Home » Oscar Predictions: January 2021

Oscar Predictions: January 2021

by Diego Andaluz
A collage of 2021 Oscar Predicted films Cherry, Malcolm & Marie, and Promising Young Woman.

The staple of the awards season, the Academy Awards (commonly known as the Oscars) bring with them a flurry of films hoping to strike gold. With schedules being shifted, films being removed from contention, and the entire season being delayed, this year looks to be one full of surprises, twists, and turns. Luckily, Awards Editor Diego Andaluz, will help guide the way and help you get a leg up on your Oscar predictions and what to look for as the season continues. Will established favorites like The Trial of The Chicago 7 and Nomadland lead the way? Can late newcomers like Malcolm & Marie and Cherry sneak into the race? Below is the current state of the awards race.

Best Picture


  1. The Trial of The Chicago 7
  2. One Night In Miami
  3. Judas and The Black Messiah
  4. Nomadland
  5. Mank
  6. Malcolm and Marie

Likely Nominees:

  1. News of The World
  2. The Father
  3. Minari
  4. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Major Threats:

  1. Da 5 Bloods
  2. Promising Young Woman
  3. Soul
  4. Cherry
  5. The Mauritanian

Other Possibilities: 

  • Hillbilly Elegy
  • The United States vs. Billie Holiday
  • The Sound of Metal
  • Land
  • Pieces of A Woman

One of the more robust races of the season, over the past few weeks, the ever-changing Best Picture category has finally started to solidify itself. Frontrunners including The Trial of The Chicago 7, One Night In Miami, Nomadland, and Mank have been in the race since last fall, while Judas and The Black Messiah and Malcolm & Marie have also surged for their own respective reasons. Although Judas may be a bit too brutal to pull off a win in a year where One Night In Miami and The Trial Of The Chicago 7 employ similar themes in an, ultimately, lighter and more digestible way, its timeliness and important message can keep it firmly in the running. In the case of Malcolm & Marie, it shouldn’t be expected to show up in many televised precursors, but the fact that it’s perhaps one of the most industry-centric films in recent memory does give it an extra edge that could easily result in a nomination (and with the right prioritization, could potentially put it in the running to win as well). 

Films like The Father, Minari, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and News of The World all stand a chance as well, but also have incongruities that do put them in doubt (especially considering the major threats). The Father has suffered from weak and unfocused campaigning (resulting in noticeable nomination absences from many major groups) and Minari hopes to not go the way of The Farewell. Although Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom could potentially suffer from covering similar ground in a crowded year, News of The World needs the support of the older components of the Academy to make it in.

Frances McDormand in Nomadland, predicted to be a 2021 Oscar frontrunner.
‘Nomadland’ courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

Further down the road, the abundance of major threats that look to surprise could result in an unprecedented ten film lineup. Da 5 Bloods has been getting traction from important bellwethers, and we’ve heard that Promising Young Woman is showing to have the support of a surprising amount of older academy voters in the industry— an important group that the film must win over if it’s to have any chance come Oscar night. With a year like this, one can’t count out Soul for being the beacon of positivity and ingenuity (from Pixar no less) that voters have responded well to in the past, but the biggest wild card is indubitably that of Cherry. Even though it has suffered from a middling critical reception, Apple’s ability to spend big on traditional campaigning methods does bode well for the film. If Apple commits to backing it with a record-breaking campaign that kicks into full force sooner rather than later, it could still pull off a nomination as well.

Best Actor


  1. Anthony Hopkins (The Father)
  2. Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)

Likely Nominees: 

  1. Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal)
  2. Delroy Lindo (Da 5 Bloods)
  3. John David Washington (Malcolm & Marie)

Major Threats:

  1. Gary Oldman (Mank)
  2. Lakeith Stanfield (Judas and The Black Messiah)
  3. Kingley Ben-Adir (One Night In Miami)
  4. Steven Yeun (Minari)
  5. Tom Holland (Cherry)

Other Possibilities: 

  • Tom Hanks (News of The World)
  • Tahar Rahim (The Mauritanian)

While Anthony Hopkins (The Father) and Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) seem to be the only two actors who can pull off a win, the question of who will round out the nominations is a far more intriguing one. Riz Ahmed and Delroy Lindo have picked up much steam from precursors, but have not had the chance to prove themselves at any televised awards to truly figure out if they are simply critical darlings or if they can truly have their names read on nomination morning. With such a character-driven film like Malcolm & Marie, John David Washington’s outspoken performance could nab the fifth slot if he gets attention from SAG. However, if any of those three fail to pull through, Gary Oldman (who hopes to avoid a De Niro-like absence), Lakeith Stanfield, Kingsley Ben Adir, Steven Yeun, or even Tom Holland (if he can sneak a Golden Globe nomination) could all round out the category to receive the final nomination.

Tom Holland as seen in Cherry, a 2021 predicted Oscar hopeful from Apple.
Cherry’ courtesy of Apple

Best Actress


  1. Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of A Woman)
  2. Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)
  3. Frances McDormand (Nomadland)

Likely Nominees: 

  1. Zendaya (Malcolm & Marie)
  2. Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman)

Major Threats:

  1. Amy Adams (Hillbilly Elegy)
  2. Sophia Loren (The Life Ahead)
  3. Andra Day (United States vs Billie Holliday)

Other Possibilities:

  • Kate Winselt (Ammonite)

Yet another category in which the frontrunners have separated themselves from the rest of the pack, it’s currently a toss-up between Kirby (Pieces of A Woman), Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), and McDormand (Nomadland), so expect the televised awards to clear the waters in the coming weeks and months. Similar to the Best Actor category, Mulligan and Zendaya can round out the nominees with the right support from SAG for what critics have been calling “career-best” performances, but the Academy’s track record of bringing in old favorites (such as Amy Adams—who despite no wins, has 6 nominations in the past 15 years), could shake things up.

Carey Mulligan sporting a nurse outfit with rainbow dyed hair, colorful makeup, and pink rubber gloves in a dance bar as seen in Promising Young Woman.
‘Promising Young Woman’ courtesy of Focus Features

Best Supporting Actress


  1. Ellen Burstyn (Pieces of A Woman)
  2. Amanda Seyfried (Mank)
  3. Olivia Colman (The Father)
  4. Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy)

Likely Nominees: 

  1. Jodie Foster (The Mauritanian)

Major Threats:

  1. Maria Bakalova (Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm)
  2. Saorise Ronan (Ammonite)
  3. Dominique Fishback (Judas And The Black Messiah)

Other Possibilities

  • Yuh Jung-Youn (Minari)
  • Ciara Bravo (Cherry)

Perhaps the most competitive race of the season, the Supporting Actress category is one where at this point in time, not one of the frontrunners has shown enough traction to pull ahead from the rest and secure a nomination. Record-setting Ellen Burstyn’s performance could provide a solid awards narrative along with Glenn Close (who would be nabbing her eighth nomination), and Amanda Seyfried and Olivia Colman have received much acclaim from critics as well. To round out the category, a nomination for Jodie Foster (or Saoirse Ronan) would play in line with the Academy’s tendencies. However, Maria Bakalova’s performance in Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm has been dominating the precursors, establishing her as a major threat that could comfortably break into the category. 

Best Supporting Actor


  1. Daniel Kayuula (Judas And The Black Messiah)
  2. Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of The Chicago 7)
  3. Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night In Miami)

Likely Nominees: 

  1. Chadwick Boseman (Da 5 Bloods)
  2. Mark Rylance (The Trial of The Chicago 7)

Major Threats:

  1. Paul Raci (Sound of Metal)
  2. Frank Langella (The Trial of The Chicago 7)
  3. Bill Murray (On The Rocks)

Other Possibilities: 

  • Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (The Trial of The Chicago 7)
  •  Stanley Tucci (Supernova)

Ultimately, this category looks to be a tight competition between Kayuula (Judas And The Black Messiah) and Cohen (The Trial of The Chicago 7) that could very well come down to the last second of campaigning. Kayuula’s performance as Fred Hampton has received much praise for its fiery passion and uncanny similarities, but Cohen’s commitment to the campaign trail has resulted in him emerging as the face of the cast of The Trial of The Chicago 7 (which has become one of the most-awarded ensembles of the year). Odom Jr’s performance as Sam Cooke also brilliantly showcases his acting chops (and he may be prominent in voters minds already due to his turn in Hamilton earlier this year), while Boseman’s presence in the Da 5 Bloods that heartbreakingly reflects his personal fate will also tug on voters heartstrings. The fifth slot looks to go to another cast member of The Trial of The Chicago 7 (most likely recent winner Rylance, but don’t count out Langella or Abdul-Mateen II), yet critical darling Raci or even Bill Murray could take it with a solid push.

Chadwick Boseman in his final performance in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, a 2021 predicted Oscar frontrunner from Netflix.
‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ courtesy of Netflix

Best Director


  1. David Fincher (Mank)
  2. Chloe Zhao (Nomadland)

Likely Nominees: 

  1. Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of The Chicago 7)
  2. Regina King (One Night In Miami)
  3. Spike Lee (Da 5 Bloods)

Major Threats:

  1. George C. Wolfe (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)
  2. Paul Greengrass (News of The World)
  3. Florian Zeller (The Father)
  4. Shaka King (Judas And The Black Messiah)

Other Possibilities

  1. Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman)
  2. Lee Issac Chung (Minari)
  3. Sam Levinson (Malcolm & Marie)
  4. Christopher Nolan (Tenet)

Despite what many have anointed a one-horse race for Chloe Zhao, the Best Director category finds itself with a far more even (and perhaps lopsided in a different direction) race than many would expect. Zhao has been sweeping the critical precursors, but David Fincher’s prominent status in the industry and “overlooked” awards narrative (which ironically, sprouted from when industry favorite Tom Hooper nabbed the directing prize from the critically revered Fincher) will most likely result in a win for him. However, Sorkin and King could very well give them a scare if their respective films begin to dominate the circuit, and Lee, another established name, (and recent NBR winner) should be positioned well to receive the final slot.


Original Screenplay:

  1. The Trial Of The Chicago 7
  2. Mank
  3. Promising Young Woman
  4. Judas And The Black Messiah
  5. Malcolm & Marie

Adapted Screenplay:

  1. One Night In Miami
  2. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  3. News of The World
  4. Nomadland
  5. I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Animated Feature:

  1. Soul
  2. Wolfwalkers
  3. Over The Moon
  4. Onward
  5. The Croods: A New Age

Documentary Feature:

  1. Time
  2. Totally Under Control
  3. All In: The Fight For Democracy
  4. Collective
  5. Dick Johnson Is Dead

International Feature

  1. Another Round
  2. Collective
  3. Night Of Kings
  4. I’m No Longer Here
  5. A Sun


  1. The Trial of Chicago 7
  2. Mank
  3. Nomadland
  4. The Father
  5. Tenet


  1. Mank
  2. Nomadland
  3. News of The World
  4. Tenet
  5. Malcolm & Marie
Amanda Seyfried in Mank, a 2021 predicted Oscar wildcard from Netflix.
‘Mank’ courtesy of Netflix


  1. Soul
  2. Tenet
  3. Mank
  4. News of The World
  5. The Trial of Chicago 7

Production Design

  1. Mank
  2. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  3. Mulan
  4. Tenet
  5. Da 5 Bloods

Costume Design

  1. Mank
  2. Emma
  3. The Personal History of David Copperfield
  4. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  5. The United States vs Billie Holliday


  1. Tenet
  2. The Invisible Man
  3. The Midnight Sky
  4. Mulan
  5. Wonder Woman 1984


  1. Sound of Metal
  2. Tenet
  3. News of The World
  4. Mank
  5. The Invisible Man

Makeup and Hairstyling

  1. Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm
  2. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  3. Hillbilly Elegy
  4. Birds of Prey
  5. Bill And Ted Face The Music

Original Song:

  1. Speak Now (One Night In Miami)
  2. Hear My Voice (The Trial Of The Chicago 7)
  3. Husavik (Eurovision)
  4. Just Sing (Trolls: World Tour)
  5. Rocket To The Moon (Over The Moon)

Follow Awards Editor Diego Andaluz on Twitter: @thediegoandaluz

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