EW's 2021 Oscar predictions: Nomadland, Mank lead early race

Our (super early) best guesses for who could be nominated next year.

As if 2020 wasn't chaotic enough (thanks almost entirely to the wigs of Hillbilly Elegy), winter is right around the corner, and that means it's time to dust off your Academeters to gauge the state of the Oscar race.

Across the longest run-up to any Academy Awards ceremony in history, studios have more time than ever (13 months between January 2020 and February 2021) to unleash their prize ponies into relatively uncharted territory, as a global pandemic's impact on theatrical releases, new eligibility rules, an expanded Best Picture set (locked at a hard 10 slots), and a rapidly diversifying Academy membership viewing streaming titles en masse are all set to converge over one of the most unpredictable contests in history in the weeks ahead.

Though we're just under five months away from the April 25 Oscars ceremony, EW's awards experts David Canfield and Joey Nolfi have (super early) projections for which contenders to look out for as the pieces fall into place. Read on for our full set of 2021 Oscar predictions in every major category — which will be updated as the race changes.

Best Picture

Sustaining buzz throughout any season — let alone history's longest Oscar contest — is a monumental feat, but Chloé Zhao's cross-country technical masterwork Nomadland about a van-dwelling drifter (Frances McDormand) is also a cross-category player currently riding on universally enthusiastic reviews out of the fall festivals.

  1. Nomadland
  2. Mank
  3. One Night in Miami
  4. The Trial of the Chicago 7
  5. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
  6. Soul
  7. Da 5 Bloods
  8. The Father
  9. Minari
  10. Judas and the Black Messiah

Alternates: Cherry, News of the World, The United States vs. Billie Holiday, The White Tiger

Credit: Netflix

Best Director

David Fincher's black-and-white industry tale about Herman J. Mankiewicz's liquor-soaked journey to writing Citizen Kane might be a tough sit for more casual moviegoers, but the directors' branch has a notorious flair for complexity, and the film's meticulous construction and industry-focused story — fluffed by killer performances Fincher coached from Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfriend — is right up their alley.

  1. David Fincher — Mank
  2. Chloé Zhao — Nomadland
  3. Aaron Sorkin — The Trial of the Chicago 7
  4. Florian Zeller — The Father
  5. Spike Lee — Da 5 Bloods

Alternates: Regina King, One Night in Miami; Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah; Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, Cherry; Ramin Bahrani, The White Tiger

Credit: David Lee/Netflix

Best Actress

With Jennifer Hudson's Respect officially out of the 2021 race, the path is clear for another massive talent to take Best Actress with her portrayal of a real-life figure, as Viola Davis prepares to sing her way into the Academy's heart in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Netflix's highly anticipated biographical drama.

  1. Viola Davis — Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
  2. Frances McDormand — Nomadland
  3. Vanessa Kirby — Pieces of a Woman
  4. Kate Winslet — Ammonite
  5. Andra Day — The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Alternates: Sophia Loren, The Life Ahead; Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman; Amy Adams, Hillbilly Elegy; Michelle Pfeiffer, French Exit

Credit: David Lee/Netflix

Best Actor

Posthumous Oscars are rare, but not impossible. And the best way to honor the late Chadwick Boseman's legacy would be to adorn him with the industry's highest acting honor — but his hold on the race isn't a sympathy vote: Boseman's eclectic filmography has long been building toward an Oscar nomination, and he'll likely get it for one of his final on-screen appearance as a fitting cap for a groundbreaking career.

  1. Chadwick Boseman — Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
  2. Anthony Hopkins — The Father
  3. Gary Oldman — Mank
  4. Delroy Lindo — Da 5 Bloods
  5. Daniel Kaluuya — Judas and the Black Messiah

Alternates: Kingsley Ben-Adir, One Night in Miami; Tom Hanks, News of the World; Tom Holland, Cherry; Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal; Steven Yeun, Minari; Colin Firth, Supernova

Credit: Netflix

Best Supporting Actress

She only has a handful of scenes in Mank — which is no doubt the Gary Oldman show — but Amanda Seyfried subtly makes every frame all about her in one of the most exciting performances of her career as real-life star Marion Davies.

  1. Amanda Seyfried — Mank
  2. Glenn Close — Hillbilly Elegy
  3. Olivia Colman — The Father
  4. Ellen Burstyn — Pieces of a Woman
  5. Maria Bakalova — Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm

Alternates: Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari; Ciara Bravo, Cherry; Priyanka Chopra Jonas, The White Tiger; Saoirse Ronan, Ammonite; Helena Zengel, News of the World


Best Supporting Actor

Further bolstered by the critical high from his well-received Borat sequel, Sacha Baron Cohen's Hollywood resurgence feels destined to peak with an Oscar nomination for his gripping, unexpected turn in Aaron Sorkin's courtroom drama.

  1. Sacha Baron Cohen — The Trial of the Chicago 7
  2. Leslie Odom, Jr. — One Night in Miami
  3. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II — The Trial of the Chicago 7
  4. Lakeith Stanfield — Judas and the Black Messiah
  5. Bill Murray — On the Rocks

Alternates: Mark Rylance, The Trial of the Chicago 7; David Strathairn, Nomadland; Eddie Redmayne, The Trial of the Chicago 7; Stanley Tucci, Supernova

Credit: Niko Tavernise/NETFLIX

Best Original Screenplay

An Academy darling, Sorkin has notched two screenplay nominations (on top of one win) since 2012, and critical reaction to his tightly written, fact-based historical drama feels as timely as it does punchy — a perfect combination to catch voters' eyes this year.

  1. The Trial of the Chicago 7
  2. Mank
  3. Minari
  4. Da 5 Bloods
  5. Soul

Alternates: Never Rarely Sometimes Always; Judas and the Black Messiah; Promising Young Woman; Palm Springs; On the Rocks

Best Adapted Screenplay

An increasingly crowded category, a path to victory seems clear for no one at this early stage, but, considering initial reviews, Zhao's powerful story stands a healthy chance at keeping the competition at bay — for now.

  1. Nomadland
  2. One Night in Miami
  3. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
  4. The Father
  5. Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm

Alternates: I'm Thinking of Ending Things; Cherry; First Cow; Hillbilly Elegy; The United States vs. Billie Holiday

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