Oscar predictions 2024: who will win, and who should win

Margot Robbie in Barbie and Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer
Margot Robbie in Barbie and Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer - Warner Bros Pictures

Like Doctor Strangelove before them, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has clearly learned to stop worrying and love the bomb. Christopher Nolan has proven an oddly divisive figure at the Oscars over the years, but Oppenheimer, his dawn-of-the-atomic-age period epic, is just too majestic, too towering, and crucially too much of a hit for them to finally deny the British blockbuster auteur his due.

With nominations in 13 categories – just one-off Titanic’s all-time record – Nolan’s film is now unquestionably this year’s frontrunner, mushrooming on the horizon and seemingly set to incinerate everything in its path.

But will it? Some other British contenders should be spared the inferno: not least The Zone of Interest, whose five nominations (including Best Picture and Best Director) make this steely dramatisation of the everyday life of an Auschwitz concentration camp commandant more of a mainstream pick than some of us believed. Shot in German, as you’d expect, Jonathan Glazer’s film is also the first British production to compete in Best International Feature since Solomon & Gaenor in 2000, which was made in Welsh and Yiddish. Iechyd da and, indeed, mazel tov.

With its 11 nominations, the zany Frankenstein fable Poor Things is arguably Oppenheimer’s strongest rival – and it’s another British production, or at least British enough for us to claim it. Meanwhile, those thoroughgoing American cultural titans, Martin Scorsese and Barbie, are just behind with 10 and eight each, respectively. No mention in Best Director for Greta Gerwig or in Best Actress for Margot Robbie has put Twitter’s collective nose out of joint, especially since the latter made the cut at Bafta.

But the broad support for films as distinctive and different as The Zone of Interest, the French courtroom drama Anatomy of a Fall and the literary caper American Fiction, which opens in the UK next week, is a sign that the Academy’s 11,000-strong membership are doing their job. Here’s what currently looks likely to win, and what should.

Best Picture

  • American Fiction

  • Anatomy of a Fall

  • Barbie

  • The Holdovers

  • Killers of the Flower Moon

  • Maestro

  • Oppenheimer

  • Past Lives

  • Poor Things

  • The Zone of Interest

Should win: Oppenheimer

During its most conservative phase since the 1960s, Nolan is the only contemporary filmmaker to have worked out how to bend the full might of the studio system to his will. And while the results typically amaze, the sheer unlikeliness of Oppenheimer as a summer mega-hit is a new career high.

Will win: Oppenheimer

If the Academy don’t finally give Nolan their top honour this year, they’ll look like utter doughnuts.

Best Director

  • Justine Triet, Anatomy of a Fall

  • Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon

  • Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer

  • Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things

  • Jonathan Glazer, The Zone of Interest

Emily Blunt, Christopher Nolan and Cillian Murphy on the set of Oppenheimer
Emily Blunt, Christopher Nolan and Cillian Murphy on the set of Oppenheimer - Melinda Sue Gordon

Should win: Christopher Nolan

Nolan’s ability to turn highbrow material into a gargantuan popular hit without compromising on brow altitude whatsoever is the biggest achievement here.

Will win: Christopher Nolan

See above: if not this year, when?

Best Actor

  • Bradley Cooper, Maestro

  • Colman Domingo, Rustin

  • Paul Giamatti, The Holdovers

  • Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer

  • Jeffrey Wright, American Fiction

Paul Giamatti in The Holdovers
Paul Giamatti in The Holdovers - Seacia Pavao

Should win: Paul Giamatti, The Holdovers

Murphy is just as good, but Giamatti is a bizarrely unsung talent, especially considering his body of work to date. And his nominated role is perfectly tailored to his singular presence and talent.

Will win: Paul Giamatti, The Holdovers

Both Murphy and Wright are tempting alternatives, as seasoned (though never previously nominated) supporting-tier stalwarts shining in rare lead posts. But Giamatti has drawn the most early buzz.

Best Actress

  • Annette Bening, Nyad

  • Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon

  • Sandra Hüller, Anatomy of a Fall

  • Carey Mulligan, Maestro

  • Emma Stone, Poor Things

Should win: Emma Stone, Poor Things

The list above contains one solid performance (sorry, Annette) and three great ones, but Stone’s feels like something beyond that: an adventure on previously unexplored ground.

Will win: Emma Stone, Poor Things

Gladstone would be the first Native American winner of an acting category in the Oscars’ 96-year history: a tempting milestone. But Stone’s go-for-broke dazzle will likely eclipse her more stoic, ambiguous work.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Sterling K Brown, American Fiction

  • Robert De Niro, Killers of the Flower Moon

  • Robert Downey Jr, Oppenheimer

  • Ryan Gosling, Barbie

  • Mark Ruffalo, Poor Things

Robert Downey Jr in Oppenheimer
Robert Downey Jr in Oppenheimer - AP

Should win: Robert Downey Jr

Have you seen this man’s Malibu bungalow? After Avengers 4, Marvel’s former leading man could have retired in style: instead, as Oppenheimer’s balding quasi-antagonist he dug as deep as he ever has done, and reminded the world he can really act, too.

Will win: Robert Downey Jr

With respect to F Scott Fitzgerald’s obiter dicta, there are sometimes second and even third acts in American acting careers, and Academy voters love when they work out as well as this.

Best Supporting Actress

  • Emily Blunt, Oppenheimer

  • Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple

  • America Ferrara, Barbie

  • Jodie Foster, Nyad

  • Da’Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers

Should win: Da’Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers

Randolph’s part as a no-nonsense dinner lady grieving the death of her son is by far the richest and most testing of the nominated roles – and that she plays it so deftly, and with such laser-accurate wit and pathos, makes her the only sensible choice.

Will win: Da’Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers

Academy voters will hopefully recognise the above and vote accordingly, however much they dug Ferrara’s Barbie monologue.

Best Original Screenplay

  • Anatomy of a Fall

  • The Holdovers

  • Maestro

  • May December

  • Past Lives

Anatomy of a Fall
Anatomy of a Fall

Should win: Anatomy of a Fall

There’s a wealth of great screenwriting here, with all five handily outshining recent winners like Belfast and Green Book. Any would be a good result, but let’s pull for the first victory for (mainland) Europe since Talk to Her in 2003.

Will win: The Holdovers

Relentlessly funny and radiating pathos, David Hemingson’s period comedy script is the easiest of the five to unabashedly love.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • American Fiction

  • Barbie

  • Oppenheimer

  • Poor Things

  • The Zone of Interest

Should win: The Zone of Interest

Less taken from the Martin Amis novel than simply prompted by it, Glazer’s script – by turns hellish, surreal and defiantly humdrum – is the most daring nominee this category has seen for years.

Will win: Poor Things

From its mad provocations to expert ear for loopy (and meme-able) turns of phrase, Tony McNamara’s Alasdair Gray adaption will likely prove irresistible here.

Best Animated Feature

  • The Boy and the Heron

  • Elemental

  • Nimona

  • Robot Dreams

  • Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse - Sony Pictures Animation

Should win: The Boy and the Heron

Twenty-one years after Spirited Away won the second ever animation Oscar, a second award for Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki is long overdue.

Will win: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

In an off-year for Disney and Pixar you never know what might happen, but the Spider-Verse series’ second injection of pure energy and artistry into the flagging superhero machine surely has widespread support.

Best International Feature Film

  • Io Capitano

  • Perfect Days

  • Society of the Snow

  • The Teachers’ Lounge

  • The Zone of Interest

Should win: The Zone of Interest

Not that it has much else in common with Spider-Verse, but watching Jonathan Glazer’s film feels like witnessing the possibilities for cinema expand.

Will win: Perfect Days

As a British film, The Zone of Interest might not feel international enough, especially to voters whose tastes often skew gentle in this category. Wim Wenders’ warm-hearted portrait of a Tokyo toilet cleaner is the dark horse.

The 2023 Academy Awards take place on March 10, and will be shown on ABC in the US and ITV in the UK

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