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Rotten Tomatoes Predicts the 2021 Oscar Nominations!

Expect a big morning for Nomadland, Minari, Judas and the Black Messiah, and more. Get the jump on Monday morning's Oscar nominations with our predictions for who will be nominated and why.

by | March 9, 2021 | Comments

It’s beginning to look a lot like awards season. This of course is despite the fact this year looks nothing like the previous 92. Next Monday, March 15 – around 8am Eastern, 5am Pacific – someone (we still don’t know who) will announce the nominees for the 93rd annual Academy Awards on behalf of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).

Frontrunners have been coming into focus all awards season –check out our Awards Leaderboard to see which films and folks are racking up awards so far – but after the Golden Globes scandal-ridden and shocking ceremony, it is still a very open contest, with many people frankly tuning out as the global box office has been dormant for much of the year.

Still, the awards obsessives (yes, that includes us) are dialed in, and even with big-name titles once expected to be major players this year vacating to next season, a record number of films gained eligibility: With over 300 films eligible for awards, predicting who would be nominated is a tall order.

Below, you’ll find our predictions for the 2021 Oscar nominations, which honor the best in filmmaking from the extended season, which cut off in February of this year. We based our picks for the categories ranging all the way from Best Picture to Best Original Song on potential nominees’ critical reception (hello, Tomatometer!), the nominations and wins they’ve been receiving from guilds and other groups during awards season, as well as what we’re hearing from voters and other industry folks – a.k.a. the “buzz.”

Will Nomadland get stunned by The Trial of the Chicago 7 or the upstart Promising Young Woman? For answers, check out our Oscar nominations predictions below, and be here Monday when we reveal who officially is nominated for the 2021 Academy Awards.

Check out our picks for the Oscar nominations below, and let us know who you think will be nominated in the comments.

Best Picture


(Photo by Joshua Richards, 20th Century Studios)

Who will be nominated?

And why? It is unlikely we will see a full 10 nominees this year, but with the Academy voting remotely with no in-person screenings, the Best Picture nominees will likely be the films that are easy to view/discover and which are already getting plenty of buzz. The Academy’s average age is 67 years old and many voters don’t even know how to navigate the AMPAS virtual screening library – they never used it prior to this year. More than any other year, Best Picture nominations will need name recognition and popular titles will have a huge advantage. The nine films we picked are the ones we think they will be compelled to watch first – the ones already dominating awards season – and in turn vote for a Best Picture nomination

Best Actor In a Leading Role

Sound of Metal

(Photo by © Amazon Studios)

Who will be nominated?

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

And why? The last time we pegged Steven Yeun for an Oscar nom – for Supporting actor in Burning – he came up short. But we think Minari can do what that 2018 film couldn’t and give our boy his first Oscar nomination. It would be well deserved. If he doesn’t squeeze in, however, the likely culprit will be Delroy Lindo: The Da 5 Bloods lead faded from the conversation in recent weeks but could come back late in the fourth for a surprise nomination. It would also be well deserved.

Best Actress In A Leading Role

Carey Mulligan and Bo Burnham in Promising Young Woman

(Photo by Merie Weismiller Wallace/©Focus Features)

Who will be nominated?

Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman
Andra Day – The United States vs. Billie Holiday
Frances McDormand – Nomadland
Viola Davis  – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman

And why? Viola Davia and Frances McDormand already have Oscar hardware at home, and on-screen, they both showed in their respective films why they have the hardware at home – they’re a lock. Vanessa Kirby, however, came on strong to start the season with Netflix’s Pieces of a Woman but has fallen back in recent weeks, so she could be edged out by Zendaya (Malcolm & Marie) or Golden Globe winner Rosamund Pike (I Care a Lot). Andra Day is a bit of a mystery as no one saw her Golden Globe win coming for playing Billie Holiday in Lee Daniels’ biopic, but as the film broke late and gained traction at the right time, that could translate to a nomination in this strange and segmented season.

Best Actor In a Supporting Role

Who will be nominated?

Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah
Paul Raci – Sound of Metal
Leslie Odom Jr. – One Night in Miami
Sacha Baron Cohen – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Frank Langella – The Trial of the Chicago 7

And why? Frank Langella, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Mark Rylance are all strong candidates for Best Supporting Actor for their work in The Trial of the Chicago 7, but we are giving the edge to Langella, who is transformative as the menacing and formidable villain of Aaron Sorkin’s courtroom dramaChadwick Boseman is predicted as a double nom by many (Best Actor for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Supporting for Da 5 Bloods), but as Spike Lee’s latest has been overshadowed by other subsequent films and Boseman looks to have the big one in the bag, a double posthumous nomination seems like a stretch.

Best Actress In A Supporting Role

Who will be nominated?

Amanda Seyfried – Mank
Jodie Foster – The Mauritanian
Maria Bakalova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Olivia Colman – The Father
Yuh-Jung Youn – Minari

And why? We love Glenn Close, but we can’t endorse her competing in the Supporting Actress contest for a film that was – let’s say – not her best outing, at least according to the critics. We’re even more determined as her nomination could knock out Yuh-Jung Youn or Jodie Foster, both of whom deserve nominations and could win if they are not up against an eight-time Oscar nom looking to finally take one home.

Best Animated Feature Film

Who will be nominated?

And why? When the pandemic struck, many predicted that animation films would have a banner year but this year actually saw a decrease in eligible animated films, down 15% from last year. With less competition, we predict Pixar and Netflix will make it in with their top films alongside the Certified Fresh Croods sequel and indie animation darling Wolfwalkers.

Best Cinematography

Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman in Mank

(Photo by Netflix)

Who will be nominated?

And why? Most awards pundits are betting big on Mank, News of the World, and Nomadland, but Judas and the Black Messiah and the controversial Malcolm & Marie could be spoiler picks – so don’t count them out just yet.

Best Costume Design 

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

(Photo by David Lee/Netflix)

Who will be nominated?

And why? To quote the late great Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin: “Gowns – beautiful Gowns.” A period piece is the quickest way to an Oscar nomination for Best Costume so picking the biggest period productions of 2020 was a no-brainer.

Best Director

One Night In Miami

(Photo by Patti Perret/Amazon Studios)

Who will be nominated?

Chloé Zhao – Nomadland
Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman
Regina King – One Night in Miami
Lee Issac Chung – Minari
David Fincher – Mank

And why? For as much controversy as the Golden Globes courted with scandalous headlines and their dismal ratings, it was slightly lost that they did see progress with three women nominated for Best Director, bringing their grand total of female nominees to four. (*hold for applause*) Still, with that tally, the Globes have put the Oscars at risk of looking less inclusive than an organization that still doesn’t have any Black members. So we’re predicting the top three women contenders of the season will also grab their first Oscar nominations. (For directing – King picked up a trophy in 2019 for Best Supporting Actress in If Beale Street Could Talk.)

Best Documentary (Feature)

(Photo by Thorsten Thielow courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Who will be nominated?

And why? The Best Documentary and Best International Feature shortlists, which were announced last month, are stacked with exceptional cinema. Choosing which five will be nominated is beyond difficult this year – especially with a pair of branches that are notorious for surprise nominations. Truly any mix of five could make it but we’re most confident in Dick Johnson is Dead and Boys State. The rest? We will just have to wait and see.

Best International Feature Film

Another Round

(Photo by © Samuel Goldwyn Films /Courtesy Everett Collection)

Who will be nominated?

And why? With the exception of Another Round and International Documentary double entries Collectiv and The Mole Agent, many of the potential nominees have yet to make a big splash this year. Couple that with the stacked shortlist we mentioned earlier and it’s still very much up in the air who will get the nod. Guatemala’s entry, La Llorona, could squeak by the Academy’s horror bias to get a nomination here but we are not thinking it’s likely.

Best Music (Original Score)


Who will be nominated?

And why? In a contest of who will lose to Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor (who worked on both Soul and Mank), we have mostly gone with the most prominent names on the shortlist. We chose Oscar-winning composers Ludwig Göransson (Tenet) and Alexandre Desplat (The Midnight Sky) alongside the Suzan Lucci of composers, James Newton Howard who’s likely to pick up his 9th nomination but remain winless for News of the World.

Best Music (Original Song)

One Night in Miami

(Photo by ©Amazon)

Who will be nominated?

“Turntables” from All In: The Fight for Democracy
“Fight For You” from Judas and the Black Messiah
“Io Sì (Seen)” from The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se)
“Speak Now” from One Night in Miami
“Never Break” from Giving Voice

And why? Always a hard category, the expected voter apathy towards a season without big-name features has us yet again reaching for the familiar names here. With that in mind, we have gone with Diane Warren (“Io Sì (Seen)”), John Legend (“Never Break”), Leslie Odom Jr. (“Speak Now”), H.E.R. (“Fight For You”), and Janelle Monáe (“Turntables”), whom Oscar voters will remember from her live performance just last year – and for you know, being Janelle Monáe.  Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey also has a chance to make it to nominations morning both here and in the score category, but it’s a slim chance at that.

Best Visual Effects


(Photo by © Warner Bros.)

Who will be nominated?

And why? The presentation of all the visual effects films on the shortlist – a.k.a. ‘The Bake-off’ – was closed to press this year, so we don’t have a clear picture of what voters saw from the eligible films. However, after several nominations through the critics’ guilds, Tenet, Welcome to Chechnya, and The Midnight Sky are consensus picks for those in the know. We have gone with a bit of drama, however, for two of two selections: a black-and-white period drama and an animated film. We are giving extra weight to Pixar as they campaigned hard for Soul‘s inclusion in VFX, and Mank, though a period piece, relies heavily on VFX to re-create Los Angeles during the golden age of Hollywood. The result is a seamless integration of computer images with the film’s incredible production design.

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

One Night in Miami

(Photo by © Amazon)

Who will be nominated?

And why? Kemp Powers has more than a solid chance at a nomination for Best Original Screenplay for Soul, but we are betting adapting his own play into a Best Picture contender will be a one-two punch that most in the writing branch will have a hard time ignoring. The Writers Guild of America noms for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm and The White Tiger give them a chance to be honored here, but as many of the true top contenders were deemed ineligible by the guild for their awards, it is not likely they will be able to grab a nomination when films like Nomadland and The Father join the contest.

Best Writing (Original Screenplay)

The Trial of the Chicago 7

(Photo by Netflix)

Who will be nominated?

And why? No shocking selections here. Aaron Sorkin already has an Oscar and handful of nominations this season for The Trial of the Chicago 7; Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) and writing-branch favorite Jack Fincher (Mank) have both done well this season picking up several nominations. But the recent nominations for Sound of Metal and Judas and the Black Messiah, coming on strong late in the season, have us giving them the edge here over low-budget indies like Palm Springs, Forty-Year-old Version, Never Rarely Sometimes Always. 

The 2021 Oscar nominations are announced Monday, March 15, at 8 am ET / 5 am PT. Check back at Rotten Tomatoes to see who gets a nod. 

Are you as obsessed with awards as we are? Check out our Awards Leaderboard for 2020/21.

On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.

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