Jackman plays Jean Valjean, who struggles with the law after stealing bread to feed his sister's children. He has no previous Oscar nominations.
Washington plays an airline pilot who saves a plane from crashing. He has won two Oscars ("Glory," "Training Day") out of five total nominations.
Day-Lewis plays Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's biopic. He has two previous Oscar wins ("My Left Foot" and "There Will Be Blood") in four total nominations.
Cooper plays Pat Solitano, a former teacher who moves back in with his mother and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife following a stint in a mental institution. He has no previous Oscar nominations.
Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, a drifter who assists a popular faith leader following World War II. He has two previous Oscar nominations ("Gladiator" and "Walk the Line").