2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Actor

Almost all of the Best Actor winners at this century’s 20 Academy Awards ceremonies have ticked at least one of these two boxes: they were over 40 or portraying a real-life fellow when they prevailed. The only exceptions: Russell Crowe (“Gladiator”) and Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”). At the 2020 Oscars, Joaquin Phoenix was 45 when he picked up the Best Actor Oscar for “Joker.” The previous year saw 37-year-old Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”) win for his riveting portrayal of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. (Scroll down for the most up-to-date 2021 Oscars predictions for Best Actor.)

Of the 10 most recent Best Actor winners at the Oscars, Malek and six others won for taking on real-life roles: Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech,” 2011); Daniel Day-Lewis (“Lincoln,” 2013); Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club,” 2014); Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything,” 2015); Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Revenant,” 2016); and Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour,” 2018).

Who will win Best Actor at the 2021 Oscars? Below, we consider the contenders. This roster includes past Academy Awards champs, previous nominees and those looking for their first bids, be they film newcomers or long-time screen actors.

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Please note: To read full descriptions of each film, check out our 2021 Oscar Best Picture predictions. Certain contenders are also included in the Best Supporting Actor round-up. Only those actors whose films have confirmed release dates are listed below. Check back often as new contenders are scheduled while other are dropped due to delays or critical reaction.

Leading Contenders

Bradley Cooper, “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures – Fall)

Matt Damon, “Stillwater” (Focus – November 6)

Benicio del Toro, “The French Dispatch” (Searchlight Pictures – October 16)

Tom Hanks, “News Of The World” (Universal – December 25)

Anthony Hopkins, “The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics – Fall)

Michael Keaton, “Trial of the Chicago 7” (Paramount – September 25)

Delroy Lindo, “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix – June 12)

Gary Oldman, “Mank” (Netflix – Fall)

Joaquin Phoenix, “C’mon, C’mon” (A24 – Fall)

Strong Contenders

Chadwick Boseman, “Da 5 Bloods” (Netflix – June 12)

George Clooney, “The Midnight Sky”/”Good Morning, Midnight” (Netflix – Fall)

Adam Driver, “Annette” (Amazon – Fall)

Ansel Elgort, “West Side Story” (20th Century – December 18)

Michael Fassbender, “Next Goal Wins” (Searchlight Pictures – Fall)

Bill Murray, “On The Rocks” (A24 – Fall)

Liam Neeson, “Ordinary Love” (Focus – February 14)

John David Washington, “Tenet” (Warner Bros. – July 17)

Possible Contenders

Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix – Fall)

Timothee Chalamet, “Dune” (Warner Bros. – December 18)

Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Courier”/”Ironbark” (Lionsgate – Fall)

Benedict Cumberbatch, “Prisoner 760” (BBC – Fall)

Andrew Garfield, “The Eyes Of Tammy Faye” (Searchlight Pictures – Fall)

Bryan Tyree Henry, “Red, White, and Water” (A24 – Fall)

Gary Oldman, “The Woman in the Window” (20th Century – May 15)

Eddie Redmayne, “Trial of the Chicago 7” (Paramount – September 25)

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