Predicting the Oscars: Who Should, Could and Will Win at the 2024 Academy Awards

Will 'Oppenheimer' sweep the Oscars? What else will win? What should but won't? Here are our predictions.
Sarah Ward
March 08, 2024

In just a few years time, the Academy Awards will notch up a century of celebrating the best movies to grace the silver screen each year. How will the acclaimed accolades build up to that point? In 2024, at the 96th ceremony, probably with a whole lot of love sent Oppenheimer's way. The J Robert Oppenheimer biopic earned the most nominations of any film from the past year. Don't be surprised if it takes home the most trophies as well, including for Christopher Nolan, Cillian Murphy and Robert Downey Jr.

We won't be come Monday, March 11, Down Under time. While winning an Oscar — or a swag of them — over other flicks doesn't mean that there aren't masterpieces among the fellow nominees, or among pictures that didn't even make the cut as well, Oppenheimer is a worthy favourite in a range of 2024 Oscar fields. What will it collect? What will it nab that another film should instead? Who else might win, and what? Can't they just give both Emma Stone and Lily Gladstone Best Actress Oscars? That's all part of our predictions.

As we did in 2022 and 2023, we've watched everything — many of which you can too in both Australia and New Zealand right now — and done some assessing and prognosticating. Here are the results, aka the movies and folks likely to shortly be able to add "Oscar-winner" to their posters and resumes in 15 key categories.

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Best Motion Picture

The nominees:

American Fiction
Anatomy of a Fall
Barbie
The Holdovers
Killers of the Flower Moon
Maestro
Oppenheimer
Past Lives
Poor Things
The Zone of Interest

Should win: Poor Things

Could win: Poor Things

Will win: Oppenheimer

Barbenheimer was a phenomenon before either Oppenheimer or Barbie even reached cinemas in 2023, with both arriving on the same day to create a memorable pop-culture moment. They shared a release date, and the same wave of attention — but only one can win Best Motion Picture at the Oscars. That one: Oppenheimer.

Christopher Nolan's biopic of J Robert Oppenheimer is a mind-blower, and one of 2023's absolute best films. It has some stunning company in this category, however, most of which would also make excellent picks for the Academy's big gong: Anatomy of a Fall, Killers of the Flower Moon, Past Lives and The Zone of Interest, for instance. Then there's Poor Things, which is pure jaw-on-the-floor viewing, and its own unique creation at every turn. It deserves to win. It could achieve the feat. Even if it misses out to Oppenheimer, it'll still be the standout feature of the past 12 months.

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Best Director

The nominees:

Justine Triet, Anatomy of a Fall
Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon
Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer
Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things
Jonathan Glazer, The Zone of Interest

Should win: Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer

Could win: Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things

Will win: Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer

Despite his stunning resume, Christopher Nolan has only been nominated for the Best Director Oscar once before, for Dunkirk. If Greta Gerwig had secured a nod for Barbie, they would've faced off again; the first time, Guillermo del Toro deservedly won for The Shape of Water. Everyone knows that the Academy completely overlooked Gerwig this year — but this is Nolan's year anyway.

Don't discount Yorgos Lanthimos for Poor Things, though. This is also his second nomination, after The Favourite  — and again (see: Best Motion Picture above), there's nothing like his riff on Frankenstein. Nolan and Lanthimos' fellow nominees are equally at the top of their games with their latest work, so there's no bad choice here if Justine Triet becomes just the fourth woman to win this category, Martin Scorsese collects just his second directing Oscar or Jonathan Glazer nabs his first.

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Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

The nominees:

Annette Bening, Nyad
Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon
Sandra Hüller, Anatomy of a Fall
Carey Mulligan, Maestro
Emma Stone, Poor Things

Should win: Emma Stone, Poor Things

Could win: Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon

Will win: Emma Stone, Poor Things

Give Emma Stone an Oscar for her line reading of "I must go punch that baby!" alone. Of course, that's not the only reason that she should win the Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role category for a second time — the first was for La La Land — but it's emblematic of the commitment that she gives her work in Poor Things. Her delivery, her physicality, her constant ability to surprise: now that's a performance.

If only two actors could share this field, though. With heartbreaking subtlety as well as searing defiance, Lily Gladstone is exquisite in Killers of the Flower Moon — and if she wins, which she may well, it'll be wonderful. Her speech will also be the highlight of the night. She's also already the first Native American woman to receive a nomination in this field, and will keep making history if she ends up with a statuette in her hands.

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Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

The nominees:

Bradley Cooper, Maestro
Colman Domingo, Rustin
Paul Giamatti, The Holdovers
Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer
Jeffrey Wright, American Fiction

Should win: Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer

Could win: NA — Cillian Murphy will win for Oppenheimer

Will win: Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer

"Dearest Cillian. Finally a chance to see you lead... Love, Chris." That's how Cillian Murphy's script for Oppenheimer came — and although this isn't the Irish talent's first-ever leading part, Christopher Nolan pushing him to the fore of his latest film will garner him an Oscar. It's remarkable casting, even given that Murphy is never less than excellent in anything that he's in, back to and preceding when 28 Days Later first thrust him to broader attention.

If anyone else has their name read out, it'll be a massive shock. That's not criticism of Murphy's fellow nominees, though. Bradley Cooper directs himself to a career-best portrayal in Maestro, while none of Rustin, The Holdovers or American Fiction would be the movies they are without Colman Domingo, Paul Giamatti and Jeffrey Wright, respectively.

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Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

The nominees:

Emily Blunt, Oppenheimer
Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple
America Ferrera, Barbie
Jodie Foster, Nyad
Da'Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers

Should win: Da'Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers

Could win: NA — Da'Vine Joy Randolph will win for The Holdovers

Will win: Da'Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers

Not all award-winners keep their accolades on a mantle; however, Da'Vine Joy Randolph's must be getting crowded — or wherever else she puts the trophies that she's been collecting for her soulful turn in The Holdovers. She won at the BAFTAs, Critics Choice Awards, Golden Globes, Satellite Awards, Film Independent Spirit Awards, National Board of Review and Screen Actors Guild, plus thanks to an extremely hefty list of other critics' associations. She won't leave the Oscars empty-handed.

As with Best Actor, this is a category where there's no shortage of deserving nominees, but still one certain winner. If someone else does cause an upset, Jodie Foster being rewarded for her efforts in Nyad would see her win for just her second nomination in this field — she's received the Best Actress prize twice for The Accused and The Silence of the Lambs — a whopping 47 years after her first for Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver.

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Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

The nominees:

Sterling K Brown, American Fiction
Robert De Niro, Killers of the Flower Moon
Robert Downey Jr, Oppenheimer
Ryan Gosling, Barbie
Mark Ruffalo, Poor Things

Should win: Ryan Gosling, Barbie

Could win: Ryan Gosling, Barbie

Will win: Robert Downey Jr, Oppenheimer

There's no walking out of Oppenheimer without thinking that Robert Downey Jr is going to win an Oscar for playing AEC commissioner Lewis Strauss. And no, he won't just emerge victorious because he's not playing Iron Man, although it's such a treat to see him in such a weighty part (and outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe) again.

That said, if you did the Barbenheimer double on the same day (Barbie then Oppenheimer is the best order), then you would've walked out of Barbie thinking that Ryan Gosling should get the Best Supporting Actor prize, too. Winning for comedy is significantly difficult at the Oscars, but his Ken almost stole Barbie from Margot Robbie. Whatever the outcome, Gosling will sing 'I'm Just Ken' at the ceremony, so he'll be up on stage at least once.

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Best Original Screenplay

The nominees:

Anatomy of a Fall, Justine Triet and Arthur Harari
The Holdovers, David Hemingson
Maestro, Bradley Cooper and Josh Singer
May December, Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik
Past Lives, Celine Song

Should win: Past Lives, Celine Song

Could win: Past Lives, Celine Song

Will win: Anatomy of a Fall, Justine Triet and Arthur Harari

That Celine Song's Past Lives only received two Oscar nominations is near unfathomable. That it might go home without any awards is as well. Song missed out in the Best Director field, but the Academy does like to use its screenwriting awards to redress wrongs elsewhere — Quentin Tarantino and Jordan Peele both have wins here, for instance.

It's for the same reason that Justine Triet and Arthur Harari will likely win for Anatomy of a Fall, especially given that France didn't put the film forward for Best International Feature, so it couldn't have been nominated and obviously can't win there. It's worth noting that May December's sole Oscar recognition is in this category, and that that's a ridiculous oversight, so an award for it would also be stellar.

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Best Adapted Screenplay

The nominees:

American Fiction, Cord Jefferson
Barbie, Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach
Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan
Poor Things, Tony McNamara
The Zone of Interest, Jonathan Glazer

Should win: Poor Things, Tony McNamara

Could win: Barbie, Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach

Will win: Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan

As noted in the Best Original Screenplay category, winners for putting pen to paper — or fingers to the keyboard — often let the Academy throw some love towards movies largely ignored elsewhere. Consequently, if Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach score victory for Barbie, that trend just might hold up again (although Barbie is particularly in with a great chance in Best Costume Design and Best Production Design).

If Barbie loses, expect Oppenheimer to top it — again. Anything could succeed in this field, though, because Poor Things, The Zone of Interest and American Fiction all also boast cracking scripts. Poor Things isn't just a marvel; it's as bold as any movie could ever dream of. Australian screenwriter Tony McNamara did get nominated for The Favourite, too.

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Best International Feature

The nominees:

Io Capitano, Italy
Perfect Days, Japan
Society of the Snow, Spain
The Teachers' Lounge, Germany
The Zone of Interest, United Kingdom

Should win: Perfect Days, Japan 

Could win: Society of the Snow, Spain 

Will win: The Zone of Interest, United Kingdom 

Finding a viewing experience that's more sublime, soulful and thoughtful than Perfect Days — not just among the nominees for Best International Feature, but in general — is a near-impossible task. Watching the Tokyo-set Japanese contender about a toilet cleaner, which is directed by German filmmaker Wim Wenders (Submergence), is as life-changing as cinema gets.

A British film set in Germany and told in German, The Zone of Interest is unforgettable in a completely different way given that it is set during the Holocaust among a family living next door to Auschwitz. It's also exceptional — and an worthy recipient of this award. Indeed, there's no wrong pick, which means that Society of the Snow could sneak in for also telling a harrowing real-life tale.

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Best Animated Feature

The nominees:

The Boy and the Heron
Elemental
Nimona
Robot Dreams
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Should win: The Boy and the Heron

Could win: The Boy and the Heron 

Will win: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

2018's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won an Academy Award in this very category. Among the American films that've made it to the final five in 2024, sequel Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is the pick of the bunch — and another spectacular achievement for the medium of animation. Twice now, watching the Spider-Verse movies means realising how live-action takes on superheroes will never be able to relay the full story.

If Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse wins, that'll be an ace outcome. Going past Hayao Miyazaki's comeback The Boy and the Heron would be downright audacious at the same time, however. With his first film since 2013's The Wind Rises, the master Studio Ghibli co-founder adds one of his best movies yet to his resume. It's imaginative, heartfelt, smart, breathtaking and awe-inspiring — and that's just the beginning.

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Best Documentary Feature

The nominees:

Bobi Wine: The People's President
The Eternal Memory
Four Daughters
To Kill a Tiger
20 Days in Mariupol

Should win: 20 Days in Mariupol

Could win: NA — 20 Days in Mariupol will win 

Will win: 20 Days in Mariupol 

For two years in a row, the Best Documentary Feature field will likely offer a damning indictment of Russia with its winner. Navalny did just that in 2023, with the film must-see viewing then and even more so since Vladimir Putin opponent Alexei Navalny's recent death in incarceration. With 20 Days in Mariupol, the invasion of Ukraine is in the spotlight. This is a movie that can't be unseen, nor forgotten.

An on-the-ground exploration of the first 20 days of the war in the titular city, including in hospitals where victims of bombings and shellings are sent, this is as essential as documentary filmmaking gets. Fighting for freedom is also at the heart of Bobi Wine: The People's President, which could earn some love — and battling for justice similarly drives the also-excellent To Kill a Tiger.

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Best Original Score

The nominees:

American Fiction, Laura Karpman
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, John Williams
Killers of the Flower Moon, Robbie Robertson
Oppenheimer, Ludwig Göransson
Poor Things, Jerskin Fendrix

Should win: Poor Things, Jerskin Fendrix

Could win: Poor Things, Jerskin Fendrix

Will win: Oppenheimer, Ludwig Göransson 

Ludwig Göransson knows what it's like to win an Oscar thanks to Black Panther. Soon, the Swedish composer will probably know what it's like to win two. As the greatest scores do, his work on Oppenheimer turns it into the film that it needs to be but wouldn't without such influentual music — which, seeing how astounding everything else is about the movie, isn't a minor achievement.

Jerskin Fendrix's tunes for Poor Things do all of that with such distinctiveness, while also feeling so deeply perfect for the feature, that it would come as a surprise to no one if he was somehow composing from within its frames. Giving this award to Robbie Robertson, who does wondrous work for Killers of the Flower Moon, would also be a touching posthumous tribute to The Band musician and regular Martin Scorsese collaborator.

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Best Original Song

The nominees:

'The Fire Inside', Flamin' Hot, Diane Warren
'I'm Just Ken', Barbie, Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt
'It Never Went Away', American Symphony, Jon Batiste and Dan Wilson
'Wahzhazhe (A Song For My People)', Killers of the Flower Moon, Scott George
'What Was I Made For?', Barbie, Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell

Should win: 'I'm Just Ken', Barbie, Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt

Could win: 'I'm Just Ken', Barbie, Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt

Will win: 'What Was I Made For?', Barbie, Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell

First, the obvious observation: Best Original Song is Barbie's to lose. Bringing the eponymous doll to the screen notched up two of the five nominees in this category, and is almost certain to win for one of them — after they're both performed live, with Ryan Gosling singing 'I'm Just Ken', of course, and Billie Eilish belting out 'What Was I Made For?'.

Expect Eilish and her brother Finneas O'Connell to take home the trophy, which'll be the pair's second Oscar thanks to 'No Time to Die' from, yes, No Time to Die. Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt's catchy dive into Ken's soul keeps getting stuck in the world's heads due to more than just its melody, though. And if there's a non-Barbie upset, it might come from Jon Batiste and Dan Wilson's 'It Never Went Away' from American Symphony.

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Best Cinematography

The nominees:

El Conde, Edward Lachman
Killers of the Flower Moon, Rodrigo Prieto
Maestro, Matthew Libatique
Oppenheimer, Hoyte van Hoytema
Poor Things, Robbie Ryan

Should win: Oppenheimer, Hoyte van Hoytema 

Could win: Poor Things, Robbie Ryan

Will win: Oppenheimer, Hoyte van Hoytema

Again and again throughout 2024's Oscar contenders, the fields often come down to two prime candidates: Oppenheimer and Poor Things. Either winning in most categories is a magnificent outcome; when movies this superb are competing against each other, there's no such thing as a losing flick — just one that gets the trophy and one that doesn't.

Hoyte van Hoytema and Robbie Ryan's lensing for this pair of pictures is exquisite in different ways; stark and precise for the former, dreamy and inventive for the latter. Oppenheimer emerged with the prize at this year's American Society of Cinematographers Awards, though, which can be a reliable guide. Don't discount Rodrigo Prieto for Killers of the Flower Moon, even if he should've been nominated for Barbie as well.

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Best Film Editing

The nominees:

Anatomy of a Fall, Laurent Sénéchal
The Holdovers, Kevin Tent
Killers of the Flower Moon, Thelma Schoonmaker
Oppenheimer, Jennifer Lame
Poor Things, Yorgos Mavropsaridis

Should win: Oppenheimer, Jennifer Lame

Could win: Poor Things, Yorgos Mavropsaridis

Will win: Oppenheimer, Jennifer Lame

It's happening again: Oppenheimer and Poor Things leading the pack, that is — and likely Oppenheimer winning. Just as with Best Cinematography, there's form for Christopher Nolan's film getting the nod over Yorgos Lanthimos' flick thanks to other accolades. Oppenheimer's Jennifer Lame won at the American Cinema Editors Eddie Awards, for instance.

Thelma Schoonmaker is an editing icon, however; this is her eighth Oscar nomination for a Martin Scorsese movie, a run that spans wins for The Aviator and The Departed. And editing is so pivotal to Anatomy of a Fall in telling its story — over every other contender in this field, actually — that Laurent Sénéchal's chances can't be ruled out.

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The 2024 Oscars will be announced on Monday, March 11, Australian and New Zealand time. For further details, head to the awards' website.

Wondering where to watch this year's Oscar contenders? We've put together a rundown for both Australia and New Zealand.

Published on March 08, 2024 by Sarah Ward
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