Last-Minute 2017 Oscar Nominations Predictions

20th Century Fox

We come to it at last. After months and months spent campaigning, awarding, and prognosticating, all that's left is to see how the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will vote when the 2017 Oscar nominees are announced this coming Tuesday, Jan. 24. Will they reaffirm the selections that have been made by other awards ceremonies before them? Or will they surprise us all with shocking inclusions — and even more shocking omissions? Trying to guess the whims of the Academy is always a tricky business… but that never stops us from trying. So here are your official 2017 Oscar nominations prediction, to help you win your office pool and be the smartest moviegoer in the room.

The race for Best Picture is already narrowed down to three acclaimed films. Will it be Manchester By The Sea, which feels like the most traditional Academy pick with its story about a white male protagonist struggling with inner turmoil? Will it be Moonlight, which feels like the most urgent choice in our current political climate with its story about a young queer black boy growing up in the projects of Miami? Or will it be La La Land, which feels like the likeliest pick with its story that allows viewers to escape into a candy-colored land of song and dance for two hours?

Just because we already know that the eventual Best Picture winner will almost certainly be one of those three films doesn't mean the Oscars are over; far from it. There are plenty of question marks that still need to be filled in on the ballot. In fact, the nominees seem harder to predict this year than the actual winners. But I'll do my very best…

Best Picture

Summit Entertainment
  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell Or High Water
  • Hidden Figures
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Manchester By The Sea
  • Moonlight
  • Nocturnal Animals

Predicting the Best Picture nominees has never been harder since the Academy switched to odd rules that allow for anywhere between five and 10 slots in this category, depending on how many films receive a certain percentage of first-place votes. SoI have to assume 10 nominees, even though there will probably be fewer; every year since that rule change took effect, there have been either eight or nine Best Picture nominees. But which one or two will miss out?

La La Land, Manchester, and Moonlight are obviously safe. Arrival, Hell Or High Water, and Lion make up the next tier of likeliest nominees. That leaves the fates of Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hidden Figures, and Nocturnal Animals ambiguous. The latter film is the riskiest inclusion here, given that it's the only one on the list that didn't receive a nomination from the Producers Guild, a very important precursor. But it performed remarkably well at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs — and every year there is at least one movie that wasn't nominated by the PGA that still cracks the Best Picture race — which makes Nocturnal Animals a likelier inclusion than actual PGA nominee Deadpool.

Alternate: Silence

Martin Scorsese's latest epic proved divisive with critics and was virtually ignored by the major precursor awards. But its very late release could explain its underperformance at earlier ceremonies, and one should never count out a movie with Scorsese's name attached when it comes to the Oscars.

Best Director

Aaron Davidson/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  • Garth Davis, Lion
  • Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea
  • Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

This is, quite honestly, the hardest category to predict this year. Three slots are assured — Chazelle, Jenkins, and Lonergan — but the other two are somewhat more flexible. Davis and Villeneuve are both seemingly safe bets, given that they were nominated alongside the three frontrunners by the Directors Guild. But, in reality, the DGA and the Oscars rarely line up 5/5 in this category; in fact, that's only happened four times in the past 35 years.

Good sense would dictate, then, that either Davis or Villeneuve is likely to miss the Oscar — more likely Davis, since his inclusion by the DGA was seen as a huge shock. But the lack of a sixth-place consensus pick could mean that both filmmakers make it in after all… and that this could be a rare year where the Oscars and the DGA do match 100 percent.

Alternate: Take your pick.

Could it be fashion designer Tom Ford, whose Nocturnal Animals is the sleeper hit of the season? Could it be David Mackenzie, whose Hell Or High Water melded a classic genre (Western) with timely economic themes? Could it be Martin Scorsese, whose Silence allegedly took the director three decades to complete? Genuinely, this one's a total mystery.

Best Actor

Summit Entertainment
  • Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea
  • Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Ryan Gosling, La La Land
  • Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
  • Denzel Washington, Fences

Throughout its history, the Screen Actors Guild Awards have correctly predicted the eventual Oscar nominees with a tally as low as 13 out of 20, and as high as 19 out of 20. It's virtually guaranteed that there will be a few differences between the SAG nominees announced last month and the Oscar nominees announced next week; but none of those differences are likely to come from this category, which is one of the most locked-up acting fields of the year.

Mortensen is the most surprising inclusion here for his performance in the quirky indie drama. He came out of virtually nowhere to land a SAG nomination over such heavy competitors as Tom Hanks (Sully) and Joel Edgerton (Loving) — a nomination he then repeated at both the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs, virtually cementing his place at the Oscars this year. It appears that Hanks (who has also recently been ignored for his praised performances in the likes of Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks) will have to wait awhile longer for his first nomination since Cast Away, 16 years ago.

Alternate: Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool

The raunchy superhero flick has been performing surprisingly well with the guilds this season, earning nods for its editing from the American Cinema Editors, for its Adapted Screenplay from the Writers Guild of America, and for the film itself at the PGA Awards. But even this impressive track record is unlikely to translate into a Best Picture nod, given the predilections of the Academy. (Not even The Dark Knight could manage that feat.) Instead of putting it in their top category, Academy voters could choose to honor the successful film by honoring its high-profile star.

Best Actress

Fox Searchlight Pictures
  • Amy Adams, Arrival
  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  • Natalie Portman, Jackie
  • Emma Stone, La La Land
  • Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Stone is a lock, giving a lead performance in the likely Best Picture winner. Portman was once considered the frontrunner to win this category, until her momentum was derailed by her surprise Golden Globe loss; but even if her chances of winning have gone down, she should still easily secure herself a nomination. Huppert is the one who stole that Golden Globe from Portman, and no woman has ever won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama and then failed to earn an Oscar nomination; she should be able to overcome her SAG snub to become one of the few differences between that ceremony and the Oscars this year.

Adams is looking good to earn yet another nod, boosted by the film's probability of showing up in major categories like Picture, Director, and Screenplay; if she makes it in, she'll tie Glenn Close for the dubious distinction of having six Oscar nominations with zero wins. And, of course, never count out Meryl Streep. If she was somehow on the fence for her performance as a tone deaf opera singer, then her remarkable speech at the Golden Globes — delivered while Oscar nomination voting was ongoing — should have clinched it for her.

Alternate: Emily Blunt, The Girl On The Train

Once upon a time, actresses like Annette Bening (20th Century Women) and Ruth Negga (Loving) were considered heavyweight competitors for this category. But, while they have virtually faded from the awards conversation over the past month, a surprising contender has risen to take their place. Blunt took Huppert's slot at both the SAG Awards and the BAFTAs (Huppert was ineligible for consideration at the latter), which means we must take her performance in The Girl On The Train seriously, regardless of how poorly received the film itself was.

Best Supporting Actor

Focus Features
  • Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
  • Jeff Bridges, Hell Or High Water
  • Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Dev Patel, Lion
  • Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals

Four of these men match up with the SAG Awards nominees; Ali was widely considered the frontrunner for the prize, until Taylor-Johnson (who plays a villainous redneck with chilling believability in Tom Ford's stylish drama) snuck in to nab the Golden Globe away from him earlier this month. A Golden Globe win virtually guarantees you an Oscar nomination — the last time an actor won the Golden Globe for Supporting Actor and then missed out on an Oscar nod was in 1976 — so while Taylor-Johnson could conceivably still fall short on nominations morning (perhaps even to his Nocturnal Animals co-star, Michael Shannon), he's still a fairly safe bet to make.

Alternate: Lucas Hedges, Manchester By The Sea

So which of SAG's five nominees will Taylor-Johnson replace if he's nominated? The most likely one to miss out is Hedges, who was 19 when Manchester was released last year. The Academy is not always welcoming to young performers; and, when they are, those stars tend to be young women rather than young men, for whatever reason. Think of actresses like Anna Paquin (11 years old when she won for The Piano), Keisha Castle-Hughes (13 when she was nominated for Whale Rider), and Quvenzhané Wallis (9 when she was nominated for Beasts Of The Southern Wild). Then think of actors like Jamie Bell (14 when Billy Elliot came out) and Jacob Tremblay (9 when Room came out) who failed to make the Oscars cut — despite both having previously been nominated by SAG, like Hedges.

Best Supporting Actress

Paramount Pictures
  • Viola Davis, Fences
  • Naomie Harris, Moonlight
  • Nicole Kidman, Lion
  • Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
  • Michelle Williams, Manchester By The Sea

Even more so than Best Actor, this category is the most set in stone going into the nominations announcement. Four of these five women have been nominated by SAG, the Golden Globes, and the BAFTAs. (The fifth, Octavia Spencer, missed out on BAFTA, where she was replaced by Hayley Squires from the very British indie I, Daniel Blake, which simply doesn't have awards traction on this side of the pond.) It would be shocking if any of these women missed — and that's because there aren't even very many viable candidates waiting to take their place.

Alternate: Janelle Monáe, Hidden Figures

Other names that were once part of the conversation include 20th Century Women's Greta Gerwig and A Monster Call's Felicity Jones, but both of those films have faded from the race fairly early, leaving little room for an upset in this category. If an upset does occur, the only foreseeable scenario would be if Spencer's Hidden Figures co-star stole her spot, with voters favoring the promising newcomer over the past winner.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Paramount Pictures
  • Arrival (Eric Heisserer)
  • Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, Allison Schroeder)
  • Lion (Luke Davies)
  • Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)
  • Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford)

Moonlight and Nocturnal Animals are both virtual locks, given that they've been nominated at every precursor: the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, and the Writers Guild of America. Arrival and Lion are also safe bets given their films' prominent placements in the Best Picture conversation. Hidden Figures is the biggest question mark here, but count on the inspiring tale of three African-American NASA employees to round out the category.

Alternate: Fences (August Wilson)

It's possible that the Academy will want to give a posthumous nomination to the Tony- and Pulitzer-winning playwright. The biggest hurdle standing in Wilson's way is if voters perceive of his screenplay as less of an "adaptation" and more of a literal filming of his original stage script.

Best Original Screenplay

  • Captain Fantastic (Matt Ross)
  • Hell Or High Water (Taylor Sheridan)
  • La La Land (Damien Chazelle)
  • The Lobster (Efthymis Filippou, Yorgos Lanthimos)
  • Manchester By The Sea (Kenneth Lonergan)

Like Moonlight and Nocturnal Animals, three films in this category earned the triple-crown of Golden Globe, BAFTA, and WGA nominations and are thus shoo-ins: Hell Or High Water, La La Land, and Manchester By The Sea. They're likely to be joined by Captain Fantastic, whose Screenplay nomination will pair nicely with Viggo Mortensen's Best Actor nod; and the quirky indie drama The Lobster, which exists in a similar vein as previous oddball Original Screenplay nominees like Her, Lars And The Real Girl, and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.

Alternate: Zootopia (Jared Bush, Phil Johnston)

Oscar voters have nominated animated films in this category before: Up, WALL-E, Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Toy Story. But do you know what those have in common? They're all Pixar movies. Zootopia might be the frontrunner this year, and its screenplay deftly handles thorny societal issues, but it remains to be seen it the Academy is ready to invite non-Pixar cartoons into this club.

Best Original Score

20th Century Fox
  • Hidden Figures (Benjamin Wallfisch, Pharrell Williams, Hans Zimmer)
  • Jackie (Mica Levi)
  • La La Land (Justin Hurwitz)
  • Lion (Hauschka, Dustin O'Halloran)
  • Moonlight (Nicholas Britell)

Four of these are repeats from this year's Golden Globes, but with Arrival's score outrageously deemed ineligible by the Academy, what will take its place? Mica Levi, the British experimental musician known to some by her stage name Micachu, earned raves for her debut film score to the 2014 Scarlett Johansson sci-fi film Under The Skin. Her score for Jackie is a big part of what gives the biopic its unique and unsettling atmosphere.

Alternate: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Michael Giacchino)

The original Star Wars earned John Williams an Oscar for his iconic score, so it would be appropriate if Giacchino earned one for composing the music to this acclaimed spin-off. Giacchino has already composed some of the most memorable themes of our contemporary era, including his work on Lost, The Icredibles, Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, Jurassic World, Inside Out, Zootopia, and Up, which earned him his first and only Oscar nomination thus far.

Best Original Song

The Weinstein Company
  • "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)," La La Land
  • "Can't Stop The Feeling," Trolls
  • "City Of Stars," La La Land
  • "Drive It Like You Stole It," Sing Street
  • "How Far I'll Go," Moana

Fortunately, Academy rules dictate that only two songs can be nominated in this category from any one film; otherwise we'd likely be drowning in tunes from La La Land. While that movie is practically guaranteed to land the maximum two slots, the other three spots will probably go to Justin Timberlake for his catchy song of the summer, to Hamilton composer Lin-Manuel Miranda for his stirring Moana anthem, and to the earworm from Sing Street by filmmaker John Carney — whose previous two films, Once and Begin Again, both earned nods in this category.

Alternate: "Runnin'," Hidden Figures

Pharrell Williams was nominated in this category three years ago for Despicable Me 2's "Happy," so don't be too surprised to see him sneak in here again for this groovy track.

Best Animated Feature Film

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
  • Finding Dory
  • Kubo And The Two Strings
  • Moana
  • The Red Turtle
  • Zootopia

What an embarrassment of riches. Zootopia remains the frontrunner for its sharp social commentary, but the gorgeous stop-motion film Kubo And The Two Strings, the stirring Disney musical Moana, and the Pixar sequel Finding Dory are all worthy competitors. The Academy's animation branch often favors more obscure titles (like former nominees Boy & The World, When Marnie Was There, Song Of The Sea, and Tale Of The Princess Kaguya), so the meditative Studio Ghibli film The Red Turtle wouldn't be an unexpected inclusion.

Alternate: My Life As A Zucchini

Granted, we're talking about the same voters that snubbed The LEGO Movie just two years ago, so anything can happen. This stop-motion French coming-of-age story is also on the short list for Best Foreign Language Film, but it wouldn't be the weirdest thing that ever happened in Oscar history if it ended up in both categories at the expense of a more popular animated movie like Finding Dory.

Which of these predicted nominees will hear their names called next week? Which dark horse contenders will surprise us all by sneaking into the race? And how will all those complicated technical categories shake out? Find out when the 2017 Oscar nominations are announced at 8:18 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Jan. 24.