2021 Oscars: The Race for Best Actress is More Unpredictable Than Ever

Carey Mulligan in
Carey Mulligan in "Promising Young Woman. Will she take home the Oscar?

Major Oscar winners are usually pretty easy to predict because all the ceremonies leading up to the Academy Awards give us all the insight we need. The race is pretty predictable in many of the leading categories this year, but we still have no clue who’s going to pick up the trophy for the best actress come Oscar night.

The list of this year’s contenders includes Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday), Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman), Frances McDormand (Nomadland), Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman). The tricky part? None of them established herself as a front-runner nor scored repeated victories at major award shows.

Leading awards prediction website Gold Derby is singling out Mulligan as the front-runner, but we wouldn’t be too quick to put our money on her. She came out victorious at the Critics’ Choice Awards and National Board of Review Awards, but critics aren’t voting at the Oscars.

Davis is often mentioned as a possible winner, especially after her SAG Awards win. However, despite being highly respectable, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom failed to score Oscar nominations in other major categories, reducing Davis’ chances with the Academy voters.

The newcomer Andra Day managed to beat all of her Oscar competitors at the Golden Globes, but that still didn’t grant her the status of the front-runner. The same goes for Frances McDormand, who recently won the best actress award at the BAFTAs—where Davis, Day, and Mulligan didn’t even score nominations.

Even months into the Oscar race, nothing is crystal clear. No matter who wins the best actress at the Oscars, one thing is for sure—when one of them picks up the trophy with the bewildered look on her face, she won’t be faking the shock.