Oscars 2022 predictions: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, and more

Oscars 2022 predictions
(Image credit: Netflix/Focus Features/20th Century Studios/Sony Pictures)

The Oscars 2022 are almost here! The full nominations list has been with us for a while, and there were some much-talked-about snubs and surprises, but now attention is completely fixated on who will take home the big prizes – and, somehow, there's still all to play for. Where The Power of the Dog was believed to be the obvious pick for Best Picture, following Producers Guild of America Awards, CODA may be the night's biggest upset and take home the top honor.

Below, we go through our team's Oscars 2022 predictions, analyzing the word going around Hollywood and the current momentum to best address who will take home the biggest awards of the evening – Best Picture, Best Director, and the main acting categories. Prepare for an underdog story.

Best Picture

Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons in The Power of the Dog

(Image credit: Netflix)

Nominees: The Power of the Dog, Belfast, West Side Story, Licorice Pizza, Dune, CODA, King Richard, Don't Look Up, Drive My Car, Nightmare Alley.

Frontrunners: The Power of the Dog could very well become the night's biggest winner – and, as a result, Netflix's first-ever film to take home Best Picture. The Jane Campion-directed western has all the ingredients of a sure-fire success: a gorgeous slow-burn of a story backdropped by the sort of luscious landscapes that demand big-screen viewing. The movie's now coming off of major wins at the BAFTAs, Critics' Choice Awards, and Golden Globe Awards, all indicators that this could be the year of the dog. However, there's potential for a major upset.

Enter Apple TV's CODA. The story of a young hearing teen whose family are Deaf has been winning hearts around the world – and was an instant sensation at Sundance Film Festival back in early 2021 when Apple paid a festival-record $25 million for distribution rights. CODA has been slowly picking up momentum in recent months thanks to its crowd-pleasing appeal (something The Power of the Dog lacks) and recently won the biggest awards from the Producers Guild of America, Hollywood Critics Association, and Screen Actors Guild. 

Another movie with wide appeal is Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, a deft, emotionally rich handling of The Troubles in Northern Ireland that has long been on the radar of the industry’s leading lights. Steven Spielberg's West Side Story has also been talked up in some circles. It may have flopped commercially but was well-received by critics. History, though, is not on its side: the last musical to win Best Picture was Chicago in 2003. However, this is the iconic Spielberg we're dealing with. 

Underdogs: Beyond those, Licorice Pizza, King Richard, Drive My Car, and Dune are all looking like unlikely winners. The momentum behind Don't Look Up has died down since its huge December release, when everyone and the mothers was talking about the Netflix movie, while Nightmare Alley has slowly faded from the conversation. If Power of the Dog and CODA split the votes, though, we could be looking at one of these coming up trumps – it really is all to play for this year.

Best Director

Jane Campion, director of The Power of the Dog

(Image credit: Netflix)

Nominees: Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog), Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Drive My Car), Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza), Steven Spielberg (West Side Story), Kenneth Branagh (Belfast)

Frontrunners: Last year, Chloe Zhao was only the second woman in 100 years to win Best Director. The previous woman to do so was Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker. Jane Campion now seems a nailed-on certainty to win this year after her historic second Best Director nomination. Campion’s work on The Power of the Dog felt instantly revelatory, breathing new, soft life into a genre that is so often eclipsed by rough machismo and big, wild swings of masculinity. Having won at the Directors Guild of America, the biggest indicator of what will happen at the Oscars, Campion is the dominant name in the category.

In a similar vein, Kenneth Branagh’s direction on Belfast should see him come close His handling of a semi-autobiographical tale paints a picture of a Northern Ireland ravaged by conflict, yet is still able to juggle the boundless joie de vivre of Buddy (Jude Hill).

Underdogs: Steven Spielberg is a perennial Academy favorite and he left critics spellbound with his all-singing, all-dancing West Side Story remake. It's almost sacrilege to paint Spielberg an outsider, but it would be a huge shock to see him take home his third Best Director statuette.

Paul Thomas Anderson and Ryusuke Hamaguchi each delivered strong efforts with Licorice Pizza and Drive My Car respectively. Don't expect a Parasite-style shock, however. After all, case certainly could have been made for Dune's Denis Villeneuve to make the list ahead of these two. 

Best Actor

King Richard

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Nominees: Will Smith (King Richard), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog), Andrew Garfield (Tick... Tick... Boom), Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of Macbeth), Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos)

Frontrunners: History is on Will Smith’s side. In the past 80 years, the vast majority of actors who picked up a Golden Globe for Best Actor – as he did this year for King Richard – also took home the Oscar statuette.

It’s well-deserved, too. Smith has always flirted with quote-unquote ‘serious’ performances, but King Richard was the perfect showcase for his acting chops. In it, he plays Richard Williams, a peripheral and often controversial figure in the Williams tennis dynasty, and imbues him with a relentless energy that dutifully deals with the outsider’s turmoil of being a coach first and a father second.

The bookies have Andrew Garfield – who has quietly been winning acclaim for years after his Amazing Spider-Man series fizzled out – as a strong contender for his part in Tick...Tick…Boom! as Jonathan Larson. His multi-faceted performance, including belting out a few songs, might just tip the scales in his favor if an upset comes to pass.

So often, though, momentum appears to take over for a single film. Benedict Cumberbatch could be in with a chance of winning Best Actor, especially given that his talents are a considerable reason why The Power of the Dog is one of the big Best Picture favorites.

Underdogs: While an acclaimed performance, Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of Macbeth) – one of the closest things to an Academy sweetheart – has been missing from this year's awards circuit. Javier Bardem is arguably outshone in Being the Ricardos by co-star Nicole Kidman. While an award might go her way, don't expect a one-two.

Best Actress

Being the Ricardos

(Image credit: Amazon Prime)

Nominees: Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos), Kristen Stewart (Spencer), Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye), Olivia Colman (The Lost Daughter), Penelope Cruz (Parallel Mothers)

Frontrunners: This is the most open major category at this year’s Oscars. Nicole Kidman took home the Golden Globe for her work in Being the Ricardos. Biographical performances so often do well with the Academy, and the Australian actor’s transformation into Lucille Ball avoided any of the usual traps when portraying a real-life person with so much televised history behind them. Working against Kidman is the general lack of praise for Being the Ricardos, which has generally been dismissed this awards season. 

Momentum has, indeed, fallen for Kidman, who no longer holds the top spot. That instead foes to Jessica Chastain for her role in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, who won at the Screen Actor's Guild Awards. Her eye-catching and ‘adventurous’ performance is tempting voters everywhere.

Meanwhile, Kristen Stewart has been working hard to get her name on everyone's dance card. Her tender portrait of Princess Diana in Spencer is requisite, yet she becomes only the fourth of the past 110+ Best Actress nominees not nominated for a Screen Actors' Guild award. History is against her, but the popular choice would almost certainly be hers.

Underdog: The underdog in this category appears to be Penelope Cruz, whose turn in Parallel Mothers received acclaim but few could have predicted she'd make the shortlist this year. Olivia Colman in The Lost Daughter is an understated performance, but everyone loves Coleman... don't count her out.

Best Supporting Actor

Kodi Smit-McPhee in The Power of the Dog

(Image credit: Netflix)

Nominees: Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Power of the Dog), Troy Kotsur (CODA), Ciaran Hinds (Belfast), J.K. Simmons (Being the Ricardos), Jesse Plemons (The Power of the Dog)

Frontrunners: Best Supporting Actor this year is a nice mix of relative unknowns, veterans, and household names who have taken a more interesting step back away from the spotlight in 2021’s film output.

In terms of relative newcomers, Kodi Smit-McPhee in The Power of the Dog tops the lot. His tender, conflicted relationship with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Phil Burbank put him on the map and felt like an instant star-making performance. Troy Kotsur also stole the show in CODA as Deaf father Frank in a performance that has been turning heads – he won the BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild award. 

Underdogs: Ciaran Hinds in Belfast was a frontrunner, but has slowly faded from being a main contender. And don't expect Jesse Plemons to be pulling out a thank-you speech for his understated performance in The Power of the Dog. J.K. Simmons' inclusion on the list also feels like a surprise in a film that had some strong performances elsewhere.

Best Supporting Actress

Ariana DeBose as Anita in West Side Story

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Nominees: Ariana DeBose (West Side Story), Kirsten Dunst (The Power of the Dog), Aunjanue Ellis (King Richard), Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter), Judi Dench (Belfast)

Frontrunners: The bookmakers have Ariana DeBose as the clear favorite for West Side Story. Musicals aren’t usually fertile ground for prominent wins, but DeBose has won almost every Supporting Actress award in Hollywood.

Underdogs: On the outside looking in, we have Aunjanue Ellis for King Richard and Kirsten Dunst for The Power of the Dog. The latter – a tad unfairly – is surrounded by similarly incredible performances, so may get a little lost in the shuffle.

While we're surprised (and a little disappointed) that Caitriona Balfe and Ruth Negga didn't get nods, Jessie Buckley and Judi Dench are worthy replacements. While Ariana DeBose likely has this category all but sewn up, it's nice for the pair to get their place in the sun.

The 94th Academy Awards are on March 27. In the meantime, get a greater grasp on the upcoming year-in-cinema with our movie release dates guide.

Bradley Russell

I'm the Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.

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