Looking At Potential Best Actor Contenders


The series continues on! As you all know so well from the last few weeks (as well as years past, in terms of this grouping of articles), it’s one thing to read early Academy Award predictions at this point in the year in order to see what folks like myself think will happen six or so months from now, but it’s another thing entirely to actually know something about what will be in contention. To help out in that regard, I’m once again running down some of the major contenders in each Oscar category in order to prep you all for the season to come. Basically, the format will have me saying a few words about what/who I feel are the top tier contenders right now in said categories, along with a longer list afterwards of many of the other hopefuls that the Academy might take a shine to. Consider this a sort of before the awards season cheat sheet to have in your back pocket. It has got to be old hat to at least some of you by now, I’m sure, but hey. Anyway…onward!

Today I’m continuing with another of the bigger ones that’s out there for us…the Best Actor category.

Here are the ten particular gentlemen that I have in play for Best Actor, with the top five cracking the lineup at this point:

1. Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) – Holding an early advantage in Best Actor is DiCaprio. Earning raves for Quentin Tarantino’s latest, the A-lister could be in line to take him his second Academy Award. A lot will depend on how big a player Once Upon a Time in Hollywood remains this season, but right now, he’s at least the temporary leader in the clubhouse for this funny and poignant turn. Plus, remember…Hollywood loves a story about Hollywood.

2. Adam Driver (Marriage Story or The Report) – The buzz for Driver in Marriage Story is huge, while the recent nominee also earned raves at the Sundance Film Festival for The Report. This runner up spot in Actor is mostly for the former, though the latter could certainly buoy him during the season. If Marriage Story threatens in Picture, watch out for him here, as Netflix will certainly launch a huge campaign for him…

3. Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory) – The Best Actor winner at the Cannes Film Festival is hoping to become a first time Oscar nominee. Pain and Glory is a movie likely to only contend in Best International Feature, as well as Actor, so Banderas will be up against some more across the board contenders. Still, at this stage, he’s sitting in a solid position.

4. Eddie Murphy (Dolemite is My Name) – Another Netflix contender, this biopic gives Murphy a chance to again contend for a win. A lot really will depend on if Dolemite is My Name is a player or just the streaming giant going for a crowd pleasing type of effort. Especially if it’s the former, why not include Murphy at this early juncture in the season?

5. Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood) – Who better to play Mr. Rogers than Hanks? A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood could be the feel good nominee in Picture, so Hanks in Actor could definitely come along for the ride. Watch out for him to go Supporting, but if he stays Lead, the streak of snubs could finally be over for him…

6. Robert De Niro (The Irishman) – If The Irishman is indeed the massive contender Netflix and pretty much the whole industry is assuming it is, De Niro will 100% be in play. The legendary actor in another Martin Scorsese gangster epic? That will be hard for voters to resist. A lot of predictions (mine included) have him just out of the top five, but sleep on De Niro at your own risk here!

7. Timothée Chalamet (The King) – More potential Netflix love could come with Chalamet here. The King is a bit of an unknown right now, but the young actor is already generating buzz for every new project of his. Sit tight for more on this one once it makes its festival bow, as that will determine where it truly sits in the race.

8. Taron Egerton (Rocketman) – Hoping to capitalize on Rami Malek’s win last year, Egerton will hope that Elton John fans in the Academy can push Rocketman to some Oscar glory. It seems like a long shot, winner wise right now, but a nomination is still definitely a possibility. Stay tuned here for more!

9. Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) – I’m buying into some of the Phoenix buzz from Joker. Especially after the flick was just announced to be playing the New York Film Festival, it’s going to every major fest that an Oscar contender needs to hit. Maybe this is all just setting us up for disappointment, but how can you not be curious at this point?

10. Mark Ruffalo (Untitled Todd Haynes Project) – Though I could have easily have gone with Matt Damon for Ford v. Ferrari, Michael B. Jordan for Just Mercy, Brad Pitt for Ad Astra, Jonathan Pryce for The Two Popes, or Adam Sandler for Uncut Gems, I lean Ruffalo with this final slot. Nothing is known about this one, so it’s a bit of a shot in the dark. Ruffalo is incredibly due though, so if Todd Haynes’ movie is a player, so too will Ruffalo be in play…

Next in line I’d have these ten contenders (just sans any commentary here) for Best Actor:

11. Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes)
12. Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems)
13. Michael B. Jordan (Just Mercy)
14. Brad Pitt (Ad Astra)
15. Matt Damon (Ford v. Ferrari)
16. Robert Downey Jr. (Avengers: Endgame)
17. Edward Norton (Motherless Brooklyn)
18. Lucas Hedges (Honey Boy)
19. Ansel Elgort (The Goldfinch)
20. Gary Oldman (The Laundromat)

Finally, here are ten more fellas to give us a top 30 to cull from, just sans commentary as well:

21. Daniel Craig (Knives Out)
22. Dean-Charles Chapman (1917)
23. Ian McKellen (The Good Liar)
24. Daniel Kaluya (Queen & Slim)
25. Jamie Bell (Skin)
26. Matthias Schoenaerts (The Mustang)
27. Robert Pattinson (The Lighthouse)
28. Jesse Eisenberg (The Art of Self-Defense)
29. Zack Gottsagen (The Peanut Butter Falcon)
30. Sam Elliott (The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot)

That’s what the Best Actor race could be made up of this year ladies and gentlemen. Stay tuned next week for my look at the Best Actress race!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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