Last Updated: February 6th
When it comes to this year’s Oscar race, one of the most exciting and competitive categories is Best Actress. This has been true since the very beginning, as there’s been an abundance of riches in terms of leading actress performances, and narrowing it down to the five women who got nominated proved to be a very, very difficult task.
But we—well the Academy—did it, and Best Actress continues to be a pretty engaging race, even if something of a frontrunner has emerged. Yes indeed, Frances McDormand appears to be our leading candidate to take home the Oscar gold for her swell turn in Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. McDormand won this category in 1997 for her stellar turn in Fargo, but having picked up the SAG Award and Golden Globe for Best Actress, she very much looks like the frontrunner at this juncture.
While statistics only get you so far, only 3 of the last 10 SAG winners for Best Actress didn’t go on to win the Oscar, and you have to go back to 2011—when Viola Davis took the SAG for The Help and Meryl Streep took the Oscar for The Iron Lady—to find the last time these two didn’t match up. With such a towering performance, it’s hard to imagine anyone else winning on Oscar night.
But it could happen! Three Billboards is something of a divisive film, and The Shape of Water is poised to take home a number of trophies on Oscar night. Could Sally Hawkins sneak in and take the gold? It’s possible, but if I had to pick a dark horse at this juncture, I’d probably go with Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird. The film is widely beloved, she’s been nominated twice before, and it really is a terrific performance. She took home the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy, so she’s taken the stage at least once this year. If you’re betting on an upset I would place my chips on Ronan.
But really this entire category is stacked, and in my humble opinion Hawkins hasn’t gotten near the accolades she deserves for her wordless Shape of Water performance. So we’ll see how things shake out in due time, but for now here are my Best Actress predictions in order of likelihood to win.