Final Oscars Predictions 2021: Who Will Win and Who Should Win?

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Clayton Davis
·10 min read
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It’s all come down to this. The longest awards season is drawing to a close, after an excruciating pandemic year that nearly destroyed the movie business. History looks to be made at the Oscars, with women and people of color getting recognition — but there’s also room for a surprise or two.

In the winners tally, “Nomadland” is expected to be the leading film winner with four including best picture followed by “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” with three including Chadwick Boseman.

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Netflix is presumed to be the leading studio with a predicted six wins, an increase from last year’s tally of four. The good news is that the streaming giant has a 50/50 shot in four additional races, which could bring them to a double-digit tally, which would be a record in the modern era (Metro-Goldwyn Mayer dominated the 1930s and 1940s).

Here are my final predictions for the 93rd Oscars.

Best Motion Picture of the Year

It’s hard to bet against the winner of the PGA, the DGA, the Golden Globes and BAFTA. Still, “1917” and “La La Land” won those exact awards, then lost to “Parasite” and “Moonlight” (which won the drama Globe) respectively. In the end, though, the season has shaped up for “Nomadland,” and it’s one of the stronger contenders we’ve seen in the past 20 years.

Will win: “Nomadland”
Could win: “The Trial of the Chicago 7″
Should win: “Nomadland”
Should have been here: “Onward”

Best Achievement in Directing

Winner of the Critics Choice, Golden Globe and DGA awards, Zhao has been unstoppable. No matter what upsets could be creeping up in picture, she seems assured this prize, which is one of her four nominations.

Will win: Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”
Could win: Thomas Vinterberg, “Another Round”
Should win: Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”
Should have been here: Shaka King , “Judas and the Black Messiah”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

While Anthony Hopkins won the BAFTA, Chadwick Boseman looks to have just enough to take this trophy. The actor, who died last August of cancer at 43, will follow Peter Finch (“Network”), the only previous posthumous winner in the category.

Will win: Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Could win: Anthony Hopkins, “The Father”
Should win: Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Should have been here: Delroy Lindo, “Da 5 Bloods”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Your Oscar pool’s success will likely bank on this category. Ultimately, any of the five could win it. Still, even with a different winner at each televised awards ceremony, the informal polling of Oscar voters suggests this could be down to Frances McDormand and Andra Day. By a hair, McDormand — the BAFTA winner — could emerge victorious, becoming the only three-time lead actress winner and just one trophy behind Katharine Hepburn’s record.

Will win: Frances McDormand, “Nomadland”
Could win: Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Should win: Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman”
Should have been here: Yeri Han, “Minari”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

No person in modern history has lost the Oscar after winning all the televised award shows. This one seems locked.

Will win: Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah”
Could win: Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Should win: Paul Raci, “Sound of Metal” (because Kaluuya and Stanfield are both leads)
Should have been here: Eli Goree, “One Night in Miami”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

While the category was open at the beginning of the season, SAG and the BAFTAs changed that. Yuh-Jung Youn is on track to become just the second Asian woman to win an acting prize. Olivia Colman and Amanda Seyfried do have supporters and could be closer to spoiling than most people assume. Glenn Close, on her eighth nomination, doesn’t seem to have the support for a long-overdue win but crazier things have happened, proven by her surprise loss to Colman for “The Favourite.” If she does lose once more, she’ll be tied as the most nominated actor without an Oscar win, with the late Peter O’Toole.

Will win: Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari”
Could win: Olivia Colman, “The Father”
Should win: Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari”
Should have been here: Jayme Lawson, “Farewell Amor”

Best Original Screenplay

Despite winning the Golden Globe for best screenplay, Aaron Sorkin hasn’t been able to win elsewhere. With BAFTA, Critics Choice and WGA in hand, Emerald Fennell is poised to become the second solo female winner of this category after Diablo Cody for “Juno” (2007).

Will win: “Promising Young Woman” – Emerald Fennell
Could win: “The Trial of the Chicago 7” – Aaron Sorkin
Should win: “Minari” – Lee Isaac Chung
Should have been here: “The Forty-Year-Old Version” – Radha Blank

Best Adapted Screenplay

Conventional wisdom says “Nomadland” will add this to its winning night, but BAFTA spoke otherwise. With six noms, “The Father” could pick up a prize somewhere, and Christopher Hampton’s legacy will help the first-time director and co-screenwriter Florian Zeller nab a win for Sony Pictures Classics.

Will win: “The Father” – Christopher Hampton, Florian Zeller
Could win: “Nomadland” – Chloé Zhao
Should win: “Nomadland” – Chloé Zhao
Should have been here: “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” – Charlie Kaufman

Best Animated Feature

Apple TV Plus and GKids were hopeful they could break up the “Soul” train (no pun intended) with “Wolfwalkers.” But Pixar, which has two other noms (one of which is also locked), seems to have this one in its pocket.

Will win: “Soul” – Dana Murray, Pete Docter
Could win: “Wolfwalkers”
Should win: “Onward”
Should have been here: “No. 7 Cherry Lane” (Far Sun Film Co. Ltd)

Best Achievement in Production Design

With the most nominations of any film, Fincher’s take on old Hollywood has won virtually every award that’s been handed out in this space, with no real challenger to upset — unless you think “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” could go on a sweep, which is highly unlikely.

Will win: “Mank” – Donald Graham Burt, Jan Pascale
Could win: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Should win: “Mank”
Should have been here: “Promising Young Woman” – Michael Perry, Rae Deslich

Best Achievement in Cinematography

This technical achievement for “Nomadland” has been a steamroller this season in this space, and will serve as another tack-on for its big night ahead. Even with ASC choosing “Mank,” which could be a viable threat, this seems safe.

Will win: “Nomadland” – Joshua James Richards
Could win: “Mank”
Should win: “Nomadland”
Should have been here: “Malcolm & Marie” – Marcell Rév

Best Achievement in Costume Design

With wins from the Costume Designers Guild and BAFTA, Roth will become the oldest woman, at 89, to win a competitive Oscar. “Emma” or “Mank” may have a shot with the international voting community.

Will win: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” – Ann Roth
Could win: “Emma.”
Should win: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Should have been here: “The Prom” – Lou Eyrich

Best Achievement in Film Editing

The categories of editing and sound often go in tandem, as evidenced by winners such as “Whiplash,” “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Ford v Ferrari.” Despite ACE going with “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” the smart bet is on the BAFTA winner.

Will win: “Sound of Metal” – Mikkel E.G. Nielsen
Could win: “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Should win: “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Should have been here: “Palm Springs” – Andrew Dickler, Matt Friedman

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling

History will be made with the first Black winners in this category, and it’s long overdue. “Ma Rainey” for the win.

Will win: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” – Mia Neal, Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Jamika Wilson
Could win: “Pinocchio”
Should win: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Should have been here: “The Outpost” – Sofi Hvarleva, Maria Stankovich

Best Achievement in Sound

This one has been sewn up for quite some time — one of the all-time-great winners of the category.

Will win: “Sound of Metal” – Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortés, Phillip Bladh
Could win: “Soul” – Ren Klyce, Coya Elliott and David Parker
Should win: “Sound of Metal” – Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortés, Phillip Bladh
Should have been here: “The Invisible Man” – Paul “Salty” Brincat, Will Files, P.K. Hooker

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

With the production design nomination, “Tenet” has the edge, and it has won BAFTA and almost every other prize out there. VES Guild went with “The Midnight Sky,” but I don’t think it was enough to make a difference.

Will win: “Tenet” (Warner Bros) – Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley, Santiago Colomo Martinez
Could win: “Mulan”
Should win: “The Midnight Sky”
Should have been here: “Welcome to Chechnya” – Ryan Laney, Maxwell Anderson, Johnny Han, Piers Dennis

Best Original Score

Despite double nominations for Reznor and Ross, only film titles are on the ballot, and “Soul” has landed every major prize. Even so, there’s no real consensus on what the upset pick is, though it could be the team’s other nominated composition on “Mank.”

Will win: “Soul” – Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
Could win: “Minari”
Should win: “Mank
Should have been here: “The Midnight Sky” – Alexandre Desplat

Best Original Song

With a double nom for acting and song, this is the place where Leslie Odom Jr. and his counterpart Sam Ashworth look to be rewarded, but “Húsavík” from “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” has received a big push from Netflix that could make it a spoiler.

Will win: “Speak Now” from “One Night in Miami” – Leslie Odom Jr., Sam Ashworth
Could win: “Húsavík” from “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”
Should win: “Io Si (Seen)” from “The Life Ahead”
Should have been here: “Edgar’s Prayer” from “Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar” – Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig

Best Documentary Feature

It’s swept nearly all the guilds and is the feel-good film of the bunch. The timeliness of “Time” is a factor, but I think it just misses out, along with double nominee “Collective.”

Will win: “My Octopus Teacher” – Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed
Could win: “Collective”
Should win: “The Mole Agent”
Should have been here: “The Way I See It” (Focus Features) – Dawn Porter

Best International Feature

With a directing nomination for Thomas Vinterberg, “Another Round” has led all year in this race. However, watch out for “Quo Vadis, Aida?,” which could spoil.

Will win: “Another Round” – Denmark
Could win: “Quo Vadis, Aida”
Should win: “Quo Vadis, Aida”
Should have been here: “A Sun” – Taiwan

Best Animated Short

The shorts are always wild cards, with no precursor to help identify the front-runner. In animated short, most are predicting Netflix’s “If Anything Happens I Love You,” but there’s been a lot of positive praise for “Opera” that could help it slip by.

Will win: “Opera” – Erick Oh
Could win: “If Anything Happens I Love You”
Should win: “If Anything Happens I Love You”
Should have been here: “Out”

Best Documentary Short

The campaign for “A Concerto Is a Conversation” has been well executed and heartwarming. “Colette” and “Do Not Split” also have admirers that could appeal to international members.

Will win: “A Concerto Is a Conversation” – Kris Bowers, Ben Proudfoot
Could win: “Colette”
Should win: “A Concerto Is a Conversation”
Should have been here: “The Speed Cubers”

Best Live Action Short

The race for live action short is much closer, with “Feeling Through” and “Two Distant Strangers” both having their admirers. But given that the Derek Chauvin trial over George Floyd’s killing took place in the middle of voting, I’m predicting a victory for “Two Distant Strangers,” but not by much.

Will win: “Two Distant Strangers” – Travon Free, Martin Desmond Roe
Could win: “Feeling Through”
Should win: “Two Distant Strangers”
Should have been here: “The Human Voice”

Academy Awards Predictions (All Categories)

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