Best Actress Oscar predictions by experts: Frances McDormand (‘Three Billboards’) ahead, Sally Hawkins (‘The Shape of Water’) rallies

Late in October, several of our Oscar experts from major media outlets changed their Best Actress predictions, shifting from long-time frontrunner Sally Hawkins (“The Shape of Water”) to Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”). On Oct. 31, McDormand led by a whopping six experts (13 to 7). One week later, Hawkins has narrowed that gap to four by picking up the votes of the single experts predicting a win for Kate Winslet (“Wonder Wheel”) and Annette Bening (“Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.”)

McDormand headlines Martin McDonagh‘s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which won the audience award at the Toronto film festival. She plays a grieving mother who tries to shame the local police chief (Woody Harrelson) into investigating the murder of her daughter. McDonagh, a Tony-nominated playwright, won the Best Live Action Short Oscar in 2004 for “Six Shooter.”

In Guillermo del Toro‘s “The Shape of Water,” which claimed the top prize at the Venice film festival, Hawkins plays a mute woman who communicates through sign language who gets a job cleaning a government laboratory. There she encounters a humanoid aquatic creature (Doug Jones, who played multiple creatures in Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth”) who is the subject of scientific research and testing.

McDormand numbers just a single Best Actress bid among her four Oscar nominations but it was the one that proved to be the winner (“Fargo,” 1996). Hawkins, who lost her sole supporting bid four years ago for “Blue Jasmine” to “12 Years a Slave” ingenue Lupita Nyongo, has never contended in lead at the Oscars.

Poised to play spoiler is Ronan in “Lady Bird,” an acclaimed character study by first-time solo director Greta Gerwig. Ronan, who lost her Oscar bids for “Atonement” (2007) and “Brooklyn” (2015), embodies the title character: Christine “Lady Bird” Macpherson, a teenager looking to spread her wings. She could have the edge as the Best Actress Oscar is usually awarded to an ingenue, unlike the Best Actor prize which is typically taken by a veteran. Indeed, a whopping 32 of the 89 Best Actress winners were in their 20s when they picked up their prizes, including last year’s winner Emma Stone (“La La Land”).

See how our experts rank Oscar contenders according to the likelihood of winning in the top eight races. Use the drop-down menus at the top of each page to see the other seven categories.

Here’s how the Oscar Best Actress predictions break down by expert as well as the most up-to-date odds for each of the top 10 contenders to win:

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1. Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”: 13 experts (12/5 odds)
Joyce Eng (TV Guide)
Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post)
Tariq Khan (Fox News)
Scott Mantz (Access Hollywood)
Tom O’Neil (Gold Derby)
Keith Simanton (IMDB)
Krista Smith (Vanity Fair)
Sasha Stone (Awards Daily)
Peter Travers (Rolling Stone)
Brian Truitt (USA Today)
Sara Vilkomerson (Entertainment Weekly)
Jeffrey Wells (Hollywood-Elsewhere)
Susan Wloszczyna (

2. Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”: 9 experts (11/4 odds)
Thelma Adams (Gold Derby)
Erik Davis (Fandango)
Edward Douglas (Tracking Board)
Tim Gray (Variety)
Dave Karger (IMDB)
Michael Musto (NewNowNext)
Christopher Rosen (Entertainment Weekly)
Anne Thompson (Indiewire)
Adnan Virk (ESPN)

3. Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”: Two experts (11/2 odds)
Jack Mathews (Gold Derby)
Kevin Polowy (Yahoo)

4. Meryl Streep, “The Post”: (10/1 odds)

5. Jessica Chastain, “Molly’s Game”: (14/1 odds)

6. Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”: (14/1 odds)

7. Judi Dench, “Victoria and Abdul” (33/1 odds)

8. Kate Winslet, “Wonder Wheel”: (80/1 odds)

9. Emma Stone, “Battle of the Sexes”: (80/1 odds)

10. Annette Bening, “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool: (100/1 odds)

2018 Oscars Best Actress: Experts Predictions

Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23.

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