The 2021 Oscars were unlike any that came before, coming amid the COVID-19 pandemic that dramatically affected the entire film industry for well over a year. So the awards were already historic before any awards were handed out. But there was plenty of history up for grabs among the potential winners. Scroll down for our live blog breaking down all the results throughout the night. And check out the complete list of winners here.
These Oscars were originally scheduled for February 28, but the motion picture academy moved them to April 25 and extended the eligibility period by two months out of consideration for the pandemic. The academy also decided to loosen their eligibility criteria. Normally, studios need to release their films theatrically in order to qualify, even streaming services, but the Oscars waived that requirement for this year’s event due to the closure of theaters across the country. And there are three movies that could become the first from a streaming service to win Best Picture: “Mank” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) and “Sound of Metal” (Amazon).
There is also historical representation for women and people of color. Chloe Zhao was nominated for producing, writing, directing, and editing “Nomadland,” which made her the Oscars’ most nominated woman in a single year. Zhao was overwhelmingly favored to become the second woman and first woman of color to win Best Director. “Nomadland” was also favored to win Best Picture following its victories at the Producers Guild, Directors Guild, and BAFTA Awards, among other plaudits.
The acting races included nine people of color among the nominees with several milestones for underrepresented groups. “Minari” stars Steven Yeun and Yuh-Jung Youn are the first acting contenders of Korean descent. Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”) is the first Muslim nominee for Best Actor. Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) and Andra Day (“United States vs. Billie Holiday”) are the first two Black women nominated together for Best Actress since Cicely Tyson (“Sounder”) and Diana Ross (“Lady Sings the Blues”) 48 years ago.
Those are just some of this year’s noteworthy achievements. Follow along below for analysis of the winners, how they made history or defied precedent, and whether they took by surprise the thousands of Gold Derby users who gave us their predictions (times listed are Eastern).
8:08pm — BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY — First award of the night goes to Emerald Fennell for “Promising Young Woman.” She had won this award at the Writers Guild, Critics Choice, and BAFTA Awards, so this isn’t a surprise. But it might be surprising that Fennell is the first woman to win a writing award since Diablo Cody for “Juno” — that was 13 years ago. Watch our interview with Fennell here.
8:13pm — BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY — “The Father” ekes out a win over “Nomadland.” This is the first Oscar for Florian Zeller and the second for co-writer Christopher Hampton, who previously won for adapting “Dangerous Liaisons.” “The Father” had won the BAFTA Award for its script, but “Nomadland” won at the Critics Choice Awards. Does this hurt “Nomadland’s” chances for Best Picture later tonight? Not necessarily. “The Shape of Water” (2017) won Best Picture without winning for writing. Watch our interviews with Hampton and Zeller.
8:22pm — BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE — “Another Round” wins, as widely predicted, after having won the BAFTA Awards. This is the fourth win for Denmark in this category, and filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg is also nominated for Best Director, so this seemed like a relatively safe bet, though “Quo Vadis, Aida?” has plenty of supporters. There is a bittersweet quality to this victory, though. Vinterberg’s daughter died early in the making of the film, and the film is dedicated to her. Watch our interviews with Vinterberg and star Mads Mikkelsen.
8:30pm — BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR — Daniel Kaluuya wins for “Judas and the Black Messiah,” and he was probably the biggest lock in the acting categories after winning the Golden Globe, Critics Choice Award, SAG Award, and BAFTA Award. This is his second nomination following his breakthrough Best Actor bid for “Get Out” (2017). At age 32, he’s actually one of the 10 youngest winners in the history of this category. Watch our interview with Kaluuya here.
8:43pm — BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING — “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” wins, which isn’t surprising since it won at the Critics Choice and BAFTA Awards, and with the Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Guild, but it is historic because Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson (who won along with Sergio Lopez-Rivera) are the first Black winners in the history of this award. In their speech they look forward to a time when it’s no longer revolutionary to see Black or trans, Asian, Latinx, or Indigenous winners in the category. Watch our interview with Lopez-Rivera here.
8:45pm — BEST COSTUME DESIGN — Another unsurprising win for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” costume designer Ann Roth. It’s her second Oscar win following her victory for “The English Patient” (1996). She’s a legendary artist in the industry, and is still working at 89-years-old. These two craft awards are also what the film won at the Critics Choice and BAFTA Awards.
8:58pm — BEST DIRECTOR — In an unusual turn of events, the Oscars presented this category early in the night. Especially unusual because the winner, as expected, is Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”), who becomes only the second woman ever to win Best Director (following Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker”) and the first woman of color to win. It was kind of a foregone conclusion because she hasn’t lost anything this awards season, but that should not take away from how momentous a moment it is.
9:08pm — BEST SOUND — The award goes to Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortés, and Phillip Bladh for “Sound of Metal,” though it’s a little questionable to have Riz Ahmed present an award in a category where his own film was the clear front-runner. If it had lost, it would’ve been a deeply awkward moment. This is the first year when the categories of Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing were combined into one, and “Sound of Metal” having sound design that was so important to the story, conveying the experience of deafness to the audience, made this the overwhelming favorite. Watch our interview with Becker here.
9:11pm — BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT — Netflix’s “Two Distant Strangers” prevails for telling the story of a man experiencing a day over and over again when he is killed by police. It was the front-runner in our odds, and its story certainly resonated in recent weeks as the Derek Chauvin trial was underway for the murder of George Floyd. Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe are the winning filmmakers, and Free is halfway to an EGOT since he also won Emmys as a writer for “The Daily Show” and “Full Frontal.” Free is also the first Black winner in the history of the category. Watch our interview with Free and Roe here.
9:21pm — BEST ANIMATED SHORT — Netflix is two-for-two in shorts categories as Will McCormack and Michael Govier win for “If Anything Happens I Love You,” about the victim of a school shooting. This is the first nomination and win for both filmmakers. They were the overwhelming favorites to win in our odds. Watch our interview with McCormack and Govier here.
9:26pm — BEST ANIMATED FEATURE — Another unsurprising win as this award goes to “Soul,” the only film in this category with multiple nominations. This is the third win for Pete Docter in this category, following his victories for “Up” (2009) and “Inside Out” (2015), making him the most awarded filmmaker in this category’s history so far. And this is the first nomination and win for producer Dana Murray. It’s also the 11th victory in this category for Pixar, far more than any other studio. Watch our interview with Docter here.
9:35pm — BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT — Gold Derby’s odds had correctly predicted every category so far, which makes the victory for “Colette” the first upset of the night. We had ranked this film about a French freedom fighter battling the Nazis third in our odds. The subject of the film, Colette Marin-Catherine, turns 93 today, the same age that the Oscars turn today. Watch our interview with filmmakers Anthony Giacchino and Alice Doyard here.
9:41pm — BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE — Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed and Craig Foster prevail for another Netflix film, “My Octopus Teacher.” That film about a man’s unlikely friendship with an octopus living in the waters near his home started the season as an underdog, but then it won at the Producers Guild Awards and the BAFTAs, pushing it to the top of our racetrack odds. Watch our interview with Ehrlich and Reed here.
9:52pm — BEST VISUAL EFFECTS — “Tenet” becomes the third Christopher Nolan movie to win this category following “Inception” (2010) and “Interstellar” (2014). It’s winning visual effects artists are Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley, Scott Fisher. This is the first Oscar for Jackson and Lee, the second for Fisher, and the third for Lockley.
9:53pm — BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS — Yuh-Jung Youn wins for “Minari,” becoming the first Korean actor to win an Oscar! And in her speech she says how thrilled she is to meet presenter Brad Pitt and how she forgives Westerners for usually mispronouncing her name. A delight as always! After months of this category seeming wide-open, Youn took a decisive lead in our odds after winning SAG and BAFTA Awards. Alas, this means Glenn Close is zero-for-eight at the Oscars. Watch our interview with Youn here.
10:03pm — BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN — “Mank” wins for production designer Donald Graham Burt and set decorator Jan Pascale. It’s the first black and white movie to win this award since “Schindler’s List.” It’s the second win and second nomination for Burt, who previously won for another David Fincher film, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008). It’s the first win for Pascale. “Mank” has had a tough go of it this awards season, typically getting tons of nominations thanks to its technical wizardry, but not winning much. However, the film has consistently won for its production design recreating old Hollywood. Watch our interview with Burt here.
10:08pm — BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY — In an upset, Erik Messerschmidt wins for his black-and-white work on “Mank,” which he helped to craft to look like a film from the 1930s and 1940s. We had been predicting Joshua James Richard to win for “Nomadland,” but Messerschmidt prevailed at the American Society of Cinematographers Awards. Interestingly, black and white movies don’t win that often for Best Cinematography despite how much they stand out nowadays when color film is the norm. In the last 30 years, the only other examples are “Schindler’s List” (1993) and “Roma” (2018). Watch our interview with Messerschmidt here.
10:18pm — BEST FILM EDITING — Mikkel E.G. Nielsen wins for “Sound of Metal,” making it a good night for Danes following the victory for “Another Round.” The film had previously won at the Critics Choice and BAFTA Awards for its editing, though it lost to “The Trial of the Chicago 7” at the ACE Eddie Awards. Every editing winner since “The Departed” (2006) has at least been nominated for its sound, so this continues that quirky trend. Watch our interview with Mikkel here.
10:34pm — BEST ORIGINAL SCORE — “Soul” wins for Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Jon Batiste. This is the second win for Reznor and Ross, who previously won for “The Social Network” score. It’s the first win for Jon Batiste, who is now only the third Black winner for Best Score following Prince (“Purple Rain”) and Herbie Hancock (“Round Midnight”). With its two victories, “Soul” becomes the 12th animated film to win that many Oscars. But strangely no animated films have ever won more than that. Watch our interview with Reznor and Ross here.
10:40pm — BEST ORIGINAL SONG — I’m not sure there was anything you could’ve called an upset in this wide-open category, but most of us weren’t predicting H.E.R.‘s victory for “Fight for You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah.” This comes just a few weeks after she won Song of the Year at the Grammys for “I Can’t Breathe” in another major upset. Both songs she won for are protest songs. She won both awards with her co-writers D’Mile and Tiara Thomas. The front-runners in this category according to our odds were “Speak Now” from “One Night in Miami” and “Husavik” from “Eurovision Song Contest.”
11:02pm — BEST PICTURE — Yes, this category is being presented before the two lead acting awards, and the winner is … “Nomadland”! This isn’t a surprise since the film won at the Golden Globe, Critics Choice, BAFTA, Producers Guild, and Directors Guild Awards. But front-runners have been losing frequently in recent years. Zhao wins for producing as well as directing, and Frances McDormand wins her first Oscar for producing but her third overall following Best Actress wins for “Fargo” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”
11:13pm — BEST ACTRESS — And after all that, Frances McDormand wins Best Actress too after winning nothing but the BAFTA Award, where none of her top Oscar rivals were nominated. Kind of a fitting end to this weird awards season for this category. But it’s also pretty momentous because McDormand has now won Best Actress three times, a feat only ever achieved by Katharine Hepburn.
11:15pm — BEST ACTOR — Another upset: Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”) beats Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”). But Hopkins didn’t even show up via satellite to accept the award, which is a disappointing way to end the night. In hindsight it was an extremely poor producing choice to end the show with the two lead-acting awards, likely banking on an emotional moment with Boseman’s predicted win. This is Hopkins’s second Best Actor win following his iconic win for “The Silence of the Lambs.”
11:19pm — So the night ends with “Nomadland” as the only film to win three Oscars. Several films won two apiece: “Sound of Metal,” “Mank,” “The Father,” “Soul,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” and “Judas and the Black Messiah.”