2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Actress

The motion picture academy has handed out Oscars for leading performances since the first ceremony in 1929. While the Best Actor prize is typically taken by a veteran, the Best Actress Oscar has tended to go to an ingenue. However, those age biases could be changing. While a whopping 32 of the 93 Best Actress champs have been in their 20s when they picked up their Oscars, the last three women to win were 60-year-old Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”), 45-year-old Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”) and 50-year-old Renee Zellweger (“Judy”).  And Zellweger’s closest rival was 44-year-old Charlize Theron (“Bombshell”). (Scroll down for the most up-to-date 2021 Oscars predictions for Best Actress.)

Besides Zellweger, the only other Best Actress champs in their 50s were both 54 when they won: Julianne Moore, who finally prevailed after four losses for “Still Alice” in 2015, and theater veteran Shirley Booth, who won for reprising her Tony-winning role in 1952’s “Come Back, Little Sheba.”

Fifteen of the 92 Best Actress winners, including Colman, were in their 40s when they took to the stage while 34 were thirtysomething.

McDormand was the sixth winner in her 60s when she won Best Actress for the second time in 2017 (she was just shy of 40 when she did so for “Fargo” in 1997). Her pal Meryl Streep had also defied the youth bias when, at age 62, she picked up her third Oscar in 2012 for “The Iron Lady.” Streep also had the overdue factor in her favor as it had been almost three decades since her second win for “Sophie’s Choice.” Likewise for Helen Mirren who was 61 when she was crowned champ for “The Queen” in 2007 after two previous losses. Geraldine Page was also 61 when she finally won on nomination #8 for “A Trip to Bountiful” in 1986.

Katharine Hepburn, who was 26 when she claimed her first Oscar in 1934 for “Morning Glory,” had just entered her 60s when she won Best Actress back-to-back (“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” 1967; “The Lion in Winter,” 1968). The only other Best Actress champ in her 60s was Marie Dressler who won for “Min and Bill” at the 4th Academy Awards in 1931. Hepburn was almost 75 when she won her record fourth Oscar for “On Golden Pond” in 1982 while Jessica Tandy was 80 when she prevailed in 1990 for “Driving Miss Daisy.”

Who will win Best Actress 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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UPDATED: June  29, 2020

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 Actress round-up. Only those actresses 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

Amy Adams, “Hillbilly Elegy” (Netflix – Fall)

Jessie Buckley, “I’m Thinking of Ending Things ” (Netflix – Winter)

Olivia Colman, “The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics – Fall)

Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix – Fall)

Jennifer Hudson, “Respect” (UA – October 9)

Sophia Loren, “The Life Ahead” (Netflix – Winter)

Frances McDormand, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures – Fall)

Michelle Pfeiffer, “French Exit” (Sony Pictures Classics – Winter)

Rachel Zegler, “West Side Story” (20th Century – December 18)

Strong Contenders

Cate Blanchett, “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures – Winter)

Jodie Foster, “Prisoner 760” (BBC – Fall)

Rashida Jones, “On The Rocks” (A24 – Fall)

Lesley Manville, “Ordinary Love” (Focus – February 14)

Elisabeth Moss, “The Invisible Man” (Universal – February 28)

Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus – Fall)

Amanda Seyfried, “Mank” (Netflix – Winter)

Meryl Streep, “The Prom” (Netflix – Fall)

Kate Winslet , “Ammonite” (Lionsgate – Fall)

Possible Contenders

Amy Adams, “The Woman in the Window” (20th Century – Winter)

Abigail Breslin, “Stillwater” (Focus – November 6)

Rachel Brosnahan,, “The Courier”/”Ironbark” (Lionsgate – Fall)

Jessica Chastain, “The Eyes Of Tammy Faye” (Searchlight Pictures – Fall)

Marion Cotillard, “Annette” (Amazon – Fall)

Felicity Jones, “The Midnight Sky”/”Good Morning, Midnight” (Netflix – Fall)

Jennifer Lawrence, “Red, White, and Water” (A24 – Fall)

Yifei Liu, “Mulan” (Disney – July 24)

Tilda Swinton, “The French Dispatch” (Searchlight Pictures – October 16)

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