Skip to main content

Awards Blend: Where Are this Year's Best Actor Contenders?

In a recent interview with the BBC, while promoting the UK release of his crime saga Black Mass, Johnny Depp told the media that he hopes he doesn’t win an Oscar anytime soon. Depp stated that the idea of delivering an awards speech doesn’t interest him. Nor does he like to think of himself as being in "competition" with any other actors.

With all due respect to Mr. Depp, he might not have much of a choice this year. His menacing performance as Boston enforcer James "Whitey" Bulger has him in the annual Oscar conversation, hovering near the top of a field that has yet to really produce powerful candidates. What a difference a year makes. Last season, at this early stage of the game, we had so many potential Best Actor candidates, we easily could have fielded two categories of worthy nominees. What it mean, at the end of the First Phase, was that several talented performances were left on the outside looking in, left without a nomination.

Skip to this year, and we’re still looking for the strongest five to stand up and be counted. There are two frontrunners in my mind: one based on the fact that some have seen the film (Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs; and one who many are starting to argue is "due" for a career that so far has gone unrecognized (Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant). After that, we have hopefuls who are just starting their campaigns. Matt Damon holds the screen for the duration of The Martian, providing enough sugar to help all that science go down. Depp, as mentioned, is a force to be reckoned with in Black Mass. On Friday, audiences will experience a throwback performance by Tom Hanks that has a nostalgic, Old Hollywood aura to it. Speaking of Old Hollywood, the Academy may warm to Bryan Cranston’s blacklist-drama Trumbo when it starts to open.

But without a clear-cut favorite – or a powerful field – Johnny Depp might want to hire a speech writer, at the very least, and recite a few practice verses in the mirror. Just to be safe.

Here’s where I think the Oscar contenders sit on October 13:

oscar winner prediction


The FrontrunnersSpotlightSteve Jobs

The ContendersBridge Of SpiesBrooklynCarolConcussionEx MachinaThe Hateful EightInside OutJoyMad Max: Fury RoadThe MartianThe RevenantRoomTrumbo

The Dark HorsesBeasts of No NationThe Big ShortBlack MassBy The SeaCreedThe Danish GirlThe End Of The TourFreeheldIn The Heart of the SeaLove & MercySicarioStraight Outta Compton

The LongshotsThe 3345 YearsAnomalisaMe and Earl and the Dying GirlOur Brand Is CrisisStar Wars: The Force AwakensSuffragetteTruthThe WalkYouth

Several familiar faces are making a play for Best Director nods this season. Steven Spielberg has a real chance at Oscar recognition for his Cold War-era political thriller Bridge of Spies, a movie that will remind veteran Academy members of the films they grew up on, the ones starring Jimmy Stewart or Gregory Peck. In addition to Spielberg, previous winners such as Ridley Scott, Alejandro Inarritu, Danny Boyle and Quentin Tarantino are bringing headline-grabbing features to theaters in the final quarter of 2015. Who’ll prevail when the nominations are revealed?

oscar winner prediction


The FrontrunnerDanny Boyle, Steve JobsTom McCarthy, Spotlight

The ContendersLenny Abrahamson, RoomAlejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The RevenantGeorge Miller, Mad Max: Fury RoadDavid O. Russell, JoyRidley Scott, The MartianSteven Spielberg, Bridge of SpiesRobert Zemeckis, The Walk

The Dark HorsesRyan Coogler, CreedScott Cooper, Black MassJohn Crowley, BrooklynCary Fukunaga, Beasts of No NationAlex Garland, Ex MachinaF. Gary Gray, Straight Outta ComptonTodd Haynes, CarolTom Hooper, The Danish GirlRon Howard, In the Heart of the SeaAngelina Jolie, By The SeaPeter Landesman, ConcussionJay Roach, TrumboQuentin Tarantino, The Hateful Eight

The LongshotsJ.J. Abrams, Star Wars: The Force AwakensPeter Docter, Inside OutDavid Gordon Green, Our Brand is CrisisAdam McKay, The Big ShortBill Pohlad, Love & MercyJames Ponsoldt, The End of the TourPeter Sollett, Freeheld

Last season, Best Actor was a ridiculously competitive category, with just as many worthy candidates left on the outside of the category looking in as there was five eventual nominees. This year looks equally impressive, though there are a number of films yet to drop. Is this the year that Leonardo DiCaprio finally wins? Or could Matt Damon’s The Martian performance prove to be the spoiler?

oscar winner prediction


The FrontrunnersMichael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

The ContendersBryan Cranston, TrumboMatt Damon, The MartianJohnny Depp, Black MassLeonardo DiCaprio, The RevenantTom Hanks, Bridge of SpiesEddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

The Dark HorsesSteve Carell, The Big ShortBradley Cooper, BurntJohn Cusack, Love & MercyJoseph Gordon-Levitt, The WalkO’Shea Jackson, Straight Outta ComptonMichael B. Jordan, CreedIan McKellen, Mr. HolmesBrad Pitt, By The SeaEdgar Ramirez, JoyWill Smith, Concussion

The LongshotsAntonio Banderas, The 33Michael Caine, YouthRichard Gere, Time Out Of MindJake Gyllenhaal, SouthpawTom Hardy, LegendChris Hemsworth, In The Heart of the Sea

There have been a few interesting developments in the Best Actress race, which we’ll continue to track. Cate Blanchett may end up competing against herself (we call that "Pulling a Soderbergh") if her performances in Carol and Truth continue to get recognition. And buzz has reached a deafening level for Brie Larson in Room, allowing me to move her into the Frontrunner category. (We gave the movie a perfect 5-star grade.) As for the rest of the category? Take a look.

oscar winner prediction


The FrontrunnerBrie Larson, Room

The ContendersCate Blanchett, CarolCharlotte Rampling, 45 YearsSaoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

The Dark HorsesEmily Blunt, SicarioSandra Bullock, Our Brand is CrisisMarion Cotillard, MacbethAngelina Jolie, By The SeaJennifer Lawrence, JoyJulianne Moore, FreeheldMaggie Smith, The Lady in the VanCharlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road

The LongshotsCate Blanchett, TruthBlythe Danner, I’ll See You In My DreamsHelen Mirren, Woman in GoldCarey Mulligan, Far From The Madding CrowdCarey Mulligan, SuffragetteAmy Schumer, TrainwreckSarah Silverman, I Smile BackLily Tomlin, Grandma

Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies goes wide this week following its premiere at the NYFF, and early buzz continues to swarm around character actor Mark Rylance, whose portrayal of a captured Soviet steals scenes throughout Spielberg’s sturdy Cold War drama. Expect to hear his name often as this category continues to develop.

oscar winner prediction


The FrontrunnersMark Ruffalo, Spotlight

The ContendersPaul Dano, Love & MercyMichael Keaton, SpotlightMark Rylance, Bridge of SpiesSeth Rogen, Steve JobsLiev Schreiber, SpotlightJason Segel, The End of the TourJacob Tremblay, Room

The Dark HorsesChristian Bale, The Big ShortJim Broadbent, BrooklynAlbert Brooks, ConcussionBradley Cooper, JoyTom Courtenay, 45 YearsRobert De Niro, JoyBenicio Del Toro, SicarioBruce Dern, The Hateful EightJoel Edgerton, Black MassIdris Elba, Beasts of No NationRyan Gosling, The Big ShortTom Hardy, The RevenantOscar Isaac, Ex MachinaSamuel L. Jackson, The Hateful EightJason Mitchell, Straight Outta ComptonBrad Pitt, The Big ShortKurt Russell, The Hateful EightMichael Shannon, 99 HomesMichael Sheen, Far From the Madding CrowdSylvester Stallone, CreedBilly Bob Thornton, Our Brand is Crisis

The LongshotsJohn Goodman, TrumboHarvey Keitel, YouthSir Ben Kingsley, The WalkRobert Redford, Truth

Will the real Danish Girl, please stand up? Most going in to Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl likely expected to be blown away by Eddie Redmaye’s transformation. (And he is in top form, for sure.) But chatter continues to swirl around the devastating performance by Redmayne’s co-star, Alicia Vikander, who is having an incredible year – and one that, I believe, will be topped off by her first Oscar nomination. Who will join her? Let’s discuss.

oscar winner prediction


The FrontrunnerAlicia Vikander, The Danish GirlRooney Mara, Carol

The ContendersElizabeth Banks, Love & MercyJane Fonda, YouthJennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful EightRachel McAdams, SpotlightKate Winslet, Jobs

The Dark HorsesJoan Allen, RoomMelanie Laurent, By The SeaMelissa Leo, The Big ShortHelen Mirren, TrumboGugu Mbatha-Raw, ConcussionEllen Page, FreeheldMarisa Tomei, The Big ShortJulie Walters, BrooklynKatharine Waterston, Steve Jobs

The LongshotsJessica Chastain, The MartianDakota Johnson, Black MassDiane Ladd, JoyJulianne Nicholson, Black MassTilda Swinton, Trainwreck

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.