Oscar nominations 2021: Complete predictions in all 23 categories

Oscar statues backstage at the 88th Academy Awards in 2016.
Oscar statues backstage at the 88th Academy Awards in 2016.
(Christopher Polk / Getty Images)

Oscar nominations arrive Monday, and you can feel the anticipation ... the anticipation of finding out how many streaming service(s) you’ll need to subscribe to in the next month in order to watch all the movies up for best picture.

The answer is four, which still won’t cover “Minari” or “Promising Young Woman,” movies you’ll have to pony up $20 for on VOD, or “Judas and the Black Messiah,” which is leaving HBO Max on Sunday. So you might want to knock that one off your list now. Or, if you really want to get ahead of the pack, you can simply buy a plane ticket, fly to New York, catch a double feature of “Judas” and “Minari” and then walk around the corner and browse the stacks at the Strand Bookstore, which is what I’ll be doing in my subconscious while I complete this list of what will be nominated in every single category for the 93rd Academy Awards. Enjoy!



“Judas and the Black Messiah”
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
“One Night in Miami ...”
“Promising Young Woman”
“Sound of Metal”
“The Trial of the Chicago 7”

Possible snub: “Sound of Metal”
Possible surprise: “News of the World”

"Nomadland's" Linda May and Frances McDormand relax outdoors wearing moisturizing cream.
Linda May, left, and Frances McDormand in “Nomadland.”
(Searchlight Pictures)

Analysis: The Producers Guild dropped its list of 10 best picture nominees on Monday. The Oscars is in its final year of its fluctuating slate that has always numbered either eight or nine movies. So that’s bad news for at least one PGA nominee, probably “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” as the academy owns a dispiriting history of ignoring comedies. The academy also hasn’t nominated an animated movie since abandoning its fixed list of 10 nominees (which, thankfully, returns next year), likely consigning “Soul,” one of the year’s most ambitious and imaginative films, to the ghetto known as “best animated feature.” It’s possible that the entertaining Tom Hanks western “News of the World” could find its way in, though it was ignored by the PGA, a group more inclined than the academy toward rewarding big studio pictures.

When six directors — David Fincher, Paul Greengrass, Regina King, Spike Lee, Aaron Sorkin and Chloé Zhao — recently got together to talk about their latest projects, they shared candid feelings about control on-set and the movie business in a post-COVID world.

Jan. 26, 2021


Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari”
David Fincher, “Mank”
Shaka King, “Judas and the Black Messiah”
Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland”

Possible snub: King
Possible surprise: Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”

Director Shaka King and Daniel Kaluuya on the set of "Judas and the Black Messiah."
Director Shaka King, left, and Daniel Kaluuya on the set of “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
(Glen Wilson / Warner Bros.)

Analysis: It’d be easy to go with the five Directors Guild nominees — Chung, Fennell, Fincher, Sorkin and Zhao — but it’s rare for the directors branch to mirror the DGA’s slate. The academy’s directors branch has a history of surprising choices, which, combined with its bolstered international membership, makes me think Thomas Vinterberg could surprise for “Another Round,” a favorite among many academy members I’ve polled. Or, possibly, we could see Regina King nominated for her thrilling, thoughtful work on “One Night in Miami ....” Or, yes, we could simply be looking at a duplication of the Directors Guild. But I’m leaning toward King and “Judas and the Black Messiah,” the season’s late arrival that has picked up the most momentum with voters in the last few weeks.



Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal”
Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Anthony Hopkins, “The Father”
Gary Oldman, “Mank”
Steven Yeun, “Minari”

Possible snub: Yeun
Possible surprise: Tahar Rahim, “The Mauritanian”

The “Minari” family played by Steven Yeun, Alan S. Kim, Yuh-Jung Youn, Yeri Han and Noel Cho studies its new farm home.
The “Minari” family played by, from left, Steven Yeun, Alan S. Kim, Yuh-Jung Youn, Yeri Han and Noel Cho.
(Josh Ethan Johnson / A24)

Analysis: You could put forward an alternate list of five, including LaKeith Stanfield (“Judas and the Black Messiah”), Delroy Lindo (“Da 5 Bloods”), Mads Mikkelsen (“Another Round”), Tahar Rahim (“The Mauritanian”) and Sacha Baron Cohen (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”), that would be the equal of the nominees we’re likely to see. That’s how strong the category is this year, and I haven’t even mentioned Luca Marinelli’s glorious work in “Martin Eden.” Normally, actors branch voters gravitate for big, flashy work. But everyone loves “Minari,” and Yeun’s nuanced turn as the ambitious, loving, often irritable father is a major reason for its success. Pencil him in.

Riz Ahmed, George Clooney, Delroy Lindo, Gary Oldman and Steven Yeun take us inside their new films and open up about their insecurities.

Jan. 19, 2021


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”

Possible snub: Kirby
Possible surprise: Amy Adams, “Hillbilly Elegy”

Amy Adams in "Hillbilly Elegy."
Amy Adams in “Hillbilly Elegy.”
(Lacey Terrell / Netflix)

Analysis: Let’s jump ahead for a moment and note that some pundits think Glenn Close will finally win an Oscar for her scenery-chewing work in “Hillbilly Elegy,” a widely seen movie that voters like a lot more than critics. Or hate a lot less. Take your pick. Which leads me to Adams, an admired actress who has six nominations and, like Close, zero wins. Adams isn’t going to finally get her Oscar for this movie (though you could make a case that her empathetic portrayal of the film’s addicted mother rings true on a deep level), but she could earn another nomination. And that in itself would be a major victory. (And I’m confident she’ll win that Oscar one day.)


Chadwick Boseman, “Da 5 Bloods”
Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah”
Leslie Odom Jr., “One Night in Miami ...”
Paul Raci, “Sound of Metal”

Possible snub: Boseman
Possible surprise: Alan Kim, “Minari”

Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman in "The Trial of the Chicago 7."
Sacha Baron Cohen, right, as Abbie Hoffman in “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”
(Niko Tavernise / Netflix)

Analysis: Kaluuya’s stirring depiction of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton has lapped Cohen’s excellent Abbie Hoffman as the favorite to win this Oscar. As for the nominations, the intrigue seems to be between Boseman, who could make history, earning dual nominations posthumously; Raci’s beloved turn as the serene sober-living counselor in “Sound of Metal”; and Jared Leto’s serial killer suspect in “The Little Things.” Leto did pick up a Screen Actors Guild nomination but I still don’t see him bumping any of the other likely nominees. But you know who maaaaybe could? “Minari’s” adorable child actor superstar, the one, the only Alan Kim.


Glenn Close, “Hillbilly Elegy”
Olivia Colman, “The Father”
Jodie Foster, “The Mauritanian”
Amanda Seyfried, “Mank”
Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari”


Possible snub: Seyfried
Possible surprise: Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”

Amanda Seyfried's Marion Davies enjoys a Hearst Castle party in "Mank."
Amanda Seyfried, center, as Marion Davies in “Mank.”

Analysis: Here’s when the Golden Globes matter: Foster’s supporting actress win — and her lovely, pajama-clad acceptance speech — probably put the tough-sit “Mauritanian” on the radar of a few academy members who hadn’t gotten around to watching it yet. (I’d still nominate Bakalova’s genius comic turn instead.)

Michelle Pfeiffer, Rashida Jones, Kate Winslet, Vanessa Kirby and film newcomer Andra Day gather (virtually) to talk nerves, women’s stories and the trick to lengthy careers.

Feb. 9, 2021


“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman, Lee Kern & Nina Pedrad
“The Father,” Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Ruben Santiago-Hudson
“Nomadland,” Chloé Zhao
“One Night in Miami ...,” Kemp Powers

Possible snub: “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”
Possible surprise: “The White Tiger,” Ramin Bahrani

A bar scene during the storied gathering in "One Night in Miami ..."
The storied gathering in a scene from “One Night in Miami ...”
(Patti Perret / Amazon Prime Video)

Analysis: This would be a great place to celebrate “First Cow,” written by Kelly Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond, or for writers branch voters to renew their appreciation for the strange, uncompromising brilliance of Charlie Kaufman (“I’m Thinking of Ending Things”). Either might surprise, as could Bahrani’s excellent adaptation of of Aravind Adiga’s 2008 Booker prize-winning novel “White Tiger,” which earned a Writers Guild nomination.



“Mank,” Jack Fincher
“Minari,” Lee Isaac Chung
“Promising Young Woman,” Emerald Fennell
“Soul,” Pete Docter, Mike Jones and Kemp Powers
“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Aaron Sorkin

Possible snub: “Soul”
Possible surprise: “Judas and the Black Messiah,” Will Berson and Shaka King

Analysis: I have spent the last half-hour cutting and pasting “Soul” and “Sound of Metal” between the expected nominees and the possible snub listing ... which probably means “Judas and the Black Messiah” will be nominated. Then again, this could also be where “Mank’s” detractors — those who find the film meandering, windy and a bit chilly — make their voices heard.


“Another Round”
“Dear Comrades!”
“Quo Vadis, Aida?”
“Two of Us”

Possible snub: “Collective”
Possible surprise: “La Llorona”

Martine Chevallier and Barbara Sukowa as a secret couple in "Two of Us".
Martine Chevallier, left, and Barbara Sukowa in “Two of Us”.
(Magnolia Pictures)

Analysis: Will the gripping, despairing “Collective,” shortlisted both here and in documentary, earn two nominations? Or will it be done in by the kind of indifference chillingly depicted in the film?



“The Croods: A New Age”
“Over the Moon”

Possible snub: “Onward”
Possible surprise: “Earwig and the Witch”

The Robyn and Mebh characters in "Wolfwalkers."
(Apple TV+)

Analysis: Beyond critics groups, “Wolfwalkers,” streaming on Apple TV+, has earned a dedicated legion of fans who have rewatched the enchanting offering from Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon (“The Secret of Kells,” “Song of the Sea”) throughout the pandemic. It’s quite possible it gives “Soul” some real competition for this Oscar.


“Boys State”
“Dick Johnson Is Dead”
“Welcome to Chechnya”

Possible snub: “Collective”
Possible surprise: “Crip Camp”

Ben Feinstein in the documentary "Boys State."
(Apple TV+)

Analysis: The documentary shortlist ran deep, including “MLK/FBI,” the timely and utterly engrossing look at the ways the U.S. government persecuted Martin Luther King Jr., and “76 Days,” an artful, compassionate look at healthcare workers in Wuhan, China, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Also: “Crip Camp,” “My Octopus Teacher” and “All In: The Fight for Democracy.” In other words, there’s going to be a great group of nominees and a fair share of anguish over the films that don’t make the cut.



“Judas and the Black Messiah,” Sean Bobbitt
“Mank,” Erik Messerschmidt
“News of the World,” Dariusz Wolski
“Nomadland,” Joshua James Richards
“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Phedon Papamichael

Possible snub: “Judas and the Black Messiah”
Possible surprise: “Tenet,” Hoyte van Hoytema

Kenneth Branagh calmly walks away from an exploding car in "Tenet."
Kenneth Branagh in “Tenet.”
(Melinda Sue Gordon / Warner Bros Pictures)

Analysis: Remember “Tenet,” the Christopher Nolan time-bender that was going to save movie theaters? For reasons I haven’t had the time (or inclination) to completely untangle, Warner Bros. did not put the movie alongside 224 other titles on the motion picture academy’s streaming platform. Warner Bros. also did not mail DVD screeners to Oscar voters. Was this at the direction of Nolan or because Nolan ripped Warner Bros. leadership’s decision to move its entire 2021 theatrical slate to HBO Max, a.k.a., in Nolan’s words, “the worst streaming service”? Who knows? But I can tell you who cares — “Tenet’s” great crafts team, who undoubtedly hoped more academy members might have had the opportunity to see their work and boost their careers with an Oscar nomination. We’ll see if this strange maneuvering dooms Van Hoytema, who should have been a sure thing here for his innovative work on the action-thriller.


“The Father,” Yorgos Lamprinos
“Mank,” Kirk Baxter
“Nomadland,” Chloé Zhao
“Sound of Metal,” Mikkel E. G. Nielsen
“The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Alan Baumgarten

Possible snub: “Mank”
Possible surprise: “News of the World,” William Goldenberg

Analysis: Consider this when thinking about Zhao and “Nomadland”: Only two directors have won this category — James Cameron (“Titanic”) and Alfonso Cuarón (“Gravity”). Both also won Oscars for directing those films. It’s going to be a long night for the Chinese government.

Tom Hanks curls up by a campfire as Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd in "News of the World."
Tom Hanks as Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd in “News of the World.”
(Universal Pictures)



“Mank,” Donald Graham Burt (production designer), Jan Pascale (set decorator)
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Mark Ricker (production designer), Karen O’Hara and Diana Stoughton (set decorators)
“Mulan,” Grant Major (production designer), Anne Kuljian (set decorator)
“News of the World,” David Crank (production designer), Elizabeth Keenan (set decorator)
“Tenet,” Nathan Crowley (production designer), Kathy Lucas (set decorator)

Possible snub: “Tenet”
Possible surprise: “The Midnight Sky,” Jim Bissell (production designer), John Bush (set decorator)

Analysis: Now might be the time to bring up a bit of Oscar trivia: “The Color Purple” and “The Turning Point” share the dubious distinction of earning the most nominations, 11, without a single Oscar win. (Last year, “The Irishman” went 0-10.) “Mank” is certainly going to pull in at least 11 nods, perhaps more. To avoid a shutout, it will need this Oscar. And it deserves to win it for the vivid way it re-created classic Hollywood and San Simeon and evoked the feel of the era when writer Herman Mankiewicz roamed studio lots, tossing out quips and making ill-advised wagers.


“Emma,” Alexandra Byrne
“Mank,” Trish Summerville
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Ann Roth
“News of the World,” Mark Bridges
“The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” Paolo Nieddu

Possible snub: “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”
Possible surprise: “Mulan,” Bina Daigeler

Viola Davis dancing onstage with a group of backup dancers in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"
Viola Davis commands her audience as the larger-than-life Ma Rainey in costumes designed by Ann Roth.
(David Lee / Netflix)

Analysis: Roth, 89, has worked on more than 100 movies (she collaborated with Mike Nichols 13 times). She has won an Oscar (“The English Patient,” working with Anthony Minghella, another favorite) and a Tony (“The Nance”), and, when she’s celebrated for “Ma Rainey,” she’ll be the oldest person to earn a nod in the category. Should Roth win — and her work on Ma Rainey’s dresses made her every bit the queen she was — she’d be the second oldest winner, just about four months shy of filmmaker James Ivory, also 89 when he won the adapted screenplay Oscar for “Call Me by Your Name” in 2018.


“Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)”
“Hillbilly Elegy”
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Possible snub: “Mank”
Possible surprise: “The Little Things”

Analysis: For “Ma Rainey,” makeup artist Sergio Lopez-Rivera needed to re-create the singer’s legendary greasepaint look, and actress Viola Davis told him to have at it. “Sergio, just think of [Bette Davis] in the movie ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?’” Davis reportedly requested. Throw in some gold teeth and you have another gold statue for “Ma Rainey.”



“Mank,” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
“The Midnight Sky,” Alexandre Desplat
“Minari,” Emile Mosseri
“News of the World,” James Newton Howard
“Soul,” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste

Possible snub: “Minari”
Possible surprise: “Tenet,” Ludwig Göransson

Analysis: Finally, a category (in addition to animated feature) that I feel hopeful for “Soul.” Now can the ceremony’s producers enlist Batiste’s help for the show?


“Fight for You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah,” H.E.R.
“Hear My Voice” from “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Daniel Pemberton and Celeste Waite
“Io Sì (Seen)” from “The Life Ahead,” Diane Warren, Laura Pausini & Niccolò Agliardi
“Speak Now” from “One Night in Miami ...,” Leslie Odom Jr. and Sam Ashworth
“Turntables” from “All In: The Fight for Democracy,” Janelle Monáe, Nathaniel Irvin III and George “George 2.0.” Peters II

Possible snub: “Turntables”
Possible surprise: “Húsavik (My Hometown)” from “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga,” Savan Kotecha, Rickard Göransson and Fat Max Gsus

Analysis: Remember when Billie Eilish’s James Bond song dropped on Feb. 13, went straight to No. 1 and everyone was like, “See you in a year at the Oscars, Billie?” Well, maybe we’ll see her in 2022. Who knows? The release date of “No Time to Die” has been moved so many times that it may well have come out by now and I was too busy scrolling through air fryer recipes to notice. I tell you what I did notice. “Húsavik (My Hometown).” Because when this whole thing is over, I long to visit a land where the mountains sing through the screams of seagulls and where the whales can live ’cause they’re gentle people. And I will fight anyone who tries to stop me.



“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
“News of the World”
“Sound of Metal”

Possible snub: “Mank”
Possible surprise: “The Midnight Sky”

Riz Ahmed at the drums as Ruben, a musician losing his hearing, in "Sound of Metal."
Riz Ahmed as Ruben in “Sound of Metal.”
(Amazon Studios)

Analysis: The sound editing and mixing categories have been consolidated this year into a single group, a move that will A) “unify recognition of both sound mixing and sound editorial as a highly aligned team of creatives that are integral to a film’s success,” per Cinema Audio Society President Karol Urban, and B) shorten the Oscar ceremony by, oh, five minutes. Also: “Sound of Metal” is going to win.


“The Midnight Sky”
“Welcome to Chechnya”

Possible snub: “Welcome to Chechnya”
Possible surprise: “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)”

Analysis: I’d give it to “Tenet” in a heartbeat if its team could promise to bend time back to prepandemic.


“Genius Loci”
“If Anything Happens I Love You”



“Abortion Helpline, This Is Lisa”
“A Concerto Is a Conversation”
“Hunger Ward”
“A Love Song for Latasha”


“Da Yie”
“Feeling Through”
“The Human Voice”
“The Letter Room”
“Two Distant Strangers”