2021 Oscars Best Actress Predictions

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Variety's Awards Circuit is home to the official predictions for the upcoming Oscars from Film Awards Editor Clayton Davis. Following Academy Awards history, buzz, news, reviews and sources, the Oscar predictions are updated regularly with the current year's contenders in all categories. Variety's Awards Circuit Prediction schedule consists of four phases, running all year long: Draft, Pre-Season, Regular Season and Post Season. Eligibility calendar and dates of awards will determine how long each phase lasts and will be displayed next to revision date.

To see all the latest predictions, of all the categories, in one place, visit THE COLLECTIVE

DRAFT>>>PRE SEASON>>>REGULAR SEASON>>>POST SEASON

2021 OSCARS PREDICTIONS:
BEST ACTRESS

UPDATED: Mar. 4, 2021

AWARDS PREDICTION COMMENTARY: The shocks were plentiful from the HFPA’s Golden Globes, as with Andra Day beat out stiff competition for her debut work as Billie Holiday for “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” over competitors Viola Davis, Frances McDormand and Carey Mulligan. No leading performance since the introduction of the SAG Awards has won an Oscar without a nomination from the voting body, and Day doesn’t have it. That leaves Critics Choice to either determine a new frontrunner this weekend or double down on Day’s momentum. There’s a vulnerability though in the race now as Day gets in front of Kirby, is the latter now vulnerable to someone like Sophia Loren (“The Life Ahead”), Amy Adams (“Hillbilly Elegy”) or Yeri Han (“Minari”)?

WATCH RECOMMENDATIONS BEFORE VOTING: Elisabeth Moss (“Shirley”), Julia Garner (“The Assistant”), Cristin Milioti (“Palm Springs”), Jessie Buckley (“I’m Thinking of Ending Things”), Kelly O. Sullivan (“Saint Frances”), Margot Robbie (“Birds of Prey”), Nicole Beharie (“Miss Juneteenth”)

PRECURSORS LEADER:
Frances McDormand, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)
Awards Circuit Winners Chart (2020-2021)
2021 Awards Season Calendar


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Andra Day on the set of THE UNITED STATES VS. BILLIE HOLIDAY from Paramount Pictures. Photo Credit: Takashi Seida.
Takashi Seida/Paramount Pictures

AND THE PREDICTED NOMINEES ARE:

  1. Carey Mulligan
    "Promising Young Woman" (Focus Features)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: 1 nomination (2009's "An Education")
    ROLE: Cassandra "Cassie" Thomas

    DIRECTOR: Emerald Fennell
    SYNOPSIS: A young woman, traumatized by a tragic event in her past, seeks out vengeance against those who cross her path.
    STARRING:Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Laverne Cox, Molly Shannon, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Max Greenfield, Alison Brie, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Connie Britton, Chris Lowell, Adam Brody, Sam Richardson


  2. Frances McDormand
    "Nomadland" (Searchlight Pictures)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: 5 nominations, 2 wins (1996's "Fargo" and 2018's "Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri")
    ROLE: Fern

    DIRECTOR: Chloé Zhao
    SYNOPSIS: After losing everything in the Great Recession, an old woman embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.
    STARRING: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, Swankie, Bob Wells


  3. Andra Day
    "The United States vs. Billie Holiday" (Hulu)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Billie Holiday

    DIRECTOR: Lee Daniels
    SYNOPSIS: Follows Holiday during her career as she is targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics with an undercover sting operation led by black Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher, with whom she had a tumultuous affair.
    STARRING: Andra Day, Trevante Rhodes, Natasha Lyonne, Garrett Hedlund, Rob Morgan, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Tyler James Williams


  4. Viola Davis
    "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" (Netflix)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: 3 nominations, 1 win (2016's "Fences")
    ROLE: Ma Rainey

    DIRECTOR: George C. Wolfe
    SYNOPSIS: Chicago, 1927. A recording session. Tensions rise between Ma Rainey, her ambitious horn player and the white management determined to control the uncontrollable "Mother of the Blues". Based on Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson's play..
    STARRING: Chadwick Boseman, Dusan Brown, Jonny Coyne, Viola Davis, Colman Domingo, Taylour Paige, Michael Potts, Jeremy Shamos, Glynn Turman


  5. Vanessa Kirby
    "Pieces of a Woman" (Netflix)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Martha

    DIRECTOR: Kornél Mundruczó
    SYNOPSIS: When a young mother's home birth ends in unfathomable tragedy, she begins a year-long odyssey of mourning that fractures relationships with loved ones in this deeply personal story of a woman learning to live alongside her loss.
    STARRING: Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn, Iliza Shlesinger, Benny Safdie, Sarah Snook, Molly Parker


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Kate Winslet in “Ammonite” (Neon)
Courtesy of Neon

NEXT IN LINE:

  1. Sophia Loren
    "The Life Ahead" (Netflix)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: 2 nominations, 1 win (1960's "La ciociara" plus an honorary Oscar in 1991)
    ROLE: Madame Rosa

    DIRECTOR: Edoardo Ponti
    SYNOPSIS
    : In seaside Italy, a Holocaust survivor with a daycare business takes in a 12-year-old street kid who recently robbed her..
    STARRING
    : Sophia Loren, Ibrahima Gueye


  2. Amy Adams
    "Hillbilly Elegy" (Netflix)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: 6 nominations
    ROLE: Bev

    DIRECTOR: Ron Howard
    SYNOPSIS: An urgent phone call pulls a Yale Law student back to his Ohio hometown, where he reflects on three generations of family history and his own future.
    STARRING: Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Gabriel Basso, Haley Bennett, Freida Pinto, Bo Hopkins, Owen Asztalos


  3. Kate Winslet
    "Ammonite" (Neon)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: 7 nominations, 1 win (2008's "The Reader")
    ROLE: Mary Anning

    DIRECTOR: Francis Lee
    SYNOPSIS
    : 1840s England, acclaimed but overlooked fossil hunter Mary Anning and a young woman sent to convalesce by the sea develop an intense relationship, altering both of their lives forever.
    STARRING
    : Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Fiona Shaw, Gemma Jones, James McArdle


  4. Yeri Han
    "Minari" (A24)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Monica

    DIRECTOR: Lee Isaac Chung
    SYNOPSIS: A Korean family moves to Arkansas to start a farm in the 1980s.
    STARRING: Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Alan S. Kim, Yuh-jung Youn, Will Patton


  5. Sidney Flanigan
    "Never Rarely Sometimes Always" (Focus Features)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Autumn

    DIRECTOR: Eliza Hittman
    SYNOPSIS: Faced with an unintended pregnancy and a lack of local support, Autumn and her cousin Skylar embark across state lines from rural Pennsylvania to New York City on a fraught journey of friendship, bravery and compassion.
    STARRING: Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder, Théodore Pellerin


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The Assistant
Courtesy of Bleecker Street

TOP-TIER AWARDS CONTENDERS:

  1. Nicole Beharie
    "Miss Juneteenth" (Vertical Entertainment)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Turquoise Jones

    DIRECTOR: Channing Godfrey Peoples
    SYNOPSIS: A former beauty queen and single mom prepares her rebellious teenage daughter for the "Miss Juneteenth" pageant.
    STARRING: Nicole Beharie, Kendrick Sampson, Alexis Chikaeze, Lori Hayes


  2. Michelle Pfeiffer
    "French Exit" (Sony Pictures Classics)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: 3 nominations
    ROLE: Frances Price

    DIRECTOR: Azazel Jacobs
    SYNOPSIS: An aging Manhattan socialite living on what's barely left of her inheritance moves to a small apartment in Paris with her son and cat.
    STARRING: Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges, Tracy Letts, Valerie Mahaffey, Susan Coyne, Imogen Poots, Danielle Macdonald, Daniel di Tomasso


  3. Zendaya
    "Malcolm & Marie" (Netflix)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Marie

    DIRECTOR: Sam Levinson
    SYNOPSIS: A director and his girlfriend's relationship is tested after they return home from his movie premiere and await critics' responses
    STARRING: John David Washington, Zendaya


  4. Julia Garner
    "The Assistant" (Bleecker Street)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Jane

    DIRECTOR: Kitty Green
    SYNOPSIS: A searing look at a day in the life of an assistant to a powerful executive. As Jane follows her daily routine, she grows increasingly aware of the insidious abuse that threatens every aspect of her position.
    STARRING: Julia Garner, Matthew Macfadyen, Kristein Froseth, Clara Wong


  5. Robin Wright
    "Land" (Focus Features)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Edie Mathis

    DIRECTOR: Robin Wright
    SYNOPSIS: A bereaved woman seeks out a new life, off the grid in Wyoming.
    STARRING: Robin Wright, Demián Bichir, Kim Dickens, Warren Christie


  6. Elisabeth Moss
    "The Invisible Man" (Universal Pictures)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Cecilia Kass

    DIRECTOR: Leigh Whannell
    SYNOPSIS: When Cecilia's abusive ex takes his own life and leaves her his fortune, she suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of coincidences turn lethal, Cecilia works to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.
    STARRING: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Harriet Dyer, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Storm Reid, Michael Dorman


  7. Anya Taylor-Joy
    "Emma." (Focus Features)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Emma Woodhouse

    DIRECTOR: Autumn de Wilde
    SYNOPSIS: In 1800s England, a well meaning but selfish young woman meddles in the love lives of her friends.
    STARRING: Anya Taylor-Joy, Angus Imrie, Letty Thomas, Gemma Whelan, Bill Nighy


  8. Radha Blank
    "The Forty-Year-Old Version" (Netflix)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Radha

    DIRECTOR: Radha Blank
    SYNOPSIS: Radha is a down-on-her-luck NY playwright, who is desperate for a breakthrough before 40. Reinventing herself as rapper RadhaMUSPrime, she vacillates between the worlds of Hip Hop and theater in order to find her true voice.
    STARRING: Radha Blank, Peter Kim, Oswin Benjamin, Imani Lewis, Antonio Ortiz, Haskiri Velazquez, T.J. Atoms


  9. Meryl Streep
    "The Prom" (Netflix)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: 21 nominations, 3 wins (1979's "Kramer vs. Kramer," 1982's "Sophie's Choice" and 2011's "The Iron Lady")
    ROLE: Dee Dee Allen

    DIRECTOR: Ryan Murphy
    SYNOPSIS: A troupe of hilariously self-obsessed theater stars swarm into a small conservative Indiana town in support of a high school girl who wants to take her girlfriend to the prom.
    STARRING: Meryl Streep, Jo Ellen Pellman, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Ariana DeBose, Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key, Andrew Rannells. Tracey Ullman


  10. Jessie Buckley
    "I'm Thinking of Ending Things" (Netflix)

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    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
    ROLE: Young woman

    DIRECTOR: Charlie Kaufman
    SYNOPSIS: Full of misgivings, a young woman travels with her new boyfriend to his parents' secluded farm. Upon arriving, she comes to question everything she thought she knew about him, and herself.
    STARRING: Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley, David Thewlis, Toni Collette



† = no release date scheduled / could be delayed / may not be eligible
†† = could be campaigned in the lead or supporting categories / original or adapted screenplay categories

AWARDS CATEGORY HISTORY

The Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars, is Hollywood’s most prestigious artistic award in the film industry. The most awarded films in Oscar history are “Ben-Hur,” “Titanic” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” at 11 statuettes. The most nominated films in Academy history are “All About Eve,” “Titanic” and “La La Land” at 14. “La La Land” is the only film of the three to have lost best picture. The biggest Oscar “losers,” meaning most nominated and walk away with zero awards, are 1977’s “The Turning Point” and 1985’s “The Color Purple” at 11 each. Katharine Hepburn has the most awards in this category with four. In contrast, 13 women have won two each – Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis, Sally Field, Jane Fonda, Jodie Foster, Olivia de Havilland, Glenda Jackson, Vivien Leigh, Frances McDormand, Luise Rainer, Meryl Streep, Hilary Swank and Elizabeth Taylor. Streep has the most nominations in this category with 17, while Hepburn has 12, and Davis has 10. The oldest winner is Jessica Tandy at 80 for “Driving Miss Daisy,” and the oldest nominee is Emmanuelle Riva at 85 for “Amour.” The youngest winner at 21 is Marlee Matlin (“Children of a Lesser God”), and the youngest nominee at 9 is Quvenzhané Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”).


Academy Awards Predictions (All Categories)

2021 Golden Globes Predictions (Film)

2021 SAG Awards Predictions (Film)


About the Academy Awards (Oscars)

The Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars, is Hollywood’s most prestigious artistic award in the film industry. Since 1927, nominees and winners are selected by members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). 17 branches are represented within the near 10,000 person membership. The branches are actors, associates, casting directors, cinematographers, costume designers, directors, documentary, executives, film editors, makeup and hairstylists, marketing and public relations, members-at-large, members-at-large (artists’ representatives), music, producers, production design, short films and feature animation, sound, visual effects and writers.

  • The Oscars are scheduled for Sunday, April 25, 2021.

About the Golden Globes

The Golden Globes Awards, hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, is held annually with 93 members since 1944. The group recognizes excellence in film and television across drama and comedy or musical categories. Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” holds the record for the most awards won by a single film with seven. Milos Forman’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and Alan Parker’s “Midnight Express” are next in line with six each. Robert Altman’s “Nashville” has the record for most nominations received by a film with 11 while Colin Higgins’ “Foul Play,” Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather Part III” and Mike Nichols’ “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” share the record for receiving the most nominations and not winning a single award at seven.

  • The Golden Globes are scheduled for Feb. 28, 2021.

About the SAG Awards

The Screen Actors Guild Awards, hosted by SAG-AFTRA, is an annual award show that has become one of the most important and key indicators for the Oscars. Four films have won the most SAG awards with three: 1999’s “American Beauty,” 2002’s “Chicago,” 2011’s “The Help” and 2017’s “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Three movies have been nominated for the most SAG awards with five: 1998’s “Shakespeare in Love,” “Chicago” and 2008’s “Doubt.”

  • The SAG Awards are scheduled to take place on Sunday, April 4, 2021





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