2021 Oscar Nominations

It was a weird year for movies. When the world shut down, so did production, so far fewer movies were being shot because when they did keep filming, Robert Pattinson got Covid, and nobody wants that.

When movie theaters shut down, movies went directly to streaming, so Oscar made the unprecedented (and correct) decision to include films without theatrical releases in their body of contenders. That turned out to be a good idea since no one went to the theaters even when they opened back up.

They also widened the window of eligibility, which means that 14 months’ worth of movies were in the running. What does that mean for 2021? Will the 2021 eligibility calendar be just 10 months long? Will we forever push the eligibility deadline back to March to keep it at 12? That choice will have a bigger impact on what comes out when than you think. What it means for 2020 is that small films that you hoped would get notice—First Cow and Shirley, for example—still got swamped in the larger pool, and recency bias potentially helped voters forget about films that came out early in 2020. Let’s be honest, early 2020 feels like 1976 by this point.

It was just so long ago.

On the whole, though, we don’t have too many complaints about the Academy’s 2020 Oscar choices. Independent films just kicked all manner of ass this year.

Best Film

  • The Father
  • Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Mank
  • Minari
  • Nomadland
  • Promising Young Woman
  • Sound of Metal
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7


Again, the Academy can potentially include 10 candidates. A film has to reach a low-end threshold of votes to be included, which is why those last couple of slots are usually left vacant. If we could fill them, Soul and First Cow would certainly have made this list.

Lead Actress

  • Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  • Andra Day, The United States Versus Billie Holiday
  • Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman
  • Frances McDormand, Nomadland
  • Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman


Killer lineup. It’s painful to see another year go by without acknowledging the sublime Elizabeth Moss, but honestly, this group is hard to complain about.

Lead Actor

  • Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
  • Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  • Anthony Hopkins, The Father
  • Gary Oldman, Mank
  • Steven Yeun, Minari


These five performances are undoubtedly award worthy. But where is Delroy Lindo for Spike Lee’s almost completely overlooked Da Five Bloods? We probably would give him the Hopkins or Yeun spot, but we would definitely have made room for him.

Supporting Actress

  • Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Movie Film
  • Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy
  • Olivia Colman, The Father
  • Amanda Seyfried, Mank,
  • Youn Yun-jung, Minari


How great is it to see Youn Yun-jung on this list?! Close is the sentimental favorite because she has inexplicably never won an Oscar regardless of her 8 nominations and mind blowing talent, but please God please don’t let her win for the abomination that was Hillbilly Elegy.

Supporting Actor

  • Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7
  • Leslie Odom Junior, One Night in Miami
  • Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
  • LaKeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah


It’s impossible not to note that there are three Black actors on this list—a historic moment and one worth celebrating. Most people assumed Chadwick Boseman would be on this list for his role in Da 5 Bloods. We’re wondering, though: if LaKeith Stanfield is a supporting actor, who was the lead in Judas and the Black Messiah?

We’d also loved to have seen Michael Stuhlbarg squeezed in here for his brilliant turn in Shirley, but to be totally honest, we loved all these performances and have no serious complaints. Just questions.

If Kaluuya doesn’t win, the Academy is wrong.


  • Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round
  • David Fincher, Mank
  • Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
  • Chloe Zhao, Nomadland
  • Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman


Regina King (One Night in Miami) and Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7) are notable absences, and Vinterberg is the obvious surprise here. We’d have loved to see Kelly Reichardt get some love for First Cow, but that’s asking too much, we know.  

Adapted Screenplay

  • Borat Subsequent Movie Film
  • The Father
  • Nomadland
  • One Night in Miami
  • The White Tiger


The White Tiger is a pleasant surprise. When you think of Borat Subsequent Movie Film, you don’t think of writing. You think of one guy riffing, and you’re so surprised that he isn’t murdered in front of you that you ignore the incredible amount of planning and, yes, writing that must go into it. Good for the writing pool of the Academy for seeing past that potential murder to take note.

Original Screenplay

  • Judas and the Black Messiah
  • Minari
  • Promising Young Woman
  • Sound of Metal
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7


Not a ton of surprises here. We’d love to see Soul in this bunch, but we don’t know where we’d put it. 2020 was a bad year all around, but it was a great year for original films.


  • Collective
  • Crip Camp
  • The Mole Agent
  • Octopus Teacher
  • Time


Year after year, documentary feature gets to be a tighter and tighter race. In recent years there are more documentaries worthy of true consideration than there are features. We’d loved to have seen Boys State and/or Capital in the 21st Century on this list, but this is a smart group and its content and style run a big gamut. Smart money is probably on Collective because it’s also nominated for International Picture, but we’d give it to Time all day.


  • Onward
  • Over the Moon
  • A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
  • Soul
  • Wolfwalkers


It was an incredibly weak year in big screen animation, although Wolfwalkers was an incredible film that you should find and watch immediately. And Soul was quite possibly the best movie to come out in 2020, so at least it will get its due here.

Catch the 93rd annual Academy Awards Sunday, April 25th on ABC.

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