The 2024 Oscar Race: 96th Academy Awards Predictions and Analysis

Though 'Oppenheimer' is poised to take home some of the night's biggest awards, other key categories are up for grabs.

A backstage view of the Oscar statuettes at the Academy Awards. Richard Harbaugh/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images

Hollywood’s biggest night is nearly a week away, with the 96th Academy Awards bringing this show stopping awards season to a close. Some races remains neck-and-neck while others are all but decided, but, regardless, it’s sure to be an exciting Oscars. Predictions, from the already expected to the potential upsets, are broken down below for major categories. The Oscars take place Sunday, March 10th, airing at the earlier time of 7 p.m. ET. If you want to brush up on your nominee knowledge, you can find the full list here.

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Best Picture: Oppenheimer

At this point, the biggest award of the night has one of the easiest to predict. Oppenheimer has dominated the season, taking home the Golden Globe for Best Drama, the BAFTA for Best Film, the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Film, the Producers Guild Award, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Cast. While these are all stupendous individual achievements, the effect of all five wins points to a convincing Best Picture win.

A still from Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer © Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Best Director: Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan has long been one of the most revered directors of the modern era, but Oppenheimer marks only the second Best Director nomination for the filmmaker (Dunkirk was his first)—and it certainly looks like the second time will be the charm. Similarly to how his film has fared in the previous best pictures races, Nolan has notched directorial wins at the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, the Critics’ Choice Awards, and the Directors Guild of America. His historical epic embodies the craft and skill that people love him for, making Oppenheimer a worthy source for the director’s first Oscar.

Best Actor: Cillian Murphy

For a while, it looked like a two-horse race between Murphy and The HoldoversPaul Giamatti, but the Irish actor has pulled ahead in recent weeks. Each won a Golden Globe, Giamatti took home the Critics’ Choice Award, but then Murphy snatched the BAFTA and the SAG Award. It’s an interesting face-off, given that both actors have storied careers that back up their great work. Murphy is a long time collaborator with Christopher Nolan; Giamatti’s lack of a nomination for his performance in Alexander Payne’s Sideways in 2004 is considered one of Oscar’s biggest snubs. The vote tallies will likely be close, but look for Cillian Murphy’s marathon turn as J. Robert Oppenheimer to win out.

Best Actress: Lily Gladstone

This category presents perhaps the most hotly contested race, with Lily Gladstone’s towering work in Killers of the Flower Moon up against Emma Stone’s beautifully bizarre performance in Poor Things. Each actress won a Golden Globe, then Stone took the Critics’ Choice Award. More recently, Gladstone snagged the SAG. It’s an even race, barring the outlier of the BAFTAs; Stone won, though bafflingly, Gladstone wasn’t even nominated. That’s considered a major snub, but it’s unclear if it will affect voters’ perception of her performance.

The Best Actress race is Lily Gladstone vs. Emma Stone Courtesy of Apple TV+ Press and Searchlight Pictures

Another facet of this face-off is the fact that Stone has won an Oscar before, for her leading role in 2016’s La La Land. A repeat win is always possible, but the Best Actress category has been kind to first-time nominees lately (Michelle Yeoh and Olivia Colman). It’s a real toss up between the two talents, but trends point towards Gladstone taking home the trophy.

Best Supporting Actor: Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr.’s success in this category wasn’t really in the air until the Golden Globes, where he beat out early favorite Charles Melton and the far flashier performance of Ryan Gosling as Ken. Since then, the actor’s take on humiliated government official Lewis Strauss in Oppenheimer has dominated awards shows, and RDJ has brought his singular charisma and charm to his speeches at the Globes, the Critics’ Choice Awards, the BAFTAs, and the SAG Awards. He’s been in the business for quite some time, and he’s not afraid to joke about the highs and lows of his career; he’s a popular actor, and that (along with a superb performance) makes him the popular choice.

Best Supporting Actress: Da’Vine Joy Randolph

This one is crystal clear: Da’Vine Joy Randolph‘s performance as Mary in The Holdovers feels like a lock. She achieved a rare feat in the early days of awards season, claiming wins from the New York Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Board of Review. She’s basically had a clean sweep ever since, from the Golden Globes to the BAFTAs to the SAG Awards to even the Independent Spirit Awards. Clearly, her performance has resonated, and it will continue to do so long after she takes home her Oscar statuette.

Samuel Theis, Sandra Hüller and Milo Machado Graner in Anatomy of a Fall. Courtesy of NEON

Best Original Screenplay: Anatomy of a Fall

As soon as Justine Triet won the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay, the race was gifted with a frontrunner. The Palme d’Or-winning Anatomy of a Fall has stuck it out this season, slowly but surely amassing plaudits for its screenplay from the Gotham Awards, the Globes, the BAFTAs, and the French César Awards—the Oscar looks to be next. Does it help that this international film is largely in English too? Certainly.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Barbie

Several signs point to Cord Jefferson’s American Fiction winning the Oscar, with the Critics’ Choice Awards, the BAFTAs, and the Independent Spirit Awards lauding the screenplay. However, there is a Barbie-shaped wrench thrown into the category now, with the Academy being the only awards body to consider Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach’s screenplay as an adaptation. The category is stacked regardless (the Oppenheimer wave may be strong enough to wash away the competition here, Poor Things’ wit may appeal to many voters, The Zone of Interest’s harsh take on the banality of evil may resonate strongly), making it a competitive one.

What really makes Barbie seem like the potential winner, though, is the narrative around it: Greta Gerwig not being nominated for Best Director was one of the year’s biggest stories (and snubs) coming out of the nominations. Given that this is the only category where she could win (and that she has twice been nominated for her writing before but has yet to win, period), it provides an avenue for any and all Barbie lovers to support her. While American Fiction is surely top of many minds, Barbie and its curious treatment by the Academy could pull ahead in an upset.

Best International Feature: The Zone of Interest

Given that Anatomy of a Fall isn’t nominated in the category because France chose to submit The Taste of Things instead, this category has a clear winner in The Zone of Interest. Jonathan Glazer’s portrayal of a Nazi family’s life in Auschwitz is a difficult film, from its aggressive sound design to its morally reprehensible characters, but it’s the product of fantastic creative vision and craft. It’s no wonder that the movie received five nominations, the most of any International Feature nominee, making it the one to beat.

Miles Morales (voiced Shameik Moore) in ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.’ Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Animation

Best Animated Feature: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Like Into the Spider-Verse before it, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse looks to be the animated film taking home the Oscar. Studio Ghibli’s The Boy and the Heron presents stiff competition given the Hayao Miyazaki of it all (and a Golden Globe and BAFTA win), but Spider-Man has a few things going for it. Namely that the Oscar tends to go to a more populist pick, like Encanto over Flee. Given that this Spider-Man series has enjoyed success in the category before, it’s likely that the visually groundbreaking sequel will do it again.

Best Original Song: “What Was I Made For?” by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell

Eilish is likely to win her second Oscar before she turns 23 thanks to her exquisite Barbie ballad. The film is certain to take the Academy Award for best song, given that “I’m Just Ken” is the only other competition in the category, but Eilish’s work has been the main winner this season (it even nabbed the Grammy for Song of the Year!). A soulful song that complements Greta Gerwig’s cinematic vision of finding oneself, it’s a worthy winner for sure.

The 2024 Oscar Race: 96th Academy Awards Predictions and Analysis