Oscars 2021: Analysis and Predictions for the Top Categories

By: Ruby Schweitzer

Faced with the choice of either releasing their movies straight to streaming or letting them struggle in theaters filled only to 30% capacity, many production companies decided to delay their most awaited films in order to maximize their popularity and box office profits. The films that were released and earned Oscar nominations tended to be lower-budget, indie movies that normally would not have received many awards or much recognition. Nomadland and Minari, the two most awarded movies of the year, have a combined budget of $7 million, and were directed by filmmakers who had received little mainstream attention previously. The only two movies in the Best Picture category that might be considered typical nominees are Mank and The Trial of the Chicago 7, which were both Netflix originals. 

The interruption of normal releases also allowed more diverse stories to see the spotlight. Almost half of the 20 actors nominated this year are people of color, and two women have been nominated in the directing category for the first time. While this year meant a departure from regular moviegoing, it also presented a welcome change from the standard types of movies we’re used to seeing receive nominations each year. Perhaps in the future, we will be seeing more movies about Black Panther leaders and deaf heavy metal drummers alongside the old Hollywood period pieces and courtroom dramas.


-“The Father”

-“Judas and the Black Messiah”



-“Nomadland” – Predicted Winner

-“Promising Young Woman”

-“Sound of Metal”

-“The Trial of the Chicago 7″

Chloe Zhao’s depiction of a woman living in her van after losing her home in the Great Recession is the frontrunner for this year’s Best Picture Race. It has received praise for its inclusion of non-actors to realistically portray the nomadic life, and backlash for what critics consider a soft portrayal of the working conditions in Amazon factories. It’s odds of winning are so high that some of a contrarian tendency have gone the other way and predicted that another film will have a surprising upset. If you find yourself leaning similarly, consider predicting The Trial of the Chicago 7 or Minari instead, but prepare yourself to be disappointed.


-Thomas Vinterberg, “Another Round”

-David Fincher, “Mank”

-Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari”

-Chloe Zhao, “Nomadland” – Predicted Winner

-Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”

As the writer and director of the frontrunner for Best Picture, Chloe Zhao has received near universal acclaim for her work. It doesn’t hurt that she’s set a record this year for being the most awarded filmmaker in a single season. At this point, it would be historic both if she did win and if she didn’t because of her status as an Asian American woman and the amount of precursor awards she’s racked up.


-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 Young Woman” – Predicted Winner

This race has been unpredictable all season, with Vanessa Kirby beginning the year as a possible frontrunner only to end up receiving no prior awards. Andra Day only entered the conversation after her surprise win at the Golden Globes. But Carey Mulligan just might be the one to win, having won at both the Critics’ Choice Awards and Independent Spirit Awards, and because the widely talked about Promising Young Woman relied so heavily on her performance. 


-Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal”

-Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” – Predicted Winner

-Anthony Hopkins, “The Father”

-Gary Oldman, “Mank”

-Steven Yeun, “Minari”

The late Chadwick Boseman gives an incredible performance as Levee Green in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, though his position as a frontrunner would likely be less solid if not for voters wanting to honor the actor in his final performance. If anyone else has a chance of taking the award, expect it to be Anthony Hopkins. 


-Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”

-Glenn Close, “Hillbilly Elegy”

-Olivia Colman, “The Father”

-Amanda Seyfried, “Mank”

-Yuh-jung Youn, “Minari” – Predicted Winner

Like the Best Actress race, the Supporting Actress race has been unpredictable this year, but Yuh-jung Youn seems to have emerged as a frontrunner with her SAG and BAFTA wins. The only other actress in the category that rivals her in terms of nominations is Maria Bakalova, but her comedic performance in Borat 2 seems an unlikely pick for the Oscars.


-Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”

-Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah” – Predicted Winner

-Leslie Odom Jr., “One Night in Miami”

-Paul Raci, “Sound of Metal”

-Lakeith Stanfield, “Judas and the Black Messiah”

Daniel Kaluuya is the clear favorite to win in this category for his portrayal of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton. This is second Oscar nomination after his first for his breakout performance in Get Out four years ago.


-“Judas and the Black Messiah”


-“Promising Young Woman” – Predicted Winner

-“Sound of Metal”

-“The Trial of the Chicago 7”

Emerald Fennell’s #MeToo inspired story, with its plot twists and love-it-or-hate-it ending, seems to be the most likely choice for Best Original Screenplay.


-“Borat Subsequent MovieFilm”

-“The Father”

-“Nomadland” – Predicted Winner

-“One Night in Miami”

-“The White Tiger”Nomadland has an edge in this category because voters are likely to give it Best Picture and Director, but The Father’s BAFTA win for Best Screenplay makes it the runner-up.

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