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Rotten Tomatoes Predicts the 2021 Oscar Winners: Our Final Picks for the 93rd Academy Awards

Win your (Zoom) office pool with our predictions for who will win (and why) on Sunday night. And yes, we're betting on an upset or two!

by | April 22, 2021 | Comments

Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman

(Photo by © Focus Features)

The big night is finally here, and we do mean finally, as this has been the longest season in Oscars History! (You’re feeling as drained as we are by awards season, right?!). The 93rd Academy Awards will be handed out on Sunday evening, and at long last, some of our biggest questions of the season will finally be answered: Who will be named Best Director? Will Nomadland keep up its pace for the final lap and win Best Picture after leading the race all year? And will Diane Warren finally get an Oscar to add to her huge trophy case filled with Grammys? (OK, maybe that’s not a question on everyone’s mind – but we certainly wanna know.)



The length of the season and extended eligibility period were not the only big changes for Oscar this year; the ceremony will be different, too, taking place outside at Union Station in Los Angeles and at satellite locations worldwide. All five Best Original Song nominees will be performed during the show, though all were pre-recorded, and organizers have again gone with no host for the third year running. “The show must go on,” as they say, in some shape and form, and despite the pandemic disrupting every aspect of life, and the global box office, the world’s biggest stars will still be on hand to receive those statuettes potentially – from where, however, is still an open question.

To help you with your Oscar ballots – and perhaps to clue in most of the world that the Oscars are still happening – the Rotten Tomatoes team has made some educated guesses on who will win come Sunday night. We polled our own staff, consulted our Awards Leaderboard, reviewed our notes from the season, and applied some historical perspective.

If you want to win your virtual office pool, or just be the most informed person at your (Zoom?) Oscars party, read below for our predictions for the 2021 Academy Awards, and let us know who you think will win in the comments.

Follow us on social all day Sunday, April 25, for reactions, and check back with Rotten Tomatoes after the ceremony to hear our take on the Oscars’ most memorable moments and the night’s biggest shocks.


Best Picture

Nomadland

(Photo by Joshua Richards, 20th Century Studios)

Who will win?

And why? There’s an air of inevitability around Nomadland, and it’s hard to argue with over 150 wins across various awards ceremonies this year – it has more Best Picture wins from different awards bodies than any other nominee. But the same was said of La La Land, Get Out, and Roma their respective years and all of them lost in the end. If there is a film that could unseat the Nomadland Goliath, it is Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7. An additional wrinkle is the fact many voters haven’t seen as much as they normally would, and apathy may trump inevitability. Be prepared, though: we could even see a shocker like Judas and the Black Messiah or Promising Young Woman winning it all come Sunday, but our money is still on Nomadland. 


Best Actor In a Leading Role

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

(Photo by © Netflix)

Who will win?

Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

And why? Though Anthony Hopkins is a potential spoiler for his turn as an Alzheimer’s sufferer in The Father, this Oscar is Boseman’s, which is what we’ve been saying since the film debuted last Fall. And while some will say he will win because of his untimely death, he deserves the win for his performance alone – and it will be a fitting tribute to his legacy.


Best Actress In A Leading Role

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

(Photo by David Lee/Netflix)

Who will win?

Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

And why? In truth, we don’t know about this one. Andra Day won the Golden Globe for The United States Vs. Billie Holiday, Carey Mulligan took home the Critics Choice for Promising Young Woman, Frances McDormand won the BAFTA for Nomadland, and Viola Davis took home the SAG Award. Without indicative wins to really give us a clear favorite, we are putting the most weight behind the SAG honor. As McDormand is listed as a producer for Nomadland, it is assumed she is not going home empty-handed given that film will likely win Best Picture, so why not give this one to Davis, who’s already down one Oscar after losing for her worthy work in Doubt. 


Best Actor In a Supporting Role

Who will win?

Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah

And why? Daniel Kaluuya has been pretty unstoppable since the crime thriller committed to the season earlier this year. With wins at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, SAGs, and Critic’s Choice Awards, if the Get Out star didn’t win by some fluke, it would be one of the biggest upset in Oscars history. (*whispers*: And that’s just NOT gonna happen.)


Best Actress In A Supporting Role

Youn Yuh-jung in Minari

(Photo by © A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection)

Who will win?

Youn Yuh-jung – Minari

And why? Sorry, Madam Glenn Close, we want you to get that golden statue as much as anyone, but Hillbilly Elegy was – let’s say – not your best outing, at least according to the critics. We’re even more determined she stay seated when the winner is read, as her win would knock out Youn Yuh-jung, brilliant as a grandmother like none you’ve met in Lee Isaac Chung’s moving family drama, Minari, and who is just as deserving as any other veteran for the work she’s given us over five decades.


Best Animated Feature Film

Who will win?

And why? In the past 10 years, only one film was able to stop the Disney/Pixar dominance of this category: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Nothing nominated the year has come close to that film’s momentum. Sorry, Wolfwalkers folk: the movie is brilliant, but Disney/Pixar’s Soul is taking it.


Best Cinematography

Filming on the set of Nomadland

(Photo by ©Searchlight Pictures)

Who will win?

Joshua James Richards – Nomadland 

And why? Director Chloé Zhao has not met a vast landscape that she didn’t want to frame in a breathtaking shot, and Joshua James Richards executed every one of the many such moments we get in Nomadland flawlessly. We are giving it to the breathtaking vistas of the American West over the black-and-white craftsmanship of Mank on this one.


Best Costume Design 

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

(Photo by David Lee/Netflix)

Who will win?

Ann Roth – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

And why? Roth has won every costuming prize this season, and as Ma Rainey’s dresses serve as a part of the character as much as any aspect of Viola Davis’ performance, we have to say this competition is – yeah, we are gonna do it – sewn up.


Best Hair & Make-up

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

(Photo by David Lee / © Netflix)

Who will win?

Mia Neal, Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Jamika Wilson – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

And why? Wig-maker and hairstylist Mia Neal created over 100 wigs for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom in less than three weeks. She styled every performer (including Viola Davis) with hairlines, hair textures, and color that were all authentic to the period. All of the nominees have award-worthy efforts, particularly the make-up work for Italian fantasy Pinocchio. Still, the stellar make-up of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom tops even that, so we’re putting our money on the Netflix musical drama.


Best Director

Nomadland

(Photo by Joshua Richards, 20th Century )

Who will win?

Chloé Zhao – Nomadland

And why? Putting aside the fact that she shot, directed, and adapted the screenplay for a film that swept every major Director contest this awards season and is an odds-on-lock to win the big prize… actually, that’s it. That’s enough to call it over: Zhao’s winning. The win would make her the first Asian woman to win Best Director, and only the second woman ever to win the award, after Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker.


Best Documentary (Feature)

Who will win?

And why? After My Octopus Teacher took home the American Cinema Editors’ award for Best Documentary Editing along with a BAFTAs win for Best Documentary, those puzzled by the octopus love story/nature documentary had to resign themselves to the fact this unlikely contender was going to go all the way. As this prize has traditionally gone to films that have chronicled weightier subjects – the 2008 financial crisis, climate change, the Columbine school shooting, doping in Russian sports – it is a slightly unconventional choice, but with such momentum, who could bet against it? (Despite the fact the field – Collective, Crip Camp, The Mole Agent, and Time – is incredibly strong.)


Best International Feature Film

Another Round

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

Who will win?

And why? The last five times that a director was nominated for both Best International Feature and Best Director, the film in question took home the International Feature prize – with two films, Parasite and Roma, taking both. So with a Best Director nomination for Another Round‘s Thomas Vinterberg, we are betting that his work on the dramedy, and Mads Mikkelsen’s now-iconic drunken dance on a pier, will keep the tradition going.


Best Music (Original Score)

Soul

(Photo by Disney / Pixar)

Who will win?

Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross – Soul

And why? Once Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor (who worked on both Soul and Mank) emerged as double nominees for two of the strongest scores of the season, the question was down to which Oscar-nominated work the voters would prefer to honor. As Soul adds Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show bandleader Jon Batiste’s effervescent smile and incredible orchestrations to the winner’s dais, alongside Ross and Reznor, we are giving the edge to the jazzy Pixar themes of Soul, which also serve as an intricate part of the film’s storytelling.


Best Music (Original Song)

One Night in Miami

(Photo by ©Amazon)

Who will win?

“Speak Now”, Leslie Odom Jr. and Sam Ashworth – One Night in Miami

And why? Always a hard category, but this year, in particular, none of the nominees have captured attention like Lady Gaga’s “Shallow” from A Star Is Born or possess the rousing inspiration of the John Legend- and Common-penned Selma anthem “Glory.” However, Leslie Odom Jr., who began the season the odds-on favorite for Best Supporting Actor, has performed his tune “Speak Now” at every major televised ceremony this year, which has kept him – and the tune – top of mind. Diane Warren, who is bizarrely still winless after the 11 nominations, is a possible spoiler for “Io Si (Seen)” from The Life Ahead, but like Glenn Close in a certain other category, she is perhaps gonna have to give it a try next time around.


Best Visual Effects

Tenet

(Photo by © Warner Bros. )

Who will win?

And why? Tenet should win easily if voters aren’t holding a grudge against the film’s bungled summer box office rollout. If Midnight Sky, George Clooney’s forgettable space epic – with stunning visuals – comes out on top, we will reckon many voters are still harboring hurt feelings about what happened when Tenet director Christopher Nolan tried but failed to get audiences back into theaters during the pandemic summer.


Best Sound

Sound of Metal

(Photo by © Amazon Studios)

Who will win?

And why? Not to be simplistic, but: it’s in the title! The sound for Sound of Metal is a co-lead along with star Riz Ahmed, acutely illustrating his character’s rapid hearing loss over the course of the film. And with six nominations, including for Best Picture, you would have to assume it unlikely the film could go home empty-handed (though many have before), and sound without question is the drama’s most competitive category.


Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Sacha Baron Cohen in Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm

(Photo by © Amazon Studios)

Who will win?

Sacha Baron Cohen and co-writers – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

And why? We just kinda like the ‘mess’ of it, and there is no clear frontrunner for Adapted Screenplay, and the Borat sequel joined the likes of The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II  with writing noms for both the original and the sequel, so clearly the Academy is a fan. And who wouldn’t want to see Sacha Baron Cohen on stage accepting an award? It’s gonna be funny, we’re very sure of that. In all likelihood, The Father or Nomadland is the safer choice, but you gotta gamble with a couple of choices every ballot, and this is ours.


Best Writing (Original Screenplay)

Promising Young Woman

(Photo by © Focus Features)

Who will win?

Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman

And why? Aaron Sorkin, who penned The Trial of the Chicago 7, already has an Oscar and is viewed as one of our generation’s best screenwriters. Still, we are going with Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman, a writing branch and seasoned AMPAS voter favorite. After picking up several wins for comparable categories at other shows this awards season, the only thing that could hold her back would be if folks remember that Fennell also played Camilla Parker Bowles in the last season of The Crown and want to hold a grudge against the actress playing a very much hated character. (So pretty much nothing – nothing holding her back from winning.)


Best Editing

The Trial of the Chicago 7

(Photo by © Netflix)

Who will win?

And why? For our Best Editing pick, we are going against the grain a bit and picking The Trial of the Chicago 7 to take this over BAFTA winner Sound of Metal. We are still not 100% convinced that Sound of Metal is the frontrunner everyone assumes it to be. The editing of archival footage in The Trial of the Chicago 7, coupled with Sorkin’s elevated dialogue, is the one-two punch we are betting knocks the Riz Ahmed drama down the ballot – particularly with a voting body comprised of many members who vividly recall the true-life events recreated on screen.


Best Production Design

Mank

(Photo by © Netflix)

Who will win?

And why? Ten nominations and decades to make it happened, but sadly Production Design is all that the Old Hollywood tale about the prickly Citizen Kane scriptwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz is likely gonna take home. Still, even in black and white, the incomparable commitment to detail and period authenticity in the backdrops of the David Fincher biopic is undeniable and places Mank far above other competitors in the category: The Father, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Tenet, and News of the World.


Shorts

DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT – Do Not Split

LIVE ACTION SHORT SUBJECT – Two Distant Strangers

ANIMATED SHORT SUBJECT – Burrow


The 93rd Academy Awards ceremony will be broadcast at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST on April 25, 2021, on ABC. 

Download Rotten Tomatoes’ printable Oscar Ballot; cast your vote in our digital Oscar ballot.

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

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


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