First Predictions for the 94th Academy Awards – After the Nominations

Now that the Academy has proclaimed their nominees for the 94th Oscars, it’s time to take a look at each category and start making our best, most educated guesses about who is going to win. With only a few real surprises in the final list of contenders, it would be easy to say the race is over, but it isn’t. Far from it. So let’s take a look at all 23 categories and imagine what may be happening at the end of March.

And let us be very clear that as I rank each category, these lists are in the order of what I consider most to least likely to win. This has nothing to do with my personal feelings about any of these nominees. Predictions are not preferences.

Best Picture

Belfast sat in the prime position of frontrunner for many months before any of the guilds started voting. With The Power of the Dog bringing in an unexpected 12 nominations overall, it’s clearly the new frontrunner. But with the preferential ballot in place and ten films to choose from, We have to consider not only what voters like the most, but which films they dislike the least.

That is not to say that Drive My Car or Nightmare Alley are unpopular with voters. Obviously there is enough love for them that they made it into the lineup. But when we look at the full list, they feel like the two films that will probably receive the lowest number of first and second votes. And right now, The Power of the Dog looks like a very likely winner. But this can change with a lot of factors. Can it win on a first round of counting? Maybe. If not, we have to start considering the films in the second and third spot, which means Belfast really could rise up and win. In fact, there’s a world where Belfast could win Best Picture without a single other award on the night.

We also have to look to the other crowd pleasers, West Side Story, CODA, and King Richard. Each of these has nominations in screenplay and acting categories, and in the case of West Side Story and King Richard, they managed to snag a few key technical nods too. With Denis Villeneuve’s surprising miss in Best Director, some are wondering if this could be Argo 2.0, where Ben Affleck missed Best Director, ended up winning at DGA, and then picking up Best Picture in 2012. Yes, of course, it’s possible. And with Dune expected to pick up several technical awards, it’s a scenario that can’t be ignored. But there is also a Part 2 coming and therefore this *could* be more of a Lord of the Rings situation where they’ll hold off on the big prize until the story is complete.

  1. “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  2. “Belfast” (Focus Features)
  3. “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)
  4. “CODA” (Apple Original Films
  5. “King Richard” (Warner Bros.)
  6. “Dune” (Warner Bros.)
  7. “Licorice Pizza” (MGM/United Artists)
  8. “Don’t Look Up” (Netflix)
  9. “Drive My Car” (Janus Films)
  10. “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Director

Jane Campion has long been respected in the industry, and there is a sense in the air that this is her year. Not because she is a woman. Not because she’s the first woman ever nominated twice in this category. It’s because she’s a gifted filmmaker who helmed the most nominated film of the year. The one that appealed to actors, writers, and a wide range of artists. In the end, Campion could potentially lose here, but that seems less and less likely every day.

  1. Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  2. Kenneth Branagh, “Belfast” (Focus Features)
  3. Steven Spielberg, “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)
  4. Ryusuke Hamagachi, “Drive My Car” (Janus Films)
  5. Paul Thomas Anderson, “Licorice Pizza” (MGM/United Artists Releasing)

Best Actor

This has long appeared to be Will Smith’s award to lose. But we know from very recent history that the statuette isn’t engraved yet, and so Smith’s work isn’t done. Benedict Cumberbatch stars in the overall frontrunning movie, and Garfield has a lot of love too. There’s a world where all three of them split enough votes that Denzel Washington could swing in there and surprise everyone. But we’re looking to Smith as the winner here, unless someone else really starts to surge.

  1. Will Smith, “King Richard” (Warner Bros.)
  2. Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  3. Andrew Garfield, “Tick…tick…Boom!” (Netflix)
  4. Denzel Washington, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (A24/Apple Original Films)
  5. Javier Bardem, “Being the Ricardos” (Amazon Studios)

Best Actress

One of the toughest categories to predict before nominations has become a big shoulder shrug now that the lineup is certain. There are so many possible scenarios here. I’m currently going with Jessica Chastain, in large part because of the physical transformation that also earned a nomination in Makeup & Hairstyling. That does not in any way mean that Chastain’s own performance is not enough. But when you look at the two together, Chastain could be going home with the gold.

We have previous winners Kidman and Colman, each of whom saw additional nominations for their films. Both are nominated by SAG (alongside Chastain), and if any of them win, they have to be considered the likely winner. Being the Ricardos missed out in some big places, so there isn’t necessarily a groundswell of support there. Colman’s The Lost Daughter is now the third film in which two actresses were nominated together for playing the same character. Colman is also beloved across the industry, and will likely pick up votes on both sides of the Atlantic.

There are, of course, a lot of questions about Kristen Stewart, who is very much still in this race. Her miss at SAG was significant, but more because it came from a small percentage of voters on the nominating committee, not from a wide swath of actors. That miss could actually be one of the things that propels Stewart to the Oscar stage.

  1. Jessica Chastain, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (Searchlight Pictures)
  2. Nicole Kidman, “Being the Ricardos” (Amazon Studios)
  3. Olivia Colman, “The Lost Daughter” (Netflix)
  4. Kristen Stewart, “Spencer” (Neon)
  5. Penélope Cruz, “Parallel Mothers” (Sony Pictures Classics)

Best Supporting Actor

When Kodi Smit-McPhee started picking up nominations, he became the presumed winner here. And he still may very well be. But there will be a lot of places to reward The Power of the Dog, and now he’s going to be splitting votes with his co-star, Jesse Plemons. Meanwhile, there will be plenty of love for Ciarán Hinds and Belfast, which makes him a strong foil to Smit-McPhee. Which is how Troy Kotsur could very well find himself accepting an Oscar this year. He has stolen hearts throughout the season and people love his movie. I’m sure we’ll go back and forth on this for the next few weeks, but right now I’m saying Kotsur has the edge.

  1. Troy Kotsur, “CODA” (Apple Original Films)
  2. Ciarán Hinds, “Belfast” (Focus Features)
  3. Kodi Smit-McPhee, “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  4. Jesse Plemons, “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  5. J.K. Simmons, “Being the Ricardos” (Amazon Studios)

Best Supporting Actress

Ariana DeBose steals the show in West Side Story, and is in prime position to win the Academy Award for the same role that won it for Rita Moreno in 1961. Kirsten Dunst is truly great in The Power of the Dog, and a lot of votes for that film across the board could carry Dunst to the podium, although out of everyone in this category, she could easily become the most overlooked. Judi Dench feels like the least likely winner here, but she’s Judi Dench and should never be counted out.

  1. Ariana DeBose, “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)
  2. Kirsten Dunst, “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  3. Aunjanue Ellis, “King Richard” (Warner Bros)
  4. Jessie Buckley, “The Lost Daughter” (Netflix)
  5. Judi Dench, “Belfast” (Focus Features)

Best Original Screenplay

It felt for awhile like this was going to be Paul Thomas Anderson’s award. But Kenneth Branagh made a strong case for Belfast, another film that the Academy clearly liked a lot. He’s probably not going home empty-handed.

  1. “Belfast” (Focus Features) — Kenneth Branagh
  2. “Licorice Pizza” (MGM/United Artists) — Paul Thomas Anderson
  3. “The Worst Person in the World” (Neon) — Eskil Vogt, Joachim Trier
  4. “King Richard” (Warner Bros) — Zach Baylin
  5. “Don’t Look Up” (Netflix) — Adam McKay, David Sirota

Best Adapted Screenplay

There are a few ways this could go, but Jane Campion’s script is perfect. While she doesn’t *need* this award to still win Best Picture, it will be a nice addition to the collection.

  1. “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix) — Jane Campion
  2. “The Lost Daughter” (Netflix) — Maggie Gyllenhaal
  3. “Drive My Car” (Janus Films/Sideshow) — Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Oe
  4. “Dune” (Warner Bros) — Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth
  5. “CODA” (Apple Original Films) — Siân Heder

Note, we’ll start diving into the rest of the categories more closely later this week.

Best Animated Feature Film

  1. “Encanto” (Walt Disney Pictures)
  2. “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” (Netflx)
  3. “Flee” (Neon)
  4. “Luca” (Disney/Pixar)
  5. “Raya and the Last Dragon” (Walt Disney Pictures)

Best Documentary Feature Film

  1. “Summer of Soul (Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” (Hulu/Searchlight Pictures)
  2. “Flee” (Neon)
  3. “Attica” (Showtime)
  4. “Writing With Fire” (Music Box Films)
  5. “Ascension” (MTV Documentary Films)

Best International Feature Film

  1. “Drive My Car” — Japan
  2. “The Worst Person in the World” — Norway
  3. “Flee” — Denmark
  4. “The Hand of God” — Italy
  5. “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” — Bhutan


  1. Ari Wegner, “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  2. Greig Fraser, “Dune” (Warner Bros.)
  3. Dan Laustsen, “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures)
  4. Bruno Delbonnel, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (A24/Apple Original Films)
  5. Janiusz Kaminski, “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)

Costume Design

  1. “Cruella” (Walt Disney Pictures)
  2. “Dune” (Warner Bros)
  3. “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures)
  4. “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)
  5. “Cyrano” (MGM/United Artists)

Film Editing

  1. “Dune” (Warner Bros)
  2. “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  3. “Don’t Look Up” (Netflix)
  4. “King Richard” (Warner Bros)
  5. “Tick, Tick…Boom!” (Netflix)

Makeup and Hairstyling

  1. “Dune” (Warner Bros)
  2. “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (Searchlight Pictures)
  3. “Cruella” (Walt Disney Pictures)
  4. “Coming 2 America” (Amazon Studios)
  5. “House of Gucci” (MGM/United Artists)

Music – Original Score

  1. Jonny Greenwood, “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  2. Hans Zimmer, “Dune” (Warner Bros)
  3. Germaine Franco, “Encanto” (Walt Disney Pictures)
  4. Nicholas Britell, “Don’t Look Up” (Netflix)
  5. Alberto Iglesias, “Parallel Mothers” (Sony Pictures Classics)

Music – Original Song

  1. “No Time to Die” from “No Time to Die” (MGM/United Artists)
  2. “Be Alive” from “King Richard” (Warner Bros)
  3. “Dos Oruguitas” from “Encanto” (Walt Disney Pictures)
  4. “Somehow You Do” from “Four Good Days” (Vertical Entertainment)
  5. “Down to Joy” from “Belfast” (Focus Features)

Production Design

  1. “Dune” (Warner Bros)
  2. “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures)
  3. “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  4. “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (A24/Apple Original Films)
  5. “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)


  1. “Dune” (Warner Bros)
  2. “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  3. “No Time to Die” (MGM/United Artists)
  4. “Belfast” (Focus Features)
  5. “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)

Visual Effects

If there’s one award that has been all but finalized, it’s this one. But then…stranger things have happened.

  1. “Dune” (Warner Bros)
  2. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (Sony)
  3. “No Time to Die” (MGM/United Artists)
  4. “Free Guy” (20th Century Studios)
  5. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (Marvel)

Best Animated Short Film

  1. “The Windshield Wiper”
  2. “Boxballet”
  3. “Robin Robin”
  4. “Bestia”
  5. “Affairs of the Art”

Documentary Short Subject

  1. “The Queen of Basketball”
  2. “Three Songs for Benazir”
  3. “Lead Me Home”
  4. “Audible”
  5. “When We Were Bullies”

Short Film – Live Action

  1. “The Long Goodbye”
  2. “Please Hold”
  3. “On My Mind”
  4. “The Dress”
  5. “Ala Kachuu – Take and Run”

The 94th Academy Awards are scheduled for Sunday, March 27.

Written by
Karen Peterson is the Awards Editor for We Live Entertainment. She previously worked as the Assistant Editor at Awards Circuit, now owned by Variety. Her work can also be found at Citizen Dame and at the Watch and Talk podcast. Her non-awards season hobbies include Angels baseball, taking pictures of other peoples' pets, and tweeting about The Bachelor franchise.

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