Fran Kranz — Mass; Julia Ducournau — Titane

Encanto
'Encanto' by Disney.
| Credit: Disney

Best Animated Feature

  1. Encanto
  2. The Mitchells vs. The Machines 
  3. Flee
  4. Luca
  5. Raya and the Last Dragon 

On the bubble:Belle; Sing 2; The Summit of the Gods

DRIVE MY CAR
Hidetoshi Nishijima and Tōko Miura in 'Drive My Car'
| Credit: Everett Collection

Best International Feature

  1. Drive My Car
  2. Flee
  3. The Worst Person in the World
  4. A Hero
  5. The Hand of God

On the bubble: Prayers for the Stolen; Hive; Compartment No. 6; Lamb

Summer of Soul
'Summer of Soul' documentary by Questlove.
| Credit: Searchlight Pictures

Best Documentary Feature

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

  1. Summer of Soul
  2. Flee
  3. The Rescue
  4. Ascension 
  5. Procession

On the bubble: Attica; Julia; Faya Dayi; The Velvet Underground

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.

Related content:

Belfast (2021 movie)

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

type
  • Movie
genre
mpaa
director

Comments have been disabled on this post