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Oscars 2021: Here Are the Movies That Deserve to Win, According to 30 Film Critics

Will Best Picture end up as a tie? If these critics had their way, it would.

Frances McDormand stars in "Nomadland"

Frances McDormand in “Nomadland”

Searchlight

Many critics roll their eyes at Oscar season, and when it runs all the way through April — an anomaly this time — who can blame them? With the same crop of movies dissected ad infinitum for eight months and counting, the conversations about the “state of the race” often eclipse ones about cinematic quality. Thankfully, many of this year’s top contenders for the gold also happen to be critical favorites. If the 30 critics who voted in this year’s edition of our annual Oscar critics poll had their way, many of the expected outcomes on Sunday’s show would remain the same. 

However, the results for Best Picture also cast doubt on the very idea of anointing a single winner as the very best movie of 2020. The top vote-getters in that category resulted in a tie, with official frontrunner “Nomadland” splitting the prize with “Minari.” Both movies are quiet, lyrical American dramas about marginalized characters that generated some of the best reviews of the past year, and while the possibility of a tie on Oscar night might be unthinkable, the critics have spoken.

“Nomadland” topped IndieWire’s year-end critics poll in 2020, and that support has remained intact in the months since then. While the movie has been an awards season favorite ever since it won the Golden Lion in Venice, “Minari” started its journey much earlier, when it won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance 2020. Together, the movies provide a thematic bookend to a year of soul-searching and alienation, which is complimented by the title in third place —  Darius Marder’s “Sound of Metal.”

In several other major categories, critics picked winners that correspond to the current frontrunners, but the runners-up provide a broader view of support within each category: “Nomadland” director Chloe Zhao topped Best Director, but she’s followed close behind by Danish auteur Thomas Vinterberg with his bittersweet midlife crisis dramedy “Another Round,” and while the late Chadwick Boseman wins Best Actor for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” there was plenty of support for second-place finisher Riz Ahmed in “Sound of Metal.”

The Best Actress category has proven to be one of the harder ones to call for this year’s pundits, with some thinking that Viola Davis has the edge for “Ma Rainey” and others seeing more potential for Carey Mulligan. The “Promising Young Woman” star pleased more critics in this category, landing in first place ahead of “Nomadland” star Frances McDormand; Davis wound up in third.

The supporting actor finalists follow conventional wisdom — Daniel Kaluuya for “Judas and the Black Messiah” and Yuh-Jung Youn for “Minari” — but the results diverge from the punditry from there. “Minari” also tops Original Screenplay, ahead of popular favorite “Promising Young Woman,” while Florian Zeller’s single-set treatment of his own play “The Father” tops Best Adapted Screenplay ahead of Zhao’s own work on “Nomadland.” And while most assessments see “Soul” winning Best Animated Feature, critics are even more enthusiastic about Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart’s 2D Irish folktale “Wolfwalkers.” Vinterberg’s “Another Round” gels with popular assessments as the best of the international features category, but Best Documentary frontrunner “My Octopus Teacher” actually ranked last — while Garrett Bradley’s vivid black-and-white social justice saga “Time” handily won the category.

Check out the full rankings below. The 93rd Academy Awards will air on ABC this Sunday at 8pm ET.

Best Picture

Yuh-Jung Youn in "Minari"

Yuh-Jung Youn in “Minari”

A24

1. TIE: “Minari”/“Nomadland”

2. “Sound of Metal”  

3. TIE: “The Father”/“Judas and the Black Messiah”

4. TIE: “Mank”/“Promising Young Woman”/“The Trial of the Chicago 7”

Best Director

1. Chloe Zhao, “Nomadland”  

2. Thomas Vinterberg, “Another Round” 

3. TIE: David Fincher, “Mank”/Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”  

4. Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari”

Best Actor 

1. Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”  

2. Riz Ahmed, “Sound of Metal”  

3. Anthony Hopkins, “The Father” 

4. Steven Yeun, “Minari”  

5. Gary Oldman, “Mank”  

Best Actress

1. Carey Mulligan, “Promising Young Woman”  

2. Frances McDormand, “Nomadland”  

3. Viola Davis, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”  

4. Andra Day, “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”  

5. Vanessa Kirby, “Pieces of a Woman”  

Best Supporting Actor 

1. Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah”  

2. Paul Raci, “Sound of Metal”  

3. Lakeith Stanfield, “Judas and the Black Messiah”  

4. Leslie Odom Jr., “One Night in Miami”  

5. Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”   

Best Supporting Actress 

1. Yuh-Jung Youn, “Minari”  

2. Amanda Seyfriend, “Mank”  

3. Maria Bakalova, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” 

4. TIE: Glenn Close, “Hillbilly Elegy”/Olivia Colman, “The Father”   

Best Original Screenplay

1. Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari”  

2. Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”  

3. Derek Cianfrance, Abraham Marder, Darius Marder, “Sound of Metal” 

4. Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”  

5. Will Berson, Shaka King, Keith Lucas, and Kenny Lucas, “Judas and the Black Messiah”  

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Father

Anthony Hopkins in “The Father”

Sony Pictures Classics

1. Florian Zeller, “The Father”  

2. Chloe Zhao, “Nomadland”  

3. Kemp Powers, “One Night in Miami”  

4. Sacha Baron Cohen and Co-Writers, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”  

5. Ramin Bahrani, “The White Tiger”  

Best Animated Feature

1. “Wolfwalkers”  

2. “Soul”  

3. “Over the Moon”  

4. “Onward”/”Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon”  

Best International Feature 

"Another Round"

“Another Round”

Samuel Goldwyn Films /Courtesy Everett Collection

1. “Another Round”  

2. “Collective”/“Quo Vadis, Aida?”  

3. “Better Days”/“The Man Who Sold His Skin”  

Best Documentary

1. “Time”  

2. “Collective”  

3. “Crip Camp”  

4. “The Mole Agent”  

5. “My Octopus Teacher”  

Best Documentary — Short Subject 

1. TIE: “A Concerto Is a Conversation”/“A Love Song for Latasha”  

2. “Colette”   

3. “Hunger Ward”  

4. “Do Not Split” 

Best Live Action Short

1. “Two Distant Strangers”  

2. “The Letter Room”  

3. TIE: “Feeling Through”/“The Present”/“White Eye”   

Best Animated Short

Opera animated oscars shorts

“Opera”

Courtesy of ShortsTV

1. “Opera”  

2. “Burrow”  

3. “If Anything Happens I Love You”  

4. “Genius Loci”  

5. “Yes-People”  

Best Original Score

1. “Minari”

2. TIE: “Da 5 Bloods”/“Soul”

3. “Mank”  

4. “News of the World”  

Best Original Song

1. “Husavik” from “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga”

2. “Speak Now” from “One Night in Miami”  

3. “Fight for You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah”  

4. “Io Si (Seen)” from “The Life Ahead”  

5. “Hear My Voice” from “The Trial of the Chicago 7”  

Best Sound 

1. “Sound of Metal”  

2. “Mank”  

3. “Greyhound” 

4. “News of the World”/“Soul”  

Best Production Design

1. “Mank”  

2. “The Father”  

3. “Tenet”  

4. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”  

5. “News of the World”

Best Cinematography

1. Joshua James Richards, “Nomadland”  

2. Erik Messerschmidt, “Mank”

3. Sean Bobbitt, “Judas and the Black Messiah”

4. Phedon Papamichael, “The Trial of the Chicago 7”

5. Dariusz Wolski, “News of the World”

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

Netflix

1. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”  

2. “Emma”

3. “Mank”

4. “Pinocchio”

5. “Hillbilly Elegy”

Best Costume Design

1. “Emma”

2. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”  

3. “Mank”

4. TIE: “Mulan”/“Pinocchio”

Best Editing

1. “Sound of Metal”

2. “Nomadland”

3. “The Father”

4. “The Trial of the Chicago 7”

5. “Promising Young Woman”

Best Visual Effects

"Tenet"

“Tenet”

Warner Bros.

1. “Tenet”

2. “The Midnight Sky”

3. “Mulan”

4. “Love and Monsters”

5. “The One and Only Ivan”

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