See our expert Oscar predictions after the longest awards season ever.

By Joey Nolfi and David Canfield
April 23, 2021 at 12:33 PM EDT
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The winding, emotional, ever chaotic awards race of 2021 will go down as one of the most memorable stretches in Oscars history. And it all leads up to one moment: Sunday night, when the unprecedented, multi-continent telecast will broadcast a celebration of best bits of a wounded industry it was able to salvage from the wreckage of a decimating year that left theaters closed, actors out of work, and studios clamoring for cash.

But the Oscars have always functioned across demographics as a great unifier, whether they resonate with you as a bastion for quality cinema or simply a fun, throwaway, glitzy distraction to get you through another bout with the Sunday Scaries — the Academy Awards are a constant, and the show will go on with honors for a healthy number of fantastic films that managed to entertain us all while the world healed.

So, who will win after the longest awards season in recent memory? EW's awards experts David Canfield and Joey Nolfi sifted through all 23 categories to make the most informed Oscar predictions ahead of the big night. Read on to see who will win (forewarning: Best Actress is, well, a nightmare) at the Oscars.

Awardist Oscar Picks
See EW's Oscar predictions for the 93rd Academy Awards in all categories, from Viola Davis to 'Nomadland.'
| Credit: David Lee/Netflix (2); Warner Bros. Pictures; A24

Best Picture

What do you get when you get a contender who's won DGA, BAFTA, PGA, and the Golden Globe? Why, last year's surprise Oscar loser, 1917! Which is to say that, yes, Nomadland's clean precursor sweep doesn't necessarily guarantee a win in this category. But it's been a long time since a film showed up to Oscar night so far out front in this race. It is far less common for small indies to dominate as Nomadland has (just ask all-around precursor loser Moonlight, or Globe loser The Hurt Locker), but the Chloé Zhao drama has defied the odds: crushing the industry circuit, nabbing the most spots on critics' top 10 lists, winning over finicky groups like the HFPA or the Film Independent Spirit Awards. It is broadly beloved, and no challenger has emerged. Is there passion for Promising Young Woman? Sure. Is The Trial of the Chicago 7 the obvious populist foil? Yes. Have either of them established themselves as real threats? No. This is Nomadland's to lose. — David Canfield

PROJECTED WINNER: Nomadland
The Father

Judas and the Black Messiah
Mank
Minari
Promising Yong Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Nomadland
Credit: Joshua James Richards/Searchlight Pictures

Best Director

Let's be clear: Yes, Chloé Zhao's impending, assured, soon-to-be-historic Oscars victory for Best Director will be iconic, monumental, and key for Asian representation at a time when a wounded community needs hope; but, contrary to what "haters" (for lack of a better word) might say, this isn't a token victory.

You don't maintain an iron grip on the season — from winning juried festival awards like the Golden Lion at Venice, the public-voted TIFF People's Choice Award, and industry accolades from industry insiders at the DGA, PGA, and more. Zhao has directed a film with a story that's universally intriguing, both in terms of plot (seeing Frances McDormand traverse the country in a van to hash out her emotional anxieties is stimulating in itself) and for the spectacle of its oddity. But, most importantly, she's made a movie that's unpretentious to the core, deeply moving and poignant in ways that wash over all who view it, regardless of background or experience. It's an emotional equalizer, a technical marvel, and a narrative masterpiece that travels the deepest roads to the heart and doesn't let up on the gas. You can't see another film — for miles — in its rearview mirror, and the only surefire contender to credit for its brilliance is the woman in the driver's seat. — Joey Nolfi

PROJECTED WINNER: Chloé Zhao — Nomadland
Thomas Vinterberg — Another Round
David Fincher — Mank
Lee Isaac Chung — Minari
Emerald Fennell — Promising Yong Woman

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Credit: David Lee/Netflix

Best Actress

Frances McDormand guided us down uncertain roads (in her trusty van), while Carey Mulligan and Vanessa Kirby forced our gaze toward grim truths — all while Andra Day soundtracked the hunt with her flawless voice; Each contender in this year's chaotic Best Actress race took hold of the conversation in one way or another, with each of the aforementioned contenders taking a different, major precursor accolade in the run-up to the Oscars.

But it's Viola Davis whose searing turn in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom rattled the industry's soul, as her work in the August Wilson adaptation snagged the SAG Award — arguably the most influential precursor for any actor to win ahead of the Oscars — in a head-to-head matchup against most of fellow Best Actress nominees. And therein lies the logic in predicting Davis in a seemingly unpredictable contest: McDormand won BAFTA without Mulligan, Day, or Davis competing in her bracket, while Mulligan (Critics Choice) and Day's (Golden Globes) sole high profile precursor victories came from critics groups with no reach into Academy membership. You have to go where the chorus leads, and, this year, the actors have sung Davis' praises in all the right ways. — J.N.

PROJECTED WINNER: Viola Davis — Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Andra Day — The United States vs. Billie Holiday
Vanessa Kirby — Pieces of a Woman
Frances McDormand — Nomadland
Carey Mulligan — Promising Yong Woman

MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM
Credit: David Lee/NETFLIX

Best Actor

There is some intriguing, late-breaking movement in this category; posthumous frontrunner Chadwick Boseman was beaten out at BAFTA by hometown favorite Anthony Hopkins (The Father), and at the Indie Spirits by Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal). Those two, without Boseman's presence, would certainly be duking it out for the win, and as they've proven their bona fides at this late stage, cannot fully be ruled out of upsetting here. But Boseman's triumphant final film performance in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom remains too powerful and appropriate to ignore here. Expect the Academy to finish off this heartbreaking awards journey with catharsis, not surprise. — D.C.

PROJECTED WINNER: Chadwick Boseman — Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Anthony Hopkins — The Father
Gary Oldman — Mank
Steven Yeun — Minari
Riz Ahmed — Sound of Metal

MINARI
Credit: Josh Ethan Johnson/A24

Best Supporting Actress

There's history to be made at the Oscars, and Yuh-Jung Youn planted a charismatic seed in voters' hearts from the moment she first appeared onscreen in Lee Isaac Chung's deeply moving immigrant drama Minari.

As the heart and soul of a complicated story, Youn — the first Korean woman to be nominated for Best Supporting Actress — is the rock at the center of familial turmoil, a deep-rooted anchor whose presence feels both electric and calming at the same time, reassuring without a lick of falsity or affected confidence as her grandmother character corrals her daughter (Yeri Han), son-in-law (Steven Yeun), and grandchildren (Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho). And the same can be said for Youn's presence on the awards trail; at the head of final Oscar voting, she captivated with heartfelt, candid, headline-making acceptance speeches at both the SAG Awards and the BAFTAs — two major stages upon which you definitely want to impress as AMPAS readies its ballots.

That kind of passion for a performance is hard to beat, especially when you're on international airwaves winning people over with the same heart and wit they fell for in your character as well. Maria Bakalova and Glenn Close pose small (but mighty, nonetheless) threats to Youn's late-breaking dominance, but in a race where all rules have been broken so far, the heart rules over the head every time. And it will for Academy voters, too. — J.N.

PROJECTED WINNER: Yuh-Jung Youn — Minari
Maria Bakalova — Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Olivia Colman — The Father
Glenn Close — Hillbilly Elegy
Amanda Seyfried — Mank

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
Credit: Glen Wilson/Warner Bros.

Best Supporting Actor

EW put Daniel Kaluuya in our No. 1 spot last fall after we first screened Judas and the Black Messiah — purely based on the electricity of his performance in the Shaka King drama, he seemed like a shoo-in. And while there were the occasional murmurs around double-threats like The Trial of the Chicago 7's Sacha Baron Cohen (also nominated as a Borat screenwriter) and One Night in Miami's Leslie Odom Jr. (also nommed as a songwriter on the film), this one has always felt pretty undeniable. It's nice, and a little rare, when a category comes down to a singular, ferocious performance, and nothing else.

Especially after Judas' overperformance in the nominations, Kaluuya looks like a lock. His being nominated against his costar, LaKeith Stanfield, only bolsters his positioning (think of Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, cruising to a win in this category despite the presence of scene partner Woody Harrelson). If there is a shock to be had, Baron Cohen and Odom feel like old news; the Cinderella story that is Sound of Metal has its pull, that's for sure, and Paul Raci is in many ways its truest heart. A longshot, but one worth mentioning. — D.C.

PROJECTED WINNER: Daniel Kaluuya — Judas and the Black Messiah
LaKeith Stanfield — Judas and the Black Messiah
Leslie Odom, Jr. — One Night in Miami
Paul Raci — Sound of Metal
Sacha Baron Cohen — The Trial of the Chicago 7

May 2021 Oscar Cover- Chloé Zhao
Credit: Erik Carter for EW

Best Adapted Screenplay

PROJECTED WINNER: Nomadland
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

The Father
One Night in Miami...

The White Tiger

PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
Credit: Merie Weismiller Wallace / Focus Features

Best Original Screenplay

PROJECTED WINNER: Promising Young Woman
Judas and the Black Messiah
Minari
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Animated Feature

PROJECTED WINNER: Soul
Onward

Over the Moon
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

Wolfwalkers

Best International Feature

PROJECTED WINNER: Another Round
Better Days

Collective
The Man Who Sold His Skin
Quo Vadis, Aida?

Best Documentary Feature

PROJECTED WINNER: My Octopus Teacher
Collective

Crip Camp
The Mole Agent
Time

Best Documentary Short

PROJECTED WINNER: A Love Song for Latasha
Colette

A Concerto Is a Conversation
Do Not Split
Hunger Ward

Best Live Action Short

PROJECTED WINNER: The Letter Room
Feeling Through

The Present
Two Distant Strangers
White Eye

Best Animated Short

PROJECTED WINNER: Opera
Burrow
Genius Loci
If Anything Happens I Love You
Yes-People

Best Original Song

PROJECTED WINNER: "Husavik" — EuroVision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
"Fight For You" — Judas and the Black Messiah
"Hear My Voice" — The Trial of the Chicago 7
"Is sì (Seen)" — The Life Ahead
"Speak Now" — One Night in Miami

Best Original Score

PROJECTED WINNER: Soul
Da 5 Bloods

Mank
Minari
News of the World

Best Sound

PROJECTED WINNER: Sound of Metal
Greyhound

Mank
News of the World
Soul

Best Production Design

PROJECTED WINNER: Mank
The Father
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
News of the World

Tenet

Best Cinematography

PROJECTED WINNER: Nomadland
Judas and the Black Messiah
Mank

News of the World
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

PROJECTED WINNER: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Emma

Hillbilly Elegy
Mank
Pinocchio

Best Costume Design

PROJECTED WINNER: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Emma
Mank
Mulan
Pinocchio

Best Film Editing

PROJECTED WINNER: Sound of Metal
The Father
Nomadland
Promising Young Woman
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Visual Effects

PROJECTED WINNER: Tenet
Love and Monsters

The Midnight Sky
Mulan
The One and Only Ivan

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

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Nomadland

Nomadland (2021 movie)

type
  • Movie
genre
mpaa
director
  • Chloe Zhao

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