2016 Oscar Nominee Predictions

Oscar season kicks into high gear Thursday morning, with the announcement of the nominees for this year’s Academy Awards. This time of the year is always a bit contentious, but this year is truly hard to predict for a number of reasons. There are few frontrunners in any race, and with one possible exception, even the frontrunners seem soft. If the right film peaks at the right time, it could mean the difference between taking home an Oscar or leaving empty handed.

I’m going to attempt to take a stab at what films will be nominated this year at the end of this article, however unpredictable this year’s race seems. Before that, though, I’m going through the categories I’m predicting and breaking down how things look the night before. This will include mentions of various guild nominees, as well as critics group winners, which sometimes have bearings on the race.

In the Best Picture field, there are five films that have a solid chance at a nomination: SpotlightThe Big ShortThe RevenantMad Max: Fury Road and The Martian. Looking at precursors, all five films have secured DGA (Director’s Guild) nominations. Since the Oscar field expanded from five nominees in 2010, only one film with a DGA nomination for its director has failed to secure a nomination for Best Picture: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Right now, the frontrunner of this group appears to be Spotlight, which has a slew of critics’ awards behind it. But critics don’t vote for Oscars, and Spotlight is a subtle piece of filmmaking. The Big Short is the only other film besides Spotlight to secure nominations from all four of the big guilds (DGA, PGA, SAG, WGA) in their top field, and it’s a flashier film. Beyond the five films mentioned above, there are plenty of contenders for potential slots 6-10. So many, in fact, that they may cancel each other out, and we end up with a slate of five. Of the other contenders, though, keep an eye out for Carol, Harvey Weinstein’s big award show bet for this year, as well as SicarioRoom, and Brooklyn. All four films feature female leads with viable chances of landing acting nominations, and could potentially shake up the heavy male presence that tends to dominate this category. Also worth keeping in mind: Inside OutStraight Outta ComptonCreed and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The Best Director field is an interesting beast of its own this year. While another name could certainly sneak in here, there are seven solid contenders vying for the five nominations. Five of them were nominated for the DGA’s top prize: Alejandro González Iñárritu (winner of last year’s Best Director Oscar) for The Revenant, George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road, Ridley Scott for The Martian, Thomas McCarthy for Spotlight, and Adam McKay for The Big Short. But the DGA doesn’t have a solid track record for getting all five nominees correct. Typically, they name four correctly. With that in mind, Todd Haynes stands a chance for his work on Carol, and Steven Spielberg can’t be considered out of consideration for Bridge of Spies. There’s no telling at this point who will win: Scott has momentum for his body of work and lack of recognition over the years, McKay made a surprising shift to topical satire from his comedies with Will Ferrell, Iñárritu faced a mountain of roadblocks in crafting his film, and Miller returned to action for the first time in three decades and set a new standard for the genre.

The acting fields are where most of the chaos is coming from, for a few different reasons that I’ll highlight below. There’s one category with a solid frontrunner, one with a locked set of viable contenders, and each category is proving hard to pin down exactly for at least a couple of slots.

Best Actor has the lock: Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant. He’s seen as due at this point, and there’s a groundswell of support for him finally winning an Oscar. The rest of the field, though, is completely up in the air. DiCaprio’s most viable opponent is Michael Fassbender, but the bombing of Steve Jobs when it expanded to wide release may have damaged his chances. Matt Damon is a contender for The Martian, which has a strong box office record, but Damon has an Oscar already (even if it’s for writing). Beyond that, there are seven different contenders for at least the remaining two spots (and possibly everyone but DiCaprio’s). I’ve named two below. They’re shots in the dark at this point, though.

Best Actress has three solid contenders, but two things threaten to shake up the field: 1) a handful of potential contenders for the last two slots, and 2) the chance one or more contenders being pushed for Supporting Actress will be bumped up. First, the three most likely contenders: Cate Blanchett for Carol, Brie Larson for Room, and Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn. Of the three, Larson seems like the most viable contender for winning, but there’s no telling at this point. Right now, the remaining two spots have a number of contenders fighting it out for a nomination, including Jennifer Lawrence for Joy, Charlotte Rampling for 45 Years, Lily Tomlin for Grandma, and Charlize Theron for Mad Max: Fury Road. There are two viable threats for shaking up the category, though. Both Alicia Vikander (for The Danish Girl) and Rooney Mara (for Carol) are being pushed for nominations in Supporting Actress, even though both are unquestionably leads in their films; for Mara, she’s more central to the story than even Blanchett. One or both could earn nominations in this category instead of Supporting Actress, or they could be left out altogether if there’s enough category confusion. Vikander’s situation is complicated by the surprising run of nominations in Supporting Actress that she’s picked up…for her turn in Ex Machina. It’s possible that she ends up landing two nominations, one per category (since actors can’t be nominated twice in the same category). We’ll see what happens in the morning.


As for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress, they’re both up in the air at this point. Neither has a solid frontrunner. Supporting Actor has the greatest number of potential candidates, in part because Spotlight is pushing all of its cast in supporting categories, and everyone but Rachel McAdams is male. Supporting Actress, meanwhile, has the category confusion issue mentioned above. So my guesses are purely that: guesses.

Below, you’ll find my predictions for the Oscars in all of these categories, plus Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay and Animated Feature.


Best Picture

  • Spotlight
  • The Big Short
  • The Revenant
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • Carol
  • Bridge of Spies
  • Brooklyn
  • Room
  • Inside Out

NOTE: In this category only, predictions are listed in order based on potential number of nominees, since the number can vary between five and ten nominees in this category. If there are nine nominees, the first nine are my guesses for those positions.


Best Director

  • Todd Haynes, Carol
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
  • Thomas McCarthy, Spotlight
  • George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Ridley Scott, The Martian


Best Actor

  • Matt Damon, The Martian
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
  • Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
  • Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl


Best Actress

  • Cate Blanchett, Carol
  • Brie Larson, Room
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
  • Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
  • Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl


Best Supporting Actor

  • Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
  • Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
  • Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
  • Sylvester Stallone, Creed
  • Jacob Tremblay, Room


Best Supporting Actress

  • Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
  • Rooney Mara, Carol
  • Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
  • Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina
  • Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs


Best Original Screenplay

  • Bridge of Spies
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Inside Out
  • Spotlight
  • Steve Jobs


Best Adapted Screenplay

  • The Big Short
  • Brooklyn
  • Carol
  • The Martian
  • Room


Best Animated Feature

  • Anomalisa
  • The Good Dinosaur
  • Inside Out
  • The Peanuts Movie
  • When Marnie Was There

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