2016 Oscar Predictions For Best Supporting Actor Show That This Won't Be An Easy Race

Best Supporting Actor has always been a highly competitive category at the Academy Awards. Year after year, voters find themselves with a flood of excellent performances, and only five nominations available. This year is no different. With the 2016 Golden Globe and the SAG awards nominations already announced, a few clear frontrunners for the Oscar race have been identified — most notably Mark Rylance of Bridge of Spies and Michael Shannon of 99 Homes. Others, like Paul Dano of Love & Mercy and Room's young star Jacob Tremblay, remain on the edge. And while Oscar nominations aren't dependent on those of any other award show, taking these various nominations and awards into account, here are Oscar predictions for Best Supporting Actor, ranked from most likely to least.

It is important to note that, as seen with the Golden Globes, what qualifies as a "supporting role" in film is clearly up for debate. It seems to be determined by studio heads, who submit actors to be qualified for awards, but those who determine the winners also get a say — like the Golden Globe's Hollywood Foreign Press Association deciding that both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara would be considered Lead Actresses for Carol. As such, you'll notice that actors Christian Bale and Steve Carell are absent from the list for their work in The Big Short. Bale is nominated for a SAG award for Best Supporting Actor, but both Bale and Carell are nominated for Best Actor in the Golden Globes. With all the confusion, I felt it best to leave both off the list for now, but it is safe to assume that The Big Short actors are in the competition. With that said, here are the top nine contenders for Best Supporting Actor at the 2016 Oscars.

1. Mark Rylance — Bridge Of Spies

Mark Rylance is by far the frontrunner in the Best Supporting Actor race. Currently nominated for a Golden Globe, SAG Award and a Critics' Choice Award, Rylance has absolutely nothing to worry about when it comes to whether or not he can add an Oscar nomination to his growing list of accolades.

2. Paul Dano — Love & Mercy

Love & Mercy might not be getting a lot of awards love on its own, but Paul Dano's supporting turn as a young Brian Williams is another story. The actor has been on the Academy's radar since his breakout in Little Miss Sunshine in 2006, but has yet to be nominated for an Oscar despite earning acclaim for his work in There Will Be Blood (2007). This might just be Dano's year.

3. Sylvester Stallone — Creed

So far, Sylvester Stallone has been the only member of the Creed team to earn mainstream award nominations. Everybody loves a good comeback story, and what's more of a comeback than going from starring in The Expendables 3 to being nominated for an Oscar?

4. Michael Shannon — 99 Homes

Like Dano and Stallone, Michael Shannon appears to be the only major awards contender from his film, 99 Homes. Though he picked up a Critics' Choice nomination and a Golden Globe nod for his performance, his spot on the Oscar nominees list is still up for grabs.

5. Idris Elba — Beasts of No Nation

Idris Elba's recent Golden Globe nomination puts him in a prime position to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. However, the Academy has yet to be truly tested in terms of their response to a Netflix product, unlike the Globes which has been forced to embrace Netflix shows like House of Cards. It could be that, as the first of its kind, Beasts of No Nation simply won't be welcomed by the Academy.

6. Mark Ruffalo — Spotlight

Mark Ruffalo deserves to be nominated for his role in Spotlight, but as the Supporting Actor category heats up, he has been left off the list of Golden Globe nominees (nominated instead for Best Actor in a Comedy for Infinitely Polar Bear). It could be that the Academy goes the way of the Globes and leaves Ruffalo's name off the list.

7. Jacob Tremblay — Room

Never underestimate the power of a child actor. Jacob Tremblay may not have made it onto the Golden Globes nominee list, but he is still very much in the running to get an Oscar.

8. Michael Keaton — Spotlight

It would make sense to nominate Michael Keaton for his role in Spotlight, and not only for the power of his performance. After all, many felt he deserved to win the Oscar for Best Actor last year for his work in Birdman, so a supporting nod could be headed his way.

9. Tom Hardy — The Revenant

The Revenant is kind of a wild card at this point — anything could happen. Frankly, Tom Hardy's inclusion in the category might just depend on whether or not Christian Bale's work in The Big Short is entered as lead or as supporting.

Other names that might be called when the 2016 Academy Award nominations are announced in January include Benicio Del Toro (Sicario) and Walton Goggins (The Hateful Eight). So in the meantime, start watching as many of these performances as you can, before the ceremony rolls around.

Images: Walt Disney Studios (2); Roadside Attractions; Warner Bros.; Broad Green Pictures; Bleeker Street; Open Road Films (2); A24 Films; 20th Century Fox