Oscars predictions 2021: who will win, from Nomadland to Minari

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

The 2021 Oscars are fast approaching, and the annual celebration of all things movies is set to take place on April 25. The 93rd Academy Awards ceremony is happening later than normal due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has caused plenty of disruption to film release date schedules over the past year. Despite this knock-on effect, there are still plenty of contenders for the Oscars’ top prizes. Who, then, is likely to win in 2021?

With the 2021 Oscar nominations now revealed, we know who exactly is in the running for the most prestigious gongs. We can make better predictions about potential winners based on these nominees too, as well as those who we'd like to see land an award.

There are still other ceremonies to take place before the Oscars - the BAFTAs for one - which will give us a clearer picture of who may snap up similar awards at this year's event. For now, though, read on for a full list of nominees and who we think is going to win. 

When is the 2021 Oscar ceremony taking place? 

The 93rd Academy Awards will take place on Sunday, April 25 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles. 

Oscar predictions 2021: Best Picture

watch sound of metal online

(Image credit: Amazon Studios)
  • Nomadland
  • Promising Young Woman
  • Minari
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7
  • Mank
  • Judas and the Black Messiah
  • The Father
  • Sound of Metal

With theaters closed worldwide, it’s unsurprising to see so many streaming service movies make the cut, although some of these films have received simultaneous streaming and theatrical releases. Nomadland (which is now streaming on Hulu in the US) and Minari are huge contenders for the gong, while Sound of Metal is a slightly surprising entry for Amazon Prime Video. Netflix's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, billed as an Oscar Best Picture contender by many at the pre-nominations stage, is arguably the biggest ommission from the list.

Who do we think will win? We’ve plumped for Nomadland. It’s generated the biggest pre-Oscars buzz and scooped the Best Film for drama award at the Golden Globes.

Who do we want to win? A victory for Minari would be great. Sure, it's an American-made movie, but it's deeply rooted in director Lee Isaac Chung's Korean heritage. After Parasite's 2020 victory, this would be another win for a film centered on Asian traditions and values.

Oscar predictions 2021: Best Director

promising young woman

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)
  • Chloé Zhao (Nomadland)
  • Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round)
  • Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman)
  • Lee Isaac Chung (Minari)
  • David Fincher (Mank)

After the controversy surrounding last year’s male-dominated list, the 2021 Oscars director’s category is slightly more diverse. It isn't without its glaring omissions, however, with the likes of Regina King somehow missing out on a nomination. Thomas Vinterberg is a shock inclusion, but the Danish director is up against stiff competition from his peers, so don't expect him to win.

Who do we think will win? We’re hard pushed to choose between some of these, but Chloé Zhao should edge it. Zhao landed the Golden Globes' Best Director gong, and an Oscars win would crown a superb year for her.

Who do we want to win? Again, it’s a tough choice, but seeing Chloé Zhao win it would prove that you don’t need 20 films under your belt to be nominated for big movie awards.

Oscar predictions 2021: Best Actor

Chadwick Boseman

(Image credit: David Lee/Netflix)
  • Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom)
  • Steven Yeun (Minari)
  • Gary Oldman (Mank)
  • Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal)
  • Anthony Hopkins (The Father)

We were expecting another diverse list and, thankfully, we got every Oscar nominee correct in this category. Boseman’s posthumous nomination is deserved for his heart wrenching turn as Levee Green in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, but Ahmed’s scintillating performance as a drummer who loses his hearing and Yeun’s acclaimed intimate-yet-powerful showing will run him close for this award.

Who do we think will win? Chadwick Boseman. As electric as the other four nominees are in their respective movies, the late actor seems like a shoo-in for this award. Boseman's posthumous Golden Globes victory makes this more likely too.

Who do we want to win? Steven Yeun has come a long way from his Walking Dead days and has picked some excellent roles over the past few years, so it would be wonderful to see him take the gong home if Boseman is overlooked. It would have been great to see Da 5 Bloods' Delroy Lindo at least get a nomination in this category but, like the Golden Globes, he misses out here too.

Oscar predictions 2021: Best Actress

Vanessa Kirby

(Image credit: Benjamin Loeb/Netflix)
  • Frances McDormand (Nomadland)
  • Viola Davis (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom)
  • Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman)
  • Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman)
  • Andra Day (The United States vs Billie Holiday)

With so many stellar female performances this year, it’s been difficult to whittle this list down. Again, like our Best Actor predictions we got this quintet spot on. Viola Davis’ commanding portrayal as Ma Rainey was a joy to behold, while Vanessa Kirby’s committed performance to a tough role in Netflix's Pieces of a Woman should make her a strong contender. Lest we forget the impervious Frances McDormand too, who is the likely frontrunner for this award, while Andra Day has snuck onto our list after her Golden Globes triumph. Add in Carey Mulligan, and this field is as strong as it's ever been.

Who do we think will win? We think it'll be Frances McDormand. Surprisingly, McDormand lost out to Day in the Golden Globes' equivalent category, but we'd still expect McDormand to win the Oscar.

Who do we want to win? A victory for Vanessa Kirby would be surprising yet deserved, particularly as this is her first Academy Award nomination.

Oscar predictions 2021: Best Supporting Actor

Daniel Kaluuya

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)
  • Lakeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah)
  • Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami)
  • Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7)
  • Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah)
  • Paul Raci (Sound of Metal)

It's odd to see two actors in the same movie nominated in the same Oscars category, but that's exactly what has happened with Judas and the Black Messiah. Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield's inclusions mean it's much more likely that the biographical film about the Black Panther Party will take the gong on the night, but the other nominees will have something to say about that. David Straithairn can feel aggrieved to miss out for his supporting role in Nomadland, but this year's contenders are worthy nominees nonetheless.

Who do we think will win? We think it'll be Daniel Kaluuya. Judas and the Black Messiah has generated plenty of buzz in 2021, and Kaluuya’s standout performance - coupled with his Golden Globes success - should see him take it over Stanfield.

Who do we want to win? Sacha Baron Cohen. He’s famous for his comedy characters, but Cohen’s portrayal of Abbie Hoffman showed that dramatic roles aren’t out of his reach.

Oscar predictions 2021: Best Supporting Actress

amanda seyfried

(Image credit: Netflix)
  • Amanda Seyfried (Mank) 
  • Olivia Colman (The Father) 
  • Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm) 
  • Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy)
  • Yuh-Jung Youn (Minari)

Glenn Close will be looking to break her Oscar hoodoo after seven previously failed attempts to win an Academy Award, but she isn't a shoo-in by any means. Olivia Colman will want to add to her 2019 gong for The Favourite, while Borat breakout star Maria Bakalova or Minari's Yuh-Jung Youn will eying a shock victory over these household names.

Who do we think will win? Olivia Colman. The Broadchurch and The Favourite star is a darling on the awards circuit, so Colman should secure her second Academy award.

Who do we want to win? We had initially opted for Helena Zengel, the 12-year-old child star of Netflix's and Universal's News of the World. With Zengel missing out entirely, however, we'd like to see Maria Bakalova will it for her hilarious turn as Borat's teenage daughter Tutar Sagdiyev.

Oscar predictions 2021: Best Original Screenplay


(Image credit: A24)
  • Minari
  • Promising Young Woman
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7
  • Sound of Metal
  • Judas and the Black Messiah

Ordinarily, this category would be the best bet for movies that miss out on the Oscars’ other big prizes. This year, though, every nominee listed here finds itself up for awards in other categories. It's a diverse mix too of stories too, which is always pleasing to see from a representation point of view.

Who do we think will win? We thought Mank would have this in the bag and land David Fincher his first Oscar in six attempts. However, it hasn't even been nominated. In that case, The Trial of the Chicago 7's Golden Globes triumph in the same category means that Aaron Sorkin's screenplay should land the award.

Who do we want to win? In a male dominated category, seeing Emerald Fennell scoop the award for Promising Young Woman would be a more interesting choice – that or Minari, anyway.

Oscar predictions 2021: Best Adapted Screenplay

One Night in Miami

(Image credit: Amazon Studios)
  • Nomadland
  • One Night in Miami
  • The White Tiger
  • The Father
  • Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Unlike last year, Netflix doesn't lead the way in terms of nominees. That 'award' goes to Amazon Prime Video, with One Night in Miami and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm landing two nominations for the streamer. Don't expect this category to be a foregone conclusion for Amazon, though, just because it holds 40% of the nominees. Every film is deserving of its place in this category, and it would be foolish to cast any of them aside, including The White Tiger.

Who do we think will win? Nomadland. We expect Chloe Zhao’s movie to earn its fair share of awards at this year’s ceremony, and Best Adapted Screenplay will be one of those triumphs.

Who do we want to win? One Night in Miami. 2020 was a breakout year for screenwriter Kemp Powers, and it would be fitting to see him land this award for his original stage play and this movie adaptation.

Oscar predictions 2021: Best Animated Feature


(Image credit: Disney/Pixar)
  • Soul
  • Onward
  • Over the Moon
  • Wolfwalkers
  • A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

It’s hard to look at this category and expect anything other than a Disney win. Soul and (to a lesser extent) Onward continue to deliver on the quality we’ve come to expect from Pixar and, as wonderful as the other candidates are, it’s a straight shoot between Pixar’s two entries in our view.

Who do we think will win? Soul. Pixar’s interpretation of the afterlife, and the progress it has made on human characters in recent times, should see it pip Onward to the title, especially with a Golden Globe win under its belt.

Who do we want to win? Wolfwalkers. A win for Cartoon Saloon’s fantasy adventure flick would prove that 2D animation still has a place at the top table. 

Oscar predictions 2021: Best Score

news of the world

(Image credit: Universal Pictures/Netflix)
  • Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (Soul)
  • James Newton Howard (News of the World)
  • Emile Mosseri (Minari)
  • Terence Blanchard (Da 5 Bloods)
  • Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (Mank)

This is a tough one to call. We had expected Tenet to be included, but Christopher Nolan's film has been left out in the cold across every Oscars category. The critically-acclaimed duo of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross take up two of the five slots, and it's difficult to look passed the pair in this category as a result.

Who do we think will win? It’s been over a decade since they last won an Oscar, and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross could secure their second Academy award for their work on Soul. A Golden Globes Best Score victory only makes this more likely too.

Who do we want to win? Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The pair’s new-age composition for Soul’s metaphysical realm, coupled with their jazz collaborations with Jon Batiste, is our pick. 

Oscar predictions 2021: Best International Feature Film

another round

(Image credit: Samuel Goldwyn Films)
  • Another Round
  • Better Days
  • The Man Who Sold His Skin
  • Quo Vadis, Aida?
  • Collective

This category is often the toughest one to call. 15 foreign language films make the shortlist to begin with, but that's whittled down to five in time for the nominations. Two of Us, Filippo Meneghetti's feature directorial debut, is unlucky to miss out, but there were many foreign films that deserved an official nomination. As it is, Another Round and Collective are arguably the stand out choices from the selected movies.

Who do we think will win? Another Round. The Mads Mikkelsen-starring movie has the star power to secure victory over the others. While it would be a big win for director Thomas Vinterberg and co, it would be something of a shame to see Collective and Quo Vadis, Aida? miss out.

Who do we want to win? Collective. A win for the Romanian documentary, which is about a group of journalists who investigate public healthcare fraud, corruption, and maladministration, would be a major achievement for this underrated flick.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.

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