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2018 Oscar Predictions: Best Actress

Anne Thompson’s assessment of the Oscar race includes Saoirse Ronan, Sally Hawkins, Meryl Streep and more. Updated 1/18/2018.

"The Shape of Water"

“The Shape of Water”

It’s a crowded category this year, like last, when even Annette Bening and Amy Adams didn’t make the cut. Again, there will be tears before bedtime. “Blue Jasmine” Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins gives two heartbreaking performances this year: the first as real-life arthritic painter Maud Lewis in “Maudie” (Sony Pictures Classics, June 16) will feed her second, the luminous mute performance in Guillermo del Toro’s fall festival hit “The Shape of Water” (December 1, Fox Searchlight).

Also breaking out at the fall festivals was “Brooklyn” and “Atonement” nominee Saoirse Ronan, who stars as a rebellious high school senior in rookie director Greta Gerwig’s specialty hit “Lady Bird.” Both landed Critics Choice, Golden Globe and SAG nominations; Ronan won the Comedy Globe.

READ MORE: 2018 Oscar Predictions

"Lady Bird"

“Lady Bird”


Cannes 2017 revealed more clues, as Diane Kruger took home Best Actress for Fatih Akin’s intense revenge thriller “In the Fade” (Magnolia Pictures), the German shortlisted submission for the Oscar.

Stephen Frears directed the magnificent Dame Judi Dench as an aged Queen of England in “Victoria and Abdul” (September 22, Focus Features), who landed Globe, BAFTA and SAG nods, as did Oscar-winner Frances McDormand (“Fargo”) as a single mother whose grief over her raped and murdered daughter turns to anger in Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (November 10, Fox Searchlight). So far McDormand has won the drama Globe and Critics Choice Awards.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri””

Fox Searchlight

And the ceiling-smashing $103-million opening of Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman” pushed Israeli star Gal Gadot — who had already scored in “Batman v. Superman”– into global stardom. She earned raves for the winning warmth she brought to superhero Wonder Woman and human-scale Diana Prince, and is a long-shot for a nomination, as comic-book spectacles don’t tend to extend to acting nods.

Sony Pictures Classics picked up Paul McGuigan’s Telluride and TIFF gala “Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool,” starring BAFTA nominee Bening as Hollywood star Gloria Grahame, who in 1978 plunged into an affair with a younger lover (Jamie Bell). Oscar voters now get a chance to make up for leaving Bening out last year.

Globe Drama nominee Jessica Chastain plays a poker wrangler in Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation “Molly’s Game” (December 25, STX). Also breaking out at TIFF was SAG and Globe nominee Margot Robbie in the colorfully athletic title role in “I, Tonya,” a portrait of tough-as-nails figure skater Tonya Harding, who took home the Critics Choice Comedy award.

Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba in MOLLY'S GAME

“Molly’s Game”

Courtesy of STXfilms

And the combo of Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg with late-breaking Pentagon Papers drama “The Post” (Fox, December 22) could yield Oscar gold,  even without SAG recognition.

With so many robust competitors, actresses in stronger movies may wind up in better shape than worthy competitors in weaker movies.

A list of (alphabetical) possibilities is below. None will be considered for frontrunner until I see them.


Sally Hawkins (“The Shape of Water”)
Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri”)
Margot Robbie (“I, Tonya”)
Saoirse Ronan (“Lady Bird”)
Meryl Streep (“The Post”)


Jessica Chastain (“Molly’s Game”)
Judi Dench (“Victoria & Abdul”)

Long Shots:

Annette Bening (“Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool”)
Diane Kruger (“In the Fade”)
Kate Winslet (“Wonder Wheel”)

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